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Vibrator Nation: New Book Links Sex Toy Market To Rising Feminism

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Doug Puppel

A new book by UNLV professor Lynn Comella connects growth in the sex toy industry with a rise in feminism.

Sex toy shops abound in Las Vegas.

But you don't have to go to a specialty store anymore to buy some of these items. Vibrators are sold behind the counter at Walgreens, too.

And Lynn Comella, UNLV professor of gender and sexuality studies, says the growth in the sex toy market mirrors the rise of feminism and women getting into the market in the United States.

Comella's new book, "Vibrator Nation," will be released later this year or in early 2017 by Duke University Press. She spent 10 years conducting interviews, visiting stores and doing research for the book.

“The project, which has taken shape over many, many years of research, is really looking at the emergence and growth of what is typically referred to as the ‘women’s market’ for sex toys and pornography,” she told KNPR's State of Nevada.

Comella focused on the rise of feminist sex toy shops that she said grew out of the second wave feminist movement in the United States. 

“In certain corners of the feminist movement, vibrators became tools of liberation,” she said.

Comella said in the 60s and 70s when women started talking about inequality at home or in the workplace, they also talked about how many were not satisfied sexually either. 

Many shop owners saw providing vibrators and other sex toys as a way to educate women about their own sexuality, Comella said. Now, that many more women feel freer about their own bodies and their own sexuality, buying a vibrator at corner drug store is not unusual.

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 “The fact that they’re even selling one, two, three different models of vibrators is really evidence of some kind of cultural shift around the acceptability of this kinds of products,” she said.

In the end, she found that more women are getting into a business that was traditionally the domain of men. And the influx of women into the market matched the growth of feminism.

(Editor's note: This interview originally ran May 2016)

Guests

Lynn Comella, UNLV professor, Gender and Sexuality Studies

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