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September 26, 2016

The History of O: Ten Trends in Vibrator Design

This article originally ran in the fall issue of AVN's Intimate magazine. Click here for a link to the digital edition. Few individuals can lay claim to providing more perspective on the history of sex toys than Good Vibrations founder Joani Blank. The seeds of the Antique Vibrator Museum were sown in 1977, when Blank began displaying old vibrators at her new Good Vibrations store in San Francisco. By 2012, when the Antique Vibrator Museum officially opened its doors to the public, her small collection had evolved into vintage vibrators from the late 1800s to the 1970s, along with packaging materials, manuals, print ads and other vibrator-related ephemera. According to sex columnist Anka Radakovich, “The Antique Vibrator Museum in San Francisco is a rare treat. It should be put on everyone’s ‘to do’ list to see the history of how people ‘did’ themselves. The guided tour by Dr. Carol Queen is hysterical.” That’s an apt term given the history of the vibrator. Radakovich talks about the facts one can glean on the tour, including the device’s origins in Victorian times, when “female hysteria” was treated with “pelvic massage,” resulting in “hysterical paroxysm.” She says, “In 1952 the American Psychiatric Association removed the term ‘hysteria’ from medical textbooks because it was just so ridiculous. ‘Feelin’ horny’ would be have been a more accurate diagnosis.” In the 1930s, Radakovich recounts, vibrators became more portable because of new, lighter-weight materials such as aluminum and plastic. They were now marketed as “beauty products.” And in the uptight 1950s they were considered good for “weight loss.” Notes Radakovich, “Well, they had a point, as an orgasm burns about 50 to 100 calories.” But the historical overview at the museum extends only to the ’70s—and clearly vibrators have exploded in popularity since then. In honor of Blank’s memory, here’s a roundup of 10 innovations that might be documented in a new wing of the museum showcasing modern pleasure toys. Ergonomics and Erogenous Zones With the rise of women- and lesbian-focused sex toy stores—starting with Dell Williams’ Eve’s Garden (which opened in 1973) and continuing with Joani Blank’s Good Vibrations (1977) and Toys in Babeland (subsequently Babeland) and Grand Opening! (both 1993)—the non-phallic toy market began to grow significantly as women began buying their own pleasure products. In the 1990s, “golden age of porn” star Candida Royalle developed Natural Contours, her own line of ergonomically sensitive vibrators, closely followed by German company Fun Factory’s jaunty, colorful vibrators that could easily be confused with children’s toys. Today, simple, stylish, non-phallic designs are showcased by many brands, including LELO, Jimmyjane, Evolved Novelties, Jopen and NS Novelties, as well as in collections from the “big five” pleasure product manufacturers, known as the founders—for instance, the Silhouette collection from CalExotics and the whimsical WonderLand vibrators from Doc Johnson. Other ergonomically pleasing choices can be found from Ovo and the Vive line from Shots Toys. And one cannot omit the impact the Hitachi Magic Wand has made in the adult marketplace. Beginning with “Mother of Masturbation” Betty Dodson’s use of the Magic Wand for the ultimate in orgasmic pleasure the “Cadillac of Vibrators” broke through barriers to become the go-to massager for clitoral excitement, and its latest model from Vibratex continues to be a best seller, surpassing the original in many ways. The bulbous head has been replicated in hundreds of similar wand designs, with notable models available in Xgen Products’ Bodywand collection, the Rumble from Tantus and the Wanachi range of vibrators from Pipedream Products. The Silicone Age When Gosnell Duncan came up with the idea in the late 1960s of using silicone bathtub caulking to replicate the feel of an erect penis to be used by disabled men, little did he realize what an impact he would have in the adult sex toy industry. The first creator of the silicone dildo, he sold products to Eve’s Garden and Good Vibrations and eventually became known under the brand name of Scorpio. Another company, Dils for Does, soon followed—as well as two enterprises that are still active in the silicone dildo industry today: Vixen Creations and Tantus. As the demand for body-safe silicone products grew, more major companies began creating not only silicone dildos but also silicone vibrators. Many now boast silicone as a major component, making them free of both phthalates and unwanted scents. Points of Pleasure One high point in vibrator history has to be the infamous Sex and the City episode that featured the Rabbit Habit from Vibratex, which generated a blizzard of sales at New York’s Pleasure Chest adult boutique. That model was hardly the only model on the market—and what made this style so magical was its multiple stimulation points, both internal and external. Since the 1990s, the rabbit-style has multiplied more prolifically than its namesake, evolving to include a dizzying array of whimsical shapes to tickle the clit, as well as modifications of the shaft to include G-spot stimulation, beaded rows for additional sensation, rotating shafts, and multiple motors. There’s even a company devoted solely to this vibe design: the Rabbit Company. The rabbit also represents another trend in vibrator design: whimsy. Like the butterfly vibe, the rabbit shape made it OK for vibrators to be fun. And many even more whimsical shapes came onto the market in the past decade, such as vibrating ducks and more from Big Teaze Toys, the Muse from NS Novelties and the Celine Butterfly from Impulse Novelties—just a few of the many vibes that aren’t afraid to look like playthings. Beyond the Buzz Creating vibration with the basic principle of an off-centered weight spinning on a single, thin metal rod powered by a simple motor, vibrators are the gold standard of sex toys. But newer creations have changed that basic principle. Probably the first one to create something different was the Eroscillator, heavily promoted in the 1980s by the entertainingly German Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Using an oscillating motor instead of the rotating, off-centered weight, the Eroscillator provided women with a clitoral thrill and still remains a strong seller. Revel Body released an oscillating orbital sphere with replaceable power tips that are held magically within the sturdy round body. Now throw in a powerful thrust and you’ve come up with Fun Factory’s ground-shakin’ Stronic vibe collection and MiaMaxx’s deeply penetrating, interchangeable silicone sleeves that boldly go where no man ... well, you get the idea. And the next frontier is suction, popularized by last year’s debut of the Womanizer. And new this year is the Satisfyer, which is introducing more powerful and quieter action. These pleasure toys are making women grab sheets faster than the first day of a January White Sale. No sheet, the suction action is that good Charge It! Rechargeable vibrators? Whodathunkit? Duracell and Energizer be damned! The rechargeable revolution has taken over the sex toy industry. Early adopters included such boutique brands as LELO, Je Joue and Jimmyjane, as well as mega producer CalExotics. And many innovations have come since then, including Fun Factory’s “click and charge” magnetic charger and Crave’s USB charger, bringing non-stop action into sex play for hours at a time. Coming in every shape and size, rechargeable toys appeal to the greenest of the green, and even though the pleasure products might seem like they cost more, in the long run they’re less expensive to use since there’s no need to constantly buy batteries to power those babies. More boutique toys are headed in this direction and with increasing demand for rechargeable and more sophisticated technologies, they’re probably going to catch up to the cost-effectiveness of battery toys. The Tongue Is Mightier Than the Sword Duplicating oral sex in the form of a sex toy has always proven to be a challenge. In the early 2000s, a realistic mouth vibrator was created, but it was licked by Lady Calston, who held the patent for a tongue-like device. Moving away from a design resembling an actual tongue, the sensation was later re-created by Je Joue’s Sasi. And who can forget the Sqweel vibe with its Tomi Ungerer-inspired wheel of spinning tongues? Makin’ a lickin’ and still tickin’ is Lady Calston’s Mini Tongue, the Tireless Tongue form the company of the same name, and XR Brands’ multi-nubbed Lingus vibe. And don’t forget the stylish, orb-shaped Ora from LELO. What other body part will designers use next for orgasmic delight? Realm of the Senses Sex toys have progressed far beyond the stick-it-in-and-vibrate kind of toys from years past. Waterproof vibes of all shapes and sizes—which boast a seal around the motors and controls—have soaked the market for quite some time, allowing for play in the bath or shower. Like that toy hot or cold? Hardened glass dildos exploded on the market in the mid-’90s with HBO’s Real Sex segment about Astro-Knots and soon were followed by the metal creations from Greg DeLong at njoy. Temperature play was made accessible simply by running these dildos under the degree-changing water faucet of pleasure. Want some vibrations with that warmth? Topco’s Average Joes prove that they’re, well, not that average. Tiny motors power itty-bitty fingertip vibes to get to those tiny places all over the body—the Fukuoku was an early model, with updates provided recently by Jimmyjane’s Hello Touch and Screaming O’s VibrOman. Shocking discoveries were made when some kinksters thought it would be fun to add some real zing to their thing with electro-stim, which has crossed over into mainstream stimulating fun through items carried by Mystim, Stockroom and Pipedream Products. And to shed some light onto sex toys, the Afterglow pulsating vibrator uses UV lights to internally stimulate like no other toy has (trust me on this one). And there have even been changes in the way vibrations are produced, with vibrators from Nobu, LELO and CalExotics’ Luxe line that are sensitive to touch, vibrating more when they’re touched more firmly—or when the user’s vaginal muscles contract (a more fun way to do one’s Kegels). LELO even took on another sense recently, with the introduction of the Lily 2 scented vibe, which comes with the smells of rose and wisteria, bordeaux and chocolate or lavender and Manuka honey. Opening the Back Door No ifs about the butt—there have been a ton of sex toys released with the increasing social acceptance of anal sex. Since everyone has a butthole, everyone can do it—whether it’s solo or with a partner, gay or straight. With the spike in pegging (the appropriate term for strap-on use that Dan Savage coined many years ago), a simple dildo up the butt just won’t cut it anymore. Vibrating anal toys have been penetrating the market for quite some time now, oftentimes changing their name to the heterosexual-friendly term “prostate stimulator.” (“I’m not gay if I use a prostate stimulator!”) Pioneering prostate stimulator manufacturer Aneros popularized the anatomically correct shapes that so many men enjoy, and Tantus has always made a body-friendly anal plug not much bigger than a thumb. Pipedream Products exploded onto the scene years ago with their Anal Fantasy Collection bursting with more than 40 designs made to burrow deep into the brown eye. Most recently, Joydivision came out with the “O” Award-winning Xpander and b-Vibe introduced the rimming plug, which boasts rows of rotating beads to simulate the sensations of analingus. Nasstoys’ Up & Down Anal Satisfier not only has rotating beads, but also thrusts for more stimulation. All of these companies boast vibrations so your anal stimulator not only fills up rectum land but also shakes, rattles and rolls in there, too. Anal sex, it’s for everyone! The Couple That Plays Together Two’s a party, and what better way to party than to share the pleasure of sex toys? Making high-quality, remote controlled vibrators has always been a challenge and Vibratex changed that back around 1998 with the first remote-controlled cock ring. While that one was eventually phased out, newer brands came along, such as the wildly popular OhMiBod line, created by a former Apple employee; many of the manufacturers’ pleasure products incorporate sound response with vibrational thrills. Another leader in the couples market was the We-Vibe, a C-shaped vibe that—like butterfly-style vibrators—could be worn during intercourse. Taking a different approach to the wearable couples vibe is Doc Johnson’s Tryst, released this year. Remote-controlled vibrators and sex toys continue to be all the rage, with controllers become more and more discreetly designed, such as the Nasstoys Master Ring cock ring that comes complete with a button-controlled pinky ring. Oh, the thrills! The new Kiiroo line of toys for men and women are not only Bluetooth-enabled but also interact through an internet connection, no matter where it’s used. Gives Skype and FaceTime a whole new way to communicate! And did someone say VR? As in virtual reality? Who needs physical communication when the virtual fantasy world is within your grasp? Topco’s Twerking Butt and XR Brands’ iFuk are two examples of the wickedly fast-paced growth of VR both in mainstream and the porn world, which is sure to equal explosive growth coupled with explosive orgasms—virtual or real. The Rise of the Guybrator Finally, any comprehensive exhibit on modern vibrators will include a display case devoted to men’s toys. In addition to manufacturers who focus on non-vibrating strokers, rings and cock cages, such as Oxballs and Perfect Fit Brands, most mid-size to large manufacturers include robust collections for men, such as Doc Johnson’s OptiMale, CalExotics’ Apollo and Nasstoys’ Ram. Even newer companies have got it covered when it comes to men’s toys—i.e., Curve Novelties’ Rooster collection. “One recent innovation taking off is the ‘guybrator,’” said Radakovitch, commenting on men’s toys that incorporate vibration. “Hot Octopuss/Pulse has a great one, as does Sir Richard’s Condoms, who just introduced theirs at the recent ANME. These little gadgets are like a hand job on the go.” Fans of the “guybrator” will remember some earlier models, such as Fun Factory’s Cobra Libre and the Hand Solo from Rocks-Off—and even the vibrating version of the classic Fleshlight Pictured above: Top: the b-Vibe, Tryst from Doc Johnson, Inmi Lingus from XR Brands, the Eroscillator from Advanced Response, the Vs19 from Jopen, the S2 from Ovo. Bottom. the Lily 2 scented vibrator from LELO, the Rumble from Tantus, the Pulse II Duo from Hot Octopuss, the Form 8 from Jimmyjane. For more modern marvels, go to AVN.com/sex-toys/vibrators.

 
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