The legendary Rabbit, a vibrator from Vibratex, that helped to make sex toys a mainstream object, celebrates the 20th anniversary of the vibrator’s guest appearance in the legendary HBO hit series »Sex and the City«.
The four friends Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte have secured an enduring place in the hall-of-fame of TV history with their conversation about the Rabbit and the subsequent trip to a sex shop and later testimonies of their experiences. In addition to this, the prominent mention of the sex toy also laid the first foundations for the triumphal rise of Sextoys in the mainstream media. From »Sex and the City« to the blockbuster success »50 Shades of Grey« to sextoy reviews in Glamour and Cosmopolitan, there is a direct line towards normalizing the public’s perception of sex toys. Remarkable sales growth and major changes in the industry are the result of this development.
Sex and the City was one of the first major hit series of the pay TV channel HBO, which has captured the American zeitgeist like a seismograph and has turned it into hit series for three decades now.
The Rabbit had its guest appearance in an episode of the first season entitled »The Turtle and the Hare«. In this one Miranda tells the other three friends how much she appreciates the Rabbit as an orgasm guarantee. Together the friends visit a sexshop and look at the pink vibrator with a lot of scepticism. Charlotte, often portrayed as a prude, buys a Rabbit and begins to cancel appointments to spend time at home with her vibrator. The result was an intervention and the Rabbit became an instant classic of pop culture.
The series is thus strongly credited for the breakthrough of sex toys. Sexologist Carol Queen of the sex shop chain Good Vibrations says that the series has brought vibrators out of the shadows into the light. After the episode was broadcast in 1998, there were lines of intrigued women in the shop trying to find out more about the Rabbit.
The manufacturer was initially unaware of the unexpected marketing help provided by the HBO series. The sales growth could not be explained at all. Shay Martin, Vice President of Vibratex said that none of the company’s employees had HBO and that they only became aware of the episode when somebody sent them a VHS tape.
The consequences were immense. In the years after the broadcast, Vibratex’s sales grew by 700%. The supply question became a problem for the company. To shorten the waiting time for customers, Vibratex even accepted to choose extremely costly shipping routes that were faster. Martin points out that the company didn’t make much money with it. For the moment Vibratex was just happy that there was so much interest.
The fact that it was the conservative Charlotte of all people who enjoyed the Rabbit so much may have also contributed to the long-term success of the vibrator. For the first time it was no longer disreputable to enter a sex shop, but a moment of liberation for many women. For many, the threshold to enter a store was lowered or disappeared.
The fact that the purchase of the vibrator within the episode took place in a modern outlet of the sextoy retailer Pleasure Chest and not in the privacy of one’s own four walls may also have helped to demystify the visit of a sex shop. Sexshops, it became clear to many, did not have to be shady.
The tourist attraction of the »Sex and the City« bus tour still stops at the Pleasure Chest outlet in New York’s West Village.
In addition to the fundamental normalization of sex toys, there was also a heightened understanding that good toys are expensive. Since the episode’s first broadcast a lot has changed, especially in the high price segment for sex toys. Twenty years ago there were very few high-end sextoys. Nowadays there are many manufacturers who have specialized in the price segment around or over $100. Design, packaging, presentation and marketing now play a much greater role than before.
It is now often hard to imagine how big the breakthrough was back then. Nowadays it seems quite normal that sex shops are open, well-designed retail spaces, that sex toys cost something, are becoming more and more technically sophisticated and can be operated by mobile devices, and that trendy start-ups stir up the market increasingly.
On YouTube you can review the highlights of the historic Rabbit episode of Sex and the City