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Vibrators emerge from the shadows, now sold openly

Updated: February 4, 2012 11:35AM

Vibrators have buzzed into the ho-hum world, appearing on drugstore shelves and in plucky TV commercials.

Companies are after a share of the estimated $1 billion market for the devices — over twice the market for condoms.

One of condom maker Trojan’s latest vibrator models, the Tri-Phoria, comes with interchangeable tips and sells for $40. It’s more derivative than literal, like a smooth lavender rocket. The commercials air late, and in prime time. They say “vibrating personal massager” instead of “vibrator.”

One takes place at a bridal shower.

“Who got me the Tri-Phoria?” says the bride. “That would be from me,” says her friend, whose hair shoots straight back. “No, wait,” chimes another. “That would be from me.” She has the hair, too. “Well,” says a final lightning-coiffured gal-pal. “It looks like she’s going to have three!” They all cackle. The tagline is “So good, it’ll blow your hair back.”

Hamilton Beach patented the first take-home vibrator in 1902, before the electric iron or vacuum cleaner. It looked like a drill locked inside a black briefcase. Vibrators were accepted as health devices until they started appearing in pornography. Then, people got disturbed.

Trojan worked with Indiana University to conduct the largest vibrator study ever, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Researchers surveyed women and men age 18 to 60. They found 53 percent of women and 45 percent of men had used a vibrator. More than 90 percent of women liked them, and most used them with a partner.

“That really brought it home to us,” said Bruce Tetreault, group product manager at Trojan. “The people who are using these are part of a sexually healthy relationship.”

“Women in general are becoming more comfortable with their sexuality,” said Hannah Webster, 19, a sex and love columnist at the University of Tampa’s Minaret. “It’s not something that needs to be hidden. . . . I definitely talk about it with my group of girlfriends.”

Scripps Howard
News Service

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