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The Sex Toy Shops That Switched On a Feminist Revolution

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The “White Cross Electric Vibrator Girl” as pictured in a 1911 Health and Beauty catalog.

BUZZ
The Stimulating History of the Sex Toy
By Hallie Lieberman
Illustrated. 359 pp. Pegasus Books. $26.95.

VIBRATOR NATION
How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure
By Lynn Comella
278 pp. Duke University Press. $25.95.

Think back, for a moment, to the year 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. The Beatles released the “White Album.” North Vietnam launched the Tet offensive. And American women discovered the clitoris. O.K., that last one may be a bit of an overreach, but 1968 was when “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm,” a short essay by Anne Koedt, went that era’s version of viral. Jumping off of the Masters and Johnson bombshell that women who didn’t climax during intercourse could have multiple orgasms with a vibrator, Koedt called for replacing Freud’s fantasy of “mature” orgasm with women’s lived truth: It was all about the clitoris. That assertion single-handedly, as it were, made female self-love a political act, and claimed orgasm as a serious step to women’s overall emancipation. It also threatened many men, who feared obsolescence, or at the very least, loss of primacy. Norman Mailer, that famed phallocentrist, raged in his book “The Prisoner of Sex” against the emasculating “plenitude of orgasms” created by “that laboratory dildo, that vibrator!” (yet another reason, beyond the whole stabbing incident, to pity the man’s poor wives).

To be fair, Mailer & Co. had cause to quake. The quest for sexual self-knowledge, as two new books on the history and politics of sex toys reveal, would become a driver of feminist social change, striking a blow against men’s overweening insecurity and the attempt (still with us today) to control women’s bodies. As Lynn Comella writes in “Vibrator Nation,” retailers like Good Vibrations in San Francisco created an erotic consumer landscape different from anything that previously existed for women, one that was safe, attractive, welcoming and ultimately subversive, presenting female sexual fulfillment as “unattached to reproduction, motherhood, monogamy — even heterosexuality.”

As you can imagine, both books (which contain a great deal of overlap) are chockablock with colorful characters, starting with Betty Dodson, the Pied Piper of female onanism, who would often personally demonstrate — in the nude — how to use a vibrator to orgasm during her early sexual consciousness-raising workshops in New York. I am woman, hear me roar indeed.

Back in the day, though, attaining a Vibrator of One’s Own was tricky. The leering male gaze of the typical “adult” store was, at best, off-putting to most women. Amazon, where sex toys, like fresh produce, are just a mouse click away, was still a glimmer in Jeff Bezos’ eye. Enter Dell Williams, who after being shamed by a Macy’s salesclerk while checking out a Hitachi Magic Wand, founded in 1974 the mail order company Eve’s Garden. That was quickly followed by Good Vibrations, the first feminist sex toy storefront; it’s great fun to read the back story of Good Vibes’ late founder, Joani Blank, along with radical “sexperts” like Susie Bright and Carol Queen.
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The authors of “Vibrator Nation” and “Buzz” each put in time observing how sex toys are sold, so have firsthand insight into the industry. Whose take will hold more appeal depends on the reader’s interests: In “Buzz,” Hallie Lieberman offers a broader view, taking us back some 30,000 years, when our ancestors carved penises out of siltstone; moving on to the ancient Greeks’ creative use of olive oil; the buzzy medical devices of the 19th century (disappointingly, doctors’ notorious in-office use of vibrators as treatment for female “hysteria” is urban legend); and the impact of early-20th-century obscenity laws — incredibly, sex toys remain illegal in Alabama — before digging deeply into more contemporary influences. In addition to feminist retailers, Lieberman braids in stories of men like Ted Marche, whose family business — employing his wife and teenage children — began by making prosthetic strap-ons for impotent men; Gosnell Duncan, who made sex aids for the disabled and was the first to expand dildo production beyond the Caucasian pink once called “flesh colored”; the Malorrus brothers, who were gag gift manufacturers (think penis pencil toppers); and the hard-core porn distribution mogul Reuben Sturman, who repeatedly, and eventually disastrously, ran afoul of the law. Although their X-rated wares would supposedly give women orgasms, unlike the feminist-championed toys they were sold primarily as devices that would benefit men. Much like the era’s sexual revolution, in other words, they maintained and even perpetuated a sexist status quo.

“Vibrator Nation” focuses more narrowly on women-owned vendors, wrestling with how their activist mission bumped up against the demands and constraints of the marketplace. Those early entrepreneurs, Comella writes, believed nothing less than that “women who had orgasms could change the world.” As with other utopian feminist visions, however, this one quickly splintered. Controversy broke out over what constituted “sex positivity,” what constituted “woman-friendly,” what constituted “woman.” Was it politically correct to stock, or even produce, feminist porn? Were BDSM lesbians invited to the party? Would the stores serve transwomen? Did the “respectable” aesthetic of the white, middle-class founders translate across lines of class and race? If the goal was self-exploration through a kind of cliteracy, what about customers (of any gender or sexual orientation) who wanted toys for partnered play or who enjoyed penetrative sex? Could a sex store that sold nine-inch, veined dildos retain its feminist bona fides? Dell Williams solved that particular problem by commissioning nonrepresentational silicone devices with names like “Venus Rising” from Gosnell Duncan, the man who made prosthetics for the disabled. Others followed suit.

Even so, Comella writes, the retailers struggled to stay afloat: Feminist stores refused, as a matter of principle, to trade on customers’ anxiety — there were none of the “tightening creams,” “numbing creams,” penis enlargers or anal bleaches that boosted profits at typical sex stores. Employees were considered “educators,” and sales were secondary to providing information and support. What’s more, Good Vibrations in particular was noncompetitive; Blank freely shared her business model with any woman interested in spreading the love.

Consumer culture and feminism have always been strange bedfellows, with the former tending to overpower the latter. Just as Virginia Slims co-opted the message of ’70s liberation, as the Spice Girls cannibalized ’90s grrrl power, so feminist sex stores exerted their influence on the mainstream, yet were ultimately absorbed and diluted by it. In 2007, Good Vibrations was sold to GVA-TWN, the very type of sleazy mega-sex-store company it was founded to disrupt. Though no physical changes have been made in the store, Good Vibrations is no longer woman-owned. Although the aesthetics haven’t changed, Lieberman writes, the idea of feminist sex toys as a source of women’s liberation has faded, all but disappeared. An infamous episode of “Sex and the City” that made the Rabbit the hottest vibrator in the nation also portrayed female masturbation as addictive and isolating, potentially leading to permanent loneliness. The sex toys in “Fifty Shades of Grey” were wielded solely in service of traditional sex and gender roles: A man is in charge of Anastasia Steele’s sexual awakening, and climax is properly experienced through partnered intercourse. Meanwhile, the orgasm gap between genders has proved more stubborn than the pay gap. Women still experience one orgasm for every three experienced by men in partnered sex. And fewer than half of teenage girls between 14 and 17 have ever masturbated.

At the end of “Buzz,” Lieberman makes a provocative point: Viagra is covered by insurance but vibrators aren’t, presumably because while erections are seen as medically necessary for sexual functioning the same is not true of female orgasm. Like our feminist foremothers, she envisions a new utopia, one in which the F.D.A. regulates sex toys to ensure their safety, in which they are covered by insurance, where children are taught about them in sex education courses and they are seen and even subsidized worldwide as a way to promote women’s sexual health.

In other words: We’ve come a long way, baby, but as “Vibrator Nation” and “Buzz” make clear, we still may not be coming enough.

Complete Article HERE!

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Hot Wheels

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Name: Michael
Gender: Male
Age: 23
Location: Minneapolis
I’m a 23-year-old bisexual paraplegic. Hey ya have to be available for whatever comes your way when you’re in a chair, right? I got this way in a really stupid alcohol related diving accident three years ago. So OK, I fucked up.
I was just getting my groove on sexually before the accident, nothing serious, fooled around with my cousin Jack and got a severe case of blue balls with this chick, Amber, I used to date. Anyhow, I’m finding it hard to connect with guys or girls for a bit of fun so I thought I’d write you and ask for advice. By the way, the equipment still works, sort of.
I think most people think disabled people can’t have or don’t want sex. I would like to have a relationship with someone who doesn’t pity me, but is hot for me. I have this really developed upper body, like a gymnast, and people tell me I have a handsome face. That should be enough to get me laid, right? Is there such a thing as a wheelchair fetish?

You’re a fuckin’ treasure, darlin’! I mean it. If you come across as upbeat, self-effacing, humorous, and sexy in person as you do in this message to me you shouldn’t have any problems getting laid. Ahhh, but of course, writing for online sex advice from a total stranger is probably a whole lot easier than wheeling up to another hot dude or sizzlin’ chick and suggesting a torrid session of the old slap and tickle; am I right?

Yet despite the inherent discomfort and difficulty of being that upfront, that’s precisely what is gonna get you laid. It’s all in the presentation Michael. Self-confidence and charm trumps disability every time. Unfortunately, many people think that “paralyzed from the waist down” means “there’s nothin’ goin on down there.” It’s your job to change their perception about that. Now, I’m not suggesting you be a dick about this. Just be your own sweet self and put it out there as natural as can be. You’re entitled to some good lovin’, just like the rest of us. And just like the rest of us, you’re gonna have to learn how to ask for what you want.

While I completely understand you’re not looking for a mercy fuck from someone who will take you out of pity. There may be a number of potential partners out there who’d jump your bones as a novelty…at least at first. I certainly wouldn’t turn my nose up at these folks if I were you. Because a novelty fuck is a teachable moment when you can show the benighted dude or chick what you can do.

If you see yourself as a sexual being and put out a sex-positive vibe, I am confident that you will connect with folks. Make eye contact and smile. If you’re leering at her tits or focused on his package, you’re objectifying a potential partner. You don’t want that to happen to you, so don’t do it to anyone else. Consider coming up with a few choice lines that’ll call attention to all the sexual things you can do. Like, “The old legs don’t work so good, but there’s nothing wrong with my mouth and tongue.” Get the picture?

As for wheelchair fetishists, they’re out there honey. Just like the amputee/devotee fetishists I’ve talked/written about. There are lots of amateur paraplegic porn sites. Just google that you’ll get an eye full. Just think, this could be the beginning of a whole new career move for you.

Do an internet search using the key words wheelchair fetish or wheelchair fetish sites. I did and found a couple of really amazing sites: gimpsgonewild.com and disabledsinglesdating.com/. Check ‘em out.

Just remember, each of us has one kind of disability or another, yours just happens to be really obvious.

Good Luck!

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Put A Ring On It

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Hey sex fans!

It’s our first Product Review Friday of 2013! And this week we feature two more innovative products from the creative folks at Perfect Fit Brand. As you all probably know the Perfect Fit Brand is responsible for one of the best product of 2012 — the Best Product or Toy for MenFat Boy Cock Extender.

We’ve come to expect great things from this fine, young company. In fact, this is our 4th Perfect Fit Brand review and each and every product has been a winner. To keep track of all our PFB reviews use the search function in the header of DrDickSexToyReviews.com, type in Perfect Fit Brand, and PRESTO!

Dr Dick Review Crew members, Ken & Denise are here to tell us about the two cockrings they’ve been fiddlin’ around with.

Cruiser Cock Ring —— $19.60

Silaskin Cruiser Cock Ring —— $19.60

Ken & Denise
Denise: “I can’t believe it’s 2013 already. I was just looking back on all the reviews we’ve done since we joined this effort way back in July of 2008. We’ve had some amazing fun.”Cruiser
Ken: “We’ve learned a lot too. I mean, even the products we didn’t like all that much taught us something about ourselves, and our sexual response. It’s amazing what ya can learn when you’re paying attention. But I never thought we’d stick around for as long as we have.”
Denise: “Every time we think it’s time to hang up our Review Crew mantle Dr Dick draws us back in with another smutty proposition. He is such a charmer.”
Ken: “Today we’re gonna talk about two different, but very similar cockrings from Perfect Fit Brand. The similarities include size, shape, texture and color. The difference is in the elasticity and how snug the constriction.”
Denise: “Ken has at least a dozen different cockrings. I used to think this was silly and excessive, but now I know better. There is a bewildering array of cockrings on the market these days. The Dr Dick Review Crew has reviewed many different kinds. Look for the Category pull-down menu in the sidebar of drdicksextoyreviews.com and look for the category ‘Cockrings’. Dr Dick even has a very helpful posting called Cockring Crash Course.”
Ken: “Thanks for mentioning that, Denise. Ya know there are still a lot of guys out there, straight guys mostly I’m sorry to say, that don’t know the first thing about a cockring. This amazes me, because a cockring is a man’s best friend.”Cruiser02
Denise: “When Ken wears a cockring, his erection is stronger, harder, and longer lasting. He tells me his penis is more sensitive too. Of course, I enjoy the benefits of his stiff stiffy as much as he does.”
Ken: “It’s true! I’m rarely concerned about erection problems that seem to frequently plague other guys, because I always have a cockring near to hand. That way I can avoid the pharmaceuticals like Viagra and Levitra.”
Denise: “And I think cockrings look totally hot too, so there’s that. Ok, let’s talk about the two rings we have today.”
Ken: “Right! The first is the beefy Cruiser Cock Ring. It’s by far my favorite. But I was leery at first. I like easy on — easy off cockrings, like this one, because I hate fiddling with a lot of the adjustable ones that are out there. And the non-adjustable ones; well, they’re fine, but you have to have an exact fit or they are ineffective. But the problem with most of the one-size-fits-all rings is that they don’t provide the necessary constriction, which is the whole reason for having a cock ring in the first place. The Cruiser Cock Ring is different from all the other stretchy one-size-fits-all rings I’ve tried, because even though it is remarkably stretchy, it also has some really effective constriction capacity. And when it comes to cockrings, I prefer a snug fit.”
Denise: “Do you mind if I chime into this manly discourse and say that the Cruiser Cock Ring is absolutely adorable? It looks like a fat little doughnut!”
Ken: “Actually, it looks like a little hot rod tire, not a doughnut. It even has tread marks on the outer circumference, for god’s sake. Women!”
Denise: “I stand corrected. Men!”silaskin
Ken: “The Cruiser Cock Ring is super easy to put on, just stretch the ring between your fingers with each hand and simply pull it over your cock and balls. You won’t believe how comfortable the Cruiser Cock Ring feels. And like Denise said earlier, it makes sex much more enjoyable for her as well as me. The Cruiser Cock Ring is made of a proprietary material called PF Blend. It is a combination of silicone and TPR (thermoplastic rubber). The Cruiser Cock Ring is safe with all lubes. And it is easy to clean with mild soap and water.”
Denise: “I like that it’s phthalate-free, nonporous, and hypoallergenic.”
Ken: “The second ring we have to show you is the Silaskin Cruiser Cock Ring. It looks pretty much like its beefy brother, but it is made of a slightly different blend of material. While it too is a proprietary blend of silicone and TPR (called Silaskin), this material is even stretchier than the Cruiser Cock Ring. It is irresistibly soft and comes in both black and frosted.”
Denise: “Mmmm, like a soft squishy frosted doughnut!”
Ken: “See how you are? Like I was saying, the Silaskin Cruiser Cock Ring is a lot stretcher than its brother. If you’re one of those guys who like cockring with a more relaxed fit, then this one’s for you.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Denise: “I’d like to say a few words to the women in our audience, if I may. Ladies, I hope you haven’t tuned out this review just because it’s a product for men. That would be a big mistake. Before I met Ken I knew nothing about cockrings. None of the boyfriends I had before Ken had ever used one. But, now that I look back on those years, there were certainly plenty of opportunities when a cockring would have saved the day, if you know what I mean. That’s why I believe that if you are informed about cockrings, their use, and their effectiveness in getting and keeping an erection, you might be just the right person to introduce your man to the wonderful world of cockrings.”
Ken: “That’s such a good point. Sometimes us men folk don’t know what’s good for us till the women in our lives tell us.”
Denise: “I’m so glad to hear you say that!”
Complete Article HERE!

ENJOY

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More of The Erotic Mind of Clayton Hibbert — Podcast #336 – 06/11/12

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Hey sex fans,

The Seattle Erotic Art Festival will open its doors to its international audience in just 5 days. That’s right, the festival’s nine-day run will begin this Saturday, June 16th. And the excitement here in the Emerald City is palatable. Taking a breather from his hectic schedule, festival director Clayton Hibbert, returns today to finish the conversation we began last week. And of course he is here again this year as part of The Erotic Mind series.

But wait, you didn’t miss Part 1 of our chat, did you? Well not to worry if ya did, because you can find it and all my podcasts in the Podcast Archive right here on my site. All ya gotta do is use the search function in the header; type in Podcast #335 and PRESTO! But don’t forget the #sign when you do your search.

Clayton and I discuss:

  • Ten Years of Love and Lust — a milestone;
  • Guest curators;
  • Why the focus on erotic art;
  • The literary component;
  • Erotic poetry;
  • Instillation art — the Spider Web and 60 years of gay erotic photography;
  • What is art and what is erotic;
  • Reaching for the edges;
  • Erotic art and pornography;
  • Pushing the envelope;
  • Ticket options
  • The festival’s history.

Clayton invites you to visit the Seattle Erotic Art Festival website HERE! Don’t hesitate; pick up your tickets today!

 

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: DR DICK’S — HOW TO VIDEO LIBRARY.

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The Erotic Mind of Clayton Hibbert — Podcast #335 – 06/04/12

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Hey sex fans,

It’s that time of the year again; the time of the year that all of us, here in the Emerald City, eagerly await. Within a matter of days, June 16th to be precise, the 10th anniversary Seattle Erotic Art Festival will open its doors to its international audience. And every year, at least for the last two, I have the pleasure of welcoming the event’s “Big Kahuna,” the festival director, Clayton Hibbert. And of course he is here again this year as part of The Erotic Mind series, don’t cha know.

Despite the fact that this world-class event is only days away and the demands on his time are exceptionally pressing; he agreed to sit down with me again this year to discuss the festival, how it works, the gargantuan behind the scenes effort to mount this eight-day extravaganza and what visitors to the festival can expect this year.

Clayton and I discuss:

  • The new SEAF website;
  • The stunning list of his co-directors;
  • Relying on volunteers;
  • This being the festival’s 10th anniversary;
  • Expanding from 3 to 8 days, 06/16 – 06/24;
  • One of the largest shows of its kind in the world;
  • Visitors and talent from all over the world;
  • The visual art gallery;
  • The festival store;
  • Performances — stage show and spider web;
  • Interactive instillations;
  • Short film festival;
  • Literary art and the published anthology;
  • Lectures, workshops and art tours;
  • Dance after-hours.

Clayton invites you to visit the Seattle Erotic Art Festival website HERE! Don’t hesitate; pick up your tickets today!

 

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s podcast is bought to you by: Hot Plus Size Lingerie.
Plus Size Lingerie

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