Tag Archives: dildo

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 http://newsweek.tumblr.com/

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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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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The Etymology of Dildo

Phallic Mural from Pompeii
Image from GaySpirit

The origins of the word dildo are as mysterious as the object itself.  Recently I’ve begun searching for the etymology of dildo, hoping that in finding it, I will find a key to my existence. I’m like the kid in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, searching for the lock to the key his father gave him, minus the tambourine and Max Von Sydow (By the way, Max Von Sydow, if you’re reading this blog, I’d love to have you join me on my journey of discovery).  Since I’ve started searching, I’ve become even more confused about its origins, and the mystery of dildo has only grown in my mind. The most common theory is that the word may have come from diletto:  an Italian word for “a woman’s delight.” The same source also says that there’s speculation it came from dally which means “to toy.” Other theories point to its origins in the Old English word “dill-doll,” which comes from “the Norse word ‘dilla,’ meaning ‘to soothe.’”

By 1889, dildo was out of favor, according to a slang dictionary of the time, and the more popular term was “broom handle.” This dictionary defines dildo with such beautiful specificity that I’ve excerpted the whole thing here. (And wth all this anti-contraception legislation being bandied about, I wouldn’t be surprised if this definition comes back into favor):

“An instrument made of various soft, pliable substances, and resembling the male pudendum, used by women, who possessing strong amatory passions, and forced to live celibate lives, are afraid of pregnancy following natural copulation. “

I also learned that historically, dildo hasn’t always been used as s a sexual term. A dictionary from the early 1900s defined it as “A term of obscure cant or slang origin, used in old ballads and plays as a mere refrain or nonsense word; also used, from its vagueness, as a substitute for various obscene terms, and in various obscene meanings.” The Online Etymology Dictionary claims that its first use was in the late 1500s, in a Thomas Nash poem, called The Choice of ValentinesNashe’s Dildo or The Merrie Ballad of Nashe his Dildo. Wikipedia says that a theory exists that  “it originally referred to the phallus-shaped peg used to lock an oar in position on a dory (small boat). It would be inserted into a hole on the side of the boat, and is very similar in shape to the modern toy.”

Prior to the 20th century, it was also used as a  verb meaning “to play wantonly with a woman.”  The synonym listed is firkytoodle  which is one of the best words I’ve come across since borborygmus.

I’ve concluded that the etymology of dildo will not be found in reference books. Dildo continues to be an enigma, which seems appropriate given that the word and the object itself are both muses to me. But that won’t stop me from searching. Because I know that once I find the origin of dildo I will have unlocked one of the keys to the sexual universe.

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The Time That You Strapped A Dildo to Your Foot

Heeldo: "The first strap-on dildo harness for your foot." Image from Heeldo.com

In a perfect world, we’d all have dildos protruding from our limbs like porcupine quills, and lubricant dispensers dangling from our stomachs like kinky Inspector Gadgets. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 32 years of existence, it’s that the world is far from perfect. And, no matter how hard I try, I will never grow a penis. Nor will it ever become socially acceptable to go out in public arrayed in dildos. So the best I can hope for is to wear strap-on dildos in the comfort of my own home, while enjoying a bowl of Cap ‘N Crunch Berries doused in heavy cream and two percent milk.

There’s only one problem with this scenario: it’s nearly impossible to bring a cereal-filled spoon to your mouth when you have an eight-inch silicone penis jutting from your chin. But thanks to the Heeldo, I can now live out my fantasy of growing penises from my limbs like the human version of the hot-dog tree from Big Top Pee Wee. Not only would this foot-strap dildo allow me to relax in the comfort of my own home, having realized this life-long dream, but according to the Heeldo company, I could also “sit, squat, or bounce [my] way to climax while giving [my] boyfriend the best blowjob!”

In theory, this would be a win-win for all involved: fellating someone while fucking yourself with a dildo would enhance the blow job because the fellator  would be more turned on and therefore more enthusiastic about performing oral sex. In practice, I fear that it would lead to disaster. Granted, I’m not the type of person who can successfully multitask. It’s a part of the reason why I’m such a bad driver (that and the fact that I’m blonde and a woman).  I believe that fellatio is an art–see courses such as “Fabulous Fellatio: The Art of Oral Sex“–and producing great art requires a level of single-minded intensity that cannot be achieved if you are simultaneously shoving a dildo in your vagina with your foot. But I don’t doubt that some other women or men out there could learn to perfect this skill. So I’m rooting for the Heeldo to succeed. If anything, it demonstrates that the spirit of innovation is alive and well in America.

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Can a Dildo be Art?

Ten years from now, when I’m breaking ground on the Lieberman Phallological Museum and Dildo Emporium, I don’t want to be the only person in the world who believes that sex toys can rise to the level of art.  In that spirit, I will use this blog post to attempt to convince the world that some dildos, vibrators, and male masturbators should be categorized as art. The question of what art is can never, and will never be answered. So I’m not going to try to do that here. I will just use Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography to define art: “I know it when I see it.”

Functional objects always have a disadvantage when it comes to being labeled as art. It seems like if something actually serves a purpose, it cannot be art. That’s why car museums are considered kitschy and museums filled with sculptures of giant human fetuses are considered high brow. And when the object has a sexual use, it’s more difficult to convince people of its artistic character, which leads to this intractable question: “If you can fuck it, is it art?”

Even if you believe that sex toys can be art, in the past 30 years most sex toys have been too ugly to be thought of as art; they’re frequently made of fluorescent jelly plastic and feature disturbing faces. But recently, some progress has been made in this industry, and companies are manufacturing beautiful sex toys. I’m not sure what caused this trend. Partly it’s the green movement, which led consumers to be concerned about the materials their products are made out of. This has caused a shift from sex toys made from phthalate-filled jelly materials to those constructed from silicone, wood, steel, and ceramics. It has also led to some accountability in the industry, which is important because the FDA doesn’t regulate sex toys.  And since you can’t try out a sex toy before you buy it, the design is extremely important. If you’re going to shove something up your ass, it better be well made.

Here are three sex toys worthy of the label art, and my speculation on their artistic inspiration:

(side note: This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means. There are at least a half-dozen other sex toy companies producing fuckable art).

DILDO

Mark Rothko’s Untitled (Yellow Red and Blue) 1953

Girard Dildo by Babes N Horny

Girard Dildo by Babes N Horny:

Made of high quality silicone, this dildo is designed to fit perfectly into Babes N’ Horny’s hand-crafted harnesses that are painstakingly constructed by a London tailor.

VIBRATOR:

And Then…Gargle Glop by Takashi Murakami

Yooo Vibrator by Fun Factory

Yooo by Fun Factory:  Appearing like an inverted Mickey Mouse insignia and available in Pop candy colors, the Yooo vibrator is playful and unique. It’s also made of silicone, has two motors, and is rechargeable.


MALE MASTURBATOR

Frank Gehry’s Dancing House

Tenga 3D Male Masturbator

 Tenga 3D: So beautiful that it would be a shame to ejaculate into it, the Tenga 3D is made of elastomer. The beautiful designs provide textured stimulation for the adventurous masturbator.

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Is Larry David Terrified of Vibrators?

Larry David Navigating the Streets of New York in a "moving dildo."

My two favorite subjects–Larry David and vibrating devices–were magically intertwined in this week’s episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. In the episode, Larry’s car has a broken passenger seat that vibrates uncontrollably, producing orgasms in all the lucky women who get to ride in it. As he’s driving a woman he’s dating to his apartment in an attempt to receive postprandial intercourse, the woman achieves spectacular orgasm in the car, becomes sleepy, and decides not to go up to Larry’s apartment. Essentially, Larry is cock-blocked by his own vehicle. At the time, however, he is so clueless that he doesn’t realize that a woman has just orgasmed in his car. It takes his roommate Leon to discover the secret powers of his car seat. When he takes a ride with Larry, he explains the situation to him, declaring, “This shit is a moving dildo…This chair is a fuck machine. Man cannot compete with machinery.” After Leon’s revelation, Larry recognizes that his vibrating passenger-side chair is more capable of pleasing a woman than he is. (Earlier in the episode, Larry’s penis became flaccid during intercourse with this same woman). Not only do women like his giant sex toy more than they like him, but also he is unwittingly forced to transport this extraordinary vibrator, forcing him to be reminded of his sexual inadequacies time and time again. Larry is symbolically castrated by his car. (There’s another sexual humiliation subplot about an ice cream truck, but I’m not going to detail it here).

This episode left me wondering if vibrators intimidate most men or just old, balding Jewish men. Side note: I can say this because I’m a Jew, and I consider old, balding Jewish men to be the sexiest men around. When Leon says “Man cannot compete with machinery,” he is partially correct. Women do receive stronger orgasms from vibrators than they do from men. But orgasms aren’t as important to most women as they are to most men. I’m not including myself in the category of “most women,” by the way. Women argue that a vibrator could never replace a man because it can’t cook you a romantic dinner or snuggle in bed or hug you when you’re upset. But some men continue to be afraid of sex toys. And even though sex robots can’t cook penne alfredo now, I guarantee that in the future they will be able to. If Temple Grandin can create a hugging machine for cows, I don’t see why Doc Johnson can’t create clitoral stimulators that give affection.

Male fear of sex machines is irrational and primal, but completely forgivable and understandable. When a woman brings an eight-inch Jungle Jigglers Dolphin Vibrator  into the bedroom, she is introducing a penis-competitor into a man’s domain. This causes men distress because they can’t understand why their penises aren’t revered by the women they sleep with. And, I completely understand because I have one of the worst cases of penis envy in the history of America. If I had a penis, I would expect it to be worshiped too. However, the penis, like many celebrities, is amazing and beautiful, but flawed.  Men are either unaware of their penile flaws or choose to ignore them. Its main flaw is the lack of  a clitoral stimulator, causing most women to be unable to orgasm during intercourse unless they also manually stimulate their clitorises. During sex, women (meaning me) can’t stop thinking about the penis’ unfortunate flaw, while simultaneously being  jealous of a man’s ability to easily orgasm during sex. It seems only humane to allow a woman to bring all sorts of man-made devices into the bedroom to correct this flaw in the male anatomy. In time, most men come to welcome the vibrator into their penis’ domain, but this fear of vulva-stimulating machines will probably never completely disappear.

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