Lovely plastiques !
While the good Doctor Charcot was searching in vain for the origin of hysteria in the brain and experimenting with hypnosis in Paris, a few slightly more pragmatic Anglo-Saxon professionals still considered massaging the vulva as the most effective remedy. And the most lucrative, too! Evidently so, since the comfort the "hysterical paroxysm" provided to its patients would neither kill them nor actually cure them of their ailment.
he only downside was that repeated manipulations proved tedious and even debilitating for some practitioners. Hence, the desire to mechanise them. Likely more dedicated than his colleagues, London-based Mortimer Granville was the first to strike upon the idea, in 1882, of attaching various rubber tips to the shaft of an electric motor. In doing so, he was able to soothe his own joints and his very Victorian clientele. The ancestor of our current and sleeker sex toys, the vibrator, was born.
Doctor Granville's inventions and its many avatars quickly left the doctor's practice and made their appearance on shelves dedicated to the Domestic sciences, next to other female accessories inspired by the electric fairy. Same plastics, same design! For forty years, manufacturers managed to fudge the lines so well that it was difficult to distinguish a vibrator from a hairdryer. Obviously, no one was fooled! Even less so when, thanks to the advent of acrylic resins in the 1940s, the object became more portable and even more suggestive.
In addition to this customer base, other, more explicit models were made available through "shameful" craftsmen who used plastics and elastomers. Unfortunately, they were not submitted to any regulations due to the clandestine nature of their operations!
In 1970, a man in his fifties who made polyethylene vibrators plasticised in liquid paraffin was arrested in Paris…not because of the dubious nature of his production, but for "gross indecency"! With the end of clandestinity, the formulation of plastics was professionalised. However, being confined to very specialised circles, the industry was easily able to disregard the rules of transparency. That is, until marketing brought it back onto the right track.
Sex shops and love stores have brought sex accessories out from a long period of banishment, and not only for marketing reasons. Thanks to an often sleek design, more ergonomic than anatomical, sex toys have moved away from mimicry. Marketed in a context of glamour, in the company of lingerie and other fashion accessories, it is presented as a technological artefact that gladly sells performance and sensuality.
This high-end positioning involves the use of polymers that are more sophisticated and standardised, particularly in terms of health and safety requirements. PVC and badly identified mixtures of elastomers, such as jelly, have been relegated to entry-level and very explicit products as a result.
Conversely, European manufacturers increasingly use flexible and non-porous polymers such as silicone or thermoplastic elastomers that are softer to the touch. ABS plastics, which are smooth and more rigid, are particularly popular for products designed to provide clitoral stimulation. In addition to matters of personal hygiene, the presence of phthalates used as plasticisers in certain soft sex toys has raised concerns. So much so, in fact, that some distributors, eager to set themselves apart from the rest, now use the fact that some of their products are made according to standards for childcare products and toys as a unique selling point.