Thursday, June 12, 2008

History of the Vibrator...and one wonders...

...why such a simple, pleasure-giving device has such a history?

A great article - found here - in the TimesOnline UK edition recaps the history of the vibrator. Seems the handy little devices started life as medical equipment (which most of us already knew) and only gradually made their way into the hands of the women they were designed to help.

Interesting stuff...a good read...and begs the same questions I've asked since I was old enough to have the faintest tingle between the thighs and the awareness that something was "wrong" about that sweet tingle...that I wasn't supposed to feel that and NEVER supposed to talk about feeling it: How in heaven's name did we become so screwed up about sex?

Case in point: the article talks about the vibe's rise in popularity and acceptance, right up until silent films began depicting it being used sexually...after which it disappeared from advertisements and ready availability for 50 years. What the...? It was all fine and dandy when it was a medical device but the minute it's associated with sex, back into the closet it goes!

We've certainly come a long way, but I'm not sure it's all been in the right direction. No...that's not true...I'm entirely sure that much of it has been backward. We no longer, praise be, deny that women do, indeed, enjoy sex...and, at least in American culture, we don't openly deny that they should. But you can't buy a nice vibrator at the drugstore, either. Well, you can...but it will be called a massager and will show pictures of perfectly manicured female hands blissfully massaging neck and shoulders, with copy that reads, "Relaxes all kinds of muscles, relieves tension, soothes and refreshes...". The best of those illustrations are for the pale, creamy colored plastic vibes shaped like vaguely penis-like rockets, shown cozied up to the little indentation where the cheekbone and neck meet. Puh-leeze! Who massages their jawbone with a hard plastic penis? For that matter, who massages their shoulders with one?

And then, there's the issue of how female celebrities and models look or are made to look in photographs and movies. For one thing, they don't look that way. They're real people and real people, without exception, have hair, bumps, lumps, cellulite, discoloration, dark eye circles, thinning hair, enlarged pores, and a host of other beautiful flaws that just go with the human territory. You won't find many pictures of fact, you find photoshopped miracles of inhuman beauty everywhere. If a young girl gets hold of a men's magazine with production levels of any quality, they might (and do) get the idea that "pretty", "sexy", and "beautiful" are all synonymous with hairless, flawless, perfectly made-up, and forever young. What a disservice!

Yes, I know...I'm not saying anything new. We're all aware of the issues. But are we aware enough? Has our awareness led to action? Have we,, me, your next door neighbor, your daughter/mother/wife/girlfiend...have we done anything about it? Have we begun to talk more openly and honestly about sexuality? Have we admitted, even to each other, that we actually own sex toys? Have we made sure our daughters see as many examples of real, beautiful, sexy, flawed-and-thus-flawless women in their lives as they do artifically enhanced paper dolls? Have our celebrity women talked candidly about their profession and about how what they portray is not who they are? Have we ended the disgusting habit of mentally clawing the eyes of every woman who shows a bit more skin than we think proper, or who openly dates multiple men or has multiple sexual partners? Have we given up judging each other more harshly than anyone?

And while we're at it (though this is a slight left turn), have we wised up and started giving violent, horror-filled movies depicting scenes of bloody dismemberment, unspeakable cruelty, and death by the minute the same XXX ratings we reserve for movies that depict sexual acts? I'm no big fan of pornography because of the distorted way it portrays sex, but I fail to see how it can be worse than "Saw". In fact, given a choice between my 17-year-old watching porn and watching a crazy, demented, violent blood-fest, I'd have to say, "Bring on the f***ing!" At least sex is a life-affirming act.

I don't have answers; I have questions, and I have to keep asking them because none of the answers so far have made much sense.

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