Did you know that the vibrator was originally created as a medical device for treating “hysteria?” Here are a few symptoms of this not-real condition: irritability, difficulty sleeping, anxious moods, wetness between your legs and oh my gosh, look out for those darn sexual fantasies.
I don’t know about you, but if I lived in the Victorian era, when women were expected to do domestic work 24/7 and kept away from the public sphere, I might be a little “hysterical,” too.
Doctors and midwives began treating “hysteria” by inducing orgasms, which they called “paroxysms,” through genital massage. And in 1880, this English physician, Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville, patented the first electric vibrator.
Finally during the 1960s sexual revolution, vibes began gaining commercial and recreational esteem—and they got a huge boost in acceptance and popularity when they were featured on
Thank goodness, because they are awesome. Research has linked vibrator use with all kinds of sexy perks, including positive attitudes about sexual health, healthy arousal and lubrication, and more frequent orgasms during solo and partnered sex in people with vulvas. Vibration can also feel awesome for penis owners. They can make erections last longer and help folks of all sexes and genders discover untapped erogenous zones.
If you’ve ever seen me at an event or in Girl Boner event photos, you may have noticed that I almost always wear an elegant vibe around my neck. Well, you might not have realized that a vibe is what it is, given it’s sleek design we don’t often see in adult toy land. But trust me, it is. A fully functional one with various speeds and pulsations. It’s a Vesper necklace by Crave, and it is one of my favorite belongings.
I recently had the chance to build a vibrator, with guidance from Ti Chang, an industrial designer with the company and an entrepreneur who is passionate about designing products for women. We filmed our build-a-vibe session, and you can see highlights on IGTV at @GirlBonerMedia. Afterwards, I interviewed Ti for this week’s Girl Boner Radio episode.
Vibrators, Sex Toys, Orgasm Myths! with Ti Chang on Girl Boner Radio
During the interview, Ti told me she was raised in a pretty conservative Taiwanese immigrant family in a small suburb outside of Atlanta. And like many of us, she didn’t learn a whole lot about sex or sexuality throughout her youth.
That was a predominantly religious, Christian white town. I was one of maybe three Asian people in the whole little town or village. My parents, however, both of them have a science background. My mom has a master’s in botany and my dad has a master’s in microbiology, and neither of them are religious. Their point of view when they were raising us was that they just treated sex as kind of like a part of life. And even though we didn’t talk about it openly, I just felt they had a very practical sensibility when it comes to intercourse and whatnot.
But the thing is, I knew growing up that they frowned upon getting pregnant and dropping out of high school, because for them, education is hugely important, as immigrants. And so that was mostly the talk that we had was like, “You need to have a good education, so that you can make something of herself. And just don’t get pregnant and drop out of high school, because that will take your life in a different direction.” So that was kind of the extent of it, but nothing to do with pleasure or self love.
Ti told me that she was not one of those kids who had big dreams of a specific career path—and she certainly didn’t foresee designing vibrators one day. She knew that living in a first-world country and in the US that she was very privileged, and that instilled in her a strong desire to do something that was of service to people—which is really what she does today, with Crave.
In an interview with Medium a few years ago, Ti said that she feels she’s on the edge of tech, in the traditional sense, and that she prefers to think of herself as in the love industry. That still holds true, but not necessarily in the ways you might guess.
I don’t think it’s necessarily love as in a relationship. I’m a designer and that is my lens in which I view the world. But I feel our products are there to help people to embrace their own sexuality in their own way. And love is a relationship not necessarily always with two people, but it’s also self-love. And so if my products can help to support a better conversation a person has with themselves or with a partner or multiple partners. That is awesome. That is all I want to do.
A love of painting led Ti into design. As for her affection for vibrators, that seed wasn’t planted until her college years.
I wish I had a story about finding my mom’s vibrator. No, she didn’t have one. I think I found some condoms and I thought they were balloons in their nightstand drawer.
I think it was something that happened in college. I went to Georgia Tech and I remember, very typical of a lot of college campuses and also downtown area, that you’d have these sketchy bookstores slash DVD shops where you can buy bong accessories and crappy DVDs and there’s like a peep show in the back. And it’s just all dodgy, sketchy and gross. But that was kind of the stores that you could find vibrators and generally sex toys. That was almost the only game in town really.
For me, I was always really curious. I didn’t feel like there was anything wrong with it. It was more of a like, what is this dodgy shop? What is that like?
I went in and just kind of looked at those products and I wanted to try one. So then I remember buying myself a vibe. And I thought it was great. It was one of those plastic, long bullet-shaped things with I think a double A… You’d turn the bottom of it and it was like vvvvvvv. And I think that’s a very common first five kind of thing. And I thought, Wow, that’s cool. I was able to orgasm with it.
I’m pretty sure I had a vibrator like that and I didn’t have quite the same orgasmic luck. I love that Ti did, though, and that already, she had her sights set on a sleeker, more appealing design.
I told her how much I appreciate that Crave sex toys don’t look like kids’ toys, like so many still do. The fluorescent, plastic toys with obvious bells and whistles…or the big teddy bear one a company sent me that’s sitting in my closet… look to me like toys toddlers would pull off a shelf.
I vehemently agree with you—not only kids toys, but it looks like pet toys. You know what I mean?
I so do know what she means. A couple of people have told me stories about this kind of thing gone wrong. Let’s just say you don’t want Spot finding the sex toy you hid your the bed.
I’m a trained digital designer. I view products through the lens of aesthetics and functionality and materiality so that it’s not just like, “Oh, I want to make it cute” or “I want to make it pink,” or “I want to make it like a rabbit.” I think the rigor of design allows you to think more deeply about the overall balance and the aesthetic of how something presents and how it works. And I think that is why I feel very strongly that vibrators do not look like or resemble any type of pets toy or child’s teething toy or something like that.
Ti inspired me to look through my sex toy collection, thinking about aesthetics. And I noticed something. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the toys that work the best and are the most body-safe tend to have better appearances, too. More thought goes into them, you know?
Speaking of looks, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone speak about beauty the way Ti does.
I think beauty is so important, because it has this power over you. It has this nice seduction to it. Honestly, in a way, that is how advertising and propaganda is done. When they turn it in a beautiful way, it’s able to deliver a certain message. And one of the things I think that’s important about, especially vibrators and the need for them to be beautiful, is that when you apply beauty, it gives validity to a subject.
Can you imagine if you, let’s say, wanted to buy a swimsuit and the only way you could was to go to some dodgy, sketchy shop and they all look kind of hideous? It would make you feel like there’s something wrong with wanting to swim or buying a bikini is wrong. And that’s kind of the same language we tell people if we only serve them somebody subpar and poorly manufactured and design products are saying that your pleasure is not that important. And so for me, aesthetically pleasing vibrators for women are so important because they change how they view female pleasure and also, most importantly, how a woman views their own pleasure.
Such good points. One thing I love about my elegant toys, including my Vesper necklace, is that the elegance makes them really timeless. I could see someone in their 20s, 50s or 70s-plus rocking it and looking stunning with it around their neck. And I think that’s an important way to resist and changes common ideas around sexuality and aging, especially the notion that sex is reserved for young adults, or that sexuality shrivles up over decades.
When I shared that with Ti, she told me that she’s been really struck by how many older people are drawn to Crave products.
I just remembered this amazing conversation I had with this one woman. She was definitely over 50, but I don’t know, between like, 50 60, 70. She looked great. And one of the things that surprised me too, was that truly people, women of all ages, and particularly older women, I feel like women who have gotten to a point of their life where they accept who they are, there’s just so much more open about this stuff.
And I remember she came up to me when I was a part of a Crave pop-up shop, and she was like, “You know, my dentist gave me an electric toothbrush 10 years ago and I love that thing. But that thing has never touched my mouth.” [laughs]
And I was just like, “Okay! Well um, things have changed since then we have some other things that’s not corded that you could use.” So anyway, they have just such an openness and such a great sense of humor about all this. So yeah, it is genuinely for people of all ages.
So let’s kick that myth that sex toys aren’t for seniors to the curb. I asked Ti what other myth about vibrators really gets to her.
I would say the biggest one is this misconception that if you use vibrators, you will go numb. And I just think that is the most absurd myth out there. Because you would never tell a guy that if he masturbated too much, he would never be able to have an orgasm with a partner.
Did you know there’s even a pretty dark name for this supposed numb vagina issue? I’m hesitant to even say it, but I will only in the name of education. This is reminding me of the “hysteria” thing.
It’s known as dead vagina syndrome, or DVS. There is zero science to back this up. Even if you did experience a little big of numb sensation after a marathon vibe session, the nerves would go back to normal quickly. Ask any qualified doctor. So trust me, if you’re breathing and you have a vagina, it is probably very much alive. No matter how often you use a buzzing sex toy.
Ti brought up another important myth that can be pretty easy to buy into: that the same vibrator will work pretty much the same for everyone.
No two vulvas are alike. So it’s great and helpful to do your research about the product and read about the reviews and what others have said about it. But it’s kind of also like skincare. You never know if it’s really going to work for you. And just because something worked for someone and it didn’t work for you, that doesn’t make you weird. That doesn’t make your body broken. It just didn’t work for you. That’s okay. And something that worked for you may not work for somebody else. And that’s perfectly fine.
It’s just all about exploring and trying other options. There is no one perfect vibrator for everyone. And if you want a vibrator, it’s about trying different things out and giving it time and having patience. It’s just the same way as when I look for skincare products, they’re not all going to be perfect. It’s all about that exploration and allowing yourself and not thinking that there’s something wrong with your body.
If you’re new to toys or to buying your first vibrator, Ti recommends exploring your body first on your own with your hands. Figure out what kinds of sensations you prefer and what areas you most like to reach, as well as sensations you would like to create or spots you’d like to reach that you can’t without a toy. Keep that info in mind as you shop.
I completely agree. You might also want to try some lower-cost toys to get a feel for the style you most like before investing in a pricier one.
I asked Ti what one message she’d like to leave us with and she shared this:
Keep exploring. And I think being able to give yourself the permission to feel what you feel and feel that that’s valid is huge. Because if you’re starting with that mindset, then so many things open up to you. It’s often said, we are our own worst enemy. And when we shut ourselves off to possibilities, we kind of die creatively and limit our options. So allow yourself to feel yourself and to give liberty to what you’re feeling.
To learn more about Crave products or get FREE engraving on your own Crave Vesper vibrator necklace, head to lovecrave.com and use the code “girlboner” at checkout. To see me build-a-vibe with Ti Chang on IGTV, head to @GirlBonerMedia on Instagram.
Stream the full Girl Boner Radio episode up above or on your favorite podcast app! It also includes my and Dr. Megan Fleming‘s thoughts for a listener who wants to bring a vibrator (the one way she’s had “life-changing orgasms”) into sex with her partner.