, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 77-96

Women’s sex-toy parties: Technology, orgasm, and commodification

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Abstract

This article presents participant-observation research from five female-only sex-toy parties. We situate the sale of sex toys in the context of in-home marketing to women, the explosion of a sex industry, and the emergence of lifestyle and body politics. We explore the significance of sex toys for women as marketed in female-only contexts, paying particular attention to the similarities and differences with Tupperware’s marketing of plastic that promises happiness to women. We argue that sex-toy sales follow the exact patterns of Tupperware sales but, since the artifacts sold are for the bedroom rather than the kitchen, foster an even greater sense of intimacy between the women—which has both positve and negative consequences for thinking critically about the commodification of sexuality, bodies, and lifestyles in our capitalist culture. Vibrators and other sex toys constitute the technological route to a self-reflexive body project of female orgasm. We ask to what extent such a body project, achieved primarily through an individualistic, capitalistic consumption model, can offer a critique of normative discourses of heterosexual sex and identity. Is this new plastic purchased at parties liberatory or just another form of containment? In other words, how much Tupperware does a woman really need to buy, before she’s been bought?