Category Archives: Sex Toy

One Vibrator Per Teen

Hello Kitty Vibrators

One Vibrator Per Teen: Changing A Teenager’s Life, One Sex Toy at a Time.

To get sex toys when I was a teenager, I had to break the law. Like all teenagers, I was obsessed with sex. Unlike all teenagers, I was obsessed with sex toys and would tromp into sex-toy stores just to gaze at the bizarre dildo packaging. This being the late 1990s, shopping online wasn’t an option. So I went to brick-and-mortar stores for my dildo fix. The only problem was that I was 16, and the minimum age was 18. So every time I went into the Adult Fun Shop, I was afraid that I’d get kicked out. Even its name reminded me that I wasn’t welcome. That added to the thrill, of course, but it also made me think that exploring my sexual desires was illegal, which leads me to my proposal (actually it was my boyfriend’s idea) that all adolescent girls should be eligible to receive a free vibrator when they turn 13. 

Here’s how the One Vibrator Per Teen program would work:

When a girl turns 13, she would be eligible to sign up for the One Vibrator Per Teen program via a website, which would feature information on masturbation, sexual health, contraception, and all the other things you need to know when you develop breasts and pubic hair. A week later, a phthalate-free rechargeable silicone vibrator clothed in discreet packaging would arrive at her home, packaged with water-based lubricant and an informational booklet.

Not only would teenage girls benefit from this program, but sex-toy companies would also profit from the early brand recognition. Gaining brand loyalty by giving away swag to hormonal girls is a time-worn strategy. For decades the feminine-hygiene company Kimberly-Clark has offered free sex-education materials to teachers in an attempt to get their maxi pads in the hands of as many new menstruators as possible, so why shouldn’t Trojan also get in the game?  Continue reading

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The History of Sex Toy Humor

The Delighter

Sketch of “The Delighter.” (Circa 1920s) From the National Museum of American History Archives Center Business Americana Collection

For as long as sex toys have been around, we’ve been laughing at them. But why we think they’re funny is difficult to explain. If you asked a group of people to explain why they laugh at dildos, you’d be met with blank stares. (Or you’d be forcibly removed from your family reunion. Don’t ask).

In an attempt to understand the mechanics behind sex-toy humor, I recently read Gershon Legman’s Rationale of the Dirty Joke. In the book, Legman argues that one of the functions of humor is that it allows us to discuss taboo subjects in polite society. We can joke about sex in venues where we can’t talk seriously about it because the humor “absorbs and controls… by means of laughter, the great anxiety that both teller and listener feel in connection with certain culturally determined themes.” Following this logic, we joke about sex toys because it’s the only way that our society allows us to discuss them without facing societal repercussions.

One of the earliest records of dildo humor  is from the Greek poet Herodas, who was writing in the 3rd Century BC.  In a bawdy sketch titled Mime , a woman (Metro) is asking her friend (Koritto) where she bought her dildo. Koritto responds to Metro’s question with a rhapsodic description of her sex toys: When I saw them, my eyes swam at the sight—men don’t have such firm pricks! Not only that, but its smoothness is sleep, and its straps are like wool, not leather. As is typical of much dildo comedy throughout history, the humor is related to men’s fears of penile inadequacy, a fear that given a choice, women would prefer the smooth, perpetually hard dildo to the flawed and fallible penises of their partners. Continue reading

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What is a Sex Toy?

Wahl 2-speed all-body massager

Is this a sex toy or a therapeutic massager? How do we make this distinction?

It seems ridiculous to ask this question, nearly a year into writing my blog and my dissertation. But it’s an important one because what is and is not a sex toy is not readily apparent. Sure, you could confidently state that the devices sold on a sex-toy site like Good Vibrations, are in fact instruments that are designed to stimulate the genitals. But not all sex toys are sold in sex toy stores. Nor are all massagers that are marketed to “relieve pain and fatigue,” actually used for back massage.

So how do we judge whether something is a sex toy or a therapeutic device? Do we accept a company’s marketing claims at face value? Or do we factor in how the consumer actually uses the device?  Take the Wahl Two-Speed All Body Massager  for example. Wahl makes vague claims that the massager: “Increases circulation,” “Relieves aches and muscle pain,” and works well for “facial” and “deep tissue” massage. But nothing indicates that the massager provides women with incredible orgasms. You have to look to’s product reviews to find that information:

“Best. Thing. Ever. No clue how it does at massaging sore muscles, but as a vibrator it’s definitely in my top 3. Most of the time the low setting is perfect, but for an extra little something there’s a way to hold it so you can flip it to high right before you have a orgasm [sic] and I have to say it’s better than anything else I’ve experienced. A definite must for anyone.”- Anonymous

Not all of the reviews are like this, of course. But enough of the reviews are like this that there should be no doubt in any consumer’s mind that the Wahl provides an amazing clitoral massage. Continue reading

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One Nation Under Sex Toys

Rejected Newsweek Cover with American Flag Vibrator

Rejected Newsweek Cover with American Flag Vibrator for the February 14, 2012 issue. Image from

This Fourth of July, as I reside in the nation’s capital, studying the history of our regulations against sex toys and the various ways that sex toy manufacturers have attempted to evade these laws, I should have a pessimistic view of the nation. After all, my raison d’être, the motivation that keeps me going, is the belief that sex toys are objects that are symbols of American ingenuity, that dildos are proof of American Exceptionalism. In fact, as I like to imagine it, masturbators all across the country are now sublimely bringing themselves to orgasm while contemplating how lucky they are to be Americans, or simply to be humans, a part of the tool-making species that has contrived such wonderful motorized devices to speed up and intensify “the little death,” that thirty-second moment of ecstasy that has driven invention and innovation since the beginning of time.

But America has been attempting to frustrate the nation’s masturbators for the past 150 years. They’ve incinerated sex toys in fires in the mid-1800s, arrested people for selling them, shamed people for using them. Unlike the burned book, few take up the torch for the sex toy, feeling, incorrectly as it happens, that sex toys are not full of ideas and ideals, are not, in fact, objects worthy of intellectual contemplation. But all objects, however reviled, especially the reviled ones, posses the ability to become muses, to expand minds, to launch dreams. We have an idea that great literature is full of lofty intellectual ideas, that it ignores the bodily processes, that nobody farts in Shakespeare. But  literature embraces the body. James Joyce revelled in defecation, Marcel Proust lovingly described gay sex, and Geoffrey Chaucer’s characters buggered each other with plow blades. That’s not to say that sex toys are books’ intellectual equals, just that we mischaracterize classic literature. We consciously create a divide between the body and the mind, a divide that allows people to believe that they are above animals. Instead, we need to admit that we are animals with the accompanying animal instincts, but that we differentiate ourselves in our ability to think deeply about these instincts, to make choices about them, to improve upon our genitals.

But what gives me hope isn’t that most of our anti-sex-toy regulations have been lifted; it’s that Americans have always ignored them. No matter how much our government has done to stop us from using sex toys, we have continued to manufacture and market them. Even in the face of imminent arrest, American entrepreneurs have always produced and sold sex toys because they’ve believed, correctly, that deep within the soul of the red-blooded, pragmatic American consumer lies the indefatigable hope that the newest dildo or butt plug or tube of clitoral stimulation gel will change the face of orgasm forever.

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It’s Now OK to Whip Your Husband: 50 Shades of Grey and the Sex Toy Revolution

50 Shades of Grey E.L. James

The erotic best-seller that’s spurring sex toy sales throughout the land.

The recent popularity of 50 Shades of Grey has led nearly every literate woman (and a few illiterate ones) to traipse down to the local sex toy emporium to start her own dungeon or to fantasize about doing so. For those not familiar with the book, 50 Shades of Grey is an erotic trilogy by E.L James that began its life as Twilight fan fiction. It  is steeped in age-old erotic tropes, telling a story of an innocent virgin corrupted by a sexy, domineering older man who trains her in a life of ever-more-depraved sexual acts that she learns to enjoy and begins to crave. It’s full of bondage and whipping and spanking. Although I enjoyed the book, it wasn’t debauched enough for me, but that’s because the first erotic books I read as a teenager were Story of the Eye, a novel by Georges Bataille that includes priest sex, necrophilia and bull testicles used as sex toys, and 120 Days of Sodom, which contains a ton of violent gay sex,as well the classic line:” “Fart, fart: as hard as you can, as loud as you like.”

However, 50 Shades of Grey is great fun, and it is full of scenes starring sex toys, which has led to a boom in sex-toy sales across the nation. According to an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, “sales of bondage gear jumped 375 percent in April” at famed women’s-owned sex-toy boutique Babeland. That an erotic book is at the top of The New York Times best seller list renews my belief in the wisdom of the American people, a belief that was tested during the recent failed recall of Scott Walker, a man who, incidentally, needs a good flogging.

But this blog post isn’t going to devolve into a paean about the recent acceptance of sex-toys  in America culture. What’s more interesting to me is the media coverage about 50 Shades of Grey and its connection to an increase in sex-toy sales. The phrase that’s been bandied about is that 50 Shades of Grey has “given women permission” to indulge their wild, sadomasochistic side. The gist of the coverage is that every woman has been secretly wanting to transform their basement into a hardcore S&M dungeon, but they have hesitated because of social stigma. Once they read the E.L. James trilogy and discussed how sexy it was with their friends, that stigma begin to dissolve. Overnight, the nation’s women became BDSM aficionados. I would love to believe that every woman has been fantasizing about tying her husband up in luxurious metal chains, sticking a rubber ball gag in his mouth, and fellating him while Asian incest game show porn plays in the background. And maybe they have. Continue reading

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This Vibrator Wants to Replace Your Boyfriend

LadyHug Vibrator

Introducing Your Vagina’s New Best Friend: The LadyHug Vibrator
Image from

Women’s sex toys are capable of terrifying the most secure man in the world. They’re  candy-colored, hairless devices that vibrate and pulsate with an intensity that no man can achieve with any part of his body. The human penis looks wildly unimaginative in comparison. Sex toys are proof  that intelligent design does not exist. If we really had an intelligent designer, men’s penises would wiggle in five million directions, their testicles would vibrate, and they’d ejaculate White Mystery Airheads candy. And, yes, with that sentence I’ve just put an end to all theological debate. You’re welcome.

So along comes men’s biggest nightmare: the LadyHug, the empathetic vibrator that not only improves upon the penis but also gives the vagina emotional fulfillment. Fortunately for men, the LadyHug can’t quite pull off this persona. It’s marketed as a sex toy that “hugs” and “embraces,” but never “fucks.” A bright red palm-sized device that looks like a bargain-basement robot’s flying vagina, the LadyHug has tiny “paddled arms” that are designed to grasp the labia and clitoris and multiple downloadable vibration patterns so that a woman’s vagina never gets bored.The LadyHug “snuggles up as close as it can get while it vibrates.” And it’s also designed to bolster your self-esteem. “LadyHug is as intuitive and ever-changing as the female it satisfies,” the company proudly declares. Meanwhile, the vibrator itself looks like an alien weapon from BattleshipI can imagine it developing “intuition” and tearing off the clitorises of all human females in an attempt to build the universe’s most powerful pleasure device.

The problem with the LadyHug’s marketing campaign is that it miscalculates in its use of female stereotypes. I don’t want my vibrators to compassionately copulate with me. If I wanted to be made love to, I’d become a feminist juggler in a Marxist clown troop, since they’re the only demographic who makes love anymore. Women don’t want to be friends with their vibrators. They don’t want their vibrators to compliment them or tell them that they look skinny in their new outfit. They don’t want their vibrators to be gentle or cuddly. They want them to be sexy and edgy and give them the best orgasms of their lives. The LadyHug assumes that every woman’s clitoris is a timid organ that needs to be gently coaxed into orgasm. But the clitoris doesn’t need platitudes. It needs to be dominated. And the poorly named LadyHug isn’t up to the task.

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Wooden Dildos Don’t Leave Splinters

Mary Thury, German Dildo Maker

Mary Thury, wife of Elmar, who specializes in applying lacquer to the dildos.
Image from

Few dildos could be called charming. Silicone and plastic versions just seem cheap and disposable. Futuristic looking steel dildos are intimidating. But wooden dildos have character. They’re the type of dildo that Henry David Thoreau would have taken with him to Walden Pond, a dildo that you’d find while foraging for wild berries in the forest, where you’d stumble upon Keebler Elves whittling phalluses with tiny knives while ensconced in their Hollow Tree®.

Given the charisma inherent in wooden sex toys, it makes sense that the most charming ones on the market are produced by a family. The fact that they’re practicing Catholics might be off-putting to some, but it’s inspiring to me. Dildo entrepreneurs Elmar Thüry and his wife and children are true iconoclasts. Although it takes moxie to be a dildographer, it takes much more courage to carry on religious traditions while also promoting sexual devices.

The Thüry family designs, hand-carves, and markets 72 varieties of sustainable wooden dildos, butt plugs, g-spot stimulators, and vibrators. Thüry says that the most common question he gets is about splinters, which he says aren’t a problem because the dildos are made from spruce wood, and treated to prevent splinters.  The road to Thüry’s dildo business was paved with ornamental wooden mushrooms, which are in far less demand than sex toys. After his son pointed out the mushrooms’ likeness to the male genitals, he began manufacturing dildos. But some of the spirit of the wild mushroom lingers in their design, providing them with an old-world ethos. Continue reading

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Why can’t we just call a Dildo a “Dildo”?

As I pore over the vice reports of our mutton-chopped 19th century postal censor, Anthony Comstock, I’m continuously surprised that he refused to refer to the dildo as a dildo. “Too gross to be described,” he says in a published vice report from 1882 in reference to “immoral rubber goods,” a sweeping category that included condoms, dildos, French ticklers, and odd things like fake dog poop. He didn’t feel comfortable describing them in detail, but he took pleasure in quantifying the amount of sex products that he confiscated. In 1882 alone it was 64,836 pounds.

It’s as if Comstock believed that the word itself was so dangerous that printing it could have a deleterious effect on all who read it. Sometimes in the confidential arrest reports he has scribbled the word. When he arrested sex goods proprietor Louis Beer, he noted: “The man who brought the dildoe to America.” Of course he was giving Beer too much credit because most likely the man who brought the dildo to America has been dead for 3,000 years. What would be more correct is to call him the man who brought the rubber dildo to America, but my research shows that it definitely wasn’t Beer. The father of American gynaecology, J. Marion Sims, did more to popularize the dildo than anyone else I know. In the mid-1800s, he advocated the use of dilators (now referred to as “medical dildos”) as treatments for vaginismus, a condition where the vagina spasms and tightens so much prior to sexual intercourse that a penis is unable to penetrate the wall of rigid genital tissue.

For some reason the task of avoiding the use of words like dildo, condom, and French tickler caused government officials to wax poetic about rubber sexual devices.  In an 1873 speech to the House of Representatives, New York congressman Clinton L. Merriam, stumping for an obscenity bill, had this to say:

“It is terrible to contemplate that more than six thousand persons are daily employed in a carefully organized business, stimulated to activity by all the incentives that avarice and wickedness can invent, to place in the schools, and homes of our country, books, pictures and immoral appliances, of so low and debasing a nature that it would seem as if the brute creation itself would turn from them in disgust

By avoiding using the word dildo, America’s censors ended up imbuing it with a mystical power, making dildo the word whose name they dared not speak, and whose etymology is a mystery. But the word may be making a comeback. This month postal censors made Vice magazine cover up their picture of a dildo with a DILDO sticker. Progress? Not really. We won’t be truly progressive until neither the word or the device offends.

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Is This What Men Want?

The Newest in Masturbation Technology

When you’re the type of company that churns out male masturbation devices that look like decapitated heads, it’s kind of difficult to top yourself. So, what is Pipedream Products to do?  Create the Mega Fuck Slut Mega Masturbator; that’s what. Weighing twenty-five pounds and constructed with thermo-plastic rubber, The Mega Fuck Slut is a limbless torso with both anal and vaginal orifices, which appears to be more at home in a Saw movie than on your kitchen counter (or wherever one keeps such things). According to Pipedream Products, this sex toy came about through customer demand. Customers wanted both a “front and a back side of a torso” to copulate with.  I’m not sure if they requested that it lack appendages, but I’m assuming that they did because a plethora of fully limbed blow-up dolls already exist. Why would a man want to copulate with a limbless large-breasted plastic woman? If I knew the answer to that, I’d have won a MacArthur Genius Grant by now. It seems like this sex toy would only appeal to heterosexual male serial killers, but I doubt that there are enough around to make this masturbator a profitable enterprise. If these were cheaper, I’d suggest sending one to Rush Limbaugh so that he could learn the true meaning of slut,  but at $1,567.50it’s not worth it.

Even though the Mega Fuck Slut may be abhorrent to 99% of the population, its promotional video can teach us important lessons about what not to do when marketing a giant sex toy. Here are the three biggest marketing mistakes in the Mega Fuck Slut Mega Masturbator video:

1. Inexplicable Censorship of Packaging On the packaging  of the box, the real breasts of  the human model are censored with a fluorescent green bar, yet the plastic breasts, vagina, and anus of the artificial woman are considered acceptable enough to be fully displayed, as is the obscene name of the product.

2. Failure to Demonstrate a Product’s Attributes The demonstrator gets out a measuring tape to measure the mega masturbator’s length and width but doesn’t show anybody the actual measurements.

3. Making Dubious Assumptions About the Target Market He presumes that every man has an “enema hose” in his shower.

When will companies learn that a 27-inch long fuckable headless torso with anal and vaginal openings doesn’t just sell itself?

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Every Fetish Deserves Its Own Sex Toy

The My First Pregnant “Knocked Up” Masturbator.

Being a pregnancy fetishist must not be easy. Although the media frequently promotes the image of the sexy pregnant woman, it directs this message to other women to imply that they too can be sexy while with child. There is a vast gulf between a beaming Snooki on the cover of this week’s Us Weekly and a porn video of Snooki’s fiance Jionni having sex with her while she’s with child. Most people are extremely creeped out by the latter. For some reason, it’s socially acceptable for a pregnant woman to be portrayed as sexy, but not as an object of male sexual desire. I sympathize with those cyesolagniasts (the scientific term for pregnancy fetishists) out there, because they have to hide their fetish and risk rejection by their girlfriends if it’s revealed. So when I stumbled upon the newly released My 1st Pregnant Knocked Up Pussy, I was pleased to see that a sex toy company was taking this fetish seriously. Until now, the only sex toy for cyesolagniasts was the Pregnant Fantasies Love Doll,a $20, inflatable PVC doll whose package features a circa 1973 image of a thong-clad Laura Dern-type woman holding a rose to her belly with long strings of pearls wrapped around her neck. The only Amazon review of it (from guilty pleasure) is a work of beauty:

This is a cheap doll (and you get a decent pregnant DVD in the deal) if you don’t expect too much you won’t be disappointed. The shape is correct, not a fatty doll, the head is ghastly (I put a pair of panties over it) and a small leak sprung the second time it was blown up (patch repaired it). That said, it is the ONLY pregnant sex doll I know of and for the price, I would buy it again.

The Venus of Willendorf: An ancient prototype for the pregnancy masturbation sleeve.

Guilty pleasure’s review demonstrates that maiesiophiliasts (yes, this fetish is so common that two terms for it exist ) are so desperate for sex toys that they’ll repeatedly purchase defective blow-up dolls to satisfy their fetish. But I doubt the My 1st Pregnant Knocked Up Pussy will satisfy them, unless their particular fetish involves fucking a headless Venus of Willendorf. The My 1st Pregnant Knocked Up Pussy masturbator sleeve is only six inches long and it features a torso of a spread-legged miniature pregnant woman with a tiny vagina and tiny anus that the user is supposed to stick his dick into. On the plus side, the sleeve vibrates and Nasstoys brags that the masturbator is RoHS (The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive) complaint, a standard developed in the European Union to certify that a device is free of six harmful substances.

In an overly ambitious press release, the Nasstoys company is optimistic that their masturbator could not only satisfy cyesolagniasts’ demands, but also manufacture this fetish in the rest of the male population:

We can also create a new fantasy for men to explore, who hadn’t previously thought about it. Fertility reminds men of virility and when men feel virile they get better erections. This is an erotic fantasy that goes deep into our mammal psyches. We’re already hearing a big buzz about these and expect them to be big sellers for retailers.

Unfortunately for Nasstoys, a male masturbation sleeve in the shape of a homunculus torso is unlikely to captivate the male sexual imagination, let alone create previously unknown desires.

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