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Stocking Stuffers
December 1, 2004
by Brendon McCullin

It’s always a surprise as a man to find out the things you’re out of the loop on. About a month ago, my pregnant wife returned home from an OB/GYN visit carrying a stack of pregnancy magazines. Ever curious, I picked a few up to glance through and was met with an unexpected shock. There in big bold letters on one of the covers was a tease for a story about using sex toys while pregnant.

Shortly after that, I was talking to a friend in my small midwestern hometown – a place with no stoplights but three churches – and was equally shocked to hear that this quaint little burg had been the site of a number of in-home sex toy parties. The idea that women in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone were getting together to peruse the latest in vibrators and dildos sent my head spinning.

As recently as six or seven years ago I remember being in a roomful of writers in Hollywood and when the subject of vibrator use came up almost every female comedy writer present became embarrassed. I figured that any topic that makes comedy writers blush would take a while to reach the rest of America. Apparently, as with a lot of things, I was wrong.

Now, I’m a fairly in touch guy. I have a number of female friends. I’m married. I lived in Los Angeles, where sex shops aren’t only on lonely side streets but are high-end stores on Sunset and Melrose. I haven’t been living under a rock – if anything I was living at the heart of the decadence. So, why is it that I had no idea that talking about and using sex toys had become so acceptable?

One big reason is rooted in popular culture. Even during the early days of the show's run, I knew that more than just women in major metropolitan areas were watching Sex and the City. I saw the show enough to know the topics and tone of the show. Silly me, though, I thought that it was influencing women to seek out Manolo Blahnik’s and Jimmy Choo’s – not the Rabbit and Pocket Rocket.

“Popular media has done a lot to normalize open discussions about sexual pleasure among friends with shows like the Seinfeld masturbation episode,” according to Erica Neuman, a sexual wellness expert for MyPleasure.com.

“Shows like Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives have given women permission to accept and explore their own sexuality without waiting for consent from their partner,” added Genine Drozd, Director of Public Relations for Pure Romance, which runs in-home parties for sex products. According to the Kinsey Institute, websites that sell adult products have been able to trace spikes in their sales of vibrators to mentions in magazines like Maxim and Cosmopolitan.

Actually, sex toys have become a huge business. There aren’t hard numbers specific to the sales of sex toys, but the best estimates put the figure at around $1 billion. Pure Romance has seen sales from their parties increase from $1.7 million in 2000 to a projected $46.2 million this year. That’s nearly a 3,000 percent increase in four years, for those of you keeping score. All of which must also be good news for the battery industry.

Of course, the Internet has also had a lot to do with the growth of sex toys among the middle class. Sites like GoodVibes.com, ToysInBabeland.com and the aforementioned MyPleasure.com sell a wide range of sex products, mostly to women, all available from the safety of the home. Those sites also include a lot of information in general about women’s sexual health, which seems to be every bit as important to the people involved as sales.

It’s an old joke that women are more willing to share intimate details with one another, but it’s also all too true. Debby Herbenick, a sex educator from the Kinsey Institute, assured me that there really is nothing new about it. “Women have always compared notes,” she pointed out. “They have always shared notes about sexual and reproductive health with each other. We’ve seen this with contraception, fertility tips and with sexual techniques. So it makes sense that women pass information on to each other and that more women have become interested in vibrators now.”

“We’re finally starting to listen to each other instead of listening to a man that doesn’t understand or have a vulva,” added Drozd. “Men used to feel inadequate if their partner could not climax through intercourse. Luckily for us, society has changed its view. Every woman is different. Some women have clitoral orgasms, some have G-spot orgasms and others have both.”

That doesn’t mean that as a man you have to be completely left out. “Most recently women are normalizing sex toy use with their husbands, boyfriends or partners as a way to enhance their intimacy and keep the spice – or bring it back – in their relationships,” Neuman pointed out.

So basically, don’t stop to wonder too much about the buzzing noise coming from your visiting mother-in-law’s room. It’s all a part of the greater good and better left out of the thought process of most guys.

Instead this Christmas, if you’ve got a wife or girlfriend that seems as though she’s gotten a little bored with all three of your moves, it might be time to do a little shopping. Maybe she’d like the Dolphin (if she doesn’t already have one) or one of the other hundreds of varieties. One good thing about the people that sell sex toys is that they’re more than willing to help – if you want a suggestion of what might be a good gift for your partner all you have to do is ask.

Just don’t forget those batteries, and openness aside, you still might want to make sure that it’s not a present that gets opened in front of either set of parents. Otherwise, nothing says Christmas like the gift of multiple orgasms.

After all, it’s always better to give than to receive.

(Brendon McCullin is a volunteer staff writer for 2 Walls Webzine)


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