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Christmas Presents for the 1 Percent?

It’s been 175 years since Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol, a moralist’s tale of the redemption of the then 1 percent.  One famous exchange been the arch class enemy, Scrooge, and his guilty conscience follows:

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

“Bah,” said Scrooge, “Humbug.”

Today’s 1 percent have shorn the class guilt that Dickens appealed to in his memorable holiday tale.  Why address the real causes of inequality when you can set up a foundation or give away your excess wealth, thus cleanse yourself of culpability?

The Christmas buying binge is upon us and a last-minute shopping frenzy is gripping many Americans.  If, truly, money is no object for the 1 percent, what might be that special gift for that special someone who has everything?  What about as a sex toy stocking stuffer?

Earlier this year, London’s Daily Mail asked in a bold headline: “Would YOU pay £12,000 for a vibrator? Racy boutique launches the world’s most expensive sex toy named after Charles II’s mistress Nell Gwyn.”  This is like asking if you’d pay $18,000 for a vibrator named “Marilyn” after one of JFK’s numerous conquests?  Would you?

Sadly for Daily Mail editors, £12,000 is chump change for that something sought by the super-rich 1 percent crowd who’ve got it all.  Sex-peneurs have concocted a handcrafted wood dildo by an artist named “Max” for $2.5 million and the Royal Pearl, designed by Colin Burn, is a not-very-erotic dildo encased in sapphires, pearls, platinum and over 1,000 diamonds for $1 million.

For all his writing about the fetishism of commodities, Marx could never have imagined such commercial perversions.

* * *

Checking out online sex paraphernalia sites is like taking a deep breath, holding your nose and plunging into a dark, mysterious pool – you’ll never know what you’ll find until you go under.  The following are but a handful of up-market sex toys that suggest that some people are spending real money to satisfy that special itch.

Vibrators and dildos seem to be the sex toys of choice indicated by how extensively they are promoted as well as the design and technical creativity that goes into their creation.

How about a vibrator for $54,093?

Yes, you can pick up the Victor Phantasm, a white gold vibrating, that comes with a diamond engagement ring in the middle of the two components, which unscrew to give a woman more options,

And there are a lot of other vibrators to choose from.

What about a diamond-studded bullet vibe for $495 from JimmyJane? Or Vanity’s “rechargeable dual motor vibrating stimulator … ergonomically designed for the natural contours of a woman. … Waterproof. Whisper quiet.” And all for $241.99.  Lelo offers a female cunnilingus toy, the Ora 2, an oral sex simulator for $189.00.  And Amazon is offering the OhMiBod 3.OH Music Vibrator for only $52.98

How about a $15,000 dildo?

Lelo describes its up-up-market toy: “Defined by decadence and elegance, INEZ™ is available crafted in either Stainless Steel or lavish 24-karat gold plate. It’s perfect for those who understand that you can’t put a price on pleasure.”

What about a $3,475 silver butt plug for her or a $3,000 one for him?

Betony Vernon advertises the Silver Unicom Butt Plug as “the latest must have item in every swag bag” and Lelo offers a 24-karat gold plug “reportedly owned by a host of celebrities including Beyonce and Jay Z.”

How about Ben Wah balls or beads?

Je Joue offers the Ami that is based on a 3-step Kegel system for only $59.00, while Lelo has battery-powered HULA beads for $189.00.

What about restraint tape for power-play scenes?

Adam & Eve offer “Sex & Mischief Bondage Tape” for $10.95 and Pink Cherry offers a wide selection of bondage devices for the novice as well as the pro.

And if all fails, there’s the all-in-one sex machine for $1,345.

For those looking for an all-in-one device to meet any anticipated need, there’s the Sybian Machine which is promoted as the ‘pinnacle of self-gratification for many women‘ because of its ability to produce intense vibrations and rotations that are perfectly fitted for her pleasure!”

* * *

Alfred Kinsey revealed in his legendary studies of male and female sexuality published a half-century ago that nearly everyone has sexual phantasies, often employing a fetish or sex toy.  In 2010, Adam & Eve, an online sex-products retailer founded in 1970, released a study claiming that 82 percent of adults used sex toys, that 44 percent of women 18 to 60 years have used a sex-enhancement product and 78 percent of those women were in a relationship when they used the product.  In a follow-up 2015 survey, it found that two-fifths (41%) of women and one-third of men (32%) admitted owning one sex toy; just 4.5 percent of women and 3.8 percent of men owned six or more toys.

For decades, sex-paraphernalia pioneers like San Francisco’s Good Vibration, Seattle’s Babeland and New York’s Pleasure Chest catered to discriminating heterosexual woman and gay men.  Now, more mainstream outlets have entered the growing sex-wellness business, including high-end specialty chains Nordstrom and Brookstone, mass-marketers Walgreens and Target, and even crusty down-market Wal-Mart.  But the leading sex-products vendor is Amazon, offering an estimated 60,000 products for those with a credit card and a certain yen.

Sex toys are objects of social praxis that illuminate a nation’s unique erotic culture as lived during a specific historical moment.  Sex toys have two social dimensions: as a fetish (an unconscious turn-on, erotic passion) and as a product (a manufactured look-and-feel offered for sale).  As a fetish, sex toys seek to fulfill a very personal, if unconscious, erotic desire; as a product, they seek to inflame the pornographic imagination through design and technological innovation culminated in the purchase, the economic climax. From a quick, cursory assessment of sex-toy websites, sex toys fulfill both dimensions.

Sex toys change as technology changes.  For centuries objects of sexual indulgence were make of wood and leather; today, its plastics, battery power and digital programming.  Orgasmic pleasure is one of the most primitive and fulfilling physical experiences of being a human animal.  Part of its pleasure is rooted in the body’s deepest memory that it is a creature of nature.  Sadly, with sex toys, nature is giving way to manufactured objects and nature further disciplined.

People are engaging in a greater, wider ranger of sexual practices then ever before and doing so without the shame or fear of arrests then anytime in U.S. history. The use of sexual paraphernalia among consenting adults is taking place with more acceptance and is less threatening, both personally and socially, than anytime in American history.  This change illustrates the adoption of a new moral order, one disciplined by postmodern notion of sexual tolerance.

And for the 1 percent, the sky’s the limit.

Choke on your stocking stuffer.

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David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

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