appendix
STUDYING SEXUAL CULTURE
AND COMMERCE
Researching the history of feminist sex- toy stores sent me down a rabbit hole. It
took years and multiple methods of data collection—ethnographic fieldwork,
in- depth interviews, and archival research—to weave together the various his-
torical threads, cultural currents, and political influences that have shaped
these businesses and the larger women’s market for sex toys and pornography.
As a gender and sexuality scholar with a background in communication
and media studies, I am interested in understanding the processes by which
things acquire meaning, how these meanings circulate, and how they are con-
sumed. In this regard, my research is indebted to what sociologist Paul du Gay
describes as the “language of culture,” including the ways that people “think,
feel and act in organizations.”1
Scholars have noted the methodological challenges of studying phenomena
related to sexuality, especially its commercial organization and industrial dy-
namics.2 Georgina Voss, for example, has called for sexuality researchers to
go “further behind the scenes” and “seek out material from further inside the
industry.”3 For me, heeding this call required a kind of methodological pro-
miscuity: I talked to as many retailers, employees, and industry insiders as I
could; visited as many relevant field sites as possible; and amassed a research
archive teeming with corporate documents, internal memos, advertisements,
and other ephemera, all of which I drew upon to produce a multidimensional
account of the history of feminist vibrator businesses and the women who pio-
neered them.
Ethnographic Fieldwork
I spent six months and countless hours in 2001 conducting fieldwork at femi-
nist retailer Babeland’s Lower East Side store in New York City, where I was
Previous Page Next Page