Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy
The sexual revolution of the 1960s openly challenged traditional perceptions of gender roles, particularly the notion that women were reliant on men for sexual pleasure. In Buzz, Hallie Lieberman reveals the fascinating role that sex toys played in the burgeoning feminist movement of mid-century America.
Sold as non-threatening "marital aids" in the early 20th century, these devices quickly turned political by the 1950s when they became symbols of female self-reliance. By the 1960s, sex educator and provocateur Betty Dodson taught women to explore their sexuality with vibrators and to let go of the shame associated with masturbation. Even within the feminist movement, there was reluctance to accept sex toys. While some women were unable to shake the stigma of using inanimate objects to achieve orgasm, radical feminists believed sex toys were symbols of male dominance. Meanwhile, dildos--unyielding symbols of aggressive male sexuality and distributed by sleazy male-run monopolies--slowly changed thanks in part to Gosnell Duncan, a paraplegic whose desire for sexual feeling led to the development of the modern silicone dildo.
Sex toys were instrumental in the emergence of the first feminist and LBGT bookstores and sex shops, which survived despite rejection by mainstream advertisers and a paternal government that equated them with deviance and obscenity. Today, sex toys have gone mainstream, with appearances in Sex and the City and Fifty Shades of Grey. Lieberman's history is an informative journey that goes from taboo to transcendence. --Frank Brasile, librarian