How Is An iPod Like A Vibrator?

January 15, 2007

Or vice versa? OK, this just came to me, and today I am in a fog of influenza-induced fever, which is the excuse I plan to use if the iPod people tell me I’m taking their name in vain.

In spite of this fog I managed to reply to an email from women’s mag journalist Jen Allen, who’s writing up a story on vibrators for Self Magazine. What are common concerns? What do we say to Good Vibes customers who have those concerns? One of the complaints of some nascent vibrator buyers is: But it seems so mechanical!

And after all these years I finally had an answer just about everyone in this increasingly technological society will be able to relate to, given the number of Apple sound-and-moving-picture gizmos that have infiltrated our lives: Sure, a vibrator is mechanical, but so is an iPod, and every day more people are plugging into those instead of just humming their favorite tunes.

See, I *can* hum. And sing… sort of. But music is such a many-splendored pleasure, it would be a shame to restrict myself to only my own shower stylings. When I wake up in the middle of the night or the wee hours now (perimenopause: such a garden of delights, whether or not you call ‘em hot flashes or “power surges”) I have a trick for going back to sleep that involves assiduously avoiding getting on the mental squirrel-wheel that is obsession with all I need to get done; I figure that unless I’m going to get up at 3:30 a.m. to do it, I’m better served by actually falling back to sleep.

Princess Teacup Bouvier aka Teacup Jan 07.jpg

So I put my hand on Teacup (she’s usually there within reach, probably *hoping* I’ll have a hot flash), getting her to purr, and I sing songs in my head. Things that I haven’t heard in thirty years — Veronique Sanson, people! Where is she now? The entire Rocky Horror Picture Show album! (You know I have a minor obsession with it, and there is nothing more soothing than “Don’t Dream It, Be It” when the night is dark. Plus if I drift off to erotic dreams of Frank N. Furter, RiffRaff, and Columbia, so much the better – www.rockyhorror.com).

All the Britpop that used to play on the UK radio station that beamed to the continent when I was an exchange student in Germany in 1973. You can’t find that stuff on jukeboxes now, my friend. You can’t find the German stuff at all! Heino! No *way*! Nor, for that matter, is most of the jukebox fare from my days at Butterfield Stage Station, the biker bar in Arlington, Texas, where I worked in 1975, easily accessible in the new century. Sure, I can download Jefferson Starship doing “Miracles,” but all that other cowboy/biker bar stuff? I wouldn’t even know where to look. It, like the bikers I cruised or went home with, live in my brain, especially at 3 a.m.

It’s worth saying in so many words that all that music was the soundtrack to my sexual awakening and explorations (well… except Heino), which is one thing that keeps it in my brain. You have your own shuffle like that, I daresay; I think almost everyone does. My mom played the “Porgy and Bess” soundtrack over and over when I was a little girl and it didn’t really sink in for me, but now I’d guess that Mom got a thrill hearing “Bess, you is my woman now…”

However — and here we will return to our central comparison — when I go through this disparate batch of songs, I can’t always play one all the way through. I’ll get stuck on the chorus because I can’t remember all the verses. I value the tunes in my head and they are indelibly part of the person I’ve been and become, but if I were plugged into an Pod I could listen to them the way they were when they first struck me with their musicality or message. The gizmo would assist me through my own limitations, in this case of memory.

So that’s what a vibrator does, of course. It takes the arousal or erotic interest we generate on our own and gives us technologically-enhanced opportunities to experience it differently: stronger, longer, using different nerve endings. Vibration appeals to a specialized kind of nerve ending, you know, just as the iPod does: in the latter case, the receptors that have specialized to allow us to hear. You learn about those in school, one of the so-called five senses; but you don’t hear about the vibration-sensitive receptors in eigth grade, do you?

iPods are largely used as solo toys, but you can share them: with a speaker system, or via that sweet, kind-of-sexy sharing of the ear buds. You can share a vibrator, too, of course, though many people never think to do it, and plus there’s the little challenge of vibrator jealousy. Unlike my own darling dear, who owned more vibrators than I did when I met him, some partners feel threatened by vibes.

Does this describe you? GET OVER IT, my friend! You send a very different message to the women in your life when you share vibrators with them, like, “I value your pleasure.” What if someone said to you, “OK, will you give up your iPod and I’ll just sing you songs from now on?”

Colonizing another person’s nerve endings: it leads to trouble.

Would you like to know my top #1 fave sex song? Sex Child, by the Hail Marys. What’s yours? We have an iPod now at the Center for Sex & Culture and I’m planning to put nothing but sex music on it. Send me your nominations!

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2 Responses to “How Is An iPod Like A Vibrator?”


  1. As far as favorite songs go, I’d have to say “Both Hands” by Ani Difranco. (She’s recently with child! Congratulations!)

    If you’d like to integrate your Ipod and vibrator experience, hop on over to ohmybod.com. Excellent.

  2. Joan Price Says:

    Two of my favorites (perhaps subtler than you’re seeking!):

    Jennifer Warnes – Way Down Deep
    Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man

    By the way, there are some terrific sex podcasts available on iTunes, too: Violet Blue, Dan Savage, Blowfish, and more.

    Joan Price
    Author of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty (Seal Press, 2006, http://www.joanprice.com/BetterThanExpected.htm )

    Join us — we’re talking about ageless sexuality at http://www.betterthanieverexpected.blogspot.com


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