GEAR SYSTEM THAT’S ROTATING A PIECE WITH BEADS ON IT, TO HIT THE FRENULUM
Marty talks about his goods frankly and technically, as though they were car parts or kitchen appliances. He said later, “It’s just product. Everybody who works here is immune to it. It’s not sexual anymore, it’s like a key chain or a wallet. It’s nothing.”
Now we have paused to watch a team of women, wearing latex gloves, whose job is to rub a light film of red paint into the testicles and glans of large fleshtone dildos, to pinken them, “to give them the realism.” Realism strikes me as an odd choice for this product. These are huge phal – luses, comically huge, with veins like jungle vines. The women are chatting and laughing while they work. Their movements are inadvertently erotic; the hand-staining of a dildo tip could be the efficient caress of a sex worker. The women are Latinas in their thirties and forties, as are many of Tucker’s employees here. If you went out to the parking lot, you would find rosaries and Virgin Marys hanging from the rearview mirrors. I ask Marty if the women’s families know what they do for a living.
Marty quiets his voice. “My experience is that they really don’t talk about it—the fact that they’re working with a ten-inch penis. There’s one area in here where the girls are sewing hair onto the vaginas for pubic hair. I asked a girl one day, ‘Do your parents know what you do?’ She says, ‘No, I just tell them I work in plastics.’”
Marty steers us to a small conference room, where it’s quieter and we can talk. The walls are bare except for six 8-by-10 aerial photographs of the Topco building, a squat,
anonymous-looking 12,000-square-foot chunk of Chats – worth, California, business park. Tucker himself looks very much like what he is: the chairman of a successful multinational manufacturing firm. His cuffs are monogrammed so ornately as to be unreadable. He wears an unsubtle diamond ring on each of his ring fingers, a navy blue suit, and a tie with a travel motif of foreign flags. A New York accent grabs hold of his words.
“So what can I do for you?”
I had sent Marty a detailed email asking about the relative merits of clitoral suction and vibration and about whether both of these, regularly practiced, could improve a woman’s responsiveness. Yet somehow I have given him the impression that I have come to write about him. And possibly I should have.
I repeat my intended mission. Marty listens. “Okay. Suction will pull more blood and make the clitoris more sensitive. That’s what suction does.” He refers to the sex toy whose patent I mentioned, which turns out to be very simple: a ring that encircles either a real penis or a phallic sex toy and, attached to it, a suction cup. “So the ring can be worn by the guy, and when he’s inside of his partner, the suction cup is against the clitoris.” Marty pronounces it cli – TOR-is, rhymes with Lavoris. The item is no longer sold.
I ask Marty if he has any reason to believe that reg
ularly bringing more blood to the crotchal area—with suction, with vibration, with any sort of masturbation— would improve a woman’s responsiveness or—Word of the Hour—orgasmicity. It’s a fine opportunity for him to promote sex toys as therapeutic devices, but he doesn’t take the bait. He says he hasn’t heard anything to that effect.
On the way back to the lobby, we stop on the factory floor again, in the baking area, where the molds in their plaster casts go in and out of ovens. The countertop is Pol – lacked with drips and spills of liquid plastic. The noise is deafening: clankings, thrummings, pneumatic exhalations.
“HERE YOU HAVE AN ANUS.” Marty says it’s a model of porno actor. Porn stars come in to Topco, to a special room, where the staff make plaster casts of their penetratable regions. This includes their faces, which can be purchased separately or put on a doll body. The top stars get a royalty for each orifice sold.
Marty’s hand rests on a model that is cooling in its mold, buttocks-down. ‘YOU CAN FEEL THAT THE MATERIAL IS STILL WARM RIGHT NOW, IT’S STILL SOFT.” From the back, it looks innocent, edible, like a chocolate dessert product. It’s all I can do not to take a bite.
asturbation therapy for women is not altogether new.
It is, in fact, altogether old. Genital massage was a common medical treatment for sexually frustrated women as far back as Hippocrates’ day. The Hippocratic physician, of course, lacking batteries and Topco catalogues, had to make do with his fingers (or, often, those of a midwife).
For centuries, medical texts included long discussions of a condition called hysteria, a sort of vaguely defined sexual dysfunction based on spectacular misrepresentations of female anatomy and sexuality, and treated by, among other things, manual manipulations. The ancient Greeks, as we’ve learned, thought that women produced their own semen, released at the climax of intercourse, and that the mingling of male and female seed formed the basis of conception. Young widows, with no sexual outlet and a consequent logjam of womanly seed, were said to be especially prone to hysteria—or “womb fury.” (The widower was spared because he regularly jettisoned some during nocturnal emissions.) The notion persisted for centuries. Audrey Eccles quotes a physician in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Tudor and Stuart England: “It is most commonly the wid – owes disease;. . . when the seed is thus retained it corrupts, and sends up filthy vapours to the brain.” A typographically deranged colleague named Maubray concurred: “By a long Detention there, [the seed] may be converted into VENOM, or a Poysonous Humour. …”
The cure, logically enough, was to contrive a climax. Though no one came right out and said that that’s what he was up to. Chapter LXVIII of Aetios of Amida: The Gynaecology and Obstetrics of the Vlth Century, ad. outlines tactics for triggering the release of she-semen. “The midwife having taken [various oils] with her fingers, she should. . . rub the part gently and for a long time. …” Eventually, “much thick and viscid sperm [was] expelled, and the woman was freed without delay from her distressing affliction.” Presumably, Aetios was mistaking vaginal lubrication for semen. Gynecology was but a sideline interest for Aetios (best known for his eye, ear, and nose texts), and it showed. Women who came to him for contraceptive advice were told to wear a piece of cat liver in an ivory tube attached to their left foot. Though I suppose this might well keep you from getting pregnant, in the same way that wearing Birkenstocks might.
While awkward to be sure, genital manipulation was preferable to hysteria’s other treatment: the evil smell. This line of attack was based on the belief that hysteria was associated with a retracted uterus; foul odors were inhaled to repel the uterus, in the hope that it would retreat back down the body cavity into its rightful position. For ten – plus centuries, the womb was considered less an organ than an independent creature, able to move about the woman’s body like a badger in its den. Aetios of Amida prescribed the following: “Place at the nostrils a pot of stale urine.” Soranus’ Gynecology describes anointing the patient’s nose with “squashed bed bugs.” From the Tudor era, we hear that “also highly esteemed was a fume made of ‘the warts which grow upon Horses Legs. . . .’” Overall, it was hard to escape the suspicion that the early gynecologist was not the caring and supportive creature that she is today.
Evil odors came and went, but “pelvic massage” for hysteria persisted all the way through the Victorian era to the first half of the twentieth century. The earliest vibrators weren’t being sold to women; they were being sold to physicians to make their job easier. Depending on the practitioner’s skills and the woman’s inhibitions, manually instigating climax in a doctor’s office could take upward of half an hour. The vibrator was a godsend, reducing the chore to a few minutes.
Rachel R Maines, the sort of historian the world needs more of, wrote a book on this topic. The Technology of Orgasm is packed with amazing information, but none more so than this: “There is no evidence that male physicians enjoyed providing pelvic massage treatments. . . .” It was, she said (and sort of still often is) “the job nobody wanted.” I had imagined doctors getting caught up in, and turned on by, their patients’ reactions. But Maines found no evidence of this. She states that most of these physicians did not even
understand that the climax of the treatment they were providing was an orgasm.
When vibrator manufacturers finally came out with home models, the ads were predictably opaque. Wdiile some made oblique references to the devices’ true charms (“makes you fairly tingle with the joy of living”), most dispersed a smoke screen of vague health claims. Others ventured deep into the ludicrous. Maines’s book includes an ad from 1916 showing a woman with a vibrator held up to her cheek, the caption claiming that the device would “bring social and business success.” A pair of Star Vibrators were advertised in 1922 as “Such Delightful Companions! . . . Perfect for weekend trips,” as though they could serve up witty repartee and spell you at the wheel.
Even today, vibrators are sold as “massagers” to women who are uncomfortable buying sex toys. The small appliance company Wahl, for instance, sells a trio of massagers on its Web site with no explanation of what they’re for. (The fact that nitetimetoys. com is the first listing that comes up when you Google “Wahl massagers” provides a hint.)
The company bio of the late John Wahl notes that he served not only as Wahl president but also in a leadership capacity at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. And that his brother Raymond Wahl is a monsignor. I’m not saying there’s a link between Catholicism and sex toys. I’m just saying I’ve got a brand-new interpretation of Isaiah 49:2 (“The Lord. . . hath made me a polished shaft”).
hy weren’t hysteria sufferers simply told to go home and masturbate twice a week? Because, as you will recall from chapter 6, masturbation has a long history as a shameful, dangerous, and much-discouraged act.
But now that we all know better, should gynecologists be recommending masturbation as a treatment for sexual dysfunction? Are orgasms the ticket to sexual health? I called Cindy Meston, whose laboratory we are headed for shortly Her answer was yes. Her graduate student Lisa Dawn Hamilton recently completed a study that tracked the testosterone levels of women in longdistance relationships. (Testosterone is the hormone most closely linked to sexual desire, and is sometimes prescribed to women who complain of a low libido.) Testosterone levels were significantly higher when the women were having sex, as compared to the days when their partners weren’t there. (The participants promised not to masturbate for the duration of the study.) “It’s looking like sex in and of itself can be therapeutic,” says Meston. “It makes you enjoy sex more and want to have sex more. I think the whole use-it-or-lose-it thing definitely applies to women.”
Meston agreed that a $25 Micro Tingler from Marty Tucker’s warehouse probably affords much the same benefits as a $400 Eros Therapy Device. However, she made the point that there are women out there who would be uncomfortable with a treatment that consists of masturbation, with or without a sex toy—not to mention doctors who are uncomfortable prescribing it. For them, as Meston says, “the guise of it being an FDA-approved medical device takes some of the taboo out of it.”
The taboo issue might also explain the impressive sales records of some of the quack powders and oils sold online as arousal boosters for women. While they sometimes contain spices or chile extracts that create a mild tingling sensation, the key ingredient, Meston says, is more often one’s own hand. “They come with these instructions like, Apply
to clitoris and labia and rub really well for an extended period of time. Make sure you rub really, really well. . . ” ■
n 1999, somewhere in the state of Israel, a man began hiccuping and could not stop. He tried the silly things his friends suggested. He pulled on his tongue and rubbed the roof of his mouth with a Q-tip. He tried chlorpromazine, metoclopramide, defoaming antiflatulents even. Nothing worked. The man grew increasingly anxious. He could not sleep or concentrate on his work. On the fourth day, still hiccuping, the man had sex with his wife. His condition persisted all the way through the act, and then, once he ejaculated, the hiccups stopped. Canadian Family Physician published a case report about the man, under the title “Sexual Intercourse as a Potential Treatment for Intractable Hiccups.” Unattached hiccuppers were advised that “masturbation might be tried.”
Are there other nonsexual health benefits to be derived from orgasm? Affirmative, say Rutgers University sex researchers Barry Komisaruk and Beverly Whipple. Their readable and comprehensive The Science of Orgasm says that people who have regular orgasms seem to have less stress and enjoy lower rates of heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and endometriosis.
They also appear to live longer. British researcher G. Davey Smith and two colleagues calculated that over a span of ten years the risk of death among men who had two or more orgasms a week was 50 percent lower than among those who had them less than once a month. (Obviously, the researchers had to control for factors like social class, smoking, and age.) Catholic priests, as compared with their noncelibate Protestant counterparts, have higher rates of early death. This last bit was reported—though without a source—in a 1990 Sports Medicine article entitled “The Sexual Response as Exercise.” The author, a psychologist named Dorcus Butt, then at the University of British Columbia, states that the muscle tone, strength, and straining involved in orgasm are similar to that of “jumping, gymnastics, tennis, football. . . .” Yet one more reason the Catholic Church should condone sex, or jumping, among its clergy.
Orgasm may be, as Butt says, “the most basic form of physical exercise,” but that doesn’t mean sex is a particularly good workout. In 1984, psychiatrist Joseph Bohlen brought ten married couples into a laboratory at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and measured the men’s heart rate, metabolic expenditure, and oxygen uptake during five different sexual activities: foreplay, intercourse (once in the missionary position, once with the wife on top), fellatio, and masturbation. Bohlen concluded that sex was, at best, “light to moderate” exercise of short duration. However, given that “the mask used to collect the husband’s expired air kept him from kissing. . . , and the ECG electrodes and blood pressure cuff hoses restricted body movement,” it is possible that the sex being had in Dr. Bohlen’s lab was less exuberant than usual.
People with spinal cord injuries may derive a unique benefit from orgasm. If you are paralyzed, say, or you have
multiple sclerosis, you may find that orgasm relieves you of the leg stiffness and muscle spasms collectively known as spasticity Alfred Kinsey noticed this during his attic observations of men with cerebral palsy Apparently, the benefit lingers for some time afterward. Researchers have found that a session with a rectal probe electroejaculator dampens leg spasticity for, on average, eight hours.
You may be curious as to who got the idea to look into this. The rectal electroejaculator'’ is, after all, a device intended for use on livestock. Artificial inseminators electroejaculate bulls and stallions to obtain the semen used to artificially impregnate cows and mares. Men with spinal cord injuries—who often can’t ejaculate in the usual manner—have themselves electroejaculated, in fact, for similar reasons. It all began in 1948. A team of doctors at the Cushing Veterans Administration Hospital in Massachusetts, hoping to obtain sperm that could be used to impregnate the wives of paralyzed veterans, revved up a McIntosh No. 5005 portable, wall-mounted electrophysiotherapy machine. (Electricity was a fad health treatment popular from the late 1800s to mid 1940s. Rachel Maines describes
an advertisement for one such device, showing “electrodes for every conceivable bodily orifice.” Presumably, the Cushing team was aware that ejaculation was a common side effect of rectally administered electrotherapy.)
Alas, though the Cushing doctors obtained* semen from all eighteen men, only two of the wives became pregnant. (Partly because when the cremaster muscle is paralyzed, the testes can’t be lowered away from the body to cool, and the sperm overheat.)
In 1981, British sex researcher Giles Brindley set out to hone the craft of electroejaculation for fertility purposes. To figure out which nerve fibers were most expeditious, he first experimented on baboons and rhesus monkeys. As the electrotherapy fad had long ago faded, Brindley devised a homemade ejaculator, consisting of an electrode mounted on the tip of his gloved finger. Presently the baboons were excused and Brindley attempted some “experiments on myself ”t Because Brindley’s spinal cord is intact, he could
feel pain that paralyzed men could not, and he had to stop at less than a quarter of the voltage that would trigger ejaculation.* Brindley made 256 attempts at electroejaculating 84 men with spinal cord injuries. Fourteen wives were inseminated, but, owing to the inferior quality of the sperm, only one conceived. Some of the wives soldiered on anyway. In Brindley’s paper, under the evocative heading “Domestic Electroejaculation,” he recounts that ten women had been taught to administer the voltage at home.
In the course of Brindley’s study, some of the subjects reported that for several hours afterward, their leg spasms had quieted. This information found its way to veterinarian and livestock electroejaculator designer Steve Seager. Not one to pass up an opportunity for lateral marketing, Seager got a grant to do a formal study of the efficacy of one of his Electrostimulation Units for reducing leg spasticity—in both men and women. It worked. And that is the
BJU International in 2005. “He paused, seeming to ponder his next move. The sense of drama in the room was palpable. He then said, with gravity, ‘I’d like to give some of the audience the opportunity to confirm the degree of tumescence.’ With his pants at his knees, he waddled down the stairs. … As he approached [the audience], erection waggling before him, four or five of the women in the front rows threw their arms up in the air. . . and screamed. . . . The screams seemed to shock Professor Brindley, who rapidly pulled up his trousers. . . and terminated the lecture.”
*Which perhaps explains the dearth of ejaculator references on alternative-sex Web sites. I found just one, a reference to the Bailey Ejaculator, in the Yahoo Mechanical Sex newsgroup. “It sounds rather captivating,” says the posting. “It sounds awesome moreover. Has anyone got any info?” Ed Lehigh, assistant vice president at Western Instruments, where they make the Bailey, told me he was unaware of a recreational side market for his product, though he recently got an order for three livestock ejaculators from an L. A. porn producer, perhaps seeking to boost productivity among the cast.
story of how rectal probe electrostimulation came into use as a therapy for muscle spasticity in people with spinal cord injuries.
These days there is a cheaper, less intimidating alternative. The technique is called Transcutaneous Mechanical Nerve Stimulation, a. k.a. pressing a vibrator to the underside of your penis. Not just any vibrator, but a high – amplitude one made by FertiCare,* called the Personal Penile Vibrator—or, should you happen to select the Spanish version of FertiCare’s Web site, El Vibrador del Репе.
Attentive readers may be thinking: If paraplegics can’t feel anything down there, how do they get aroused and have an orgasm? That is one of many mysteries being solved at the University of Alabama School of Medicine’s sexual physiology lab. The others are more universal: What exactly is an orgasm? Where in the body do you feel it? Can dead people have them too?
*“High-amplitude” meaning that the part that vibrates back and forth travels a longer distance in each direction. The FertiCare surpassed both an Oster and a Sunbeam vibrator in “An Analysis of 653 Trials of Penile Vibratory Stimulation in Men With Spinal Cord Injury.” It was news to me that either of the aforementioned wholesome small appliance companies made vibrators. They surely do not flaunt them. It is easier to track down an Oster animal nail grinder or an Oster arepa maker than an Oster vibrator.