“Dear Dr. P, What do you make of the interest in sex toys?”
A co-ed asked whether I was aware of the “Tasteful Treasures” parties wherein one woman sells various “sex toys” to the others gathered. Then a young, newly married relative told me, unashamedly, of her amusement at a friend’s hygiene concern over the use of anal beads being marketed at a similar prenuptial party. Finally, I have been asked about what I know about sex toys for my column in The Brackety-Ack-by a woman.
First, there were Tupperware parties, then came Mary Kay cosmetics, and now women, with some males, gather for sex-toy marketing parties. Men usually do not gather alone to buy sex toys. To view porn, yes. There is a gender difference in the marketing of sex in that whereas men are predominantly the consumers of visual pornography, women are predominantly the consumers and users of sex toys. Last season, an episode of HBO’s Sex and the City had as its main focus the female characters discussing the virtues of a vibrating “bunny” dildo. Use seems to be a woman’s prerogative.
One would think that simple penis substitutes or dildos and vibrators were about all that exists, but no. High technology, and apparently a tremendous market demand, has produced a veritable flood of products designed to enhance sexual arousal and produce sexual pleasure and orgasms-some with guarantees. Both sexes use these devices.
Genital and nipple jewelry, body paint, gels, oils, lubricants and flavoings, liquid paint-on latex, nipple clips, clamps, restraints, bondage and S&M gear, cuffs, blindfolds vibrators, dildos, butt plugs and anal beads, realistic love dolls (even inflatable sheep), and computerized electrical devices for the stimulation of the genitals and most other parts of the body are all part of the sex toy rubric.Â The prices for these products range from a few dollars for a simple dildo to $6,000 for an electrically powered high tech sex machine. In American Sex Machines: The Hidden History of Sex at the U.S. Patent Office, Hoag Levins includes devices invented to prevent and punish sexual arousal as well. The bizarre creativity of what is available strains the imagination.
A Google search of “sex toy store” provides 164,000 hits! There is a lot of stuff (or “stuffing?”) available at these sites, but I am not providing the URL’s. Even eBay auctions this material.
The modern history of the vibrator originated in the medical treatment of “hysteria” in women by physicians in the first quarter of the 20th Century. The vague symptoms and discomforts of “hysterical” women were alleviated by a “hysterical paroxysm” (orgasm) produced in the patient by the physician using a vibrator or mild electrical stimulus applied to the genitals of the patient. Seriously! Vibrators were then manufactured by GE, Sunbeam, Norelco, and other name brands and marketed in the Sears & Roebuck catalogues, supposedly for “massage.” Still today Dr. Ruth endorses one device (because “38 million U.S. women have never had an orgasm!”). It is sad that 66 percent of American females cannot regularly achieve orgasm only through penis-vagina coitus. This may be testimony to our cultural anti-sexualism that results in male lover ineptness and female inhibition in arousal and lovemaking. It may signal women’s emerging sexual empowerment and responsibility for one’s own orgasm.
Today, those that attempt to stem the Internet-facilitated tide of international porn and sex-toy marketing are like King Canute, who, at low tide with his throne at the water’s edge with outstretched arm and a command, could not stop the waves and sea from coming in.
There was a young person from Racine,
Who invented a sex making machine.
Concave and convex, it fit either sex,
But it was rather bothersome to clean.