Rectal dilator, Shelton Physician's Vibrator, Made by Shelton Vibrator, Shelton Electric Co., Chicago, U.S.A., 1906-1917, Blythe House, Science Museum, London, England, A659643.

Project (2017)

Buzz: A Stimulating History of Sex Toys

The research project "Buzz: A Stimulating History of Sex Toys" seeks to understand why our attitudes towards sex toys have shifted over the past half century and how sex toys went from being social napalm to being sold openly in your friendly neighborhood drug store. The standard story of why we are more accepting of sex toys is that we have simply become more sexually liberated since the 1960s. But this is not the whole story. We are more accepting of sex toys not because we have changed but because the meanings of sex toys have.

My book seeks to answer a set of questions that have fascinated me for most of my post-adolescent life. Why do sex toys make people so uncomfortable? How did they come to be seen as such controversial devices? What is it about artificial penises that has caused legislatures to ban them and women to blush in embarrassment when purchasing them? And finally, why are sex toys less controversial now than in the past?