The history of sex toys
History of erotic toys (part III.)
The first erotic shops in America
Although the United States of America is considered one of the largest markets of erotic stores and manufacturers today, this was not the case fifty years ago. Due to the strict law, erotic toys could be sold under the pretext of having a medical purpose. Sellers were later able to sell them more freely in catalogs, but they were still at high risk.
In September 1974, Williams opened the store Eve’s Garden and started catalog sales. She was advertising two vibrators: Hitachi Magic Wand, and Prelude 3 vibrator, as well as Dodson's book Liberating Masturbation. Eve's Garden was the first store for women, which was very advanced at the time. Later, Williams' friend opened the Good Vibrations - franchise store in Texas. Although the store had more success than Eve’s Garden, the owner started inviting men into the store, which was unacceptable for some feminists.
To Williams, it was more important to share knowledge about female pleasure, so her business was growing slowly. She did exactly the opposite of Reuben Sturman, who was the largest seller of erotic toys at the time, including the products of Malorrus and Marche. His company eventually bought Marche's business. At that time, significant progress was made by Sturman's son David, who abandoned his father's sale of erotic toys to men only and also started selling products for women. Together with a friend, they founded the Doc Johnson store, which we still know today. Unlike Williams, who advocated women's liberation from men, Doc Johnson began selling erotic toys as an accessory to deepen the relationship between a man and a woman. Their stores were so successful that, after abolishing the strict law, they expanded throughout America, and started opening their branches in Europe.
Twenty-first century and online sale of erotic toys
In 2000, Good Vibrations opened their first online store and immediately entered a fight with their rival, the online giant, Amazon. Due to Amazon's better prices and faster delivery, Good Vibrations ' online sales dropped overnight. The physical store, Eve's Garden, also started losing customers, so Williams decided to sell it. Nowadays it is called Adam and Eve . It has expanded throughout America and succeeded in online sales. Half a century ago, America had just a few erotic toy stores fighting for their survival, but today there are tons of them - online and physical.
Vendar še vedno ponekod v Ameriki niso dosegli tega, za kar so se borili celo stoletje. Do leta 2017 je bila prodaja erotičnih pripomočkov v Alabami še vedno kazniva. Kljub vsem paradam, ki obstajajo danes, pa ponekod ženske, ki dildo pokažejo v javnosti, prejemajo grožnje s smrtjo. Strah pred dildi v Ameriki še vedno obstaja in je ponekod globoko zakoreninjen v zavest Američanov.
Slightly more open-minded Europe
Although it is more difficult to discover relevant information on history of erotic toys in Europe, we know that two women were most successful in this business - Ann Summers , and Beate Uhse. In 1900, more than ten electric vibrators were presented at the Exposition Universelle 1900 in Paris, designed primarily as beauty products for women. A few decades later, during World War II, Germans were already using inflatable dolls to satisfy their needs during wartime when they were far from their wives.
Post-war times in Europe were more than adequate for the flourishing sale of erotic toys. The fifties were a time of shame, unwanted pregnancies, and impotence. Beate Uhse, a retired pilot, wanted to help these couples, so in 1952 her first catalog was distributed. However, the catalog did not contain a single advertisement for a vibrator or a dildo, but merely tips for healthy sex and, consequently, marriage. She called it Pamphlet X. It also contained an ovulation calendar with additional information in which period women would be most likely to get pregnant. She also sent out brochures on impotence and frigidity.
Soon, these catalogs were not enough. People wanted condoms that were banned during the war. She started packing products at her house at night and shipped them all over Germany. She also hired a doctor to answer customers' questions, which would seem somewhat incomprehensible and stupid in today's times. After a decade of shipping out condoms, erotic novels, and brochures, Uhse began selling erotic toys in her catalogs.
In 1962, she opened the first physical store in Flensburg. The first lady of German sex turned into a multimillionaire overnight. Nevertheless, a decade after the death of Beate Uhse, the company declared insolvency.
Another major erotic store, Ann Summers , succeeded across in the UK. Michael Caborn Waterfield, the founder of the brand, named the company by his secretary. The first store was opened in 1970 in London. With sales so successful, five more stores followed. Today, they sell erotic toys, underwear, swimwear, and cosmetics. At the same time, they started organizing parties called Party Plan. Their first host was Jacqueline Gold in 1981. These gatherings are for women only, featuring new erotic toys and lingerie.
As seen in the last three articles, the history of erotic toys is exceptionally long and exciting. Unfortunately, most writers focus solely on American erotic toy history, little has been written about Europe. Nevertheless, erotic toys have been around for thirty thousand years. And every single one of them brings pleasure to women and men all over the world.
You can read more about it here:
- Katja Iken (2011): Sixty Years of Germany’s Beate Uhse: When Sexual Liberation Arrived By Mail
- The local Germany (2017): Dildo chain stretching across length of Germany goes broke after 70 years
- Colectivo Vente como eres (2018): Una breve historia de los deleites sexuales
- The Huffington Post UK (2014): The History Of Female Sex Toys: From Early Dildos To Rampant Rabbits
- Wikipedia: Ann Summers
- Hallie Lieberman (2017): A stimulating History of the Sex Toy. A stimulating History of the Sex Toy.