Vibrators, it seems, are everywhere. It started out with coy references on Sex in the City. Now there is an entire movie, Hysteria, devoted to their invention and yesterday my Tweet Deck exploded with links to articles about grocery stores carrying pleasure devices and a $1,600 vibrator set available on a sex toys website.
While I'm all for anyone expressing their sexuality and enjoying themselves, when perusing the pages of vibrators available, most, if not all, marketed towards women, I am left to wonder: Why all the hoopla? Why all the need for tools and batteries and life-like stimulation? Why can't women just touch themselves?
Hysteria, a medical diagnosis, was attributed to women as a disturbance of the uterus, an extreme emotional outpouring that required medical treatment. In the 19th century, this treatment came in the form of vibrators. Our foremothers needed medical permission to masturbate.
As the Twitterverse revealed yesterday, there is still quite the marketplace for vibrators -- even CVS thinks so. Yet hysteria is no longer a viable medical diagnosis, at least not one treated by a doctor making house calls with a vibrator. A 2011 article in The New Republic called female masturbation "the last sexual taboo" in a review of La Petite Mort, a photo book about women's masturbation practices. Even with the rise in sex toys, this taboo remains.
Good girls don't do that. There are no jokes about Rosie Fingers the way there are about Rosie Palm, a man's best girlfriend. With the rise in vibrators, women don't need to touch themselves to experience pleasure; they can use an intermediary device to put them one step back from the process, to remove themselves from the action.
I can't help but feeling women still need permission to pleasure themselves. We need the approval of a credit card swipe and a delicately labeled box with instructions to get in touch with one of our deepest, most natural urges. While I know this may not be true for every woman that rocks a vibrator, part of me worries that this is just another case where women's sexuality is subjugated to the marketplace instead of celebrated and explored.
I look forward to the day when women are teased about pleasuring themselves the same way men are. We don't need special pink magic wands to access this pleasure; all we need is the knowledge that it is okay, more than okay, a birthright, to experience and enjoy one of the gifts of being human.
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