From multiple births to multiple orgasms

A new reality show from TLC, the network that brought us the Duggars, follows the CEO of a sex-toy company.

By Judy Berman

Published January 22, 2009 7:47PM (EST)

TLC has never been my network of choice. Call me crazy, but shows about enormous families, home sales and beauty queens of all ages just don't do it for me. But I may be forced to tune in Feb. 1 (yes, that's Super Bowl Sunday. Do I look like I care?) at 10 p.m., when TLC debuts ... a show about sex toys!

Reader, I am just as gobsmacked as you are. The cable channel that serves as a platform for the Duggars, the 20-member poster family for the deeply sexist, fundamentalist Christian Quiverfull movement, is set to run a reality TV program about the female CEO of a sex-toy company. "Mother Knows Sex" follows Patty Brisben, the founder of Pure Romance, a business that dispatches representatives to sell its "bedroom accessories" at private, in-home gatherings reminiscent of the Tupperware parties that rocked the '70s.

As the show's title suggests, Brisben is a mother, too, and her adult children have become part of the family business. And if the trailer for "Mother Knows Sex" (posted below, and on the show's already elaborate Facebook page) is any indication, that means hilarity is likely to ensue. "When we were younger," says Brisben's son Nick, "It was like, 'Wow, Nick's mom is the dildo lady.'" (That's right, folks: In a week and a half, you will hear the word "dildo" on TLC.) But, as daughter Lauren points out, before admitting that sex is a frequent topic of dinner-table conversation, "We are a very wholesome family."

Sex toys have been mainstreaming for quite a while (in fact, if you believe the New York Times' most recent dubious trend piece, high-end models are flourishing despite the recession), at least among younger, urban women. But I'm excited for "Mother Knows Sex" because it features a strong and traditional but also sexually liberated family. Patty Brisben appears to be a poised, professional lady, rather than a half-dressed sexpot, and while half-dressed sexpots are fine by me, Brisben seems more likely to appeal to TLC's Middle American audience. That means she has a better chance of getting all kinds of women to open their minds about sexuality and pleasure. Hey, who knows? Maybe she'll even convince Michelle Duggar to give the Humdinger a spin.

Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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