Pillow Talk: I Rode Around NYC on a Pedal-Powered Bed, Talking to Strangers About Sex

Jenny Block on her pedi-bed. It was designed by the founder of sex toy company Hot Octopuss.
Jenny Block on her pedi-bed. It was designed by the founder of sex toy company Hot Octopuss.
courtesy Hot Octopuss

Jenny Block is a Dallas writer who has published three books on the topic of sex, The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex, O Wow: Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm and Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage.

This week I rode down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on a bed that had been turned into a pedal-operated vehicle — aka a pedi-bed — and invited people to join me in it to talk about sex. The project was conceived by Adam Lewis, co-founder of London-based sex toy company Hot Octopuss.

Lewis thought it would be a good way to reduce the stigma surrounding open conversations about sex and masturbation. And since you can order just about anything to your home or office with the touch of an app these days, why can't the same be true of sex advice? 

Lewis invited me to hop aboard his newly built pedi-bed for its inaugural expedition through the streets of New York. Coincidentally, he's calling the project "Pillow Talk," although it has no relationship to this column. 

The response was amazing. Nightline even showed up to film the event. But what I found most interesting was how polarized the reactions we received were. Some passersby couldn’t wait to hop in bed and chat, while others ducked their heads and waved their arms, signalling they had no interest in talking sex with a stranger.

And there was no clear common denominator among people who were game versus people who weren't. I got mixed responses from people of every age, race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, nationality — you name it.

New York, of course, is far more diverse and liberal than Dallas, although I spoke to tourists as well as locals. I discovered that most people feel shame is still attached to sex, and they wish that wasn't so.

Who did I talk to? A young Latino couple; a Jewish woman in her late 60s, early 70s; a man from St. Lucia; a couple who owns a series of bed and mattress stores in Europe; an African-American man; a lesbian couple from the Middle East. And that's just a few.

We talked about everything from how to handle the beginning stages of a relationship, to how to sex things up in a long-term one, to the state of sex in New York City.

After eight hours and countless photos, videos and conversations, I felt hopeful. If the people I chatted with became the majority, nipples wouldn’t be censored, breastfeeding in public wouldn’t be scorned and sex ed would be positive and complete.

We would talk about our sex lives as openly as too many people talk about their bathroom habits, and as a result, everyone would be having more sex, better sex, the kind of sex that we say we want but that we don’t feel comfortable communicating about in order to have.

However, it was obvious from my trip that things were much further along on that front in NYC than they are here in Dallas, where the harmless Exxxotica expo was recently driven out.

But we can begin to move Dallas' culture in a more sex-positive direction by talking to each other more freely about sex. That means talking to your kids, your partners and your friends. Kids deserve to be educated, partners deserve to be trusted, and friends, well, if you're comfortable discussing the fact that you're constipated, it should be OK to discuss your level of satisfaction with your sex life.

We talk about the pleasures of food and art and music with so many people in our lives. Sex is a sensual pleasure too. I’m not suggesting that you randomly tell the guy sitting next to you on the plane that you like it doggie style, but there’s no reason to avoid discussing sex-related topics when they naturally arise. 

Everyone wants to feel that they are healthy and normal. Openly talking about our sexual desires and behavior is one way for us to know that we are.

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