In the mid-90s, Shay Martin left behind a burgeoning career in research biology to join the family business founded by her mother. That business just happened to be a major name in the world of sex toy manufacturing.
How a Simple Wand Started a Sexual Revolution
As the second generation of women to lead Vibratex and the famous Magic Wand brand, Shay and her husband Dan have spent the last 24 years building one of the most successful sexual wellness businesses in the country.
The Vibratex Owner and CMO of the Magic Wand Brand grew up in this industry. As long as she can remember, Magic Wand was a legendary icon. “Long before our company took over the brand’s importation and management, Magic Wand was an instrumental part of the women’s movement and the sexual revolution of the 1960s,” says Martin. “Because it didn’t look like a sex toy - and back then you could buy it like an appliance at a department store - it was more accessible than other vibrators and didn’t look phallic in any way.” It didn’t take long before adult store owners realized the benefit of this and began buying vibrators from department stores to resell to their customer base.
"Magic Wand was an instrumental part of the women’s movement and the sexual revolution of the 1960s"
When the Magic Wand came on the scene, it wasn't invented and marketed as a sex toy. “Most of the massagers never were, but it you were in the know and wanted to use it as a pleasure device, you could,” says Carol Queen, Ph.D., of San Francisco, CA, Good Vibrations Staff Sexologist and author (with Shar Rednour) of The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone. “And many did!” Queens says the wand was a game-changer partly because it emerged at exactly the right time; partly because it was a great design (with the large head and long handle the vibration can be powerful but you can easily vary how intense it is); —and it is strong — and vibrates at a frequency that seems to be really pleasing to many.
Queen was really surprised, early in her Good Vibrations tenure (she started working there in 1990), at all the women who had heard of the vibrator but never seen it. “When they came in to buy one, they sometimes looked very surprised, and I figured out that they expected they were supposed to insert it, and were amazed (or, let's face it, freaked out) at how big it was,” says Queen. “External clitoral stimulation wasn't on their radar! Sometimes we gave the ‘about the clit’ speech multiple times a day.”
Sure, there were other, smaller wands in the 60s and 70s, but the Magic Wand prevailed, Queen says, partly because of feminist sex educator and evangelist of self-pleasure, Betty Dodson, and women-oriented shops like Eve's Garden and Good Vibrations. “Only within about the last decade or so have other wands come onto the marketplace, but by now the Magic Wand's reputation is cemented. I believe it was the first vibe with its own Twitter feed!
“Dodson loved the Panabrator – and she really loved the Magic Wand!” says Queen. “Not only did she introduce and advocate for vibrator use at the 1973 NOW Sexuality Conference, but she introduced countless women to the wand in her Bodysex workshops, via her chapbook Liberating Masturbation, and later via her books, videos, and website.
It's impossible to overstate how important Dodson was to women's sexuality education and boosterism in those years,” Queen says. “The first woman-owned store in the US, Eve's Garden, was founded as a direct result of that NOW conference and Betty's vibe ‘evangelism’.”
Eve's Garden founder Dell Williams went to Macy's to buy a vibe and felt it was a judgmental experience, so she launched her store. Joani Blank and her Good Vibrations customers were so enamored of the wand that once, during some circa 1980 supply chain issues, she went to Japantown and bought a couple of cases to tide her/the store over.
When I met Dodson in 2015, I thought I knew my pussy – and pleasure – inside and out. I mean, I’d been in steady relationship with my beloved Magic Wand since I was 18. But a Bodysex workshop with then-octogenarian Betty Dodson, the "Mother of Masturbation" showed me I still have lots to learn. Trust me, no one invested more in female pleasure than Dodson. She told me she learned sex "by doing it, not studying it.”
And by “doing it,” the Magic Wand was Dodson’s go-to tool. Combined with Dodson’s Vaginal Barbell, the Magic Wand is the surest and fastest route to your very own solo combo orgasm.
"Becoming orgasmic (then as now) is a pretty powerful life-changer."
Dodson introduced this vibe to many people at sex parties. Queen recalls the swingin' 60s and 70s as a time when sex toys were finding a larger, and openly acknowledged, market. “As more open discussion of women's sexuality was shared within feminism, it affected the sex lives of actual women who often didn't just use the vibe for solo play, but with partners too,” she says. “A common criticism of the sexual revolution was that it was for men. But that's just one angle – many women came out, found themselves sexually through masturbation, or changed their lives in other ways. Becoming orgasmic (then as now) is a pretty powerful life-changer, and often you want to tell the world, whether at a play party or otherwise.”
Months before Dodson passed away, she was featured on the Netflix series, The goop Lab, with Gwyneth Paltrow. Her colleague, editor-in-chief of dodsonandross.com, and President of the Betty Dodson Foundation, Carlin Ross, shared a real orgasm on the show with a Magic Wand.
Since the Magic Wand launched in 1968, there haven’t been many obvious changes, Martin notes. The most significant change, however, was the simplification of its name. “In the early 2000s, the name Hitachi Magic Wand was changed to just ‘Magic Wand.’ This was done solely to strengthen the focus on the name Magic Wand (which is also the Registered Trademark) as we introduced new models like the Rechargeable and Plus,” says Martin. “No other changes were made, and the Magic Wand Original is still virtually identical to the one released in 1968.” Martin estimates that close to 10 million Magic Wands have been sold over the years.
Growth can be good. After years of demand, Vibratex is introducing the Magic Wand Mini. “People have been asking us for one for forever!” says Martin. People love the shape and feel of the full-size wands but wanted one for travel or discreet storage. “We took our time bringing this to market because we wanted to make sure it was able to deliver a true Magic Wand experience, the deep rumbly vibrations that we’re known for,” says Martin. “The last thing we wanted was that buzzy sensation so many people associate with smaller vibrators. So, the quality and power needed to be on par with our other products.” It took some time, but Vibratex made it happen. “We’re sure many Magic Wand users will want one as an addition to their collection. And of course - it’s so cute!” Sometimes, good things do come in small packages.
Ryn Pfeuffer is a versatile print and digital writer specializing in sex, lifestyle, and relationship topics. Over the past two decades, her work has appeared in more than 100 media outlets including Marie Claire, Playboy, Refinery29, The Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, WIRED, and Thrillist.
She adopted a pseudonym and was AVN’s (Adult Video Network) first female porn reviewer – while penning children’s books at the same time. More recently, she is the author of 101 Ways to Rock Online Dating (2019). She lives in Seattle with her rescue dog, Mimi. You can find her on Twitter @rynpfeuffer or IG @ryn_says