Tag Archives: Orgasm

Vibrate Your Clitoris Like It’s 1895

Jimmyjane uses vibrator history to sell its products

Jimmyjane uses vibrator history to sell its products.
Image from Jimmyjane’s website.

With a jar of Speculoos cookie butter in one hand and a Pink Lady apple in the other, I sat down and read Andy Isaacson’s Atlantic Monthly article on vibrator design, expecting to be disappointed. Instead, I was elated. It renewed my hope that within the next five years, we will be living in a dildo-themed utopia, similar to the one depicted in Nicholson Baker‘s House of Holes but minus the horrifying bubbly porn monster. The article is a biography of Ethan Imboden, the founder of the upscale Jimmyjane sex-toy company that sells 24-karat gold vibrators and ones created by high-end designers. Imboden’s goal is not just to sell sex toys but also to transform the cultural attitudes surrounding sex toys by introducing good design into the world of butt plugs and vibrators. I view him as a kindred spirit.

After reading the article, I decided to visit Jimmyjane’s website to peruse their newest products. Scrolling at the top of their page was an animation of a red curtain emblazoned with the logo for the Hysteria movie. The curtain opens and closes, revealing a link to a trailer for the movie on one side, and a link to their collection of Hysteria-themed vibrators on the other.

Even though Hysteria is filled with historic inaccuracies (which I detailed in an earlier post), I was thrilled to see this movie tie-in. No mainstream Hollywood studio has ever been brave enough to partner with a sex-toy company to promote their movies before. Because the movie is based on Rachel Maines’ book on the history of the vibrator, I wasn’t surprised that her version of vibrator history is retold on the Jimmyjane website, a story that claims that doctors in the 19th century thought of vibrators as a chaste medical devices even as they were applying them to women’s clitorises and giving them orgasms in their offices. Although I argue that the vibrator was always considered a sexual device, I can’t fault Jimmyjane founder Imboden for repeating Maines’ story. He’s not a historian, and, to his credit, the site does mention that Maines’ book is controversial among sex historians. But because Imboden obviously takes sex toys seriously and thinks deeply about the design of his vibrators, it’s distressing to see this erroneous history retold. However, I quickly got over my annoyance and checked out the historically themed products themselves. Continue reading

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Nobody Ever Said: “When I grow up, I want to have a loose vagina.”

 The Intensity Vibrator. Image from Jopen’s website.

Like all women, sometimes I wonder if my vagina is properly toned. I don’t spend too much time worrying about it because I have more important things to concern myself with like how to best utilize Princess Peach’s new flying capabilities in Mario Kart 3DS. But I probably should devote more of my life to strengthening my PC muscles, because when women age, their vaginal muscles lose tone, and there’s nothing worse than having a loose vagina (except for poverty, AIDS, unemployment, and bubonic plague). Not only is having a loose vagina unpleasant for your sexual partner, but it also can impact your own sexual pleasure. Strengthening your vaginal muscles increases the intensity of your orgasms. And if you assume  that nobody thinks you have a loose vagina, you could be dead wrong. Curb Your Enthusiasm has a classic episode devoted to this issue, in which Jeff’s former lover confides in Larry that Jeff has a small penis. When Larry relays this information to Jeff, Jeff claims that, in fact, it is not his penis that is the cause of the problem, but it is her enormous vagina. This causes Larry to famously exclaim: “Those big vagina ladies are getting away with murder!”

Most women are aware that they should be doing kegels, but it’s easy to get lazy and forget to do them. So how do you motivate a woman to strengthen her vagina? By creating a vaginal strengthening device that also doubles as an amazingly powerful sex toy. Enter Jopen’s award-winning Intensity vibrator. If the Reebok Pump had a threesome with the Rabbit and an early 20th century Heidelberg Electric Belt this would be the result. The bright pink vibrator contains an inflatable shaft with a g-spot vibrator and two electrodes, a rabbit-shaped clitoral stimulator, and a control panel that would baffle me even if I weren’t sexually aroused, but especially if I were. The control panel is in the bulbous base of the toy. It contains an inflation pump, an air valve release, LED lights, and five different buttons to control the vibrators and the electrodes. Yes, just writing about the operation of this vibrator confuses the shit out of me. However, a lot of sex toys have multiple controls, so that’s not necessarily a deal-breaker for me. But it gets even more complicated. You have to put two different types of lubricants on it before you insert it in your vagina: a water-based lube and electrode-stimulating gel. You then inflate the toy, turn on the electrodes, and activate the two vibrators. You are absolutely not supposed to turn on the electrodes before inserting it in your vagina, but Jopen mysteriously never explains why. I assume that turning on the electrodes prior to insertion will set your vagina on fire.

While I like the idea of this toy, I don’t think I want to be an early adopter of the Intensity. The concept is great: You get to have an orgasm while simultaneously improving the strength of your future orgasms. But it costs $170 dollars. And I’m wary of any vibrator that comes with its own instruction manual,  requires a 10-step process to operate, and has an accompanying list of 10 warnings, including the ominous “Do not use if you have a pacemaker or defibrillator.” While I’m all for technological innovation in sex toys–in fact, Intensity’s slogan is “The Elation of Innovation”–I think that no matter how advanced the toy is, it needs a simple user interface. But if it sounds enticing to you, you can buy it here. For everybody else, you can watch this Intensity video to get an idea of how it works.

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Why All Men Should Own a Strap-On Vagina

The Original Vee-String Vagina Prosthesis

When someone utters the word “strap-on,” I immediately picture a butch lesbian clad in a black leather harness with an enormous purple dildo protruding from her crotch. “Strap-on” possesses a masculine quality; it is reminiscent of the Snap-on Tools Company. A strap-on is imposing and intimidating; it’s a phallic bludgeon that destroys anything in its sight. But during my Thanksgiving vacation with my family, I came upon a strap-on of whose existence I was unaware. It was a strap-on that shattered my worldview, making me question the motivations behind the eternal human desire to create faux genitalia. Yes, I’m talking about a strap-on vagina.

You may ask yourself, “Why would any man want to cover his regal scepter with a flapping mass of labia, clitoris, and hidden urethra, a damp, mysterious cavern whose inner being was not revealed until the 1960s when Masters and Johnson deigned to spelunk inside this enigmatic organ with their camera-equipped dildo.  As a lifelong penis enviest, it is difficult for me to comprehend. If only I had been born with a  penis, I sometimes think, I would have written 15 books by now, received an M.D., and invented a better heating lamp for buffet food. But the genitals that other people have always seem more pleasurable than our own. Even men who love their penises have doubts that they have the best penis. Are uncircumcised men having better orgasms than I have? The cut man asks. Is my penis big enough to give my partners pleasure? Asks every man. So I will reluctantly concede that I understand why a man would want to experiment with a strap-on vagina. They came into the world through the vagina and spend their lives trying to get back into them: why wouldn’t they want to try one on for size if given the chance?

I now present you with the unfortunately named Vee-string Vagina Prosthesis, available in Original, Virgin, Masturbator, Sheath, and Bladder styles.  Made of latex, the vagina is customizable with seven different pubic hair colors and two different hairstyles. The most interesting and useful version of this strap-on vagina is the Masturbator. It has a hole for a man to insert his penis where the clitoris would be, allowing a man to truly understand what it’s like to be a woman.  The Masturbator should be given to all boys at the onset of adolescence as a training tool for their future sexual experiences with women. Even though most men recognize intellectually that the clitoris is the seat of female pleasure, subconsciously they insist that this is not the case. Only through the bodily experience of possessing a clitoris would a man truly comprehend female sexuality. If Freud had owned a strap-on vagina, he would never have invented the myth of the vaginal orgasm.

—Hallie Lieberman

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Why Capitalism is Good For Your Genitals

Adam Smith

There's a joke about the invisible hand of the market in here somewhere, but I'm too lazy to find it.

Whether or not you believe that Female Sexual Dysfunction is a real condition, or one invented by pharmaceutical companies to manufacture a disease and reap the benefits, it is undeniable that many women have trouble reliably achieving orgasm during intercourse. And some women can’t even have orgasms from masturbation, while others think masturbation is wrong, so they don’t even try. Something needs to be done about women’s orgasm deficit, and a commercial solution appears to be the only workable way. While non-profits are doing their best to improve women’s sex lives by promoting sex-positive lifestyles , they are underfunded and too obscure to make a real change in the functioning of vaginas across Americas. Universities tend to shy away from this type of research, because politically it’s safer to study sexual diseases than it is to study sexual pleasure. Consequently, there’s no wing of the University of Chicago Medical School dedicated to studying the clitoris, nor do doctors specialize in the field of bringing women sexual pleasure.  Academia is usually conservative and bureaucratic, and simply studying the history of sex toys raises eyebrows, let alone studying sexual pleasure. Although, research universities have done some work on women’s sexual pleasure—discovering in a study that heterosexual women are indiscriminate in their appreciation of pornography, getting  turned on by straight sex, gay sex, and monkey sex alike—it’s unlikely that any breakthrough discoveries about the female orgasm will occur there.

That’s why the cure for women’s sexual problems has been most strongly pursued by commercial interests: from the patent-medicine companies of the 19th and early 20th century that promoted cocaine-filled concoctions to solve female troubles to the pharmaceutical industry and sex-toy companies of the 21st century.  Obviously this system is imperfect, but it’s all we’ve got, so we should heartily support it. That’s why glum feminists like Leonore Tiefer really bother me. She created something called the New View Campaign that rails against drug companies who try to improve women’s sex lives. Its slogan is “Sex for our pleasure or their profit?” I don’t think it’s an either/or question, nor are the two diametrically opposed, but Tiefer clearly believes otherwise. She argues that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Disorders (DSM) has been defining Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD) in a reductionist way, reducing women’s sexuality to their vaginas, while ignoring the psychological aspects of female arousal and the wide variety of ways that women experience sexual pleasure. Of course their approach is reductionist, because the only way to diagnose a disorder is to have some sort of criteria for it. But she believes that it is this approach that has led drug companies to attempt to capitalize off of FSD by focusing on a narrow goal of increasing physical arousal, a practice that she finds upsetting. She proposes instead that we should:

“resituate women’s sexuality within the political domain rather than the health-and-treatment domain. We believe that addressing issues of political equality, women’s emancipation and entitlement, sex education and health care access will lead to the prevention of many sexual problems.”

While I think that this is an admirable goal and would probably lead to improvements in third-world countries where women lack basic human rights, I don’t think this is the solution to sexual problems in the United States. In America, the only way a woman can obtain orgasms through a political route is if she receives cunnilingus from Bill Clinton.

The sex toy industry has been driven by profit, and it has brought pleasure to millions of women (and men) worldwide. A physician may have invented the vibrator, but it only became a widely available product, produced on a massive scale, because companies and investors believed they could make money from it. Advertising and marketing played a large role in the success of the vibrator in the early 20th century, so it should come as no surprise that commercial interests are leading the charge to discover a cure for women’s sexual problems in the 21st . There’s nothing morally wrong with accruing cash from powerful orgasm machines.  If we had been forced to wait for a large research university to develop and market a commercial sex-toy, we’d still be masturbating with Indonesian bottle gourds.

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I was so happy to be quoted in Friday’s article in the Toronto Globe and Mail about the history of the vibrator. Any time something like this happens, my parents’ embarrassment about my profession drops significantly, and even sometimes turns to pride that their daughter has become a full-time dildographer.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

And while women of the time didn’t necessarily know what masturbation was, Dr. Hall believes “doctors did.” For this reason and the threat of professional liability, she and other scholars suggest the treatment was performed on the fringes – the lineups of women in the filmic adaptation are sheer poetic licence.

“It’s making these people look like idiots and I don’t believe that was the case. Medical literature shows that doctors knew the role of the clitoris. And it makes light of women’s sexuality,” says Hallie Lieberman, a self-proclaimed “dildographer” and PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying the marketing of sex toys throughout history.

“[Maines’ book] really plays on this idea that the doctors didn’t know what the clitoris did, which I think is wrong,” said Sarah Rodriguez, a research assistant professor in medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Ms. Lieberman and others point to a number of sexual anatomy textbooks spanning from the 1820s into the 1900s that describe the clitoris as a primary sexual organ, one capable of erection. In 1890, physician Leonard Rau called it the “principal seat of sexual orgasm in the female.” An “electric bell” is how one gynecology professor put it in 1900. More accessible was Marie Stopes’ popular 1918 sex manual Married Love, which makes explicit reference to the clitoris and its role in orgasm. The book sold nearly 750,000 copies by 1931.

Ms. Lieberman suggests hysteria continues to enthrall modern audiences because with “women, it’s always a mystery, whether they’re aroused. … It’s hard to reliably give women a clitoral orgasm. There’s still a search for the Holy Grail of that.”

Indeed, in some sense the female orgasm remains elusive, as evidenced by pharmaceuticals’ failed hunt for a “pink Viagra” to treat the equally contentious FSD or “female sexual dysfunction,” a diagnosis in the current DSM, the go-to handbook for psychiatrists.

While Ms. Lieberman doesn’t go as far as to label the controversial FSD and its sister malady, hypoactive desire disorder, as today’s hysteria, she suggests the cure may be vibrators, of all things.

“I believe we should be having great sex throughout the life cycle,” she said. “Vibrators need to be promoted by physicians because they do give a lot of anorgasmic women orgasms.”

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Female Sexual Dysfunction, Part One

Does this woman have a sexual disorder? Not even her doctor knows for sure.

Last night I watched an interesting documentary called Orgasm Inc. that traces the development of two female sexual dysfunction drugs: Alista, a topical testosterone cream, and Intrinsa, a testosterone patch that was rejected by the FDA. Both failed because they couldn’t satisfactorily improve women’s sex drives or orgasmic capabilities. The film focuses on the invention of the disease Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD), which director Wendy Ettinger argues is a disorder created by the pharmaceutical industry to sell unnecessary drugs.

The women’s equivalent of erectile dysfunction (ED), FSD is a vaguely defined disease, characterized by “persistent, recurrent problems with sexual response or desire,” according to the Mayo Clinic.  The DSM IV divides FSD into nine separate conditions, some characterized by physical symptoms, and others that are purely psychological. To illustrate the inability of the medical establishment to fully grasp female sexuality, here is a list of the symptoms that supposedly present themselves in cases of  Subjective Sexual Arousal disorder, a subset of FSD:

“absent or diminished feelings of sexual arousal from any type of sexual stimulation; however, vaginal lubrication or other signs of physical response occur.”

In other words, even if a woman’s vagina is saying yes, her brain might be saying no. And the brain overrules the vagina, unlike in the male system where the penis is king. That’s why Viagra doesn’t work as well for women. All most men need is an erection and they’re ready to go. Determining women’s sexual arousal is much more difficult.  Some women need a romantic setting and a loving partner to achieve an orgasm, while others just require a bottle of 99 Bananas and a clitoral erection.

To further complicate the definition of Female Sexual Dysfunction, even if you have all the symptoms, you do not necessarily have FSD unless “these problems are making you distressed or straining your relationship with your partner.” Not only has the medical establishment been unable to sufficiently define FSD, but also they have not come to a consensus on how to treat it, or determined how many people are afflicted. Researchers have variously estimated that anywhere from 10 to 46 percent of women suffer from some form of the condition.

Female Sexual Dysfunction is nothing new. In fact women’s sexual problems have consistently been a great source of concern in Western culture, especially since the mid-1800s. The only thing that has changed is the name. One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, we called these diseases neurasthenia, hysteria, and frigidity. In the 21st century, drug companies have re-branded these syndromes as Female Sexual Dysfunction.

To date, drug companies have failed in curing this affliction, but I believe that if women take FSD into their own hands, they can solve it once and for all. The solution? Simply creating a detailed list of sexual instructions for current and future partners. These should be tacked to the bed or a motion sensor should be set up that begins playing a recording of them once the sexual partner has entered the bedroom.

A hypothetical example is given below:

“Welcome new sexual partner. In order to sexually arouse [insert your name] or bring her to orgasm, you must first perform a 22 minute full-body massage while discussing the history of erotic art in America. Then, place your tongue at a 45-degree angle to her clitoris, while massaging her upper thigh with your right hand, and inserting the index and middle fingers of your left hand into the vaginal canal. Do this for nine minutes. Try to ignore the cramping in your head, neck, and hands.

Side note: if you plan on engaging in sexual activity with her in the future, prepare for it by taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug thirty minutes before commencing sexual activity.

If none of these techniques work, download pornography to her laptop, balance the computer on her stomach and continue performing cunnilingus for the duration of the erotic film. If these approaches continue to be unsuccessful, remove the laptop, take a five-minute break and introduce your own methods into the mix. If all else fails, extricate your face from her vulva, make your way to the kitchen, and locate the bag of Pretzel M&M’s that is stored in the cabinet to the right of the sink. Bring these into the bedroom. You may share them with her, but you are only allowed to eat two of them.”

Coming Soon: In Part II of this blog post, I’ll be detailing some other medical treatments for FSD, including clitoral pumps. I’ll also argue why capitalism is good for women’s sex lives.

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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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Review: Foreplay Ice Frost Vibrator

Foreplay Ice Frost Vibrator

When the heat index was over 100 degrees in Madison, Wisconsin, I decided that nothing would be more appealing than a vibrator with a built-in cooling mechanism. I really wanted to like this adorable genital Popsicle for a number of reasons:

1. I pin my hopes on new vibrators, while dreaming of the day when men evolve to develop clitoral stimulators on their pubic bones.

2. I thought it was adorable.

3. None of my friends had it, so I thought that I could be an early adopter and start a trend that would spread through the University, showering happiness on all who laid hands on the magical vibrating ice device.

Alas, I was disappointed. Just as it burns to place ice on a sprain,  placing a piece of vibrating ice burns the clitoris.  There’s a reason nobody masturbates with Del Monte Fruit Chillers. I’m not going to discount the fact that I didn’t like the Ice Frost because  I have an especially sensitive clitoris, but I’m also not completely convinced that I do, considering I wore my clitoris out on this when I was 19 years old. Maybe if I’d used the vibrator during Bikram Yoga, I would have been transported to absolute bliss. Although it doesn’t bring me sexual pleasure, the vibrator is not entirely worthless. It is a beautiful object. The ice looks like a miniature studded globe and it secures to its silicone base perfectly. The detachable vibrating bullet doesn’t provide enough vibration because the silicone base is so thick, so its more of a muffled pulsation, but maybe a rapidly vibrating ice cube would be even more unpleasant.

Overall Score: Three clitorises. The only reason to purchase this vibrator is so you can tell your friends that you masturbated with an ice vibrator. Actually, that’s a pretty good reason. 


1-3 clitorises: Ineffective for sexual stimulation, but it may have some aesthetic value.

4-5 clitorises: It may bring you orgasms, but its design is ugly, and you might have to hold it at a weird angle to get pleasure.

6-7 clitorises: Reliably produces orgasms, moderately attractive and effective design, definitely bedside-table worthy.

8-9 clitorises: Innovative yet practical design, easy to grasp/insert, clean lines.

10 clitorises: It will bring you sexual bliss like no other device, and it is so beautiful that you could unabashedly display it in your foyer.

What My Clitoris Felt Like After Using the Ice Frost Vibrator

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