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Museum Monday: Vintage Vibes

When Viviane, Curatorial Lead of Sex Talk in the City, began her research on vibrators she was a little surprised to find that the Museum already had one in its collection.

But one vibrator does not a vibrator display make. To flesh out the history of the vibrator Viviane connected with Vancouver’s own Womyns’Ware, to see if they would be willing to loan their impressive collection of vintage vibes.

I got to take a field trip out to Commercial Drive where I spent a fun-filled hour with Womyn’sWare director Otter Luis photographing pieces from their collection and laughing about how happy the people depicted on the packaging were (we’re pretty sure that one couple pictured were happily doing their taxes together).

Sex Talk in the City features 11 vibes from Womyns'Ware's collection.

Womyns’Ware is a leader in Canada for designing healthy sex toys and for their innovative way of thinking about operating a sex toy store. A big part of what they do is make asking questions easy – Just a few years ago I went in with my mom and one of her best (male) friends because he was curious as to why a sex store would have such an accessible store front and just HAD to check it out. It was his first time ever in a sex store, and the staff let him ask a million questions. He’s ranted about the great experience ever since.

Andrea Dobbs of Womyns’Ware wrote a post for us last year about society’s fears around sexuality, and it’s a must read if you haven’t already.

This Thursday Womyns’Ware is coming to the MOV to lead a workshop in designing for pleasure! So come, get inspired by vibes from the past 100 years, and design your own while learning about the history of sexual satisfaction by technology historian Rachel Maines (whose research inspired the movie Hysteria).

XTalk: Some thoughts from Womyn’sWare – a Sex Talk in the City Project Ally

Viviane Gosselin's picture

“Our work has made us keenly aware of society’s fears around sexuality” -Andrea Dobbs, Womyn'sWear

As the retail design and display manager of Womyns’Ware I wear a lot of hats. Sometimes I’m buried under a pile of catalogues trying to select tasteful, safe, quality sex toy amidst a sea of cheap, tacky, or disturbing products. Or I’m trolling industrial design sites in Europe looking for innovative approach to sex toys design. I support customers and staff, collaborate with our founders to design and produce fixtures and displays that support our wares, and I participate in the communication efforts. When all is said and done, I feel I’ve developed the skills of a researcher, an educator, and an artist.

So when Womyns’Ware was asked to participate in the MOV Sex Talk in the City project I was overjoyed! Helping to create a visual and tangible feast for Vancouverites to engage in with the goal of enlightenment at its core is right up our alley. What can we bring to the table? How about 17 years of front line work with women and their partners in search of sexual empowerment. Our customers have fundamentally informed our approach to what we do and have given us an understanding of just how vast an arena sex and sexuality is.

As an organization we’ve faced censorship, unwarranted legal barriers, black listing, and fear mongering — and it’s left us keenly aware of society’s fears around sexuality. We’ve encountered wonderful allies over the years such as Options for Sexual Health, midwifery clinics, progressive faith organizations, sex educators in North America and abroad, cottage industry proprietors, and physicians in private practice. Through these welcomed (and even the not so welcomed) engagements we’ve enjoyed an exchange of ideas and information that has made for layers of knowledge difficult to parallel under any other circumstance.

And yet there is so much to learn! We have experiences to share and artifacts to loan —we arguably have a collection of vibrators that rivals even the best sex toy museums! From the early 1900 Hamilton Beach New Life Vibrator donated to us in the very early days of our business by an aged man who understood right away that we’d be the place to appreciate and display his family heirloom to the 1956s Sonoid Spheroid Action vibe (complete with packaging and instruction manual) donated to us by a lovely woman whose mother had passed away and who couldn’t bring herself to sell it at the yard sale!

We’re very much looking forward to seeing the first iteration of the exhibition design concepts, and to continuing this discussion of sexuality and sex education over the upcoming year.

Andrea Dobbs has worked as Design and Display Manager at Womyns’Ware since 2004.

Join in the conversation on Twitter: @xtalkinthecity #xtalkMOV

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