The first time I was introduced to the idea of sex toys, I would have been about 13 years old. I was sitting on top of the monkey bars with my friends, exchanging urban legends. We were trying to outdo one another by telling the weirdest, grossest and most exaggerated story.
“Did you hear about that girl in Year Nine,” my friend giggled, “who used an electric toothbrush?”
The rest of us gasped.
“And put it in her…” she gestured downwards.
“And then she got, like, herpes or something because she’d brushed her teeth when she had a cold sore.”
“Ewwww!” we screamed, newly acquainted with the idea of STIs from the semester of health that was compulsory for all Year Sevens.
This grossly exaggerated or entirely made up urban legendcircled the playground for several weeks in my first semester of high school.
Fast forward a few years to the first time I made acquaintance with a sex toy in real life. You’re probably imagining some BDSM-type situation at a fetish club, or worse, but it was actually in my lounge room. I was about to head out for the night with some friends when suddenly, one of the bags on the table started to buzz.
“Do you have to answer that?” I asked innocently. Someone giggled. My friend’s face went red. “Yeah I’ll um…get that in your bedroom” she said, disappearing down the?hall.
I followed her to make sure she was okay when I spotted it. A glittery purple vibrator that she was aggressively trying to pull apart on my bed.
The vibrations didn’t stop. I tried to hide my laughter, handing her a screwdriver from the cupboard so she could pull out the batteries without touching the glittery, rubbery item in her other hand. What are friends for?
After this experience, I continued my journey into the world of sex toys with a simple Google search. I clicked on the first link and read through the subheadings. Vibrators, dildos, butt plugs, wands, dongs, strap-ons, fleshlights, cock rings, handcuffs. I closed the page and deleted my internet history.
With a plethora of sex toys on the market and little to no personal experience, I turned to my friends – also known as my Sex Toy Research Focus Group, to find out what the kids are using nowadays. The overwhelming response was in favour of the?vibrator.
Vibrators were invented in the early 19th century to cure women diagnosed with a rampant illness called ‘female hysteria’. Hysteria had such a long list of potential symptoms that at one point it was estimated up to 75 per cent of women suffered from the affliction. Symptoms included loss or increase of sexual appetite, fatigue, anxiety and mild depression. These ‘hysterical’ women were treated by doctors who prescribed a ‘pelvic massage’ intended to cause ‘hysterical paroxysm’, more commonly known today as the orgasm.
While this ‘pelvic massage’ was presumably successful in getting women off, the doctors performing the procedure began to suffer an array of unwanted conditions – from wrist and hand pain to carpal tunnel syndrome. In order to save doctors from the painstaking and laborious process, the vibrator was invented.
The first vibrator was an electromechanical steam powered device invented by Dr Joseph Mortimer Grayville called ‘The Manipulator’. It was about the size of a dining room table and included a steam powered engine that was located in a separate room. The first battery-powered vibrator wasn’t introduced into households until 1899, becoming enormously popular and reducing the rate of women visiting doctors for ‘pelvic massages’ for good.
By the 1930s, vibrators began appearing in pornographic films, establishing dirty and morally dubious connections to the vibrator for the first time. This made it increasingly difficult for doctors to include vibrators in their practices and for women to convince their husbands that purchasing one was a good idea.
But that wasn’t the end of the vibrator. Thanks to the sexual revolution of the ’70s, the vibrator resurfaced in liberal feminist texts where it was promoted as a symbol of female sexual freedom, expression and identity. In the decades since, the vibrator has emerged as not only one of the most popular sexual tools but also as a symbol of female sexuality.
To continue my journey into the world of sex toys, I decided to take a look at the contemporary vibrator that can be purchased not only in sex stores but all over the internet. Me and my Sex Toy Research Focus Group got to Googling – this time on incognito mode. We browsed through several websites selling vibrators and discovered that the devices, on average, ranged from 50 to 500 dollars.
We stumbled across a $15,000 vibrator advertised in the top corner of one of the websites. We clicked into it and scrolled down to read the reviews.
When you first insert this gorgeous pleasure rod into your hoo-hah, one review began.
My friend snorted, “If you’re spending $15,000 on a sex toy you’d think you’d be past using the word ‘hoo-hah’”.
Searching in store for vibrators was even more interesting. As one sales women informed us, vibrators have an array of uses. Most importantly though, I learnt that the best use for a malleable vibrator is in fact to massage your feet after a long day in heels.
So I will attempt to leave you with something that isn’t just a history lesson. Why not try out a vibrator? I have been assured, it’s worth it. Oh and if I have learnt anything along my journey, please for the love of god do not use an electric toothbrush.