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Why Sex Toys Need a Woman's Touch

Sex toys for women used to be mostly designed by men, with varying degrees of success. Today, women are creating sex toys for their own needs.

It was a 19-year-old girl’s nightmare. My mother had found my vibrator.

Now, if a sibling or cousin decides to rifle through your things when you’re not around – read your diary, check out your underpants, look for your weed or some such glaring breach of privacy – they generally leave things as they found them so as to avoid detection. I came home to find my love toy -- a long, tall, slightly rounded version of the Washington Monument cast in hard, unforgiving beige plastic -- standing on the end table in my flawlessly cleaned room. Note to those of you still living at home: This is a prime example of why you should tidy your own damn room.

You see, there weren’t many options for moderately adventurous young ladies interested in self-exploration back in the day. This was pre-Internet. And although there were innumerable, um, boutiques in nearby Times Square (a place very different from the one we know today) that stocked such items, none were particularly appetizing to a young girl unless she was looking for a "date."

My vibe was a moderately pleasurable clit buzzer – granted, one so loud I could only use it while home alone – but beyond that, it was useless. Its unyielding material was cold and hard, its shape preposterously ill-suited to the graceful, sinuous bends of my soft, intimate anatomy and its vibration mechanism had only one setting: chainsaw.

Clearly, I needed a better mouse for my trap.

An Exceedingly Brief History

The earliest known dildo, eight inches of stone, dates to 30,000 years ago, and scientists have noted the use of sex toys in ancient Egyptian civilization as well as ancient Greece. Extra-phallic penetration is a concept our ancestors embraced enthusiastically.

Other materials for these early clam hammers included wood and tar, and pliable fruits and vegetables have been employed since the dawn of masturbation. Industry progressed. Rubber was introduced. A large interior coil gave newer models flexibility, but as the product aged its sheath would often crack, exposing the spring and subjecting users to some pretty heinous injuries.

Moving forward, we developed PVC and jellies, although issues with the unpleasant scents of such materials and the inability to properly sterilize them, as well as the unsafe phthalates they contained (used as a softener, phthalates have since been linked to some nasty health problems) led to the various grades of silicone we see in use most often today. Other materials – wood, glass, metal – are making impressive inroads today for reasons both ecological and pleasure driven.

A Woman’s Touch

While some folks are more concerned than others about the physical makeup of their sex toys, most would be surprised to find that speaking with the people who make them is often akin to interviewing Betty Crocker or Mrs. Butterworth about their own respective specialties.

“I don’t think people realize the labor and the thought and the love that goes into it," says Leslie Shwartzer without a trace of irony.

Shwartzer is the U.S. director of sales and marketing for Rocks-Off Ltd., a U.K.-based company one might describe as a “mum-and-pop sex toy manufacturer."

“Our first product was more or less dreamt up by two guys at a bar,” she says. “And we still work that way.” Though based on the company’s success, I have to assume it’s more often than not without pints.

“We start a product from its inception. We build the mold, we build the product, everything is ours and from our own factory. It is an absolute labor of love.”

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