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The Buzz On Designer Vibrators: Is It Form Over Function Or What?
January 5, 2002 12:13 PM   Subscribe

The Buzz On Designer Vibrators: Is It Form Over Function Or What? This is what happens when a sex-products company asks top designers like Mark Newson, Tom Dixon, Tara Cottam and Mari-Ruth Oda to come up with cool-looking vibrators. Nowadays there's a designer version of everything. Sometimes they don't work too good. But they look great. So is this a good thing or has form finally triumphed over function? (Please click on "toys" on the mother-link to see and read about the six vibrators)
posted by MiguelCardoso (25 comments total)

 
here's a direct link :)
posted by kliuless at 12:18 PM on January 5, 2002


Miguel, I don't know what's happened to your personal life, but frankly it's scaring me.
posted by geoff. at 12:23 PM on January 5, 2002


Geez, Tom Dixon? I feel like that Brooke Shields anti-smoking ad from the early eighties where she loses all respect for someone when they light up. Back when I was in school for Industrial Design, we had a saying about our department: Too stupid to be Architects, not creative enough to be Sculptors.
posted by machaus at 12:25 PM on January 5, 2002


I don't know why anyone would bother with a Tom Dixon vibrator when they get a Baby Jesus Butt Plug or a Holy Mary Lube over at Divine Interventions. I think these counter Miguel's assertion of form over function; these are pure content-rich design.
posted by rex at 1:05 PM on January 5, 2002


I'm not sure that the external design of most vibrators affects their operation or utility that much. And you have to admit that the standard ones are generally uggg-lee. They look like power tools, kitchen appliances, vacuum cleaners. The alternative is the "realistic" genre, but arguably those represent an even greater sacrifice of functionality for form. Why not have something you won't be embarrassed to leave on your wardrobe? (Or conversely, that's so abstract it doesn't even look like what it is, even appears to be some random piece of home decor.)
posted by dhartung at 1:27 PM on January 5, 2002


I found these to be much more appealing than traditional vibrators. So much so that I wish I could use them myself (yes, I know I can but that's not my thing so much).

But it begs the qestion: Why are such skillfully designed pleasure products available only for women? Suddenly, my right hand seems really lame . . .
posted by aladfar at 1:42 PM on January 5, 2002


My girlfriend told me that if she ever gets a vibrator, it's going to be the Hello Kitty vibrator.
Errr, "personal massager," that is.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 1:49 PM on January 5, 2002


Well, back in the day, they weren't the most beautiful contraptions, no... But some vibrators look decent, now. And there are all sorts of dildos that might stand in one's living room without raising too many eyebrows... maybe.
posted by whatnotever at 1:54 PM on January 5, 2002


I am not convinced that a fashion oriented appearance is necessary. If I assume a woman uses a vibrator in place of a man's organ, then the more nearly the mechanical thing (no , not the man) resembles what it is substituting for the more "natural" it would seem.
If I were to design a vibrator, I would make one that was solar powered so it might be used at the beach or in the woods, or in a car etc with little or no fear of having it go dead at at inopportune moment, reminding the woman of her borfriend's propensity to come (cum) all too soon, with little or no regard for her fulfillment.
I would like to see some study done on size preferences for vibrators. That might tell us something about the age-old arguement about size, does it matter or not.
posted by Postroad at 2:04 PM on January 5, 2002


I so wish I could find the ad from the 1918 Sears catalog...I saw it once, but now can't find it...even googling for it. :) Anyway, it was a vibrator, with an engine big enough to power a small town. It was sold to help women with "hysteria". No kidding.

I got the following info from: "Socially Camouflaged Technologies: The Case of the Electromechanical Vibrator" by Rachel Maines in IEEE Technology and Society Magazine-Vol 8, #2, Jume 1989.

The electromechanical vibrator emerged in the 1880s as a medical instrument designed to mechanize massage techniques used by physicians since antiquity. Among these was vulvular massage to orgasm as a treatment for hysteria in women. The sexual character of the therapy was camouflaged in medical rhetoric which characterized female arousal as a pathological syndrome from which relief was obtained in "hysterical paroxysm".

Manual massage was fatiguing and slow, however, and water and steam-powered methods capital-intensive; when portable vibrators powered by line electricity became available at the turn of this century they quickly became the dominant medical massage technology until the appearance of vibrators in erotic films in the 1920s eroded the instrument's social camouflage.


And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm feeling a bit hysterical... :)
posted by dejah420 at 2:19 PM on January 5, 2002


An 1891 steam-powered massager. A triumph of form and function.
posted by liam at 2:40 PM on January 5, 2002


I just want to point out that the fpp title is "one of the top ten of this year". Very clever. :)
posted by Grum at 2:44 PM on January 5, 2002


Wait a minute... Strong Industrial Design? Hey do you suppose this is what Apple means by To Boldly Go Where No PC Has Gone Before?
posted by willnot at 2:52 PM on January 5, 2002


I'm surprised they didn't recruit Michael Graves. The toys would have these cute little round handles to allow you to extricate them from wherever you put them.
posted by kindall at 3:02 PM on January 5, 2002


If I assume a woman uses a vibrator in place of a man's organ, then the more nearly the mechanical thing (no , not the man) resembles what it is substituting for the more "natural" it would seem.

Just as a note, while a vibrator certainly can be used that way, most women use them more in place of a partner's tongue- ie, clitoral stimulation. All of these new vibrators are quite attractive- a big switch from neon ugly jellies, but I think The Bone would be the most effective- it's got a good grip design, and the vibrating head is a nice, soft shape that could be rolled over and around the clitoris for best effect. The palm-sized and shaped Seed seems like the next best bet, though its applications are limited. The rest are very pretty, but seem like they'd be hard to use, or easily lost in the sheets.
posted by headspace at 4:16 PM on January 5, 2002


Dejah, that unit, and others, were covered in a recent edition of Real Sex.

But it was only big enough to power a motorcycle.

And, yes, you may be excused. :-) (tacky offer goes here)
posted by baylink at 4:33 PM on January 5, 2002


Personally, I think they are a great idea. I'm a college student, and am doing the "I'm poor" thing and living with roommates. There has been more than one occassion when my vibrator has almost been discovered. With these, if someone opens a drawer and runs across one, there's a good chance all that would happen would be that they ask me what the hell it was. To which I respond with whatever I want.

I noticed they aren't the cheapest things in the world though. Perhaps I should just learn to remember what drawer I have mine in......
posted by Windigo at 4:38 PM on January 5, 2002


Hey, Windigo, you could spring for a Wahl coil (almost to the bottom of the page)- looks like a phaser, comes with about ninety million non-sex attachments like the scalp massager- nobody would look twice at it, because it's one of the few vibrators sold in department stores and can genuinely be used as a muscle massager. Not embarrassing to leave on a bedside table at all.
posted by headspace at 4:50 PM on January 5, 2002


149 pounds for something to jack off with?! Man, am I glad I'm a man...all we need is 75 cents for a pack of kleenex...
posted by jonmc at 5:09 PM on January 5, 2002


149 pounds for something to jack off with?! Man, am I glad I'm a man...all we need is 75 cents for a pack of kleenex...
posted by jonmc at 5:09 PM on January 5, 2002


Or just a dog. They'll lick up anything.
posted by dong_resin at 5:20 PM on January 5, 2002


Pshaw. Everyone knows that a Wahl is a sex toy.

Windigo, the only real worry you should be having is that your roommates may want to use your vibrator. They're all a bunch of masturbators themselves, so it's not like they can really get all that righteous on you. Jealous, sure, but not righteous!
posted by five fresh fish at 5:51 PM on January 5, 2002


Wait a minute... Strong Industrial Design? Hey do you suppose this is what Apple means by To Boldly Go Where No PC Has Gone Before?

Willnot: there may well be a connection. I just checked and today's Apple slogan is: "Full Speed Ahead: Lust Factor Ten". :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:53 PM on January 5, 2002


IEEE Technology and Society Magazine-Vol 8, #2, Jume 1989.

I have a whole new respect for the IEEE. Wow. Whodathunkit.
posted by Dreama at 8:58 PM on January 5, 2002


I feared I might go to hell for clicking on the Baby Jesus Butt Plug link, but did so anyhow. Now that I've reviewed all of that company's wares, however, I'm certain that my fate is sealed.
posted by verdezza at 11:36 PM on January 5, 2002


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