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The Sex Toy Shops That Switched On a Feminist Revolution


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

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

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!


What a leather convention can teach everyone about sex and consent


I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.

“Hotel is closed for private event” read the signs affixed to the front of the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill last weekend. A steady stream of people, mostly men, many in leather harnesses, some in collars and on leashes, and some simply in jeans and sweaters, walked in and out in an almost continuous stream.

Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL), now in its 48th year, is a three-day long celebration of the leather community, a subculture that celebrates various sexual kinks, many centered around leather and toys. Bears, daddies, pups and others identifying with various subsets roam the Hyatt Regency, participating in conference-like demonstrations about suspension (BDSM where you’re bound and hung) and electro (BDSM involving electric shocks), buying handcrafted leather goods and sex toys, and, of course, partying. (Actual sex was not part of the convention but no doubt took place in private.) It’s a predominantly LGBTQ centric space, although look closely enough and you’re sure to find people on every part of the gender and sexuality spectrum.

My first MAL was in the winter of 2016. I’d just gone through a breakup and my friend had suggested that perhaps it would be good for me to explore life beyond my comfort zone. “Just get ready,” he’d said, “it may be more than your little vanilla heart can handle.” And he wasn’t entirely wrong. It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle it, but I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.

That first year I met Adam, a dentist in town from Texas just for MAL. “You look like you could use a drink,” he said back in a hotel room he was sharing with a friend of mine.

“Do I look that out of place?” I asked. I’d put on a leather jacket to try to blend in.

“Not out of place,” he said, “just kind of shocked.”

And shocked I was. Not necessarily at anything that was going on at the hotel that night, but more so at the fact that for the better part of my life I’d allowed myself to believe that this kind of sexual openness was only available to a certain kind of person.

“Where I grew up, there wasn’t really anything like this,” said Anthony, a 30-year-old living in Arlington, Va., who grew up in Portsmouth. (The sources for this story preferred that only first names be used, for privacy reasons). “There was no kink culture, and I really wanted to explore it. Everyone here was super welcoming, and that’s why I keep coming back.”

This was a common sentiment. “It’s a different part of the gay family,” said Garret, 28, who lives in Washington. “We all have different interests … and if nobody else respects that, come to MAL because they do here.”

Respect, as it turns out, is a dominating theme throughout the course of the weekend. You might expect that when many attendees are walking around in only a jockstrap and a harness, but it is pleasantly surprising to see how strictly they adhere to that principle. In the era of #MeToo, when more and more queer folks are being vocal about the role consent plays in queer spaces, perhaps the leather and kink communities have something to teach the general public about active and enthusiastic consent.

Ask for permission before petting. Hold out your hand and let the pup come to you first. If the pup doesn’t, or turns or growls, let them be as they may not want to or have permission. This is rule No. 5 as listed on the board outside the 10th anniversary mosh at the MAL Puppy Park, a yearly tradition in which individuals who participate in pup play — a BDSM role-play wherein one participant acts as the “pup” and one as the handler — have an opportunity to interact with other pups. Other rules include: Nudity is not permitted in public spaces, genitals cannot be exposed and DO NOT pull on a pup’s tail or collar. It can cause injury and is disrespectful. Change some of the verbiage and perhaps these would be appropriate guidelines to post at the Academy Awards.

“It’s where I met my current roommate,” said Allyn, a 31-year-old originally from Wisconsin who now lives in Washington, of his first MAL experience. “It was exhilarating. I’d never seen anything like it. It make me feel brave and nervous at the same time.” He didn’t speak to his would-be roommate the first night they met, however. “I mean, I had a ball gag in at the time,” he recounted.

Zack, 23, from Baltimore, also used the world “exhilarating” when describing his first MAL experience. “I got chills coming down the escalator into the lobby of the hotel,” he said. “It’s the closest thing to Folsom I’ve ever been too,” a reference to the San Francisco street fair that’s the world’s largest leather celebration.

Everyone I spoke to talked about descending that escalator on the evening of the opening party. It is truly a complete sensory experience. The sight, sound and smell of wall-to-wall leather and latex on every kind of body, not just seen but celebrated and appreciated.

While I was talking to Garret about the weekend, someone he appeared to know approached him, whispered something in his ear and, after he nodded yes, lifted Garret’s arm and began to sniff his armpit. Garret continued to answer my questions without pause. “There may be something over here that’s not your thing, but then you’ll look over there and see something going on that you’re totally into,” he explained “Don’t be shy, don’t judge other people for something you don’t understand. And above all, come and have a good time. No one is here to be spectacled. It can be a learning and cultural experience.” The sniffer had moved on to his other armpit by the time he finished talking.

Although I have yet to be brave enough to buy and wear a harness to MAL myself, each year I attend I move closer toward that goal. At the very least, the event has highlighted for me the fact that there is an exciting world beyond the “vanilla” one I’d relegated myself to — and has given me a better understanding of the queer community as a whole. At one point, in the leather market, a man who had recently undergone top surgery was trying on a new harness next to a group of folks signing to one another, while feet away a $1,400 bejeweled pup hood was on sale. Only at MAL.

Complete Article HERE!


Cancer diagnosis affects person’s sexual functioning


Cancer can put a patient’s life on hold, especially among young adults who are just starting their careers or families.


A cancer diagnosis affects a person’s sexual functioning, according to a research.

The study, led by the University of Houston, found that more than half of young cancer patients reported problems with sexual function, with the probability of reporting sexual dysfunction increasing over time.

The study discovered that two years after their initial cancer diagnosis, nearly 53 percent of young adults 18 to 39 years old still reported some degree of affected sexual function.

“We wanted to increase our understanding of what it’s like to adjust to cancer as a young adult but also the complexity of it over time,” said Chiara Acquati, lead author and assistant professor at the UH Graduate College of Social Work.

“Cancer can put a patient’s life on hold, especially among young adults who are just starting their careers or families.”

The study also found that for women, being in a relationship increased the probability of reporting sexual problems over time; for men, the probability of reporting sexual problems increased regardless of their relationship status.

“We concluded that sexual functioning is experienced differently among males and females. For a young woman, especially, a cancer diagnosis can disrupt her body image, the intimacy with the partner and the ability to engage in sex,” Acquati said.

At the beginning of the two-year study, almost 58 percent of the participants were involved in a romantic relationship. Two years after diagnosis, only 43 percent had a partner. In addition, psychological distress increased over time.

She says it’s important to research how psychological and emotional developments are effected so tailored interventions and strategies can be created. Detecting changes in the rate of sexual dysfunction over time may help to identify the appropriate timing to deliver interventions.

Failure to address sexual health, the study concludes, could put young adults at risk for long-term consequences related to sexual functioning and identity development, interpersonal relationships and quality of life.

Acquati said health care providers might find it challenging to discuss intimacy and sex because of embarrassment or lack of training, but she believes addressing sexual functioning is vital soon after diagnosis and throughout the continuum of care.

“Results from this study emphasize the need to monitor sexual functioning over time and to train health care providers serving young adults with cancer in sexual health,” said Acquati.

“Furthermore, patients should be connected to psychosocial interventions to alleviate the multiple life disruptions caused by the illness and its treatment.”

The findings have been published in the American Cancer Society journal Cancer.

Complete Article HERE!


5 Sex Positions That Work for Almost Every Couple (Lesbian, Straight, and Everything in Between)



I’m a firm believer in the sexuality spectrum—that is, the idea that sexuality and gender roles aren’t necessarily binary (gay/straight; female/male) but rather, deeply fluid. Who we’re attracted to doesn’t have to fall into a clearly labeled, defined category like “lesbian” or even “bisexual”—it can be messy, gray, and constantly changing, and that’s perfectly fine.

In my many years of editing articles for women’s magazines and websites, I’ve produced plenty of gender- and sex-positive content—from how one incredible trans woman found her own personal style and why kinky sex makes people healthier to super-adventurous sex positions to try. And while we’ve always focused on being as inclusive as possible, it’s more challenging than you’d expect to find sex positions that work for couples of all gender combinations, sexual orientations, and lifestyles.

That’s why I’m especially excited about this particular sex position guide, which features options geared specifically toward lesbian couples. It’s not just because this particular demographic is underserved in this area (which, from my research and experience, it is), but also because if two women can do these moves, pretty much any other combination of people can pull them off, too. And the more people who get pleasure out of these positions, the better I’ve done my job, as far as I’m concerned.

So go forth, sex-positive, sexually fluid warriors, and enjoy these kinky moves and tips.

Wrapped Spoon

This cozy pose is one of the best for feeling intimate with your lover while also being efficient about getting the “little spoon” off. Big spoons can reach around and give the front partner plenty of digital attention, or use a strap-on until it’s time to turn around and face each other.

*Gay, lesbian, and hetero-friendly

North Face

Feel like taking control and getting your partner’s full attention? Then straddle his or her face and let them focus completely on pleasuring you (without putting your full weight on them, please!).

Then switch places and return the favor.

*Gay, lesbian, and hetero-friendly

Kneeling Scissors

You don’t have to be super-flexible to get the feel-good benefits of this position. Even if your leg doesn’t reach a 90-degree angle, both partners will feel the spine-tinglingly good effects of this high-friction position. Lady-on-lady couples: Once you’re warmed up, the strap-on is your friend here.

*Gay, lesbian, and hetero-friendly

Cradled Clam

We’ll be the first to admit that this position’s name is decidedly unsexy—but who cares? Once you’re in position, giving or receiving all kinds of pleasure, the name won’t mean a thing.

*Gay, lesbian, and hetero-friendly

Wrapped Spoon

This cozy pose is one of the best for feeling intimate with your lover while also being efficient about getting the “little spoon” off. Big spoons can reach around and give the front partner plenty of digital attention, or use a strap-on until it’s time to turn around and face each other.

*Gay, lesbian, and hetero-friendly

Complete Article HERE!


“The Most Comfortable Harness I’ve Ever Used!”


Hey sex fans!

It’s Product Review Friday again. And today we have yet another swell product from our good friends at The Perfect Fit Brand!

You have been keeping up with all our reviews of the amazing products coming from the award-winning Perfect Fit Brand haven’t you? If not, you’re totally missing out. To find all our reviews, here’s what you do; use the search function in the header of, type in The Perfect Fit Brand, and PRESTO!

And here to tell you all about this new product I’m pleased to welcome the newest member of the Dr Dick Review Crew, Billy. I’ll have him introduce himself as well as give you the low-down on what he has in his hot little hands.

Zoro Knight 6.0 Clear —— $89.95

Hey everyone! My name is Billy. I am a forty-something bi trans man living and loving here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. As far as I know, I’m the only transperson on the Dr Dick Review Crew. So I’m so glad I have this opportunity to tell you about this remarkable new strap-on, the Zoro Knight 6.0 Clear, from The Perfect Fit Brand.

Let me say from the get-go; this is the most comfortable harness I’ve ever used!

I’m a little embarrassed to say it, but I haven’t updated my harness in 8 years. My old harness with its thin leather straps, which took way to much time to adjust and never really felt all that great to wear, is completely obsolete. The Zoro Knight, on the other hand, is state of the art. It is easy to get on and off, which makes a big difference when you’re trying to stay in a sexy moment.

Before I go on with my review, I’d like to show you around the Zoro Knight because its design is nothing short of revolutionary. The Perfect Fit Brand calls their design a system because there are actually two elements to the Zoro Knight and its companion strap-ons. (I’ll get to the companions in a minute.) The two elements are: 1) The elasticized waistband, which you simply pull on, like a jockstrap. There are no additional adjustments required. 2) The molded baseplate with the dong is all one piece. It is designed with the curves of your body in mind and fits snugly against your pelvis.

The baseplate is made of ultra soft premium silicone. And when it is in place you’ll immediately know why the Zoro Knight is so innovative. The baseplate is designed to transfer the impact of your thrusting to your pelvis instead right on your genitals. Anyone who has used a traditional strap-on will realize how much sense that makes. No more banging against your delicate parts. OUCH!

The baseplate and dong that I have is clear, but it also comes in black and purple…different sized dongs too. The dong is hollow, which makes it lighter, stronger, and more comfortable. You can even use a bullet vibe inside the dong for added sensations. And because the molded baseplate and dong are all one piece, you never need to guide the dong with your hands. That sounds like a small thing, but it ain’t. Once you’ve tried the Zoro Knight, you’ll never go back to an awkward, floppy, uncomfortable O-ring type strap-on.

The baseplate also features a hole below the dong. If you have a penis and have an erection you can use it for double penetration. If ya don’t have a penis, this hole provides good access to your clit, vulva, vagina, or whatever name you give your private bits. The point is the Zoro Knight gives you or your partner access to your genitals, while the dong is stiff for penetration.

I said I’d mention the Zoro companions. There are three types of Zoros — the Zoro, the Zoro Knight, and the Armour Knight. Waistbands are available in several sizes — Small: 28-30”, Medium: 31- 33”, Large: 34-36”, and XL: 37-39”. And the dongs range in size from 5.5” up to 7”. You can see the array HERE!

Since the Zoro Knight is basically a clothing item, you simply toss the waistband into the wash, when you’re done. The silicone baseplate cleans up easily with mild soap and warm water. Or you can wipe it down with a lint-free towel moistened with peroxide, rubbing alcohol or a 10% bleach solution to sanitize for sharing. And, of course, you’re going to share this, right? This keeps everything hygienic and sanitary. No more trying to keep a leather harness clean.

Make sure you use only a water-based lubricant with the Zoro Knight . I suppose some of the newer silicone-hybrid lubes might work too, but I would be careful and do a test patch first. You wouldn’t want to mar the beautiful silicone skin.

The packaging is attractive, but minimal. A simple cardboard box surrounds a formed clear plastic container that holds the waistband and the baseplate.

I haven’t yet browsed all the dong options, but I’d be interested in adding one with a little more detail work. I also, as I mentioned above, got the clear version of the baseplate and dong, which I imagine would be very hot for most folks.

Full Review HERE!