Tag Archives: Sexuality

Guess Who Finished Her Dissertation on the History of Sex Toys?

Dildo TrophyAfter writing nearly 300 pages on the history of sex toys, you would think that I would be burnt out, that I would shut down dildographer.com and open up an Etsy boutique selling artisanal hazelnut butter and cardamom-infused rum. And I did have a two-day post-dissertation melt-down (sample thought: “Now that I’ve finished my dissertation, and I’ve run out of junk food blogs to read, my life is not worth living.”) Once I clawed my way out of the post-dissertation sinkhole, I realized that devoting the past three years of my life to sex toys had not dampened my love for them, that, in fact, I loved sex toys even more than I had when I started. I guess that’s what true love is: Even when you’re at your lowest the thought of your beloved brings you immense joy. In this case, as I was weeping in bed, thinking about my uncertain future, a penis-shaped beacon shone in the distance, shiny, glittering, burning my eyes with its brilliance. It reminded me that I still have a lot of work to do on the history of sex toys, and the current status of sex toys, and the future of sex toys (sex robots remain woefully ignored by the academy). It reminded me that I have to transform my dissertation into a trilogy of books on the history of sex toys, and that if I don’t nobody will.

But first, a few insights from my dissertation (and committee members, if you’re reading this, these are your Cliff Notes for my defense):

Continue reading

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Why Older Men-Younger Women Relationships Make People Uncomfortable

Larry David and Evan Rachel Wood in "Whatever Works."

Larry David and Evan Rachel Wood in “Whatever Works.”

Neighbor: “I saw your father walking your dog.”

Me:  “That wasn’t my father. That was my boyfriend.”

So goes a typical day in the life of a gerontophile. I’m not upset when people mistake my boyfriend for my father. In fact, my boyfriend and my father do share the same name and ethnicity, and while my boyfriend is 11 years younger than my father, he is 56 years old, the same age as my mother.

No, it’s not this type of honest mistake that bothers me. It’s the assumptions that come with our age difference that bother me. My boyfriend refers to the age difference as our dischronicity, which is a combination of the Greek chronos, meaning time (from Chronos, the god of time), and the Latin dis, meaning apart.  Saying that your relationship is dischronic or “apart in time” lends it a poetry that relationships with wide age differences are rarely given.  But it’s an appropriate term for my relationship because part of what makes it so appealing to me is the delicious strangeness of it, the taboo of it. There’s an eroticism to the violation of norms, a separate, tangible eroticism unrelated to my own gerontophilia.

And my recognition of this eroticism leads to another level of problems.  This actually wouldn’t be so much of a problem except that people I barely know question me about my choice of boyfriend.  They want a reassuring answer as to why my boyfriend is 24 years older than I am; they want me to fit into the standard narrative of the gold-digging younger woman. They want to make sense of the abnormal. I disappoint them when I say that I’m just attracted to older men. Even though I am careful never to mention the inherent eroticism of dischronicity, I still get a side-eye because they want to see an ulterior motive driving us together. They find it difficult to believe that our relationship could be based, like many relationships, on sexual attraction and love. (Gerontophiles! They’re just like us!) Continue reading

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Ask the Dildographer

While guiltily not working on my dissertation on Labor Day, I decided to traipse down to the bookstore and pick up a few sex advice books and magazines, a few of which contained sex toy history in them. So I ended up technically working on Labor Day, after all, which calmed my bat-shit crazy mind. Some of what I found in these books was enlightening (I learned a new fellatio technique, for example), some was disheartening (no, author of Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man, your boyfriend or husband isn’t gay if he enjoys being pegged. He’s straighter than Mitt Romney on a ski slope.), and some was essential basic anatomy that I never learned (ie. where the frenulum is).

But what these books made me realize is that people crave very basic information about sexuality and that this information is in short supply (the entire sex advice section would’ve fit on my coffee table).  The recent popularity of 50 Shades of Grey demonstrates that when the market for sex advice literature isn’t satisfied, readers will simply transform their smut into sex-advice manuals. The only problem with employing 50 Shades as a sex manual it is that it encourages the use of dangerous hardware-bought sex toys like zip ties and ropes. I don’t fault E.L. James because she didn’t intend for 50 Shades to be used as an instruction manual. But now that women are using it that way, it’s important that they apply the central message of the story to their lives–that people in love can and should have taboo-busting rough sex and not just make vanilla love to each other while pumpkin-scented candles flicker in the background–without reenacting the sex scenes using the possibly dangerous tools mentioned in the story.

I figured that I’m as good a person as any to offer this type of sex-toy advice, so I’ve decided to start a recurring Ask the Dildographer feature. Ask me anything sex-related (not just sex-toy related), no matter how bizarre or taboo you think that it is. Chances are that I’ve either tried it, thought about trying it, or read about someone who has tried it. All question-writers will remain anonymous. Send all your emails to askthedildographer@gmail.com Continue reading

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Let’s Give Female Masturbation a New Name

I love masturbating T-shirtJack off. Choke the chicken. Beat the meat. Spank the monkey. The rich vocabulary to describe male masturbation is directly related to our acceptance and even celebration of it. Women’s masturbation is less accepted, so the terminology used to describe it suffers as a result. If you asked a random person on the street to name euphemisms for female masturbation, they’d probably fail to name even one. I’ve read that Jill off is a female-specific term, but I’ve never actually heard anybody use it.  Since I spend a large portion of my life writing and speaking about female masturbation, I am routinely frustrated by the dearth of terms to describe it. (As you’ll note from this paragraph, I’ve always resorted to using the cumbersome phrase female masturbation).

Before we investigate alternative terms for female masturbation, it’s instructive to delve into masturbate itself. Masturbate most likely derives from the Latin manus (hand) and stupare (to defile), according to the OED. Its origins reveal that it once was a pejorative term, as many terms for masturbation are today. Etymology aside, masturbate is simply too cumbersome and unwieldy to form the basis of the go-to term for female self-pleasuring. Masturbate doesn’t so much as roll off the tongue as it does tumble in a cascade of inelegant syllables.

Not surprisingly, the Ancient Greeks had a few terms for female masturbation, one of which was clitorize, according to Rod L. Evans’ Sex-i-con Evans says that clitorize derives from the Greek kleitoris, whose etymology is uncertain but the OED says that it may derive from a Greek word meaning to shut. First-century Greek physician Rufus of Ephesus defined clitorize as “the lascivious touching” of the clitoris. In Latin there was maritate, meaning “to manipulate one’s vulva by hand; of females, to masturbate.”  It was derived from “maritus (husband), with the suggestion that one’s hand is acting as a husband,” according to Evans. Although I love the idea of having a hand husband, but I can’t imagine myself employing the word maritate in my daily life. 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 Amazon.com’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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How We Should Write About Sex

If only more academics followed Stacia Kane’s advice.
Image from staciakane.com

Most sex writing is terrible. Most scholarly sex writing is even worse. It’s a problem that stems from the unimaginative academic universe, a world that indoctrinates grad students out of creative prose, that Scientologizes away all sense of originality so that all papers sound as if they could have been written by the same chunky, black glasses-wearing, latte-sipping, theorist-name-dropping late 20s humanities Ph.D.  Academic writing is the antithesis of sexy. It’s dry and clinical, jargon-filled and plodding.  Reading it is like decoding a text whose message, when revealed, is frequently not worth the effort. Even if it is worth the effort, it’s still a frustrating endeavor. Writing about sex needs to be wet and messy and passionate and dirty. Academics have even managed to sanitize the word body, to jargonize it, to make it the opposite of what the body is, a flatulent, oozing, prickly thing that brings us sloppy, messy joy.

Sex writing needs to evolve away from a clinical, Kinseyian style. Since he was writing in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Kinsey’s clinical style made sense. It was appropriate. It was a way to give sex studies legitimacy. But we’re over a half a century beyond that. Even though the sex-studies stigma still exists, that doesn’t mean that we have to be overly scientific to the point of impenetrability in response. Stigmas about sexuality will always exist. Scholars shouldn’t respond to criticism by making their work innocuous and boring. Instead, they should fight critics with provocative prose full of stimulating ideas. Here’s a 3-step plan to improve academic sex writing.

First, academics need to stop pretending that they don’t have sex. Why is there an insistence that to be an intellectual means that you have risen above the corporeal? In the words of Us Weekly: Academics are just like us! They watch porn, masturbate, and have sex just like the rest of the rabble. They don’t copulate while wearing a monocle and a top hat. They don’t bring test tubes and statistical software to their assignations. They fuck. But for some reason intellectuals like to write about sex as if it’s something that happens to other people. Continue reading

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Why Technological Innovation Always Leads to Masturbation

Young's dilators

Young’s Rectal Dilators from the late 1800s. These rubber butt plugs were made possible through the vulcanization of rubber.

One of the questions that my dissertation aims to answer is why technological innovations are nearly always followed by sexual innovations. The discovery of the rubber vulcanization process in the mid-1800s led to the production of dildos. Electrification in the late 1800s was quickly followed by the invention of the electromechanical vibrator.  The invention of Bakelite plastic led to innovative vibrator casings.

If technology is an extension of human faculties, as Marshall McLuhan argued, if it is driven not by an autonomous force but by very human desires for love and sex, community and connection, then it would make sense that new innovations in materials are followed by new sexual products. What drew me to the topic of sex toys in the first place was a naive hope, shared by inventors, that someday the inexplicable mysteries of the universe could be solved through human ingenuity, that sexual intercourse and masturbation, two of the most enjoyable activities that a human being can engage in, could be improved if only we spent some time designing the perfect sex machine.  And it is this same sort of optimism that I’ve seen in early 1930s brochures for Bakelite plastic, touted as the material of a thousand uses, one of which was to enclose our vibrators in beautiful, yet durable cases. There is a downside to this optimism; it burdens our technologies with expectations that they can never live up to. But what interests me is not the fact that our expectations always fail, but that our expectations never change.

When a new technology is developed, we always think that it will elevate us above our animal nature, yet we end up burrowing deeper into its recesses.  Inventors claim that their new technologies will create world peace. Yet, in reality, something very predictable happens. Instead of using technology to better humanity, we use it to improve our sex lives. For example, the internet was supposed to revolutionize education, but instead it improved masturbation. Few celebrate this. But the glut of pornography on the internet should not be ignored. It shouldn’t necessarily be championed either. It’s not a black-and-white issue. As Richard Randall argues, the pornographic imagination has always and will always exist. The human erotic imagination is messy and beautiful, revolting and sublime, but we shouldn’t be ashamed of it. It should be treated as a uniquely human trait and not dismissed as an aberration. It is our job to understand it, to study it, and to acknowledge it as one of the defining features of our existence. 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?

http://www.pipedreamproducts.com/jwplayer/player.swf

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This is The Most Disturbing Sex Toy That I’ve Ever Seen

The Fuck My Face! Mega Masturbator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I usually don’t judge people’s sexual proclivities. I judge everything else about a person, but not that. Nobody can control what type of sexual activity or pornography gets them off. As long as the sex act involves willing partners, I’m all for it. But if you watch this video of the Fuck My Face! Mega Masturbator and think to yourself, “Where has this been all my life? I’ve always wanted to attach a woman’s disembodied Fanta-Flesh head to the tile in my shower and insert my penis into its mouth, while pulling on her real blonde hair that I’ve lovingly styled myself,” then you need to take a deep breath and evaluate your life choices, before fucking this face.

And I might as well mention how disturbing the ad copy is for this device. Here’s a sample from Pipedream Product’s website:

“Pull her hair, smack her face, and shove your hard-on halfway down her trachea!”

“Every lifelike detail is captured in this replica Fanta-Flesh honey, from her blinkable eyes rolling back into her head, to her extra long windpipe wrapping around every inch of your pleasure rod!”

For some reason this is the creepiest pitch of them all:

“You can even curl or straighten her hair and give her your favorite hair style”

— Hallie Lieberman

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