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I recently bought my first "rabbit" vibrator from a nice feminist sex toy vendor's clearance sale (honeysuckleshop.com), and I love it. ("My First Rabbit" sounds like a Judy Blume title, doesn't it?) I had no idea how much I preferred the woman-friendly approach until I went to the nonfeminist Pleasure Place in DC to buy a dildo and couldn't make myself buy a thing. Why does all the packaging on toys meant for my pleasure have to have a fake woman on it? Like that would turn me on?
Anyway, I protested with my wallet and didn't buy anything. But I still need a dildo, so I thought I would ask you for recommendations. What qualities should I be looking for in my new friend?
What, they didn't have any of those boxes where a well-groomed MILF type holds the toy up to her neck or cheek with her eyes closed and her mouth dropped open in inexplicable ecstasy? I guess not — those pics are generally found on "therapeutic massagers" and the like, not static space fillers like dildos or butt-plugs — but I've always gotten a kick out of them.
OK, so what's bugging you is the big-haired, big-boobed, bleached, shaved, and shiny-mouthed porn starlets on the dildo boxes, who are clearly there to attract a certain sort of male interest and purchasing power? I can sorta see your point, but then again, it's OK with you if men buy dildos too, right? So it's more a sort of "hostile atmosphere" problem, where you feel a little threatened by the aggressive sleaziness of the packaging? Despite my nearly irresistible urge to snap, "Butch it up, babe," and leave it at that, it's clear that a lot of women do mind sleazy marketing, hence the many, many jobs for many, many of my friends at many, many women-owned clean, well-lighted, nonporny places for sex toys over the years. If that's the sort of atmosphere you prefer (and I get it, I really do — I'm just yanking your chain) and you can't find one in your area, just hop online and read up at one of the places (Toys in Babeland, Blowfish, or Good Vibrations) that have extensive descriptions, recommendations, and even in-house reviews of every product on the premises. Be prepared to spend some money (silicone outperforms latex and jelly rubber by nearly every measure, for instance, but if you want it you're gonna pay). You don't need to drop the bucks right out of the gate, though. Unless you're positively set on a certain shape (Corn Goddess! Buck Rogers Ray Gun!) or know for a fact that the "Mr. Big Stuff" model is the one for you, consider buying some cheaper disposables and experimenting.
So far so good, but you're still wondering why those bimbos are gasping fake-orgasmically all over the box for a toy you plan to use for your own special secret female purposes. Heck if I know. I do know people in the business, though, so I passed your question on to my friend the writer and anthologist Thomas Roche of skidroche.com, who currently edits Eros-Zine (www.eroszine.com) but has more than paid his dues flacking sex toys for the manufacturers of exactly the sort of goods you're wondering about. Here's his (typically crass and cranky, god love him) answer:
I have no idea what the people who design sex toy packaging are thinking, but I can take a wild guess. There are ten bazillion of these friggin' products released every ten minutes. I suspect the packaging designers are given vast folders of digital clip art bought en masse from porno houses and have, like, fifteen minutes to design each package based on a small selection of templates that don't change much.
I also suspect that the majority of people, when they go to buy a sex toy, are less concerned with the packaging than with the fact that they are buying a sex toy. People in the "alternative" sexuality market are fond of expressing outrage and bewilderment that the adult industry doesn't cater more to the needs of whomever they think the companies aren't catering to, but successful businesses tend to do things based on the bottom line, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Therefore, I can only assume that this packaging moves product. I don't like it any better than anyone else does, and I have no idea who's "supposed" to buy it, but they sure buy a lot of it.
Smaller manufacturers and boutique shops are much better about coming up with tasteful packaging (and also tend to offer higher quality product) but having been to so-called "boutiques" all over the country, I can say that most of those smaller shops stock the same tastelessly packaged dildos as the porn shops, though that is starting to change.
Thanks, Thomas, and good luck, Disgusted. Buy American!