Common Appliances: Toasters and... Vibrators?

One trip to your local convenience store can stock you up on toothpaste, toilet paper, and now, sex toys.

Photograph: iStock Photo

What recession? The sex industry is booming, and vibrators- once dubbed  “masturbatory machines” for “sexually dysfunctional females”- are being stocked in stores around the country.

I still remember my first time. It was in a Brookstone gadget store at the Detroit airport. I was waiting for a connecting flight home, finishing up a long and dull business trip. As I browsed through talking alarm clocks that had more to say than me, and pens that doubled as coffee makers, something shiny caught my eye. It was white block lettering on a black box that beckoned with the words,  “Pinpoint Mini Massager.” I could really use that thing, I thought to myself as I massaged my achy neck. I picked it up and gave a try. At $20 it was worth a try. As I handed my credit card to the store clerk, I asked, “Do these things really work?” “Women customers love them,” he said snickering.

I gave him an odd look. I honestly didn’t know what he was alluding to. Of course, I now know that nobody ever uses a mini-massager for mini-massaging ever.  I only figured that out years after the purchase when in a desperate moment, I reached for something, anything, on my nightstand to help a girl in need in the middle of the night. (Yeah, I know. I’m an idiot, in a class all my own)

Since then, the mini-massager remains the best and only vibrator I’ve ever owned. While I’ve been dutifully replacing AA’s on good ol’ B.O.B. (battery operated boyfriend), millions of other Americans have advanced exponentially in vibrator sophistication. As reported in a recent New York Times article (June 28, 2009), the first academic, peer-reviewed studies of vibrator use have revealed that the vibrator is nearly as common an appliance in American households as the drip coffee maker or toaster oven.

Fifty-three percent of women and nearly half of all men report having used a vibrator, according to two new national surveys from Indiana University published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. (The surveys were conducted in April 2008 and paid for by Church & Dwight, which makes Trojan condoms and a line of vibrators.)

Here are some other interesting tidbits from the surveys:

  • Eighty-one percent of women and 91 percent of men who’ve used one report having done so with a partner.
  • The more religious a person, the less likely she was to use a vibrator, and the more educated, the more likely.
  • Men and women who had used a vibrator in the last month scored higher on sexual pleasure scales than those who had never used one.

Even through bad economic times, vibrator sales are up 20 percent in the last year, say the Trojan people. In fact they’ve been busy inventing a new vibrator product each year.  The researchers attribute the widespread use of vibrators to a sex toy industry gone mainstream (good bye Triple-X, hello baby boomers).

They’re also easier to find. Vibrators are now sold at Wal-Mart, 7-Eleven and CVS. And of course, let’s not forget Brookstone. Please note: it’s now called the “Buzz Pinpoint Mini Massager” because I guess some women just weren’t getting it.

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