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The Ever Changing Face of Sex

Posted: Feb 23 2016

The Original Electric Vibrator Poster

Believe it or not, vibrators have been used for centuries and were actually invented a good 60 years before the vacuum cleaner.  They came to be back in the early 19th century when the physicians of the time believed several female problems including faintness, nervousness, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, muscle spasms, shortness of breath, loss of appetite (for food or sex), irritability or a “tendency to cause trouble” (source Wikipedia) could be helped through massaging the female genitalia, which the doctors would do by hand.

Dr Swifts Winderful Healer Poster

Unsurprisingly, this “hands on approach” caused concern and so hey presto! the mechanical vibrator was born, allowing women to do the “relieving” themselves at home.

“Every cloud….” as they say.

So much has changed since those early days, with each decade shaping our awareness and acceptance of sex and sexual preferences and invariably leaving their own unique and indelible imprint on what the modern day sex industry has become.

Throughout the 40’s for example, we saw the introduction of pin ups in the form of drawings, illustrations and occasionally photo’s.  During the 2nd World War these “saucy” pin ups became an iconic piece of nose art on military aeroplanes.

In the US in the 50’s the first Playboy magazine was printed with Marilyn Monroe on the front cover, in doing so Hugh Hefner had started what would arguably become the first worldwide sex brand with his centrefold models and bunny rabbit logo.

The 60’s played a crucial part in shaping our sex industry. With the introduction of the birth control pill came a real sense of sexual freedom and empowerment and this helped further shape the feminist movement. Women found they had more control than ever before, bras were burnt and the swinging sixties enjoyed.

In the 70’s we saw the porn industry rise (pardon the pun), with London’s Soho becoming a giant sex hub of neon flashing lights, strip clubs and call girls.  We also saw the first Ann Summers shop open in Marble Arch.  

Moving into the 80’s we were in full motion, becoming more sexually liberated and much more aware of sexual differences.  This freedom was perhaps more prevalent in the cities and in particular London’s Soho where gay bars were becoming more commonplace. Even mainstream music was playing its part with artists and songs more openly showing their sexual orientation.

In the 90’s HIV/AIDS arrived, we were educated about it in schools and the government released TV ads to reinforce the dangers of unprotected sex.  Brands such as Durex and Mates soon became a name everyone had heard of. “Sex” also found a new BFF during the 90’s - the Internet.

Fast forward 10 years and who can forget the hilarious episode of Sex & the City when Samantha babysits Miranda’s baby Brady and gives him her vibrator to stop him crying after his baby rocker runs out of batteries.  Sales of the Rampant Rabbit went through the roof and the novelty sex toy industry has not looked back.

In July 2013 England and Wales parliament passed legislation to enable same sex couples to wed, a law which finally came into force in March 2014.  The first ceremony took place on the 29th of that month.

Now we seem to be entering a new era, a much more relaxed view of sex and sex toys with Lovehoney paving the way with their sexual health TV campaigns. Our categorisation of sexual preference is also evolving, with people becoming less inclined to want to be categorised by the phrases we have become accustomed to; heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bi and transgender. New phrases such as “trans-questioning” “heteroflexible” and “sexually fluid” just some of the names people are using to describe their more dynamic sexual preferences and lifestyles.

Sadly some of us are still a little “starch collared” when it comes to sex, kinks and sexual orientation, something I am relieved to say I don’t suffer from – let’s face it though, we have seen many changes over the decades and this is not likely to stop any time soon, so there’s hope for them yet.

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