I associated sex toys with desperation around the time my two college girlfriends decided to surprise me with my birthday present in a café pitched in the middle of a large shopping mall; I unknowingly began unwrapping the box. Halfway through the ceremony, much to my friends’ amusement, I caught sight of a flesh covered penile replica and nearly died; a waiter approached to clear our cups and almost fell over himself.
Lord, how they cackled. The waiter half-heartedly picked up my cup while surveying the monster toy in my hand. Who could blame him? It had to have been modeled on porn star monster cock.
‘What were you thinking?’ I asked.
They chanted. ‘Why not?’.
The vast sex toy market isn’t something to be sneezed at. It forms a sizeable chunk of the sex market, specifically the online sex market and it’s aimed at impressing millions of women who seek to jazz up their coupled or single sex lives. What was deemed as a therapeutic tool, decades ago, is now a sought after toy, that isn’t simply a toy but a status symbol.
Vibrators were once used to treat hysteria, a faux medical term of the past that was used willy-nilly, incorporating many things, such as high libido and premenstrual tension. The vibrator came to life in the 1800’s, invented by a British physician as a therapeutic tool to treat hysteria. As far back as the first century A.D. doctors would massage women to orgasm, to rid their bodies of mysterious illnesses. Hysteria has been described as the womb’s rebellion against sexual deprivation, and the ‘hysterical paroxysm’, another word for orgasm, treated the ailment. The machine has outlasted the medical term. Hysteria is as legitimate as phrenology; both have no sound scientific basis, but they created convenient labels. The vibrator had a dual purpose. It freed a doctor from the drudgery of massage, while offering profit (Rachael P Maines: The Technology of Orgasm: Hysteria, the Vibrator and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction, Johns Hopkins University Press). Fortunately for women, hysteria was debunked in the 1950’s. The vibrators or massagers it inspired are still with us today, offering women more avenues to reach that sometime elusive orgasm.
I have never had a problem coming as an adult, but my first manual steps led me to more blind corners than I ever imagined. My first orgasm didn’t unravel as a result of my deft fingers; it exploded by way of a body massager. The massager acted like a metal detector; it enabled me to locate ground zero, my clitoris, and it was a piece of cake from there on in, but like all fashions and movements, accessories are added to the social mix. It reaches a point where sex toys enter the wider world, and terms like Jack Rabbit are included in teleplays.
Sex in the City provided one of the best advertising spots for the Jack Rabbit vibrator. What is an upwardly mobile gal supposed to do if she has difficulty finding a beau or finds a beau who is clitoris challenged? What if a gal needs a change of scene, or added spice?
In my early twenties I’d visit sex shops in the then seedier suburbs, with friends. The purpose of this exercise was to laugh at the absurdity of it all; there were Gigantor vibrators, those that tested the natural limits of human anatomy, that I suspected acted as props, among other things like sex dolls. The legitimate clientele at this time shopped in secret; a shopper would tread the floor, mindful of other shoppers. People purchase guns with more fanfare.
The arrival of the Internet offered variety, and freedom. One didn’t have to avert one’s gaze within a sex shop. Privacy, depending on where one shops, can be paramount. Secrecy flew out the window that afternoon in the café.
“You mean you both went out to buy this?”
They nodded in unison. Their reassuring smiles didn’t quell my discomfort.
The Ron Jeremy replica didn’t wet my appetite. Ron’s great in film, but porn star dimensions freak me out a little. There are three types of penises: the ‘is it in yet?’, the ‘just right’ and the ‘Jeepers Creepers, I need a shoe horn for this.’
My café vibrator belonged to the latter. I used it once before washing and storing it my bedside drawer. The downside of sex toys is that you can’t donate them to your suburban charity box. This vibrator returned to haunt me when I moved house. Months had passed, and I’d forgotten about it, only for it to fall out of a box and onto the pavement, for the male removal dude to offer me a cheeky smile. I decided, no more toys and certainly no more penis replicas, but times do change and one can reach a state of détente with one’s digits.
Curiosity did get the better of me, and this wasn’t based on me possibly missing out on an experience other women are having or currently take for granted, but more so experiencing something because of the enticement that accompanies different textures, frequencies and fits. A vibrator, today, is an extension of one’s masturbatory repertoire. It can be like an additional sexual wardrobe. A woman isn’t limited to faux penises, as there are ergonomically designed vibrators that can fit into a handbag. They can be pretty, or space age with additional extras that operate to mimic cunnilingus. Some are dexterous to hit that G chord within the G Spot, which we adore.
Other vibrators, like Lelo Nea, are conversational pieces by merit of design alone; streamlined, curved and purse sized, they’re works of art.
I succumbed to the sexual current. It was only a matter of time, and technical innovation. It’s easy, and orgasmic, to swim with the current than go against it. It is ironic that a false illness, hysteria, acted as a catalyst, encouraging debate and sex research (Alfred Kinsey, Masters & Johnson). Where would female sexuality be without it? It’s anyone’s guess.
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