Sex toys have been around in one form or another since the invention of the cucumber. They’ve been uncovered at archeological digs, appear on ancient Greek vases, and are even mentioned in the bible: “You also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them” (Ezekiel 16:17). In the 1800s, doctors used dildos to jerk off rich women who’d been diagnosed with hysteria. This kind of “vulvular stimulation” however got to be too exhausting for the poor doctors, so they invented electrically-powered vibrators that were more efficient at “curing” women of their mysterious ailments. No one seemed to think any of this was weird until word got out that the porn industry was also using these so-called medical devices for their own nefarious purposes. But before that happened, vibrators were widely popular among middle-class women and advertised in publications like Needlecraft, Woman’s Home Companion, and Sears Roebuck. Witness this ad from the early 1900s:
“The secret of the ages has been discovered in Vibration. Great scientists tell us that we owe not only our health but even our life strength to this wonderful force. Vibration promotes life and vigour, strength and beauty…Vibrate Your Body and Make It Well. YOU Have No Right to Be Sick” (“Vibration is life” advertisement, 1910, from Der Spiegel)
Historically, women are socialized not to act, but to react, and this passivity and reticence in everyday occurrences often translates into the bedroom as well. I was thinking about this in terms of the aggression men often display when seeking a sexual conquest and how women on all sides of the sexual spectrum tend to have a less aggressive approach to sex outside of love and commitment. Witness the polarities between Women Seeking Women and Men Seeking Men ads on Craigslist sometime, if you don’t believe me. Another example of this is from a lesbian sex-radical in the 80s, who advertised “bare bottom spankings, immobilizing bondage, enemas, colonic irrigations, vaginal and rectal exams, dildos and vibrators” then ended with “and after I’ve endured what was bestowed upon me, comfort me in your loving arms. Long term relationship possible.”
One of the things I love about sex is its ability to eradicate hierarchies at the same time it’s creating them. Take this quote from The Big Bang, “Just because you want to be tied up, spanked, and called ‘bitch’ doesn’t mean you’re a bad feminist.” Power is so intrinsic to our relationships, especially sexual ones, but we spend so much time trying to stabilize power in every other arena of our lives that in the bedroom it can become kind of debilitating. Exciting too, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of people think that relinquishing control in the bedroom means you have to relinquish it elsewhere in your life, which is not at all true.
All this is a very roundabout way of mentioning that I was just hired to be a “Carnal Consultant” at Early to Bed, an awesome women-owned sex toy store in Andersonville. I’m going to be a sex toy reviewer, which means, essentially they’re going to pay me to masturbate. Come again, you say? I very much intend to. Again and again and again. And again.