The Making of a Market  7
right to sexual privacy versus the state’s interest in regulating public moral­
ity—a concern that many critics argued unfairly targeted women. (For years,
the standing joke was that it was easier to buy a handgun in Texas than a vibra-
tor. To fly under the radar, woman-­owned Forbidden Fruit in Austin adopted
a highly coded language that masked the sexual uses of products, thereby in-
sulating itself from legal repercussions.)27
Into the roiling waters of these cultural debates waded the pioneering
feminist entrepreneurs who are the subjects of this book. Dell Williams, who
founded Eve’s Garden in New York City in 1974, the first business in the United
States devoted to women’s sexual pleasure and health, and Joani Blank, who
opened the Good Vibrations retail store in San Francisco in 1977, boldly re-
imagined who sex shops were for and what kinds of cultural spaces they could
be at a time when no business model for women-­friendly vibrator stores
existed. Theirs were the first businesses to bring an unapologetically feminist
standpoint to the sexual marketplace, helping to establish what Babeland co-
founder Claire Cavanah has described as the “alternative sex vending move-
ment.”28
Williams and Blank began their businesses at a time when places for the
average woman to comfortably buy sex toys, or even talk openly about sex,
were scarce. Conventional adult stores were not designed for female shop-
pers; reputable mail-­order businesses that sold so-­called marital aids were
few and far between; and women walking into a department store—or any
store, really—to buy a vibrating massager risked encountering a male clerk
who might say, “Boy, you must really need it bad, sweetie pie.”29
Blank, a sex therapist with a master’s degree in public health, grew Good
Vibrations from a cozy hole-­in-­the-wall ­ in San Francisco’s Mission District
with macramé on the walls into a company with a national reputation as a
clearinghouse for sexual information, becoming a standard bearer for quality
in an industry that had few standards. Along the way, she infused her business
with a noncompetitive ethos, happily sharing the company’s financial records
and vendor lists with entrepreneurially minded interns who would go on to
found similar stores of their own.
Today, decades later, a sex-positive ­ diaspora of women-­friendly sex shops
based on the Good Vibrations retail model exists in cities across the country.
Businesses such as Babeland in Seattle and New York, Early to Bed in Chicago,
Smitten Kitten in Minneapolis, Self Serve in Albuquerque, Sugar in Baltimore,
and Feelmore in Oakland have made quality products and accurate sex infor-
mation cornerstones of their retail missions, demanding in the process that
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