Nowadays, it feels like vibrators are conventional. You can buy them almost anywhere, and in cities like Amsterdam, there is no shame walking into a sex shop. But, it was only in the 1970s that a group of innovative women introduced sex-positive, female-centric adult products to the industry. Podcasts like Savage Love show just how mainstream female, sex-positivity has become. You can even buy adult products fairly cheaply on sites like Amazon. Before this, women would have to venture to seedy parts of town, often facing harassment and judgement, to purchase their precious vibrators. Nothing about the process was female friendly, and they were made to feel embarrassed for wanting to explore their sexuality.
The Beginning of Female-centric Stores
A group of feminist women were tired of the discrimination they faced when purchasing vibrators, often having to invent elaborate stories as to why they needed a massager. They decided to create an environment where women could comfortably buy adult products, but also learn about their own sexuality. This is significant because at the time the market for female-centric sex toys was virtually non-existent. These powerful women saw a need and seized the opportunity to meet it.
Initially, many of these female-friendly stores didn’t stock dildos because of the connotations of phallic symbolism. Their aim was to promote female sexuality without male influence, focusing on clitoral stimulation rather than penetration. In fact, in the beginning, many stores were worried about selling lingerie because of the degrading stereotypes depicted in the then booming pornography industry. These stores wanted to promote sexual liberation for women, not debased sexual representations. They soon realised this was limiting because they were pushing what they thought all other women wanted; hence, they eventually stocked dildos and lingerie.
The Evolution of the Feminist, Adult Products Store
In the early 1970s, the stores predominantly focused on white, middle-class females. They catered to a narrow market. As time progressed, these enterprising women realised they wanted to create a business that was not only female-friendly, but lesbian and queer-friendly. Today, these businesses have become about servicing the needs of pan-gendered and pansexual individuals. They provide sexual liberation for anyone who was previously disenfranchised. Selling adult products as exclusively feminist began to have a negative impact on the business, as people began to link feminism with being anti-sex; hence the shift in focus. It must be noted these changes were not about profits but about creating real social change for anyone who faces sexual discrimination.
The Legacy of Feminist Sex Toy Stores
Women owned sex shops were uncommon during the 70s and 80s, whereas today, they are more widespread. Now, toys are being created by women for women. This has revolutionised conversations on female sexuality and led to an abundance of choice when it comes to finding your perfect pleasure. In fact, thanks to these pioneering women, buying adult products online has been made significantly easier than ever before, with major online retailers stocking a range of female-friendly products. Today, women can experience orgasms they never thought possible. The future of the female-centric, sex-toy industry is unclear, but these inventive women laid the foundation for sex-positive entrepreneurship, now an industry standard. These feminist stores educate and empower women sexually and will continue you to do so even as we become more online-driven.