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In the 1970s a group of pioneering feminist entrepreneurs launched a movement that ultimately changed the way sex was talked about, had, and enjoyed. Boldly reimagining who sex shops were for and the kinds of spaces they could be, these entrepreneurs opened sex-toy stores like Eve’s Garden, Good Vibrations, and Babeland not just as commercial enterprises, but to provide ed In the 1970s a group of pioneering feminist entrepreneurs launched a movement that ultimately changed the way sex was talked about, had, and enjoyed. Boldly reimagining who sex shops were for and the kinds of spaces they could be, these entrepreneurs opened sex-toy stores like Eve’s Garden, Good Vibrations, and Babeland not just as commercial enterprises, but to provide educational and community resources as well. In Vibrator Nation Lynn Comella tells the fascinating history of how these stores raised sexual consciousness, redefined the adult industry, and changed women's lives. Comella describes a world where sex-positive retailers double as social activists, where products are framed as tools of liberation, and where consumers are willing to pay for the promise of better living—one conversation, vibrator, and orgasm at a time.


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In the 1970s a group of pioneering feminist entrepreneurs launched a movement that ultimately changed the way sex was talked about, had, and enjoyed. Boldly reimagining who sex shops were for and the kinds of spaces they could be, these entrepreneurs opened sex-toy stores like Eve’s Garden, Good Vibrations, and Babeland not just as commercial enterprises, but to provide ed In the 1970s a group of pioneering feminist entrepreneurs launched a movement that ultimately changed the way sex was talked about, had, and enjoyed. Boldly reimagining who sex shops were for and the kinds of spaces they could be, these entrepreneurs opened sex-toy stores like Eve’s Garden, Good Vibrations, and Babeland not just as commercial enterprises, but to provide educational and community resources as well. In Vibrator Nation Lynn Comella tells the fascinating history of how these stores raised sexual consciousness, redefined the adult industry, and changed women's lives. Comella describes a world where sex-positive retailers double as social activists, where products are framed as tools of liberation, and where consumers are willing to pay for the promise of better living—one conversation, vibrator, and orgasm at a time.

30 review for Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure

  1. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    This is a thorough overview of feminist sex-toy stores beginning in the 1970s with a strong focus on the ideology and challenges of the business and how it affected American culture and society. It is presented chronologically and emphasizes the organic nature of how the the feminist ideas of female sexuality and sex-positivity expanded and grew. From Betty Dodson, a sex positivity activist and early proponent of masturbation as an equal sexual act and advocating it as a way for women to understa This is a thorough overview of feminist sex-toy stores beginning in the 1970s with a strong focus on the ideology and challenges of the business and how it affected American culture and society. It is presented chronologically and emphasizes the organic nature of how the the feminist ideas of female sexuality and sex-positivity expanded and grew. From Betty Dodson, a sex positivity activist and early proponent of masturbation as an equal sexual act and advocating it as a way for women to understand their bodies and to forget the myth of the vaginal orgasm. Essentially: Learn your body, learn your pleasure. There was a ripple effect in which Dodson's activism led to Dell Williams entrepreneurial enterprise, Eve's Garden after attending one of her body positive meetings. Williams also jumped into the woman's movement, but her viewpoint was only one perspective, and Comella does a good jump framing both the strengths and limitations of Williams' business model that reflected her personal tastes and comfort zones. This grows with Joani Blank and Good Vibrations, circa 1980s-early 90s. Blank's focus was on education--promoting various permutations of sexuality as healthy and normal. Encouraging clientele with honest talk, accessible displays for testing vibrators, and non-skeevy merchandising and knowledgeable employees. She fostered a slew of entrepreneurs who followed her business model, and advocated the goal of an accessible sex toy shop in every town. Blank shared all her business data from profits to sources to educational materials. Money wasn't the motivator, rather changing the representation and culture of female sexuality, Her Briarpatch business model was an open-source retail model. Blank eventually transitioned Good Vibrations from a sole ownership to a worker-owned cooperative in 1992. This struggled as the company grew and it transitioned again to a company with shareholders. Eventually, the realities of the changing marketplace played a significant role in Good Vibrations being sold to a mega-store. Experiential retail. It was a big marketing point for newer stores.Toys in Babeland in NYC, Sugar in Baltimore MD, and others were the seeds of change sprouting across the US, spreading safe spaces to discuss sex and sexuality. Product development. Quality assurance became a focal point as did responsible sourcing and supporting conscientious product developers. The feedback and demand in stores helped drive development of everything from dildos to anal sex how-to videos. This eventually becomes a symbiotic relationship between porn and product placement. By encouraging sexual freedom their began to embrace they role of sexual consumption. Identity politics is a quagmire. And in many ways, Comella demonstrates this through the myriad of viewpoints on feminism, queer, and gender. The initial emergence of predominately white, middle class feminists, many lesbians to the trending inclusivity of sexes and gender as the nineties progressed; intersectionality came into focus. The queering of heterosexuality, allowing men into the walled gardens, and schisms in ideology---BUT, at the crux of it all there is a definitive, conscious deconstruction of binary heteronormative expressions and the understanding that their business is a community resource. Yes, capitalizing sexuality is their bread and butter, but most of those drawn to sex-positive shops due so out of the need to provide an alternative to what existed. Social entrepreneurship with the focus on social change as a driving force for the company is a hallmark of early feminist sex-toy stores. A dysfunctional relationship with money is evident in the earliest stores. Money is a tool, but many of the women coming from moderate to privileged backgrounds seem to have the idea that money is dirty, unwholesome and taking it was contrary to their goals of a social revolution. The predominant overriding viewpoint of feminism and capitalism as antithetical to each other surprised me. This friction is discussed in-depth and by the end I felt like I knew much more than when I began. I recommend it for readers interested in both the changing face of the adult industry and feminism. They do make for interesting bedfellows. Overall, this focuses on sex positivity and how it came to include the entire spectrum.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mrs. Europaea

    In Vibrator Nation, Comella discusses the relationship between sexuality and public culture, including the fascinating history of the feminist revolution in the 1970’s that helped redefine economic and cultural aspects that lead the sex industry to begin catering to feminine needs, wants and desires. This remodeling of the sex industry altered the market place for sex toys, with vibrators geared toward women beginning to dominate the products sold. Comella not only looks at this industry academi In Vibrator Nation, Comella discusses the relationship between sexuality and public culture, including the fascinating history of the feminist revolution in the 1970’s that helped redefine economic and cultural aspects that lead the sex industry to begin catering to feminine needs, wants and desires. This remodeling of the sex industry altered the market place for sex toys, with vibrators geared toward women beginning to dominate the products sold. Comella not only looks at this industry academically as an ethnographic researcher, she has, in her own words, also been a vibrator clerk, a central experience that involved interacting with consumers at a sex shop where she gathered data that was of great value to this text. I really enjoyed her analysis of sexual entrepreneurs, a women’s market place, and how cultural acceptance of sexuality and gender has provided individuals greater sexual freedom. As an advocate for a good orgasm, I found the text intriguing from a historical, economical, and consumer perspective.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Lynn Comella's in-depth look at the history of feminist sex-toy stores examines how the ground these stores broke, the challenges they faced, how they mixed business with sex education, and how these stores changed the face of the sex industry. This book both fascinated and amused me and I spent most of the time I was reading it rattling off random facts about sex-toy shops to my husband, who probably didn't care nearly as much as I did. I feel like I learned a lot from this book and my apprecia Lynn Comella's in-depth look at the history of feminist sex-toy stores examines how the ground these stores broke, the challenges they faced, how they mixed business with sex education, and how these stores changed the face of the sex industry. This book both fascinated and amused me and I spent most of the time I was reading it rattling off random facts about sex-toy shops to my husband, who probably didn't care nearly as much as I did. I feel like I learned a lot from this book and my appreciation of the changed sex industry (and societal approaches to sex) has grown immensely. The thing that most impressed me about this book was how in-depth it was. Comella researched this topic for a couple decades - starting her initial thoughts and investigations in 1998. She worked at a feminist sex-toy store for a time, interviewed and met with countless owners, sex educators/sales associates, managers, and patrons of these stores. Comella really knows what she's talking about and that bled through in all parts of this book. Her treatment of some difficult topics felt both academic and objective in many ways and other times felt personal - like when Comella shares some of her experiences working in a sex-toy store. This balance was fantastic and made Comella an interesting character in her own research. For anyone who is looking into working at/opening a sex-toy store, this is a must-read. For anyone with an interest in the intersection of education and business, I'd highly recommend this book as well. Anyone with an interest in the changing sexual ideals of America will also enjoy this.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laura I.

    Fascinating. I love that it’s like 75% a fan letter to shops like Good Vibrations and Babeland, but that it also asks the hard questions in the other 25% (is it really possible to have a mission-driven feminist org within a capitalist structure, how are these stores dependent on very specific race/class/gender/generational dynamics, etc). I’ve already recommended it to like 5 people.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I received this as an ebook ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I learned a lot from Lynn Comella's in-depth examination of how feminist sex-toy shops influenced the industry of sex enhancing retail, sex education, and expression of sexual freedom. I could tell Comella understood her subject matter thoroughly, and while she more often than not presented the information objectively, her passion and field experience clearly shows. In addition to examining how sex I received this as an ebook ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I learned a lot from Lynn Comella's in-depth examination of how feminist sex-toy shops influenced the industry of sex enhancing retail, sex education, and expression of sexual freedom. I could tell Comella understood her subject matter thoroughly, and while she more often than not presented the information objectively, her passion and field experience clearly shows. In addition to examining how sex-toy stores influenced the business of pleasure, an understanding of how the concept of feminism shifted and changed over the years, and how the pioneering and new feminist sex shops alike had to shift their missions to accommodate the ever changing socially structured ideas of gender and sexual identities, began to include POC women and eventually men, and expanded their own understanding and representation of how sexual freedom is not the same for everyone, i.e. not everyone is looking for a vibrator like the owner of a shop prefers, but may enjoy pornography, BDSM, or other offerings is presented to the reader. Comella's one on one interviews with owners and employees, as well as personal experience working in the retail stores, allows for the passion and dedication these women (and later men) have put into shaping how society and industry present sexual pleasure and sexual education flow from the pages. Comella's work argues the feminist sex-toy stores have created a viable counter-public sphere for sex-positive entrepreneurship and retail activism, one where the idea that the personal is political is deployed in the service of a progressive and potentially transformative sexual politics (intro). The book begins with an examination of the 1970s feminist movement of self-sexual exploration and women taking control of their own sexual pleasure and understanding and how that focus evolved into not only personal exploration but political and social identification. From this social/political starting point, the book transitions into how this lead to the start of feminist centered sex shops, which over the next 40 years would help to shape how products (including but not limited to toys, books, and film) were manufactured, marketed, and sold. Examining how the different stores, such as Good Vibrations, Eve's Garden, and Babeland, started the "revolution" with simple missions of providing women a safe, comfortable, and educational place to explore ways to express sexual freedom provides even the most unknowledgeable reader insight into how these shops had changed society. Through the 1980s and 1990s, these small, feminist centered businesses with a major focus on education began to expand from the west and east coasts into the heartland and desert cities of America. A collective mission of women helping women, not only with sexual education but business models was a major factor in how these shops breached the biggest cities and reached the housewives and lesbians of the United States. Comella shows that morphing the traditional sex-toy retail shops from "crass to classy", from unhelpful to educational, from the male centered to female centered was not always an easy journey for the public nor the retail owners and workers. How they started, developed, and spread has influence not only the industry but also the socially acceptable ways sex is discussed and proclaimed. Two major points Comella makes that I had not realized are how much the shift in what the owners and workers of sex-toy shops offer is influenced by social change and stepping out of their own comfort zones to aid a great range of people and products, and how working in or with these small businesses influenced many publishers, film makers, and toy makers in how they create and present their products. The focus on creating and producing sex toys, film, and magazines that women would feel comfortable buying and/or using was largely shaped by what the owners of the feminist sex-toy shops were willing to sell. I was also glad that Comella also addressed how the businesses evolved from predominately educationally focused with sales as secondary goals to focusing on the merger of sales and education, because not only did it show how the retail shops could adapt, but also how being socially and politically charged to make a change in the world can mix with capitalism. There is so much more I could say about this informative little book (such as a tiny warning that at times the repetition of owner introductions can be a tad overwhelming and distracting), but I will end with an expressive --READ THIS BOOK when it is released for publication! I think anyone wanting to know more about the sexual pleasure industry, social and political focused business models, gender, queer studies, and the generally curious can gain something from reading this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Betts-Green (Dinosaur in the Library)

    Really great read! Comella does an excellent job covering the history of feminist sex shops without glossing over the issues and problems both practically and ideologically. I especially appreciated the methods discussion at the end.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Karoliina

    The cover makes me feel like a kid in a candy store. It just looks delicious and inviting, and that's what made me want to pick this up. Fortunately the content is interesting and well put together as well. Going into this the only thing I knew about the history of vibrators was the way they were used to try to cure women's "hysteria" in the 19th century. I had never thought about how, why, and when they stopped being medical equipment and became sex toys. It was great to find out that vibrators The cover makes me feel like a kid in a candy store. It just looks delicious and inviting, and that's what made me want to pick this up. Fortunately the content is interesting and well put together as well. Going into this the only thing I knew about the history of vibrators was the way they were used to try to cure women's "hysteria" in the 19th century. I had never thought about how, why, and when they stopped being medical equipment and became sex toys. It was great to find out that vibrators and feminist sex shops have been closely intertwined with women's rights and LGBTQ+ activism. What I especially like about this book is that even though it mainly focuses on the actions of individual people, the author puts their stories into a bigger context. Although these revolutionary ideas changed some people's lives and created safe places, the book acknowledges that they weren't always accessible to everyone. I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kamloth

    Vibrator Nation is a very good and instructional read. It help understanding both the evolution of the feminist movement and the lesbian pride. The information is dense but well present and always make you want to read the next page.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tea With Krystle In Bed

    “Feminists from the 1960’s turned the male-dominating, adult sex-toy store industry, in the U.S. into a haven for women, queer, and anyone else who wanted to explore, learn, and discuss their sexual desires with like-minded people.” In, Vibration Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed The Business of Pleasure, author Lynn Comella, explores the ups and downs of the sex-toy store revolution. She takes her readers back to the 1950’s when women would embarrassingly shop at brick-and-mortar store “Feminists from the 1960’s turned the male-dominating, adult sex-toy store industry, in the U.S. into a haven for women, queer, and anyone else who wanted to explore, learn, and discuss their sexual desires with like-minded people.” In, Vibration Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed The Business of Pleasure, author Lynn Comella, explores the ups and downs of the sex-toy store revolution. She takes her readers back to the 1950’s when women would embarrassingly shop at brick-and-mortar stores ran by men, which later evolved in the 1970’s. Feminist entrepreneurs designed brightly lit, clean adult stores with female staff. Comella gives a detailed explanation about why feminists decided to join the adult sex-toy industry, and how they were able to make it a safe-haven for anyone interested in pleasure. Vibration Nation is an accumulation of research Comella gathered over the years of interviews with the feminist entrepreneurs of sex-toy stores such as Eve’s Garden, Good Vibrations, Babeland, and many more. These feminist entrepreneurs all had one goal in common: Every woman needs a vibrator by every her bedside. The simple idea exploded into other conceptions that continued to separate their clean, safe-haven sex shops from the traditional brick-and-mortars. Their stores hosted work-shops which educated their customers on the different styles of sex. It also pushed the sex-positivity concept further which empowered people to become sexually liberated. Although the sex stores were blossoming and opening new sexual avenues for the community, there was still a lot of changes that needed to occur to keep the businesses thriving throughout the years. Comella explains the political fights the feminist's entrepreneurs had to overcome, which evolved equality for men and women, as well as gays, emphasizing the importance of safe toys from manufacturers and location zones. Since the owners of the feminist sex-toy stores were predominantly queer, they found themselves teaching many men how to pleasure their women. It wasn’t soon after, the ladies found themselves and their employees being more than sex-toy sellers and known as sex educators. According to Comella, customers loved the feminist-ran businesses and their missions. Consumers continued to support the companies throughout their changes in the industry. The feminist-entrepreneurs made a difference in the adult industry. Although the sex-toy sector still had a lot more trials to go through to be respected, it has come a long way from men not believing women can orgasm due to feminist-entrepreneurs taking a stance in a dominating male industry. My Thoughts: Vibration Nation is a foundation on how the creation of the current adult toy stores occurred. The book is for someone who is interested in the history of business as well as how a simple idea can spark a revolution. The book has lots of information and resources, ideas, books, and brief explanations on how to run an adult-toy business and sex. It is a book a person can refer to many times to get an understanding of why some rules or missions may apply in the adult industry. After reading this book, a person might gain inspiration to make a change in a cause, product, or business they believe needs better brighter lights, cleaner floors, and a different staff.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Emerald Emerald

    Informative, accessible, and endlessly compelling, Comella’s thorough history of the development of feminist sex-toy stores in America reads like a story, with many recurring characters (sex toy owners and employees) we come to know and a storyline that continually overlaps and draws back on the inspiration and idealism that sought to “[use] consumer culture as an instrument for sexual consciousness-raising and social change.” The scope of research this book illuminates is astonishing, and throu Informative, accessible, and endlessly compelling, Comella’s thorough history of the development of feminist sex-toy stores in America reads like a story, with many recurring characters (sex toy owners and employees) we come to know and a storyline that continually overlaps and draws back on the inspiration and idealism that sought to “[use] consumer culture as an instrument for sexual consciousness-raising and social change.” The scope of research this book illuminates is astonishing, and throughout it, Comella does an impressive job of articulating the vast expanse of circumstances, perspectives, and shifts that infiltrate the history of these sex shops and their respective culture (and culture at large) with informed objectivity. Reaching the end of this volume held a poignancy for me, not only because of the substance of the text itself (especially in the last chapter), but also due to the recognition of the decades of rich history Comella had so thoroughly and compellingly related within the last 225 pages coming to a close. From the rousingly inspiring account of Dell Williams’s creation of Eve’s Garden to the bittersweet (depending on one’s perspective) sale of Good Vibrations and the unionization of stores that had begun with an almost familial sense of community among employees and leadership, Vibrator Nation offers a multifaceted look at the inevitable juxtaposition of commercial market forces with the pioneering, sex-positive aspirations that launched America's feminist sex-toy retail industry in the 1970s. Comella's writing is sharp, clear, and accessible, making for a complex and engaging read on a specific area of history where feminism, sexuality, culture, and capitalism converge. Highly recommended for anyone with interest in any of these realms—or simply seeking a fascinating exposition on an industry that unquestionably shifted the very culture that gave rise to it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mary Clare

    Full review! Format: eBook ARC from NetGalley In this book, Lynn Comella explores the history of feminist sex shops using personal anecdotes, historical records, and interviews. From the imagining and opening of the very first feminist sex shop to present day, she explores how these stores have grown and developed since the sexual liberation of the 1970's. Particularly interesting is Comella's discussion of the intersection of feminism and capitalism and how store owners, workers, and shoppers str Full review! Format: eBook ARC from NetGalley In this book, Lynn Comella explores the history of feminist sex shops using personal anecdotes, historical records, and interviews. From the imagining and opening of the very first feminist sex shop to present day, she explores how these stores have grown and developed since the sexual liberation of the 1970's. Particularly interesting is Comella's discussion of the intersection of feminism and capitalism and how store owners, workers, and shoppers struggled to find ideological synchronicity between their anti-capitalist feminism and the need to be good capitalists in order to keep their sex stores open. Another topic of particular interest was how sex stores reflected and contributed to social changes in how people view sex as they sold their products and offered sex education to customers. This book offered a good balance between research, interviews, and Comella's personal experiences, which ultimately created a fantastic book that explored many perspectives. By focusing on particular people, such as the people who pioneered and opened the first feminist sex stores, readers are able to get a well-rounded account of how and why these stores existed, what their goals were, and how they have grown and developed as feminism has grown and developed. As the language and politics surrounding gender and identity became more nuanced, so did the policies and offering of the feminist sex stores. As cultural views on sex changed, as the social understanding of feminism changed, and as commerce changed with the rise of the internet, feminist sex stores had to change as well. This book shows how and why those changes were made. I really enjoyed learning about how sex toy sellers and sex shop workers viewed their role in feminism, sexual liberation, and sex education. And it was really valuable to me to learn about how the workers doubled as sex educators and how they managed to integrate their values, feminism, and education into the selling of their products. I thought it was also interesting to learn about how their business models, environments, and even zoning ordinances in their cities, impacted how they built their businesses and what services and products they were able to offer. There were a lot of fantastic, positive aspects of this book but there were also some parts that I found rather unfulfilling. I will admit that I was approaching this book with an understanding that intersectional feminism and capitalism are inherently incompatible, that capitalism is one of the tools of oppression used to keep gender-, race-, and class-based oppression strong. As a result, I was really looking for a deep dive into the minds of the owners of the sex shops into how they reconciled their feminism with their capitalism and ultimately, I was disappointed. Comella did attempt to tackle this issue by asking the questions of the shop owners and workers but in the end, most of the answers she got were something like "I don't want to think about money" or "It's a necessary evil for keeping the shop running" which is simply not ideologically satisfying to me. This is a huge inherent contradiction with how they were promoting and spreading feminism and I would have liked to see the shop owners and workers tackle that ideological contradiction in a more thorough way. However, I do appreciate that Comella did attempt to figure out how they reconciled feminism and capitalism. Unfortunately, it really left me wanting a better explanation and discussion of the matter. For me, this book was a good introduction into the world of feminist sex shops, but ultimately I would be interested in reading more in order to really understand and explore this contradiction between progressive liberal politics and capitalism. I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars because it does hold an enormous amount of interesting and valuable information presented in an accessible way. Note: some of my reviews contain spoilers!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey

    Comella's research was engaging and while academic, isn't out of reach for readers who don't primarily read non-fiction. I think Comella did a great job at weaving interesting stories and experiences of (primarily) women who do/have at one point own, operate, or work for a feminist sex shop. Race, gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status of operators and customers of these feminist sex stores were not left unanalyzed, and the author handled nuance in the interviews she recants well. C Comella's research was engaging and while academic, isn't out of reach for readers who don't primarily read non-fiction. I think Comella did a great job at weaving interesting stories and experiences of (primarily) women who do/have at one point own, operate, or work for a feminist sex shop. Race, gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status of operators and customers of these feminist sex stores were not left unanalyzed, and the author handled nuance in the interviews she recants well. Comella unpacked an interesting and important history with narrative skill, relative brevity, and a tone of accessibility to an academically-based research methodology.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Felicia Ramirez

    Interesting book about the history and development of feminist Sex-Toy shops. As someone who works in the industry this book filled in many gaps of history which I was curious about. I think this book will help folks feel more comfortable and consider shopping at sex-positive stores. Overall, well written and great read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Whatthelog

    When I first read the title of this book, I knew that I had to read it. This might sound a bit strange, but I find sex fascinating, particularly in the ways that attitudes have changed towards female-identifying people claiming and enjoying their orgasms. I definitely wanted to learn more about sex positivity and how feminist sex shops came about, particularly in a time when that phrase was a complete oxymoron. Vibrator Nation mainly focuses on specific feminist sex shops in the US such as Babela When I first read the title of this book, I knew that I had to read it. This might sound a bit strange, but I find sex fascinating, particularly in the ways that attitudes have changed towards female-identifying people claiming and enjoying their orgasms. I definitely wanted to learn more about sex positivity and how feminist sex shops came about, particularly in a time when that phrase was a complete oxymoron. Vibrator Nation mainly focuses on specific feminist sex shops in the US such as Babeland, Good Vibrations, and Self Serve. Throughout the book, we follow their conception in the 70s right up to the present day, discussing each store’s particular successes and challenges. I loved that it focused on real stores and real people. It is so obvious that Lynn Comella really knows her stuff – she talks about working at some of these stores, as well as doing research into sex education. Her knowledge absolutely shone through, and I honestly couldn’t think of a better person to write the full story of these shops. I’m not going to go into everything that the book discusses, but here are a few topics that are integral to the feminist sex shop story: How to run a feminist shop in a distinctly non-feminist capitalist environment How to balance sex education and running a profitable store How to ensure that it doesn’t become a space for just straight, white women, but also caters to queer people of colour The many opinions about pornography, and how to acquire/create feminist porn In all, I found Vibrator Nation to be a fascinating look at the history of feminist sex shops and how sex education – from STIs to BDSM – can benefit society as a whole.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    During my job at a local sex toy retailer, my coworker regularly discussed writing a book of our experiences. Lynn Comella has done that and more. Pulling from her own sex retail experience and years of research, Comella has brought us Vibrator Nation, a brilliant examination of the history of adult stores. Comella is an expert on the adult entertainment industry, and has studied many sociological themes through her research, including consumer culture, gender, sexual politics, and the relationsh During my job at a local sex toy retailer, my coworker regularly discussed writing a book of our experiences. Lynn Comella has done that and more. Pulling from her own sex retail experience and years of research, Comella has brought us Vibrator Nation, a brilliant examination of the history of adult stores. Comella is an expert on the adult entertainment industry, and has studied many sociological themes through her research, including consumer culture, gender, sexual politics, and the relationship between them. Not one to slouch in academia, Comella has Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 8.16.35 PM.pnga Ph.D. in communication, an M.A. in gender studies and feminist theory, a B.A. in psychology, and minors in anthropology and women’s studies. Vibrator Nation is smartly written and well-researched. Comella gives her audience a history lesson on culture, society, politics, and economics as they pertain to feminism and the sex toy industry. She also dives into the lives of the inspiring and problematic creators of the most well-known of these establishments. There is nothing about Vibrator Nation I didn’t love. Comella is a great writer and historian, and her awareness of social and political influences as well as her willingness to vocalize them means she covers all her bases. Check out the full review at vulvaink.wordpress.com

  16. 4 out of 5

    Minka Guides

    An academic text on the history of female sex-toy shops in the USA might not sound like a fascinating read but I really loved it. Comella references the length of time she spent researching this subject multiple times (was it 20 years?) plus how in-depth she went (working in Babeland's NYC store for example) and it really shows. I loved how comprehensive this exploration of the movement is and the fact that she managed to interview some of the sex-shop pioneers before they passed away. I really An academic text on the history of female sex-toy shops in the USA might not sound like a fascinating read but I really loved it. Comella references the length of time she spent researching this subject multiple times (was it 20 years?) plus how in-depth she went (working in Babeland's NYC store for example) and it really shows. I loved how comprehensive this exploration of the movement is and the fact that she managed to interview some of the sex-shop pioneers before they passed away. I really had a sense of how much has changed since the 70s - and even since I bought my first vibrator in the 90s! Quite amazing that a small group of women managed to take female-focussed sex-shops from a sidelined movement to a multi-million dollar industry. It made me want to do a pilgrimage to the West Coast of USA to visit some of the original stores, which may sound a bit weird but this book made me realise what a huge impact these shops had on female (and queer) sexuality in the Western world and how, generations later, we are all benefitting from this. I'd love to read about how the movement developed in other countries too. That's my wishlist for Comella's next book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    * I received this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review* I am a fan of well written non-fiction and this book was both interesting and taught me a lot. This book is very thorough in its timeline as well as its look into the sex toy and sex store industry. I learned a lot about what makes a feminist sex-toy store and their highs and lows. I appreciated how the book went into more than just feminism but also information about race and class as well as LGBTQ+ and how all of those identi * I received this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review* I am a fan of well written non-fiction and this book was both interesting and taught me a lot. This book is very thorough in its timeline as well as its look into the sex toy and sex store industry. I learned a lot about what makes a feminist sex-toy store and their highs and lows. I appreciated how the book went into more than just feminism but also information about race and class as well as LGBTQ+ and how all of those identities fit into the same space. I love how much of the book involved interviews with the people who were on the front lines of this industry and helped it grow from the very beginning and the actual pictures helped to situate the book in the real life events that it was talking about.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I received an ARC from Netgalley and the Publisher in exchange for a honest review Vibrator Nation is an interesting and educational book that explains the feminist movements and the history of lesbian pride. It is written in a way that it is informative but still entertainingly written so that it doesn't feel like reading a textbook. andreazupanc.wordpress.com I received an ARC from Netgalley and the Publisher in exchange for a honest review Vibrator Nation is an interesting and educational book that explains the feminist movements and the history of lesbian pride. It is written in a way that it is informative but still entertainingly written so that it doesn't feel like reading a textbook. andreazupanc.wordpress.com

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This really is a business book, specifically one about the feminist discomfort with capitalism. I was hoping it would get more into how safer sex toys changed the industry or the large-scale changes to the sex store industry, but it really is a lot more feminist navel gazing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shelle

    I received this as an ARC on Netgalley. I was expecting more of a contemporary exploration of these issues, but it was bogged down in the history of women-friendly sex toy stores, classes on how to get off, etc. it was still educational, but not what I was expecting.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jen's Unique Reads

    Hold for final review until release date.

  22. 5 out of 5

    D.

    Review to come on Just Love Reviews

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    338.4 C7324 2017

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tessa

    The stories that Comella tells of the hey-day of the feminist sex-toy industry are illuminating and inspirational in the ways in which these women sought to radically disrupt heteronormative and misogynistic ideas of female sexuality. I deeply enjoyed reading the accounts of tenacity and nerve. At times, however, Comella repeats herself and the overlapping stories became a chore to get through. That being said, I appreciated how she also brought a critical eye over the ideologies of the sex-posi The stories that Comella tells of the hey-day of the feminist sex-toy industry are illuminating and inspirational in the ways in which these women sought to radically disrupt heteronormative and misogynistic ideas of female sexuality. I deeply enjoyed reading the accounts of tenacity and nerve. At times, however, Comella repeats herself and the overlapping stories became a chore to get through. That being said, I appreciated how she also brought a critical eye over the ideologies of the sex-positive movement of the 70s and 80s that took shape in these feminist adult businesses in the latter chapters of the book which answered some questions that I had while reading the early accounts that were sketched.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joe Robles

    A nice history of feminist sex shops that shows how influential 2 stores and a handful of women were to the mainstreaming of sex and sex products. I know Dreamers owes them a debt. We did paint and get new fixtures, but we also needed staff that were passionate about the mission of "ending the stigma around sex & sexuality". We're still working on it, but we'll get there. I Definitely recommend this book to my peers in the industry, but think the average person would also get a nice bit of retai A nice history of feminist sex shops that shows how influential 2 stores and a handful of women were to the mainstreaming of sex and sex products. I know Dreamers owes them a debt. We did paint and get new fixtures, but we also needed staff that were passionate about the mission of "ending the stigma around sex & sexuality". We're still working on it, but we'll get there. I Definitely recommend this book to my peers in the industry, but think the average person would also get a nice bit of retail history that is typically ignored.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Maxine

    You wouldn’t think a history/ethnography of sex toy stores would be fascinating, but this book definitely is. Covering the feminist sex toy store phenomenon from its beginnings in the 1970s to today, the author adds some much-needed race and class analysis of feminist sexual liberation I haven’t seen elsewhere. She also tackles the difficulty of balancing social missions with money, especially for women, making this an excellent resource for anyone wondering how social movements both influence a You wouldn’t think a history/ethnography of sex toy stores would be fascinating, but this book definitely is. Covering the feminist sex toy store phenomenon from its beginnings in the 1970s to today, the author adds some much-needed race and class analysis of feminist sexual liberation I haven’t seen elsewhere. She also tackles the difficulty of balancing social missions with money, especially for women, making this an excellent resource for anyone wondering how social movements both influence and are influenced by capitalism.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

    Very good, but I kept feeling that it could have engaged a bit with (e.g.) Kathy Davis, The Making of Our Bodies, Ourselves: How Feminism Travels Across Borders (2007), because some of the issues about change over time, generations, going from small to large operation, race & class, etc, were very similar. On the other hand, it does take a very wide and nuanced consideration of its particular area.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jana Brown

    3.5* Comella knows her stuff. Vibrator Nation offers readers a robust anthology of feminism and how sex-positive adult stores have shaped the narrative of feminism today. With that being said, I wish Comella had dedicated an entire chapter to the intersection of race and class in the book. There were passages sprinkled in here and there (ex. references to Angela Davis or Bell Hooks), but there was room for more without a doubt.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Comprehensive history but a little repetitive. Overall good read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dominique Hall

    An interesting perspective on feminism, sexuality and capitalism. The introduction was a little tedious, but the rest of the book was much more readable.

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