‘The pendulum is swinging again to Puritanism’ – however the Magic Wand ‘massager’ endures

‘The pendulum is swinging again to Puritanism’ – however the Magic Wand ‘massager’ endures

In a Goop-ified world the place one can buy modern, luxurious vibrators for as much as three figures, how has one intercourse toy that’s existed for 55 years garnered such devotion? It’s a query the intercourse author Kate Sloan explores in Making Magic, a brand new podcast in regards to the clunky, white-and-blue, straight-from-a-70s-porn-set Magic Wand Authentic Massager.

Sloan first took an interest within the Magic Wand when she was a 19-year-old spending her hole yr writing a intercourse toy evaluation weblog known as Girly Juice. Later, whereas working at a intercourse retailer, Sloan seen how clients would come again to purchase the Magic Wand again and again, keen to interchange their outdated ones with the identical mannequin.

“I haven’t actually seen that occur with some other toy on the identical scale as I noticed it occur with the wand,” she mentioned. “The wand takes on this larger-than-life symbolism, the place it appears to imply extra than simply being a vibrator to folks.”

Early Magic Wand packaging. The vibrator’s biggest evangelist was Betty Dodson. {Photograph}: Vibratex

Sloan spent a yr reporting for the podcast, which options interviews with greater than 30 intercourse and relationship consultants and is produced by Vibratex, the corporate behind the wand. However she wasn’t in a position to communicate with the girl who performs an important position within the Magic Wand’s story: the late Betty Dodson, a pioneer of sex-positive feminism and the vibrator’s biggest evangelist, who everybody credit as the rationale the toy achieved such a legendary standing.

Generally known as “the mom of masturbation”, Dodson was born in 1929 in Wichita, Kansas, the place she, like most ladies of the period, skilled a sexually repressive upbringing. She later moved to New York and married an promoting director, however she described the union as passionless, they usually divorced after six years.

Single once more on the daybreak of the sexual revolution, Dodson found the Magic Wand in a division retailer, the place it was marketed by the Japanese conglomerate Hitachi as a “physique massager”. Dodson received hooked on the machine, releasing a vanity handbook known as Liberating Masturbation in 1974.

She additionally hosted Bodysex, a workshop on feminine pleasure, out of her condo, till the course turned such a phenomenon she took it on the highway, instructing her technique in intercourse shops across the nation. (Bodysex nonetheless operates, run by Carlin Ross, chairperson of Dodson’s basis – this October, attendees will pay as much as $2,586 for a protracted weekend pleasure extravaganza, Magic Wand included, within the Catskills.)

“Betty had a confidence and charisma to her that made it really feel like the recommendation she gave was hard-won, secret feminist knowledge being handed down by an excellent elder,” Sloan mentioned. “She would get ladies to strip bare, sit in a circle, and speak about physique picture, masturbation, and intercourse. Then she would hand out the Magic Wand, as a result of she felt that it was the very best device for the job.”

Sloan realized throughout interviews with Dodson’s contemporaries that the intercourse educator felt she deserved compensation from the model for turning their machine right into a masturbation must-have. “She wasn’t apparently thrilled that the Magic Wand firm by no means paid her for having popularized the toy,” Sloan mentioned. “She all the time felt that she ought to’ve obtained a minimize of [sales]. I feel that’s honest, although I’m not precisely positive what that might’ve seemed like.”

Through the years, the Magic Wand’s cultural stature grew, featured in films (together with a stripper scene within the 1984 Tom Hanks movie Bachelor Get together) and tv (after all Intercourse and the Metropolis’s hyper-sexed Samantha Jones, performed by Kim Cattrall, was a fan). Plugged-in followers referred to the merchandise as a “Hitachi”, which made executives on the ultra-conservative firm nervous.

One other Magic Wand advert. The machine has turn into a cultural fixture. {Photograph}: Vibratex

“It’s up for debate how a lot Hitachi knew about how their ‘physique massager’ was getting used,” Sloan mentioned. “Some folks say that the off-label use went above their heads, however in the event you have a look at classic promoting of the 70s and 80s, there’s some euphemistic language like ‘pressure aid’.” At one level, Hitachi thought of discontinuing its breakout machine so as to keep its status. As a substitute, Hitachi created a subsidiary, Vibratex, which distributes the toy, and took its title off the packaging.

“Lots of people have been afraid that the product would change,” Sloan mentioned. A 2000 headline revealed across the time of this frenzy learn “Panic in bedrooms as Magic Wand, cadillac of vibrators, disappears”. However after the hiccup, Vibratex turned the only real importer of the wand to the US, which it stays to this present day. The Napa, California-based firm up to date the design – barely – by creating a chargeable model as a substitute of 1 that wants to enter a wall socket, and releasing a mini choice. Dan Martin, who leads Vibratex together with his spouse, Shay Martin, advised Sloan: “Why would we fuck with the golden goose?”

Today, dupes abound on-line, together with fakes marketed on websites like eBay and Amazon as the actual deal. The machine has additionally impressed artistic fan tributes, corresponding to a $40 Etsy embroidery, a $50 joint holder, and earrings that truly vibrate.

Although historians might eternally affiliate the Magic Wand with 70s cis feminists, Sloan says that the toy has lengthy held significance for queer and gender-nonconforming communities, as properly. She devoted an episode to this factor of the story.

“For the reason that wand isn’t gendered and it’s not particularly sexualized in the best way it appears to be like, I’ve heard that it helps folks within the LGBT neighborhood,” Sloan defined. “I’ve heard from individuals who used it after gender-affirming surgical procedure, and it’s utilized in queer porn. That’s to not say straight folks can’t or don’t use it, however it may be used on anybody, no matter gender or anatomy.”

Making Magic is hosted by Kate Sloan and produced by Vibratex. {Photograph}: Addison Finch

A lot of the discourse on intercourse in 2024 surrounds considerations that nobody’s having it – we live by way of a “intercourse recession”, some say, with fewer younger folks doing it than earlier generations. A deeper look previous scare quotes reveals that’s not all the time a nasty factor: many younger individuals are prioritizing high quality over amount, and never feeling pressured to have unhealthy intercourse.

“From the interviews I’ve carried out, particularly with ladies, when you’ve got entry to a tool just like the wand that makes you come on demand, you may make much less choices that you find yourself regretting,” Sloan mentioned. “I’ve had so many horrible, unsatisfying hookups the place I had no sense the individual cared about my pleasure in any respect. However once I’ve had toys that persistently get me off, I can sit and assume, ‘Do I actually need to go on this date? What would I get out of seeing this individual?’”

Many years after it first hit the market and on the heels of a pandemic-era intercourse toy increase Sloan believes that the Magic Wand stays simply as radical. “We’re dwelling by way of a cultural second the place it feels just like the pendulum is swinging again towards Puritanism in a bizarre and sudden approach,” she mentioned. “Queer and trans individuals are getting known as groomers, and kinky individuals are known as abusers, and that feels actually discouraging. However I really feel just like the Magic Wand is such an essential image within the historical past of sex-positive feminism, and the method of engaged on this has reminded my why it’s essential to battle for sexual inclusivity and demolish sexual disgrace.”

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