I recently said I should do a post about the bullshitness of rabbit vibrators, so here it is.
To begin with, what I mean by a rabbit is a dual vibrator – most commonly a vibrator with a large shaft for penetration and a bullet for external, clitoral stimulation. It gets called a rabbit because one particular brand has molded the jelly sheath over the bullet to have little bunny ears. There are also dolphins and thumbs and lots of other things. It’s cute.
So wherein lies the bullshit? Well it’s not that they’re not effective – but anything with an off-center motor that you can put between your legs can be effective; I know someone whose engineer boyfriend built a vibrator out of an ibuprophen bottle, and pubescent girls worldwide discovered the glories of a vibrating Harry Potter broomstick.
Instead, the bullshit lies in the rabbit’s position in culture.
First of all, the rabbit became famous as a result of a Sex in the City episode where one of the characters gets “addicted” to it. (I don’t remember her name because I’ve only seen a couple episodes and didn’t like any of them. I might as well just confess here that I think Sex in the City is bad for all people, everywhere. I also dislike Glee, Grey’s Anatomy, and Lost – clearly I am a freak and a loser, living at the coarsest fringes of civilization. Feel free to shun me.)
The episode was a commercial. It was a product placement of the crassest, most cynical kind.
So the first reason the rabbit is bullshit is that its popularity is the result of a television commercial, not as a result of its ability to get women off.
Which brings me to reason number two that the rabbit is bullshit.
Had Lelo offered SitC more money than the rabbit did to promote the Lily, this would be a different post because the Lily is a small, beautiful, powerful, rechargeable, nearly silent clitoral vibrator with infinitely adjustable speed and I will forever sing its praises to the heavens. Even its shape, to me, has a grace and elegance that echoes the flexing of a woman’s body at orgasm.
But if you walk into a sex toy store and you see the Lily on a shelf, and then you see the rabbit in its foot-long glory, which will you think is better? The rabbit with its size, its many functions, and its cultural import, is surely the more impressive there on the shelf. And if you haven’t looked too closely at cultural myths about women’s sexuality, you might think that it’s a better design for meeting a women’s orgasmic needs.
But it’s not. It’s designed to meet CULTURAL EXPECTATIONS around a woman’s needs.
It’s a big, colorful, rotating, oscillating SHAFT… with a bullet vibe attached. What does that say? It says that what a woman really needs and wants is a giant dick that does fucking magic tricks, and maybe some clitoral stimulation too.
That’s the second bullshitness about rabbits. It tells women what they need is a cock. It feeds wrongheaded cultural expectations around women’s sexuality, rather than nourishing women’s sexuality as it truly is.
This comes up all the time when I talk to college students. When they see even just a traditional slimline vibrator, they assume that women are using the shaft for penetration. And mainstream porn certainly represents women’s masturbation as a largely penetration-oriented activity. The rabbit is part of this cultural discourse, this myth; the SitC character can only be satisfied by a giant, buzzing, candy-colored cock.
In fact more than 90% of women masturbate with NO VAGINAL PENETRATION. (I’ve lost the paper where I got this number – looked for it on Google Scholar and can’t find it, sorry.)
The third, related, bullshitness: it tells women what they need is a cock, thus failing to tell women that really the vast majority of them would be better served with a clit-centric toy; the cultural phenomenon of the rabbit makes people think otherwise.
If you really want a dual vibrator designed genuinely to meet a woman’s orgasmic needs, have a look at the We-Vibe II, whose proportions accurately reflect where and how stimulation is effective for most (not all, of course) women.
I’ll move toward a conclusion here, though there’s lots more to say. This is hardly a comprehensive analysis of the rabbit in particular or sex toys in general. I just want to register a tiny squeak of frustrated rage that popular culture is failing us so very, very badly by repeating the myths that make women feel broken, subordinate, and conflicted.
If men are learning about sex from porn – and my college health ed colleagues recently did a survey that suggests that 1 in 4 college men thinks porn accurately portrays how sex works – then, I think, women learn about sex from popular culture, from things like SitC. I believe that cultural representations of sexuality have a responsibility to participate in a healthy, factual, and feminist construction of women’s sexuality. Promoting something like the rabbit, with its phallocentric implications, does everyone on the planet a disservice.
If SitC were written by sex educators, the toy would more likely have been, for example, the Cadillac of vibrators, the Hitachi Magic Wand) – it’s big, it’s loud, it plugs into the wall, and it does the job.
But instead it’s written by writers who don’t necessarily know anything about sex outside the mainstream nonsense, and so the mainstream nonsense is recapitulated.