The Normal Vibrations

In Jimmyjane’s Sex Change Operation I described how Jimmyjane had used design to normalize and shift the meaning of sex and sexuality away from dirty. Although Jimmyjane isn’t mentioned specifically, this article further illuminates this cultural moment:

“What this tells us is we’ve reached a tipping point,” said Debby Herbenick, an author of the studies along with her Indiana University colleague Michael Reece. “Something once regarded as exotic has become commonplace.”

The surveys, conducted in April 2008 and paid for by Church & Dwight, which makes Trojan condoms and a line of vibrators, document vibrator use and the related sexual practices of 2,056 women and 1,047 men; 93 percent of those surveyed said they are heterosexual.

The researchers attribute the widespread use to easier availability and a cultural shift away from the bad ol’ boy, Triple-X-rated sex toy industry. Vibrators are now sold at Wal-Mart, 7-Eleven and CVS; new Internet sites for sex products feature middle-aged models and aim at mainstream couples. Several companies market sex toys to women as young as sorority sisters and as old as postmenopausal golden girls through Tupperware-style home parties.

“You can now buy your toothpaste, shampoo and vibrator at the local convenience store,” Dr. Herbenick said. “They’re not hidden in a dark corner of some adult store.”

This is the first vibrator research based on a sampling reflective of the nation’s demographic mix, so there is no means of authoritatively measuring changing use over time.


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