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Love Potion #9 (and #10 and #11 and. . .)

The Kama Sutra meets Tupperware parties at Passion Parties, being hosted right now at a Las Cruces-area home near you.

By Jeff Berg

 

Author's note: The Mighty Prudish Association of America (MPAA) has rated this article R. The easily offended should probably turn the page now.

 

As Bob Dylan noted in the oft-quoted lyrics of his 1964 song, "The times, they are a-changin'." Tupperware? Pass‚. Avon? Are they still calling? One of the newest and perhaps most, ahem, exciting businesses to offer home parties is Passion Parties.

Las Cruces Passion Parties consultant Dawn Larkin with some of her wares.

Passion Parties is one of several home party operations that deal with items designed to enhance one's own, or a partner's or both's (not a word, I know) sexual pleasure. Lotions, creams, potions, sprays, toys, games, bits of lingerie, books, manuals, bullets, things that hum, things that make you hum, even a swing are all part of the Passion Parties line of items to be used in your boudoir (or elsewhere) toy chest.

As the founder and president of Passion Parties puts it, "Tupperware burps, we buzz!"

But before you get your edible panties in a knot, please note that the marital aid/sex toy business earned $1.5 billion in 2006 in the US alone. Imagine what business is like in countries that aren't as inhibited about sex as we are!

Passion Parties' very varied line of all things pleasurable numbers up to 300 products at any given time, making its catalog the Kama Sutra of sexual-enhancement products. Obviously there is a demand for — or at least a lot of curiosity about — things that have names such as "Velvet Ripples," "Lickety Lube" and "Gigi." The latter, one of the company's best sellers, I found gently amusing, since that is my stepmother's nickname. Never mind the "G spot." Passion Parties can help you find the A through F spots, too.

Guys, these products are not meant to replace you. Although in looking at some of the items in the catalog, one might wish for, ahem, similar organic accoutrements or bonus appendages that could help heighten a couple's sexual relationship, it's true. That "Pharaoh's Secret," for example, looks like a Leatherman Tool for sex. But I digress. Rather than making men obsolete, they are meant to enhance, refresh and add a touch of adventure and romance to your physical relationship with your darlin' or hers with you. Or his, or whoever.

The company is based in Las Vegas, Nev., (you expected otherwise?) and is run entirely by women — which perhaps explain why Passion Parties has experienced 40 months of consecutive financial growth above the 50-percent mark. Founded in 1994, Passion Parties has 85 employees and 28,000 women who act as home-sales consultants. The privately owned company's stated goal is: "To share the Passion Parties vision that any woman can experience the prosperity of owning her own business; to share products that will enhance a woman's relationship; and to share the philosophy of women helping women."

According to Passion Parties' president, Pat Davis, over 10,000 in-home parties are hosted every MONTH in the US and Canada. That includes, I recently learned, regular Passion Parties right here in Southwest New Mexico. Evidently the salsa isn't the only thing that's hot hereabouts.

 

Dawn Larkin is a local consultant for the fine Passion Parties products. Although she had made arrangements for me to attend a party she was hosting recently, it was cancelled at the last minute because of issues of timing and child care. Other parties she had planned weren't as journalist friendly, since I would have been the only gent there, and I reckon the women were feeling a tad shy. Admittedly, so was I, but I am dedicated to my profession if nothing else (wink, wink).

So, we arrange to meet for a nice interview instead so I can find out just what a Passion Party is, and in the interests of investigative journalism, share what I learn with you.

Larkin tells me, "I have been with PP since December 2006, and got involved with it through a friend who I spent time with back in my 'cruising' (as in American Graffiti) days in Las Cruces. She is my sponsor, and now lives in Beeville, Texas. She said I should give it a try, since I am good with people, so I did."

Born in New York, Larkin is now 38. She spent a lot of time moving around when she was growing up. Her stepfather had a military career, so she lived in Germany for a while. Now firmly planted in Las Cruces, she doesn't seem interested in moving anytime soon.

"My kids really encouraged me to do this," she says of her Passion Parties venture. Larkin makes sure to remind me several times during our interview that she is a mom first and foremost; she has a daughter, Marla, who is 18, and a son, Paul, age 14. "I wasn't getting out much, and they said I needed to get out of the house more. And the money is good, too," she adds with a smile.

An unexpected benefit of her new enterprise has been a new education about sex. Sometimes at parties Larkin will share with the guests what she has learned about women's bodies and sexuality in general. "I'm surprised at what women don't know," she says, "so I get to share information with some of the ladies. It's nice to be learning things about sex that you can share with your partner or even if it is solo."

Men aren't usually guests at the Passion Parties get-togethers, but Larkin says she has done a bridal shower or two when both the bride and groom-to-be were present. She is also hopeful that she will be able to host her first party for same-sex couples soon.

 

So, what exactly happens at a Passion Party? The usual procedure is that Larkin gets a lead from a friend or a participant at another party. She will then contact that person, and send a catalog with some invitations to the prospective co-hostess. Besides sociability, there's a profit motive in opening your home for a Passion Party: "If there is $350 in sales, the hostess gets 10 percent," Larkin explains.

"The hostess will provide the place and some snacks, and then I set up and show my great stuff. There is no charge to do a party with PP."

Once a party is scheduled, Larkin helps with details; the day before, she will call the hostess and make sure that everything is set up and ready to go.

When the big day arrives, "I'll come in a bit early and set up my table with lotions and potions," Larkin says. "Then I'll get a couple of women to first try the UniSex Enhancement Gel."

The less inhibited you are from this point on, the more fun you'll have with this article.

"They'll go in the bathroom and put a bit of it on — " Not daubing it behind their ears, I'm guessing, starting to blush here. " — and they will always come back giggling and smiling."

This helps set the mood for the rest of the get-together, as Larkin will then, as she puts it, "break out the toys."

She adds, "This always creates more giggling and laughing."

No, the "toys" aren't actually, er, played with, just handed around for description on their use and such. And some certainly need that. Some of the items in the catalog, although small, look like they could be part of a secret "guvmint" experiment.

A game with a sexual theme, such as "Dirty Dice" or "Erotic Bingo," is next, and after that, Larkin takes orders.

"It's all very private," she says. "I'll go into a different room with someone who wants to place an order, so it all remains confidential. I also field a lot of questions, and I love giving the information about the products and about women's bodies."

Larkin also enjoys the merriment that the women share when their uninhibited thoughts and ideas are exchanged.

 

The night before our interview, she hosted her first hotel party in El Paso. "We had about six guests, and it went pretty well," she reports. "Most of the women were in their early 20s, and some were virgins. I gave them a sample spray of 'Pure Instinct' (a pheromone-based product), since they were going out afterward. They liked it so much they asked for more. You can wear it like perfume, and it works really well."

She sprays a sample on her wrist and on that of a nearby woman who is very familiar to me, and it does, as Larkin said, smell different and pleasant on each of them. I casually wink at the nearby woman who is familiar to me in hopes of making an appointment for later that day.

No, it's not the barista, you perv. It's my wife, who was dying of curiosity about this article and tagged along to the interview.

Age is certainly no barrier to those who love making love. Larkin notes that the average age of the attendees is 27 to 45. But she adds, "I recently had a woman at a party who said she was 65. She had a great time! I also had one man come to a party, who thought it would be 'weird.'"

Apparently the gent changed his mind, and had a fun and interesting — not to mention informative — experience.

"Everyone has sex," Larkin reminds me.

Obviously, she doesn't know my first wife.

She points out some of the other popular products that are in the Passion Parties catalog: The Massage Mitten (use with Passion Massage Lotion); Unisex Shaving Cream and Mist; Revelation, a natural lubricant; Tasty Tease; and the rather cleverly monikered Nipple Nibblers. No explanation required.

"The Pulsating Orbiter is one of the most popular toys," Larkin goes on. "It helps to achieve more stimulation with your partner, or it can be used 'solo.'"

Another good seller is called 52 Weeks of Romance, a set of scratch-off cards with a different romantic notion or activity on each. The selector of the card has one week to perform the described activity on his or her lover. Helps relieve the immediateness of instant gratification, don't you know.

 

No formal training preceded Larkin's party-planning career. "They do provide a training CD and there is also a helpline, but mostly it is learn as you go," she says.

The initial start-up kit costs $250.

"My first party, I was so nervous, I dropped a tube of lube — but it went well, all in all. Since then it has been a piece of cake," says Larkin, she of bubbly personality and a refreshing openness.

Larkin does rely on her sponsor, Amanda, in Texas for questions and such, and there is a once-a-year gathering for all PP consultants in Las Vegas. (Again, the one in Nevada.)

"They have awards for those who sold the most products, and there is even a million-dollar club. You can earn a car and other items, even a house."

Earn a house by selling sex toys? Where do I sign up?

Actually, I can't, since PP remains female friendly when it comes to their consultants.

Anyway, Larkin admits that doing Passion Parties in Las Cruces will probably not net her a house. "Las Cruces is a bit conservative, and El Paso is a bit more outspoken," she says. "I have a couple of parties each weekend, but most of those are in El Paso, and often have a connection to Fort Bliss. Business is really good, but it could be a lot better."

Seems that the military wives appreciate sex more than those whose partners are in the same bed with them every night.

Thus far, Larkin has hosted about 80 parties in the Las Cruces/El Paso area.

Another unexpected perk has been that she has been able to stick with her job for as long as she has. She explains that she has bipolar disorder, which in previous employment sometimes caused her mood swings that created problems at regular office jobs.

"I'm really glad that I have stayed with this," she says.

 

And yet there is risk in Larkin's job. I recall seeing the recently released documentary film, Passion and Power — The Technology of Orgasm, a wry, witty, and informative look at the history of personal sexual devices. (Watch for an upcoming screening of the film at the Fountain Theatre.) One segment tells about a Passion Parties representative who in 2004 ran head-on into an archaic law that is on the books in Texas.

The woman — Joanne Webb, a Baptist, member of the local chamber of commerce, mother of three and a former teacher — was arrested when two law enforcement officials went "under cover" to a PP party. The officers discovered that a PP consultant will actually describe what the sex toys are for, when they bought one from Webb. Texas law states that when such things are sold as novelties, hey, no problem, but if you sell a sex toy for use in actual sex, that's illegal.

Webb's case never went to court, although her husband's construction business suffered financially, and the family filed for bankruptcy recently, in spite of strong support from most of the community.

The other legal revelation from the Webb case was that in Texas, you can legally own up to five vibrators — but owning six denotes intent to distribute.

I'm not making this up.

There are no laws on the Texas books that state how many guns you can own, by the way. (When vibrators are outlawed, only outlaws will have vibrators, I guess.)

 

Our conversation drifts back to her kids, with Larkin noting again that they are her number-one priority. "Marla attended Alma d' Arte (the alternative high school in Las Cruces), and settled in much better there than in a regular public school. She had wanted to work in criminal justice until she went to Alma, but now she is enrolled at Do¤a Ana Branch Community College, in the hospitality industry program. She really liked the culinary arts program that Alma offered."

Son Paul, who has the nickname of "Bear," will soon follow suit and attend Alma.

"I'm a really dedicated mom," Larkin tells me.

Working with Passion Parties has helped Larkin to talk much more openly with her kids about sex and sex education — another unexpected perk from her position.

Larkin was also very involved in the recent "tough enough to wear pink" campaign to help raise breast cancer awareness.

So, are the residents of the Chihuahuan Desert ready for PP items such as the Magic Monarch and the Dual Wabbit?

With Dawn Larkin's vivacity and knowledge of her job, I'd say yes. She might just help make stodgy old Las Cruces just a little more receptive to the idea that sex is okay.

After all, as she reminds me, "Hey, everybody has sex whether you want to admit it or not."

If you are interested in hosting a Passion Party, contact Dawn Larkin in Las Cruces at 525-8770, or by email at dawnspassions1969@yahoo.com

 

Senior writer Jeff Berg wants to remind you again, just in case you are blushing, that in order for you to be alive to read this article, two people had to engage in a sexual union and they were probably naked when they did so.

 

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