I was about 25 in the mid 90’s when a good friend was shocked to find out that I didn’t own a sex toy … a vibrator to be exact. At the time, I was horrified to hear her mention my name in the same sentence as the word “vibrator.” For my next birthday, I opened up a flimsy cardboard box to find “The Raquel,” a 7”, candy purple, plastic, Apollo 13 shaped vibrator with a black plastic base you could rotate for different speeds. I turned bright red and laughed it off as a joke gift, but really, I couldn’t wait to get home and try it.
So began my love affair with electric stimulation. “Raquel” and I had a titillating relationship until her untimely demise between the teeth of my Lhasa Apso “Bowie.” I was bereft. My Raquel was gone and there was nothing I could do about it, because there was no fucking way I was going into a sex shop. Weeks went by and I became more high strung. My fingers were a fine substitute, but oh, how I missed the particular buzz of a vibrator.
One day, while reading a Us Magazine feature on the X-Files, I flipped to the back of the mag and saw a tiny box of an ad for something called “The Tongue.” “The Tongue” was a battery-operated device that purported to simulate my favorite sex act of all, cunnilingus AND it vibrated! At that moment, I imagined I heard angels singing and Moses standing in the doorway to my bedroom. In my euphoric hallucination, I heard Moses say, “Go forth young one. Go forth and be pleasured by ‘The Tongue.”
With Moses’ blessing, I wrote a $120 dollar check, popped it in an envelope, sent it into the company and waited the 6 to 8 weeks for it to arrive. Finally, coming home after work, I found a plain brown box on my doorstep, from an address I didn’t recognize, in a state I’ve never been to, from a person I didn’t know. This had to be it! I secreted it off, hiding it under my arm and looking both ways before entering my house. Once safe in my bedroom I tore through the box to find my very own, 3-½ inch red rubber, pointy facsimile of a tongue. “The Tongue” was very realistic. It had taste buds and a ridge down the middle that lead to its hefty white plastic base containing the controls. My body trembled, and as I looked up from my prize possession. I swear I saw Moses leaning on my doorway, arms crossed with a smirk on his face nodding as if to say “Ohhhh yeahhhh .. GO FORTH. GO FORTH!”
I immediately washed the Tongue and slammed two “C” batteries into the base, took off my pants, laid down on my bed, took a deep breath and turned it on.
“The Tongue” was the “Droopy the Dog” of vibrators
What I expected was Raquel 2.0. What I got was the vibrator version of Droopy the Dog. Despite the battery size, the claims in the ad and my naive hope for a more intense orgasm, “The Tongue” had failed me.
The mimicked licking motion was more like an old car about to die than an eager young man feasting on his favorite meal. I was crestfallen and more importantly, discouraged. “The Tongue” was my last hope. I felt I was doomed to a life of manual stimulation.
Years passed. I met a man. I got married, I separated from my husband and at age 40, I was finally becoming sexually realized. Alone in my new apartment, I thought of Raquel. I missed her smooth ‘skin’ and her vibrato ‘laugh’ and reminisced about all the fun times we had. I wanted to feel the way Raquel made me feel again, alive and energized and womanly. Suddenly, this became my single goal. Driven, I hopped into my car and made my way to West Hollywood’s famed sex shop, The Pleasure Chest.
In the circle of other repressed, straight, white, Jewish women of Los Angeles, The Pleasure Chest was always considered “hardcore.” At my bridal shower years before, one of the guests exclaimed “Did you know I went with my boyfriend once as a goof and they had a HUUUUUGE rubber forearm and fist for sale! I mean, what are you supposed to do with THAT!?” Now, I was entering said “hardcore” sex shop and though my heart was racing and my palms were sweaty, it wasn’t out of embarrassment or fear … it was delightful excitement. Somehow I knew, that inside was a wonderful world in which I could get every sexual need met, even ones I didn’t know existed. And boy, was I right.
As I entered The Pleasure Chest, I found it was like nothing I had expected. It wasn’t the dark, seedy XXX sex shops I had seen portrayed in movies, where men in trench coats hold newspapers and disappear into a back room for 15 minutes at a time. No, The Pleasure Chest was well lit, clean and quite high-end. There were lots of glass shelves with brightly colored bottles next to a wall of condom boxes offering more than just the drugstore brands. There were massage oils, candles, soap, games, lingerie and even books and greeting cards. When I made my way up to the main portion of the store where they had the toys, I immediately became overwhelmed. Were these ALL vibrators? Did all these different shapes have a specific purpose? I mean, what more could they do than vibrate on your clit?
A young, mow-hawked and pierced Pleasure Chest employee approached and I immediately wondered if she could tell I was a newbie. She smiled warmly when she greeted me and asked, “Do you need any help finding anything?” Wow. She couldn’t have been more disarming if she tried. Here I was, a castaway adrift in a sea of sex toys and she was had just thrown me a life vest. I was so relieved; I instantly wanted her to be my best friend. “Yes, I’m looking for a vibrator but I’m not certain where to start. I mean, I had one a long time ago but … Anyway, the only one I ever heard about is … a Rabbit?” I had no idea what a “Rabbit” did.
My new bestie smiled and led me over to a shelf with about 15 vibrators that all had a rabbit torso protruding from the base. I couldn’t, for the life of me, get my head around how this would be better than my Raquel. Plus, they were garish, pink with pearls and rhinestones and glitter … soooo not me. If I was going to own a vibrator I wanted it to be the ‘Carolina Herrera’ of vibrators. When I told my new best friend how much I hated how these looked, she guided me to the other side of the display and showed me the ‘Jimmyjane Iconic Rabbit’. There it stood pristine and simple in all white as if it were the most elegant Calvin Klein Oscar dress. I knew I had found my new vibratory relationship.
My new best friend explained all the pros and cons of this particular model; all about the company and the quality of the materials they use, what kind of customers it attracts, how body-safe it was, how to clean it (weren’t they ALL body safe? Yikes!) and what kind of lube I could and could not use with it (I’m supposed to use lube?) why it was $100 as opposed to $40, (but she could show me $40 Rabbits I would be happy with too). My head was swimming. All this information about a sex toy? I didn’t realize there was so much to know! She then showed me how all of the controls worked and what kind of stimulation it could provide and possibly a new type of orgasm (there’s more than one type of orgasm!?).
I didn’t need to know anything else. This was the vibe for me. My Pleasure Chest best friend grabbed one off the shelf and asked me if I wanted to see anything else. An evening of sex and sex toy education ensued. By the end of my time there, I knew what ‘sex-positive’ meant, I knew what were body safe materials and what wasn’t and I even learned what a dental dam was and why people used them, all with my very affable, very patient salesperson.
I left the store that night giving my sales gal a hug and a hearty ‘thank you’ and upon her urging, I promised I would be back to see her again if I had any more questions. On the way to my car, I began to wonder what my life would’ve been like if I had grown up with sex-positive people in my life. I know I never would’ve waited so long to go to a sex shop. If only there were people like The Redhead Bedhead around back then, someone who actually visited all the sex-positive and female-friendly sex shops across the country in “a mission to save the world from mediocre sex.” Maybe if her SUPERHERO SEX SHOP TOUR existed when I was 19, she would have demystified and made safe, the idea of the sex shops were ALSO for me and my vanilla girlfriends, not only the fetish community.
Maybe then, I would have had a cache of vibrators, dildos, anal beads, butt plugs, lube, blindfolds and the like … at least a lot sooner anyway. 😉
I got into my car and felt the satisfied and proud grin on my face. “That wasn’t scary at all! That was so much fun!” I thought. And as I backed out of my parking spot, feeling confident and very “adult,” I could swear I saw Moses in my rear view mirror giving me a wink and a “Fonzie” thumbs-up as I pulled away.
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