Have you ever been to a sex toy party? They’re basically like a Mary Kay or Pampered Chef party – a bunch of women go to someone’s house, get a little tipsy, snack on some appetizers, and learn about a line of products, which they can then buy if they want. The only difference with a sex toy party is that you can buy vibrators and scented massage oil instead of kitchenware or lipstick. (Side note: I have been to two of these sex toy parties, and both were bridal showers. And one was in the South, in a state where “marital aids” are legal.) However, a woman in Connecticut is coming under fire for hosting some of these parties, which she states “help educate women about their sexuality.” Why is it a big deal? Because this woman, Ronell Searles, is married to Jon Searles, who is running for Connecticut’s state Senate. And because women, especially ones married to politicians, aren’t supposed to talk about sex, much less in a way that is positive and encouraging.

Ronell Searles’ website, CT Pleasures, is a pretty generic home business site, offering information about how to host a party, the kinds of products provided, and how to sell the products yourself. On her About page, she notes:

CT Pleasures is the name in which I, Ronell Searles run my Love U Parties Business. My husband and I reside in Hartford County, CT and have two young sons. I have been a Pleasure Party Consultant since 2007 and absolutely LOVE what I do! I decided to venture out into the Pleasure Party business after having our first son. I knew I wanted to continue to earn an income, but I didn’t want to put my son into daycare and work a boring 9-5 like I had been doing before. I looked into almost every Home Party Business you could think of. When I happened across Pleasure Parties there was no more looking, I knew this was the job for me! I love the ability to stay at home with my children and still bring in an awesome income! I love to meet new people, have fun and most importantly help educate women about their sexuality. Whether it be helping a beginner pick out that perfect first toy or helping you put the zing back into the bedroom, I am your pleasure expert! I do business in all of Connecticut and parts of Mass and I look forward to providing you with the Ultimate Ladies Night!

Jon Searles (pictured), a Republican challenging a Democratic incumbent in Connecticut’s 10th district, has responded to criticisms of his wife and her business. “I am extremely proud of my wife, and I stand by her 100 percent and support her, and I’m proud of the work she did. She helped thousands of women throughout Connecticut,” Searles told the Hartford Courant. “[Some say] that sexuality is something that should be closed in the closet, and that women’s health is something that we shouldn’t talk about, but I don’t think there’s a particular issue with it personally. I don’t think in this day and age we should be burying that kind of stuff behind some kind of PC, doesn’t-exist kind of shield.”

Searles’ official website talks a good game about family values. However, it’s clear that Searles’ definition of family values goes beyond simply being married and having kids, or criticizing people who don’t. On his site, he wrote, “Family values involve a loving, close family whose members support each other unconditionally and promote strong morals in our children.” Later, he expounded on that, adding:

My opponent may believe that women are second class citizens without needs and concerns individual to them and he may believe that women’s sexual health should remain a stigmatized secret that is not to be discussed and doesn’t exist in his century old mentality, but I don’t and I’m proud of it. I live in 2010 and was raised by my mother to respect women and know that men and women are equal.

Traditional family values is not about imposing a personal set of morals on others as my opponent would suggest. It’s about raising a strong, committed family who rise up to love and respect each other and their neighbors without judgement. Some might call it the Christian way, some may call it something else. I call it doing what is right.

A political candidate – a Republican political candidate – who espouses gender equality, open-mindedness about sexuality, and family values? I’m considering moving just so I can vote for him.