Sigh. Gwyneth's at it again. We thought it would stop with the jade eggs, but then came the vag candle, and now we enter the next phase in Gwyneth Does Sex Badly: the vibrator.
Make no mistake, Goop were already selling sex toys. Some are from brands I love, some are from brands I don't. They are all high-end, fancy brands, all with very ~aesthetic~ minimal design. You'll find them listed under the pseudonymous 'wellness' category alongside very expensive workout accessories and subscription vitamins (an aside: I list your goods as wellness items when I send out your Nikki Darling orders because a) I'm not gonna write 'sex toys', and b) it makes me laugh every single day. I.. am not confident that Paltrow shares my ironic sensibilities here).
So am I surprised that Goop has released a vibrator? Absolutely not. A lot of brands who sell sex toys eventually offer their own lines - usually they are white label toys (manufactured for multiple brands to sell as their own, with their own packaging and so on) but occasionally a brand has access to the kind of money that allows them to design their own product (come at me, wealthy investors, I have ideas).
To Goop's credit, I am pretty certain the Double Sided Wand Vibrator is an original design, but beyond that? A resounding meh.
Wands are a dime a dozen. Everyone has a wand vibrator. Everyone is desperately trying to become the household name that the Magic Wand is. Everyone is trying to reinvent the wheel. Various brands have varying degrees of customer loyalty and fandom around them, with Doxy arguably coming closest to usurping the Magic Wand from its throne. But I am fairly certain the Goop wand is not even getting in the palace gates.
The packaging instructs me to 'enjoy [my] Goop vibes', which only serves to remind how terrible a brand name Goop is. The toy itself looks small, which immediately makes me wonder what kind of power it packs (wand aficionados tend to want it strong - like, the stronger the better). The sleek, smooth buttons are fine, the light display, fine. But neither of these things are new or interesting to me, and they won't be to everyone's liking (some folk require a more prominent button, with discernible edges). You can use the round wand head or you can fuck the handle, fine. There is a whimsical minimalist ice cream look to the toy, which again is fine. Just fine. It's all looking.. fine.
This is fine.
But there are already a lot of fine toys on the market. Better still, there are actually lots of really exciting toys on the market. Brands that are truly out there innovating - whether it be in the design or the manufacturing, or even in their marketing strategy, where some brands are setting themselves apart from a very white, hetero-centric, ableist and fatphobic industry-wide strategy.
And honestly? I am just so frustrated when I see people, celebrities or otherwise, claim that what they are doing is revolutionary. Because usually, it isn't. And I reckon nine times out of ten, the 'disruptors' in our industry are only disruptive because they are like annoying gnats, buzzing about loudly whilst remaining wilfully ignorant on what has come before.
If Goop just released their own product and said "wanking is great, hop on it", I don't think there'd be much outrage. You can't really be mad at a minimalist vibrator just hanging out being bland, after all. It's not made from controversial material like the jade eggs, and it isn't as culturally polarising as a designer candle that purports to smell like celebrity vagina.
But of course, they are on the promo junket for the bland ice cream vibrator, which means Gwyneth Paltrow, that beacon of sex education who, up until 2019, couldn't even tell you the difference between a vagina and a vulva, is out there talking sexual pleasure and Goop vibes. The New York Times sat down with Gwyneth to discuss this new product and all things Goopy, and oof, Gwyneth, Gwynnie, Gwynners - could you not?
"So many vibrators look hypersexualised."
What.. what does that mean? Let's just take a moment to consider how a vibrator - a device designed explicitly for sexual experiences, can possibly look too sexual..
"They’re either really phallic or they look like something you would buy in a sex shop."
I wonder if our mate Gwyneth is confusing dildos and vibrators the same way she confused vulvas and vaginas in The Goop Lab series? The only vibrators I know that are particularly phallic are firmly in the minority, because that isn't actually what sells - when people are looking for a vibrator, they are looking for something fit-for-purpose, something ergonomic - you don't see many external vibrators looking phallic because there is no reason for them to - they are round, or curved, designed to be slipped effortlessly into the palm of your hand, they are small and pointed, they are those tacky butterfly looking things from the '80s, seldom are they anything that could be considered phallic. Conversely, vibrators that are designed for penetration are kinda inherently phallic, because again - it's about something fit-for-purpose, and what do we usually like to penetrate ourselves with? You guessed it! Phallic toys.
Her second point, the one about vibes looking like something you would buy in a sex shop, is (and I acknowledge my bias here) fucking cooked. Oh, it made me mad to read that! And here's why; If I want shoes, I'm heading to the shoe store. Looking for a book on a particular topic? Book shop. I want to buy a vibrator? Sex shop. A sex shop is where you'll find specialist retail sales people who are specifically trained to help you find a vibrator that suits your specific needs. AKA: an appropriate and reasonable place to shop for sex toys. And it's not like all sex shops are the same - we run the gamut from seedy alleyway porn shops to high end boutiques. There is literally a sex shop for every one.
When you instead buy your sex toys from a lifestyle retailer like Goop - it might feel like an elevated choice you are making - but that is by design. As Amanda Mull pointed out in The Atlantic, what you are actually buying when you shop at retailers like Goop is an experience: "The stuff doesn’t matter, not really. The act of shopping itself is the salve." You get the buzz (pun intended, as always) from the shopping experience, the products themselves are seldom the point.
But here's the thing - you can have a fulfilling retail experience in a sex shop (whether in person or online like here at Nikki Darling), and pro tip: the majority of the sex toys that Goop sells are available in sex shops too - the difference is that our knowledge is vast and our training specific, and we can provide a better service as a result.
"I think we were just trying to do something … perhaps a little more intellectual."
Because obviously when we are having a maz, we want it to be intellectual? Again, what does that even mean, Gwyneth? Like, it's a vibrator. It should be many things: pleasurable, body-safe, durable, ergonomic.. but intellectual? Nah. I don't buy sex toys to have stimulating conversation about Godard in a wine bar with. I, a regular person, expect them to be stimulating in other ways. People are intellectual, sex toys are tools.
In the same interview, Paltrow goes on to talk about the important work of destigmatising sex toys and pleasure (for women) in general. I feel my shoulders relax a little, I exhale. She speaks about the current trend of celebrities becoming brand ambassadors for sex toy companies, and she thinks that this openness and shamelessness is a good thing. The interviewer asks Gwyneth if she has tested the vibrator herself. I am ready for the prepared PR response about how pleasurable it is. I expect a resounding yes.
"I’ve never been asked that question before. I think you’ve made me blush. I’ll just leave it at that."
We're out here supposedly being open and frank and shame-free, but this person who wants us to buy her vibrator can't even own up to testing the damn thing?
Fuck, and I can not emphasise this enough, all the way off.
- Lauren Clair
Lauren Clair is the founder and owner of Nikki Darling. They believe sex toys are for every body and that pleasure is a human right.
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