Vibrator Nation

How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 41 illustrations Published: September 2017

Author: Lynn Comella

Subjects
Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Sex and Sexuality

In the 1970s a group of pioneering feminist entrepreneurs launched a movement that ultimately changed the way sex was talked about, had, and enjoyed. Boldly reimagining who sex shops were for and the kinds of spaces they could be, these entrepreneurs opened sex-toy stores like Eve’s Garden, Good Vibrations, and Babeland not just as commercial enterprises, but to provide educational and community resources as well. In Vibrator Nation Lynn Comella tells the fascinating history of how these stores raised sexual consciousness, redefined the adult industry, and changed women's lives. Comella describes a world where sex-positive retailers double as social activists, where products are framed as tools of liberation, and where consumers are willing to pay for the promise of better living—one conversation, vibrator, and orgasm at a time.

Praise

"This book offered a good balance between research, interviews, and Comella's personal experiences, which ultimately created a fantastic book that explored many perspectives. . . . I really enjoyed learning about how sex toy sellers and sex shop workers viewed their role in feminism, sexual liberation, and sex education." — Mary Clare Del Carpio, Mary Clare Reads blog

"[A] fascinating survey of the evolving culture of sexuality in America and of a small band of pro-sex feminists who were on the front lines of the sexual revolution." — Vernon Rosario, Gay & Lesbian Review

"Vibrator Nation celebrates the cast of audacious women who led the lusty feminist revolution in San Francisco: Blank (who died in 2016), Susie Bright, Carol Queen and other sex-positive pioneers. A crash course in contemporary gender and sexuality studies, Comella’s book could be a television series every bit as juicy as Sex in the City or Transparent." — Laura Frost, Times Higher Education

"Vibrator Nation is an engaging expedition across more than 30 years of the history of feminist sex stores in the US. Comella provides a multilayered context, detailing the cultural climates, sex education histories and social positioning of female sexuality that the stores operated and flourished under.... An inspiring read, Vibrator Nation will engage those interested in the history of sexual pleasure as well as provide valuable information for those researching feminist activism and the broader field of female sexuality."
  — Caroline West, Screening Sex

"[A] worthy exploration into how women have orgasmed their way into sexual liberation." — Bitch

"Vibrator Nation is an essential read for anyone interested in opening an adult boutique, or who already owns one and is looking for inspiration—and for anyone who is interested in the history of adult boutiques and what they might look like in the years to come. It's apparent Comella has a deep respect and admiration for the people she interviewed and for their missions." — Sherri L. Shaulis, AVN Magazine

"It’s equal parts social history, popular culture, business and psychology and, while amply sourced, reads like a novel populated by memorable true-life characters." — John Przybys, Las Vegas Review-Journal

"Vibrator Nation tells one part of our country's feminist story, but it may just as well be a call to action to grab a vibrator – or whatever tool of liberation you choose – and resist." — Nicole Guappone, Rolling Stone

"Through setting Vibrator Nation free into the world, Lynn hopes to not only challenges readers’ ideas about the woman’s relationship to the sex industry but also challenge people’s stereotypes about the role that women have played in transforming the adult industry....  Please, for your sake and the sake of humanity, pick up a copy of Vibrator Nation. You will adore it and undoubtedly fall in love with Lynn, just as we have." — Britanny Burr, Psych n Sex

"Comella’s Vibrator Nation shows how feminist sex-toy shops freed us from the confines of the patriarchy — rather than reinforced our role within it — and gave us the power to feel powerful using 'one conversation, vibrator, and orgasm at a time.'" — Annamarya Scaccia, Bust

"A brilliant examination of the history of adult stores.... Vibrator Nation is smartly written and well-researched."
  — Veronica Lea, Vulva, Ink

"In examining this segment of the adult industry, Comella answers many questions about the rise of the business and the circuitous paths that female and queer-friendly sex-positive sex-toy stores have taken. She also begs the question of what happens next within this dynamic trade." — Sherlonya Turner, Pulp

"An impressive history of feminist sex-toy stores in the US.... Highly recommended. All levels/libraries." — T.E. Adams, Choice

"In addition to highlighting the educational role assumed by sex-toy shops, Comella's Vibrator Nation brings an academic emphasis to sexuality that builds a bridge between the corporate and scholarly worlds." — James McWilliams, Pacific Standard

"Whether readers are skeptics or supporters of consumptive identity politics, this book has a lot to offer. Its reconstruction of the emergence of feminist vibrator politics is a worthwhile contribution. It is a chapter of history we may need more than ever now, during our #MeToo moment when the promises of pleasure are again being eclipsed by specters of heterosexist danger. We cannot therefore afford to ignore this book’s rich documentation of feminist identity politics. We must search it for both its implications for theories of consumption as activism as well as its lessons about feminism through retail." — Shelly Ronen, Consumers & Consumption

"We’ve come a long way, baby, but as Vibrator Nation and Buzz make clear, we still may not be coming enough." — Peggy Orenstein, New York Times Book Review

Vibrator Nation provides a rich and riveting reflection on the feminist quest to unlock women’s sexual empowerment through participation in consumer culture.” — Amy Braksmajer, Gender & Society

"For me, this was the most affirming part of Vibrator Nation: the way it presents sex toy retail with such love and care. Page after page, Comella articulates how vital and transformative this work can be, even if it sometimes feels frustrating and redundant. Vibrator Nation is an essential history of an overlooked industry, its place in the world of sex education and commerce, and a reminder of the work that still needs to be done." — Hey Epiphora

"A remarkable work of sex-positive slow scholarship. . . . Equally engaging for those both inside and outside of academia, Vibrator Nation is an important and accessible addition to the sex-positive feminist canon." — Kristen J. Sollée, Signs

"A beautifully written and well-researched book. . . . Vibrator Nation is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary feminism as well as the intersections of gender, sexuality, public space, and consumerism." — Alison Better, American Journal of Sociology

"Vibrator Nation shows how sex-positive sex-toy shops have been part of the social and cultural landscape that renegotiated norms about sexuality, and sold this message to eager consumers who not only bought vibrators, dildos, and feminist porn but also bought into the sex-positive mission." — Leah Marion Roberts, Sexualities

"Comella has written a compelling and engaging book. . . that convincingly illustrates the value of exploring this microhistorical topic, and the pleasure that can be had in doing so." — David Allyn, Journal of American History

"Vibrator Nation is a new and important contribution to the history of sex positivity and more generally to socio-economic approaches to sexuality." (translated from the French) — Pierre Brassuer, L'Homme

"Vibrator Nation provides a rich and riveting reflection on the feminist quest to unlock women’s sexual empowerment through participation in consumer culture." — Amy Braksmajer, Gender & Society

"Sex shops were my entry into a brazen new world of gender and sexuality, eventually channeling my career in adult film. Lynn Comella's masterful book documents the 'sex-positive' ethos of gender and sexual progress and its complex junctures within capitalism, feminism, and education. Recounting a pivotal moment, Vibrator Nation is a fascinating history lesson for the uninitiated, a gift to all who were there, and a love letter to those who call these sex shops home." — Jiz Lee, editor of Coming Out Like a Porn Star: Essays on Pornography, Protection, and Privacy

"No one is better placed than Lynn Comella to take us on a journey through the evolution of feminist-owned sex-toy stores. Through years of interviews and participant-observation, she brilliantly traces how the difficult conversations about race, class, and gender among feminist sex-toy store owners, their workers, and customers created a new kind of sexual public sphere. Vibrator Nation will brilliantly inform all future efforts to address the difficulties of blending progressive politics with capitalism, social change, and profit making." — Constance Penley, coeditor of The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure

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Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lynn Comella is Associate Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and coeditor of New Views on Pornography: Sexuality, Politics, and the Law.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. The Making of a Market  1
1. The Business of Masturbation  15
2. Out of the Therapist's Office, into the Vibrator Shop  43
3. Living the Mission  63
4. Repackaging Sex  88
5. The Politics of Products  113
6. Sexperts and Sex Talk  136
7. Selling Identity  161
8. Profitability and Social Change  188
Conclusion. Grow or Die?  211
Appendix. Studying Sexual Culture and Commerce  229
Notes  235
Selected Bibliography  257
Index  267
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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