Nowadays, sex-positivity is mainstream: Amazon sells vibrators for as little as a few dollars, and the honest, open-minded sex-advice podcast Savage Love is consistently at the top of downloads charts.

There was a time, not all that long ago, when such things were not quite so out in the open. In her new book, Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stories Changed the Business of PleasureLynn Comella traces the link between the contemporary adult-toy industry and the small groups of feminist retailers who, starting in the 1970s, started their own vibrator stores explicitly for women. In the book, Comella, an associate professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, interviews the founders of and workers at some of the country’s oldest feminist sex-toy retailers, including Dell Williams of Eve’s Garden in New York (which opened in 1974), Joani Blank of Good Vibrations in San Francisco (1977), and Claire Cavanah and Rachel Venning of Seattle’s Babeland (1993).

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