How E-Commerce Became the Best Thing to Happen to Female Pleasure

Photo: Getty Images/Westend61
Few acts of self-love are quite as giving (and giving, and giving) as purchasing a vibrator with which you can really see a future. How do I know? Well, when I (and a loud-and-proud comments section on Amazon) sang the praises of the Tracy's Dog Clitoral Sucking Vibrator not so long ago, you, reader, listened—over 2,000 of you clicked our link to the retailer to see about procuring the device. It serves as a reminder that when it comes to buying sex toys online and owning our pleasure, the internet generously giveth. And, really, it's remarkable how far we've come, (so to speak).

ICYMI, the vibrator was not invented as the purple silicone symbol of sexual liberation that so many of us have gloriously grown to know. Originally, it was a handy-dandy Victorian device used to cure women of hysteria, the long-dismissed catchall diagnosis for symptoms like fainting, nervousness, sexual forwardness (deeply ironic), and then some. (The device was invented by a man, Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville, in 1883 for the original purpose of alleviating muscle soreness, and he was none-to-pleased by its "mis-use.") Anyway, women eventually figured out that the hysteria-treating "pelvic massages" could do oh, oh, oh, oh, oh so many things for them, but throughout most of history, we've kept our love of the vibe on the DL. Until relatively recently.

In the late '90s, a few pop-culture moments brought certain vibrators to the spotlight (lord knows the Rabbit popped out of its hole thanks to Sex and the City). But I remember a hush-hush, shame-laden mentality about buying sex toys even in the most shameless of my college years in the aughts. My girlfriends would flock en masse to the sex shops of Philadelphia's South Street to hastily buy a birthday vibe (always for a birthday, always for someone else), and fight over who had to handle the check-out process.

Cut to 2019 and no shortage of loud, proud vibrator reviews exist on our screens, communicating what can help you get your O on. Thanks to the popularity of buying sex toys online, we now have so many options available for different preferences and price points that are easy to peruse. With a complete lack of preciousness and coyness surrounding the purchasing process, the internet has made vibrators accessible to so many women.

Alicia Sinclair, certified sex educator and creator of the Le Wand Massager, has been involved in the sex-toy space for more than 15 years and notes that a sense of sisterhood may have to do with this shift. "First, and happily foremost, more women have gotten into the sex toy game," says Sinclair. "It’s fair to say that in the past five years, specifically, women have been at the forefront of well-curated online boutiques and sex-positive Instagram accounts, and women dominate the sex-education space."

One of the pieces of knowledge many have come to learn from this recent proliferation of information sharing? When it comes to arousal and pleasure, women often need more in order to get going—which is part of why the orgasm gap is so cavernous. Because of this, many are happy to view the pursuit of learning to get off as an investment, which is why it's so great to be able to go online and see a cleverly outlined description of all the features you'll get with your new sex toy so there's no need to have conversations with a stranger in a store about things like length, waterproof status, and availability in rose gold. It's just nice to have it all the information laid out for you to synthesize on your own.

"Our approach to selling sex toys has nurtured safe spaces, stomped silly stigmas and myths, and given women permission to enjoy their sex toys." —Alicia Sinclair, sex educator

"I believe that our approach to selling sex toys has nurtured safe spaces, provided relatable how-to guides, stomped silly stigmas and myths, and given other women the permission that they need to experience and enjoy their sex toys," Sinclair says. "Women have empowered other women to be proud of their pleasure tools."

Empowered, and vocal—to say the least. While some may love e-commerce because it allows for skipping those conversations with a sales associate you may not want to have and others may find comfort in the discreet packaging in which your new toy is likely delivered, neither of these realities means women are staying mum about their pursuit of pleasure. Among friends, dishing about which vibe is a must-try has been regular brunch fodder for a chunk of time now. What's newer is the way the comments section on products has unintentionally fostered a sex-positive community thanks to e-commerce alone. Because now, we're a sisterhood committed to getting the best bang for every buck.

"More consumers are purchasing with confidence upon seeing reviews, and also engaging with others in more frank discussions and sharing stories," says Megwyn White, sexual wellness expert and director of education at sex-toy company Satisfyer. "The internet has created a safe space to explore sexuality, and learn how sexual wellness can be incorporated into one’s unique lifestyle. Personal stories and reviews have particularly shifted the market to giving the consumer contextual cues for making a purchase."

When that kind of online gossip gets spread around, an element of fear is erased. Even if you do it in privacy, buying a sex toy isn't a dirty, shameful thing anymore. Instead, as White puts it, purchasing something satisfying to increase your orgasm count is seen as a true "lifestyle upgrade." And being able to access it all online has made the experience so much sweeter.

Let's get sensual—it's possible to sharpen each of the five senses to heighten sexual pleasure. And if you're looking to try something new in bed, here's five ideas straight from a bona fide sexpert.

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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