History of the Sex Industry: the 20th century

22 December 2008

1900 to 1930
Plug-in home vibrators–marketed to women as health and relaxation aids and advertised in consumer magazines such as Needlecraft, Home Needlework Journal and Woman’s Home Companion–are some of the first electrified home appliances. The Sears & Roebuck catalog claimed the devices were a “very satisfactory … marital aid that every woman appreciates.”

In 1948, “sexologist” Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey shocks the prudish masses with his international bestseller Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. The study, now known as the Kinsey Report, concluded that 94% of men and 40% of women masturbate.

The Sexual Revolution blooms with the arrival of the birth control pill. “Free love” flourishes among hippies, radicals, feminists and anyone offering a lift to Woodstock.

“Key parties” and one-night stands become the rage. Pornography and novelty stores spring up in red-light districts. Eve’s Garden in New York and Good Vibrations in San Francisco start marketing sex products to women.

The sex business goes fully mainstream. The HIV/AIDS epidemic spurs condom sales; California’s San Fernando Valley emerges as the capital of the adult entertainment industry; the range of sex toys and accessories continues to grow.

The gay rights movement brings alternative lifestyles–from drag queens to fetishists–to the forefront. In 1998, The Rabbit vibrator makes an appearance on the HBO series Sex and the City. (After the episode airs, demand for the toy skyrockets.) Meanwhile, an Alabama anti-obscenity law, enacted in 1998, bans the distribution of “any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs for anything of pecuniary value.” Sherri Williams, owner of Pleasures stores in Huntsville and Decatur, sues on First Amendment grounds, famously declaring, “They are going to have to pry this vibrator from my cold, dead hand.”

Including pornography, the business of sex now runs into the tens of billions of dollars annually (no official estimates are available). Sexual aids, including toys, are more readily available than ever, even from the likes of Wal-Mart, Target and Walgreen. Lubricant maker K-Y introduces a line called “Yours & Mine.” Trojan offers small, vibrating rings with their condoms. Electronics giant Phillips makes vibrators. Babeland, a retail store in Brooklyn, N.Y., offers instructional sex seminars for new mothers, as well as an in-store diaper-changing station. Yes, we’ve come a long way.

History of Sex Industry

History of Sex Industry

Extract from Forbes

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