Orgasm Technology: the Hard Data

How common is vibrator use among women, men, and societies worldwide? Has this segment of the market been hurt (or stimulated) by the recession?
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: How common is vibrator use among women?

Rachel Maines: Well, they tell me, I don't know for sure, you know, I'm basically a historian, so I don't really know, but they tell me that about one household in three has some kind of a sex toy in it, either a vibrator or something else, but vibrators are extremely popular, they sell very well. It's hard to know for sure how many are sold because the US Bureau of the Census, Census of Manufacturers, doesn't have a separate category for them, they're just in the, I think it's small personal appliances, so they're in there with hair dryers and curling irons and things like that, so you can't really tell. And I think the figures are getting, the numbers are going up every year and they haven't been set back by the recession at all, I'm told. I mean, what else are you going to do, right? It's too expensive to go out to the movies, so you stay home, right?

Question: How common is vibrator use among men?

Rachel Maines: No, actually I don't know. I know that it's becoming more popular and there are now, as there never used to be, models especially for men, and I'm told that one of the things that, one of my friends liked about the play is that there's a scene with a man and a vibrator.

Question: Are there any societies that don’t use sex toys?

Rachel Maines: Of industrial democracies, no, there are not any that don't have them. I think the only, I think it's one of those things where it's like washing machines. If you can afford washing machines, you have washing machines. If you can't afford washing machines, you don't have them. And electricity is, we're fortunate in having as inexpensive, it seems expensive to us, but it isn't really. We have inexpensive electricity and it's readily available and it's not limited by things like batteries. You know, we can recharge, if we want to recharge batteries, we can recharge them. But that's not true all over the world. There are a lot of people who don't even have clean water. And I think that they make dildos and things like that even in pre-industrial societies. So I think that the impulse to be playful about sex is, I think that's just a human thing. And recently we're finding that it's true of some animals. We've found that it's true of the marine mammals. They didn't, the biologists told us for years, "Oh, no, animals are very serious about sex, you know, just business, you know." But then, you know, they found out that even different species of marine animal will just like, you know, spend all day playing with each other sexually, for no apparent reason, just that, hey, it's fun! You know, here we are all in the water, you know!

Recorded on December 14, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen