The Changing Stigma of Sex Toys

The Changing Stigma of Sex Toys

Sex might sell, but sex toys are today’s hottest topic. Whether it’s handcuffs, sex swings, vibrators or something a little more intense, orgasms have never been easier to obtain. The widespread use of sex toys has existed since the late 1800s, though strictly for medicinal purposes. Today the $15 billion industry drips the sensuality into millions of homes via TV, Internet, and on the streets of big cities. The age of public sexual prowess is upon us.

Then and Now

Photo: Statue of Cleopatra via Jon Callas

There’s a story behind the origin of vibrators which goes beyond the past two centuries, dating back to 54 B.C. Queen Cleopatra of the Egyptian Empire needed a way to release the tension of her everyday desires. It’s rumoured that she would fill a hollow gourd with bees, aggravate them, and then enjoy the vibrations from their ensuing rage.

Photo: The Manipulator, courtesy of Gizmodo

Physical evidence of sexual devices does not begin until the Victorian Era. A man named Dr. Macaura invented a device known as the Pulsocon Hand Crank. His device made a plunging motion and was designed to treat an epidemic striking women at the time. Another such sex toy was created, dubbed the Manipulator, to handle sexual lust, though its appearance was less than desirable by modern standards.

Photo: Dr. Macaura’s Pulsocon Hand Crank, courtesy of Gizmodo

The first medical use of sex toys is seldom recognized. Vibrators were used in medicine to treat a condition called “hysteria”, all the way up until 1952. From time to time women would become irritable, anxious and had trouble sleeping. This condition was brought on by a fairly basic human necessity – unsatisfied sexual desire. When the first sex toys were released, doctors trained in “hysteria” treatments were extremely relieved that the would no longer have to manually help a patient receive their release.

Various other hand crank models were released, including the Veedee Vibrator, Macaura’s Blood Circulator, Dr Johansen’s Auto Vibrator, the “Vibro-Life”, Vibrako Blood Circulator, and a quaint Japanese device called Woody.

Photo: Picture of “Woody” courtesy of the Vibrator Museum

Hand cranking was just the tip of the iceberg and due to the cost of production, electric sex toys did not make a mainstream debut until the 1920’s, though the first device was created in 1906. Believe it or not, the household name Hamilton-Beach manufactured one of the first portable electric vibrators on the market.

Amidst the frenzy of sex toys, Sears jumped on the bandwagon and released a vibrator attachment to the public in 1918, which was fitted on a home motor that was also used in mixers, sewing machines, and churners.

Though the first known battery powered vibrator was created in 1918, the Vibro Battery Vibrator by Ash Flash hit markets around the 1950’s and 60’s. This handy device took two of your standard C cell batteries.

Advertisements in 1922 promoted the devices as “excellent companions,” insinuating that doctors weren’t the only ones who could use these vibrators.

Ten years later, in the 30’s, Rolex released a high end model and distributed it via department stores and specialty shops throughout the United States. With the traditional class and elegance associated with the Rolex brand backing the vibrator, pleasure was not limited by socioeconomic status. Their device came with various heads to satisfy a woman, no matter what her fancy.

An extremely famous device was introduced to the mainstream sex toy market circa 1970 – the Hitachi Magic Wand. This device’s circular motion continues to deliver orgasms over four decades after its invention.

Photo: Hitachi Magic Wand

Trojan Vibrator Giveaway

Trojan had initially set up their “Pleasure Carts” in New York City with the intention of handing out 10,000 of their personal vibrators in August of 2012. After being shut down on the first day of the giveaway, they came back the next day with a vengeance, handing out 4,000 Pulse and Tri-Phoria vibrators. Some waited in line as long as 45 minutes to get their hands on the sex toys.

Photo: The Pleasure Cart, courtesy of Trojan on Facebook

Their great success in NYC encouraged Trojan to invade Washington and Boston with their “Pleasure Carts”. Trojan subsequently gave away an astounding 7,000 additional vibrators. This campaign has proven that people are not only interested in sex toys but are no longer afraid to display their sexual prowess in public.

Sex Toy Parties

As the economy was dipping into a recession, the number of pleasure seekers steadily increased. According to a survey by Trojan, 50 percent of Americans could use a more adventurous sex life. To quench this sexual thirst, people have begun holding sex toy parties. Not dissimilar to tupperware parties, sex toy parties are typically held inside a host’s house and showcase a certain company’s sex toys. Any of these toys can be bought from the representative running the party.

These privately held parties have helped sex toys infiltrate suburban areas due to the comfort people feel when in the presence of their friends. It’s estimated that 50 percent of Americans own vibrators. Around 45 percent of men in the United States have used a vibrator during sexual activities, though the devices see more frequent use by women. One in four women use their devices on a month-to-month basis.

Sex Toys From A Printer

Using a bit of modern technology, special printers are able to print various shapes in three-dimensions, opening up an entirely new opportunity for sex toy lovers. Of course, current technology cannot make entire silicon replicas of an object or blueprint perfectly, so it still needs some tweaking. Nevertheless, men and women everywhere can rejoice knowing that in the future, they won’t even have to leave the house to find the satisfaction they’re looking for.

Photo: Sex toys produced from a 3D printer at the New York Toy Collective, courtesy of

A sex shop in New York City, the New York Toy Collective offers prints of ultra-realistic silicone sex toys which take days to produce. In fact, they can make an extremely rudimentary mold of someone’s genitals, though it’s far from perfect. The owners acknowledge that, like all technology, 3D printers have room for improvement and will yield better results in the future.

The 50 Shades of Grey Effect

Women and men flocked to sex toy stores following the release of the popular erotic novels, 50 Shades of Grey. The sale of toys mentioned in the book spiked by 400 percent and over the last two years, overall sales have increased by 30 percent. In June of 2012, 68 percent of Internet surfers who searched for the book also immediately began shopping for lingerie-related discounts. One of every four users went on to search for sex toy discounts following their search for the book.

Many bookstores in the UK sold out of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy while sales of erotic novels increased by 130 percent. Even a piece of literature seems to have the ability to entice lovers, young and old, to rekindle their bedroom romance.

Sex toys are becoming a very hot commodity and with so many individuals publicizing their desires, the negative stigma behind sexual devices is deteriorating quickly. It’s no longer necessary to hide in the shadows when it comes to pleasuring one’s self. Through the channels of pop culture, social media, and word of mouth, the sex toy industry is booming and people around the world are eager to travel a more sensual path alone and with their partners.

"Sex Toy Dave" Levine is best known for 3 appearances on Bravo's Millionaire Matchmaker, but is also known for being a leading distributor of sex toys on the internet since 1995. Not only does he own and run, but he runs a large B2B business with the worlds first and still largest affiliate program for adult products - and Wholesale Dsitributor site
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