The Temple News examines the growing trend of sex-toy parties.
In the 1950s, the Tupperware company created its now-famous “party plan” to sell its wares. Parties were run by female consultants for the host, who was responsible for inviting friends to come learn about, and buy, new products. Hosts were rewarded with discounts and free merchandise.
In the post-World War II America, women were hungry for ways to maintain the independence they had gained from entering the workforce in the 1940s. Selling Tupperware became an outlet for empowering women to earn an income while preserving their roles as domestic leaders. The product itself also empowered women by freeing them from the responsibility of cooking three meals every day and afforded them with mobility away from the household.
Fast-forward to the 1970s, when women were still basking in the glow of their sexual revolution. The first sex-toy parties began to appear during this era, using the same formula of direct marketing, as Tupperware used with its parties. Sex-toy parties increased in popularity during the years, which has been suggested to reflect the increase in self actualization of the modern woman.
Today, sex-toy parties are run more or less the same as they were at its inception, although sometimes with a more high-tech product line. A woman decides she wants to host one of these no-boys-allowed parties—known as slumber parties—and contacts the company to send out a consultant, free of charge.
Consultants set up their wares and distribute a “wish list” of products to each guest, who are encouraged to write down their interests and curiosities throughout the presentation. The consultant begins with the less risqué items, such as body lotions, books and novelties. After a break for eating, drinking, cigarettes and socializing, the group comes back together for the more heavy duty equipment. More serious items include dildos, vibrators and specialty items. After all the products have been shown, each guest goes into a private room with the consultant to ask any personal questions and to place orders.
Prices range from $20 to $150 for a toy. Products are safe and high quality, and more expensive items typically come with replacement warranties. Many toys sold in novelty shops contain a harmful plastic, which these specialty companies avoid working with. These plastics can hinder fertility when introduced to the reproductive region.
Explanations and demonstrations of products are interspersed with games in which guests can win small prizes.
Consultants are often asked for advice on sexual health, and many incorporate historical and health-related information into their presentations. Due to the nature of the job, many representatives have backgrounds working in health, sexuality, education or sex education. Regardless of professional background, most share a common focus on female empowerment.
“The consultant is there to make money, but the majority of women who do it have the whole ‘know your body’ mentality,” said junior risk management major Rachel C., who spoke on the condition of partial anonymity due to her involvement in organizations on Main Campus. Rachel hosted her second sex-toy party this past weekend.
Rachel said she has been to three sex-toy parties in the past four years and said she loved the experience so much that she wanted to share it with her friends.
“I think most people worry that they’re inexperienced and [are] gonna look like an idiot. People have a notion that it’s going to be uncomfortable, but a good consultant makes it so there isn’t time to be uncomfortable because you’re laughing,” she said.
The Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance recently hosted a sex-toy party in the Student Center on Monday, Oct. 10. They also hosted a “history of the vibrator” lecture on Main Campus.
“People were really nervous, but because [the consultant was] such a professional she handled it well,” senior Alyssa Treff, FMLA secretary and English literature and composition major, said. “There was a lot of laughter and excitement. Almost everything was available to pass around which fostered camaraderie.”
The camaraderie between partygoers plays an important role in the attractiveness of these events.
“I used to be the only one of my friends with a vibrator, and now all eight of them do,” Rachel said. “Making it such a fun event removes the stigma of it being something bad.”
“This is what your girlfriends are for,” Rachel added, emphasizing the importance of being able to be open about masturbation and sex with friends.
Treff agreed, and said that one of the best things about hosting an event like the sex-toy party for her organization is that it brings attention to the fact that a group exists on Main Campus that is trying to make the subject OK to talk about.
The university is supportive of FMLA’s efforts and has approved the sex-toy event for several years.
“[In the past, women] were used for a purpose, but now it’s not all about the man and what you’re going to give to him. It’s removing the double standard. We’re not fragile playthings,” Rachel said.
With the current popularity of sex toy parties, it is evident that women are truly taking control of their own sexuality and are now more prepared than ever to open up a dialogue about pleasure with their partners.
Treff said that pre-existing ideas about sex are fixable, and being self-aware, as the sex toy party encourages, enables women to get the most out of their sexual experiences.
“We’re finally ready to take control of our sexuality,” Treff said. “It’s very empowering.”
“Even beyond being empowering, it’s fun,” Rachel said.
“[College can be] all about jobs and what other million organizations you’re involved in. You never have five minutes to just chill,” she added. “It’s five hours where you have nothing to worry about but laughing, having a good time with your friends, learning and being able to leave with lots of fun things.”
Victoria Marchiony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.