Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy
Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure
by Lynn Comella
Duke. 266 pages, $25.95
OUR BODIES, OURSELVES (1971) provided my first real lesson in sexuality—certainly more than the I Am Johnny’s Body sex education video in seventh grade or my father’s awkward “the birds and the bees” talk before I left for boarding school: “Ummm… Just avoid girls. They can be trouble.” The book epitomized the perils, pleasures, and politics of the 1970s. A small group of women calling themselves the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective pooled their knowledge and energies to destigmatize women’s bodies and sexuality. They initially produced a booklet (sold for less than a dollar) that would have been considered illegal and obscene at the time (because of the Comstock Laws). Simply depicting women’s sexual anatomy, explaining birth control, extolling female orgasm, or encouraging masturbation were all revolutionary acts of women’s self-empowerment, emancipation, and equality.
It was in this thrilling atmosphere that the feminist sex-toy business sprang up, as documented with great fondness by Lynn Comella in Vibrator Nation.