Lynn Comella's 'Vibrator Nation' Debuts Next Month

Lynn Comella's 'Vibrator Nation' Debuts Next Month
Rhett Pardon

LAS VEGAS — Lynn Comella’s new book, which explains how feminist sex toy stores changed the business of pleasure, debuts next month.

Comella, a UNLV professor within the school’s Gender and Sexuality Studies section, has written extensively about sexuality and culture and contributes frequently on the topic of porn to the nation’s media outlets.   

In her new 296-page book, “Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure,” Comella examines the making of the consumer market for sex toys, tracing its emergence from the early 1970s to today.

Drawing on more than 80 in-depth interviews with retailers and industry insiders, including a stint working as a vibrator clerk at Babeland in New York City, she brings readers into the world of "sex-positive capitalism and cultural production."

“I toured dildo manufacturing companies and lube factories, and attended more than a dozen adult industry trade shows where I sat in on business seminars that discussed marketing sex toys to women, retail-based sex education, and the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ phenomenon,” Comella said.    

Comella noted that early feminist retailers, such as Dell Williams, who founded Eve’s Garden in 1974, and Joani Blank, who opened Good Vibrations several years later, changed the ease of ways how consumers could purchase vibrators.

“They turned the traditional model of an adult store, with its seamy aura and X-rated style, on its head in an effort to appeal to female shoppers,” Comella said.

“What made these early feminist vibrator businesses so revolutionary, and what set them apart from their more conventional counterparts geared toward men, wasn’t just their focus on women, but their entire way of doing business," she said.

“They led with sex education not titillation and worked to advance a social mission that included putting a vibrator on the bedside table of every woman, everywhere, because they believed that access to accurate sexual information and quality products had the potential to make everyone’s lives better.”

Jiz Lee told XBIZ today that Comella’s book has a timely release with the news of Good Vibrations acquiring Babeland — both companies are key players in the sex-positive retail movement.

Lee, editor of “Coming Out Like a Porn Star: Essays on Pornography, Protection and Privacy,” said that working at sex shops was the entry into “a brazen new world of gender and sexuality, eventually channeling my career in adult film.”

“Vibrator Nation is a fascinating history lesson for the uninitiated, a gift to all who were there, and a love letter to those who call these sex shops home," Lee told XBIZ. 

“To say more on the role sex toy stores played into my introduction to working in adult film: Shine Louise Houston worked as a sex educator-sales associate at Good Vibrations gaining a fair amount of 'market research' while on the floor recommending porn films to women and couples before she decided to quit her day job and launch Pink and White Productions.

“Our co-producer and myself were also employed by the retailer, so you have the majority of producers/crew behind the scenes at Pink and White having a background in sex education through GV.

“The store behaved as a sort of clearing house for the who's who of sex positive leaders, boosting the careers of many marginalized content creators — including trans folks, queer women, people of color — by funding and distributing indie adult film productions.”

Comella’s new book debuts Sept. 8 and is available for pre-order here.

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