CONFESSIONS OF A SEX TOY TESTER

Suave is very toey these days.  Toey-er than a Roman sandal, to be precise.

And while that can be too much information, or TMI as the kids say, what cannot be too much information is the nitty gritty on sex toys for women.

I have to admit, I fancy myself as being pretty good between the sheets, but by no means am I an expert. I like to devote a fair bit of consideration to trying to understand what women like, or need from sex.

The following is a ripping account of one woman’s time spent as a sex toy tester.

Al little something for y’all on a Friday courtesy of Cleo Patrick!

“I was holidaying in Bali a couple of years ago when I met a self-professed entrepreneur from San Francisco named Michael. He was slumming it in a kick-arse villa with a freezer full of Grey Goose and Bombay Sapphire, so there appeared to be some credence to this ‘entrepreneur’ nomenclature.

When I asked for specifics, Michael claimed to be ‘between projects’ (read: diving and dining). His next venture was merely a seed of an idea, but one that had found fertile ground in the entrepreneurial side of his brain. So what was it? “Vibrators,” said Michael, with hardly a snigger. “I plan to do for vibrators what iPods have done for music.”

Intriguing. What Michael meant was he wanted to give vibrators an image overhaul and transform them into a high-end fashion accessory, as part of the luxury market. His ultimate goal: To see them on the shelves of Saks of Fifth Avenue in New York. Rather than shrink back, I posed more questions, which he answered with matched enthusiasm. “Would you like to be a product tester as part of the development process?” he asked. “Hell, why not,” I responded.

Not one to do things by halves, I decided to look into the history of the vibrator so I could get a feel for my task at hand (pardon the puns). My research took me back to BC times, to Hippocrates, who believed women’s hysteria (known as womb furie – a recognised medical condition until the mid-20th century) was caused by a blockage in the womb. The word for ‘womb’ in Greek is hysteros; hence, the origin of the word ‘hysterical’.

Second century physician, Galen, was the first to theorise that women’s hysteria might somehow be connected to sexual gratification. It appeared those who were sexually deprived (eg. nun, virgins, widows, etc) were the worst afflicted, and a pelvic ‘vulvular’ massage could do wonders to alleviate their condition. Doctors would often perform this procedure, but it required constant repetition and, as many men can attest, was a time-consuming task. The desired patient response would become known as ‘hysterical paroxysm’ (cue Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally).

There had to be a better way… Along came the vibrator.

Far from being the sleek devices that Michael is in the process of producing, the early vibrators of the 1880s were cumbersome monstrosities. Imagine the steam-powered ‘manipulator’ that appeared in England in 1870, or hydrotherapeutic models dispensing water like an aqua cannon aimed at the clitoris. In the 19th century in Europe, 75 percent of women were deemed ‘hysterical’ – a chronic disease that had no cure. Consequently, there was a huge market for vibrators. In 1917, there were apparently more vibrators than toasters in American homes.

Fast-forward almost a year, and Michael has returned to California, while I’m back in Melbourne. He conducts a fairly lengthy interview with me via the magic of Skype in which I’m transported into his San Francisco loft, although, for anyone else, my anonymity was assured. We ran through almost two and a half hours of questions that delved not so much into the intimate details of my sex life, but into the intimate details of me, as a woman.

How much money do I spend on ‘non-essential’ items? How much time in one day would I dedicate to myself as ‘me’ time? How do I share information across peers? How would I make a decision on what vibrator to purchase? Would I – and have I – purchase a vibrator?

See, here’s the rub: I would never have bought myself a vibrator; it was a former boyfriend who introduced ‘the rabbit’ into my life – a secret Christmas gift that couldn’t be stashed under the tree and opened in front of my grandmother.

Apparently, it was intended as an adjunct to our sexual activities, but this rubber rabbit remained imprisoned in my bottom drawer until the relationship with my boyfriend disintegrated and I commenced a new one with my mechanical maestro. Suffice to say, I was mighty impressed – although less impressed with the vibrator’s animal-themed appendages that never failed to creep me out.

Michael didn’t seem troubled by my vibrator amateurism. He told me to expect a package of products in a week or so that I’d then have to provide feedback via online forms. My current boyfriend pumped the air with his fist in excitement.

“When that box arrives, we’re staying in for the weekend,” he confidently announced. But when the package finally turned up, he shrunk back in a manner fitting for any heterosexual male faced with a proliferation of phalluses. “That’s a bit scary,” he said, far more meekly this time. And then never mentioned that box of vibrators again. Like it didn’t even exist.

In stark contrast, my female friends ripped into the bubble wrapping with wild abandon, accompanied by plenty of giggles, ‘oohs’ & ‘ahhs’ and ‘how the hell do you use this?’. Not only that, but there were a few female followers desperate to jump on the bandwagon and become product testers themselves. I referred them to my guru.

I deposited my stash into an old gift box with flowers on the outside (so they looked nice) and positioned it beside my bed. I then started opening these ‘gifts’ – inspecting them with interest. But it took me awhile to leap into my product testing.

Despite this caché of shiny and new devices, I found myself just looking at them a lot – and embarassing my boyfriend with revelations of my ‘job role’ at dinner parties – rather than actually testing anything. In fact, I also persisted on dragging out the rabbit with its dodgy circuitry time and time again. Like a dying friendship, I couldn’t just toss it to one side without a proper goodbye.

That was something to note for Michael in my feedback forms: Customer loyalty is a major factor when it comes to vibrators.

Some vibrators were very pretty; others were just plain confusing. One device, called We-Vibe, posed quite a conundrum that wasn’t explained in anything ‘instructional’ on the box. I resorted to an online video with diagrams and a breathy female voiceover to make light of how this wishbone-shaped product was to be inserted into a woman’s privates.

According to this video, it kind of fits ‘in and over’, like the pincer movement of a finger and thumb. You can actually walk around while wearing the We-Vibe (yeah, right), which gives a whole new meaning to ‘shopping’ and might account for the distant gaze of some women wandering supermarket aisles (and to think I blamed that on Valium). The video also demonstrated how We-Vibe might be used during penetration with a partner. So much for two’s company, three’s a crowd.

When it comes to gimickry, though, nothing quite tops the NaughtiBod – a vibrator that plugs into your iPod and takes its varying rhythms from the beats of your playlists.

This funky little product suitably amused me, although the concept, while good in theory, lacks a little in practice. For example, the BPMs of African-American soul make this vibrator appear to be running low on batteries, while something like speed metal – perfect for ‘getting off’ – is not exactly the most seductive of music styles.

Christmas was approaching and Michael was eager for all my feedback forms to be filed. I was getting waylaid with deadlines, Christmas parties and other festive season frivolities. There seemed to be no time for product testing.

I’d slump on the couch at the end of a long day, then a thought would explode in my head – ‘Time to masturbate! Far from being a mood lighting, essential oils and smooth grooves experience, my ‘pleasuring’ had turned into wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am sessions in the small window of time before sleep.

After a record-breaking dash to the finishing line, I came to the final product for testing – the Hitachi Magic Wand – an ‘electric massager’ that, if the photography on the packaging was to be believed, soothes every possible muscle on the human body, except the ones used to create a climax.

According to vibrator history, in the 1920s, the use of vibrators in stag films changed their image forever. Vibrators were now considered instruments of debauchery, rather than medical contraptions. They went underground only to resurface as ‘camouflaged technology’ (ie. something pitched for a use other than its actual function). A scoot around the Internet revealed my Wand’s ‘electric massager’ label to be a ruse. One article even dared to deem it ‘the Mercedes of Vibrators’.

Curiosity had got the better of me, so imagine my dismay after ripping open the unassuming packaging to find an unattractive instrument resembling an Olympic torch with a large ball on top. Imagine my further dismay at plugging it into the power socket and hearing a noise that sounded like a whipper-snipper caught on a tree root.

Panicked, I contacted Michael and informed him I needed a voltage converter (anything that sounded like this machine was not coming within a whisper of my genitals). I could feel the hysteria rising in me like indigestion. I was being consumed by a politically incorrect ailment. Someone give the girl a vibrator.

To cut a long story short, Michael decided I should forget about testing the Magic Wand, as deadline was looming and, quite frankly, there was simply no more time for masturbation. To this day, the qualities of this much-venerated item remain a mystery to me, although I’ve been given a graphic insight into the many different vibrators currently available on the international market and how a woman’s orgasm is something of a hot commodity.

It’s little wonder hysteria has been struck from the medical records as a female condition. Look inside a woman’s bedside goodie drawer and you’ll find out why.” 

Article reproduced with full consent and knowledge of the author.  So there!

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