An Investigation Of The Amazon “Recovery” Device That’s Totally A Sex Toy

“Amazing mmm mmm mmmm I love it,” writes reviewer Myshanae of the Luna. It's a $25 “personal wand massager” that's waterproof, USB-rechargeable, made from medical-grade silicone, and programmed with 20 different vibrating patterns and intensities. With over 30,000 reviews and a best-seller status on Amazon, the device is clandestinely categorized as a “manual back massager”; its product description promises to loosen up tight muscles and its imagery depicts athleisure-clad women with arched backs. In February of this year, one Amazon customer posted a question on Luna’s product page: “I am extremely confused. Is this a massager for tension or a vibrator for climax?” After seeing a reviewer named Dan refer to it as “a gift from the climax gods” and a satisfied customer called Layla explaining that it put a pep back in my step,” the answer is clear: this thing is totally a sex toy.
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Pain relief? Hahahahaha — more like stress relief in the most orgasmic way.

Amazon Reviewer
“Great, uh, ‘massage wand’ — lots of stress has been relieved, haha,” wrote an Amazon reviewer by the name of Sarah. “Pain relief? Hahahahaha — more like stress relief in the most orgasmic way,” commented Buyer Gal LA. “[It] will have your toes curling and body shaking in SECONDS,” reviewer McKenna chimed in. “Jesus, please take this WHEEL,” exclaimed satisfied customer GlitterBree. “You will not be disappointed AT ALL.” Pretty, um, ecstatic reviews for something that’s supposed to relieve back pain, right? If you spend more time digging through the customer feedback, you’ll notice that quite a few folks seem to be using this vibrating device to relieve a different kind of tension. Yes! Yes! Yes! Yesssss!” wrote Angela. “Max power for me please and thank you! Haha. Money well spent.” An anonymous customer explained that “this personal massager had me levitating off my bed, seeing Jesus and I finished in three minutes.”

Great, uh, ‘massage wand’ — lots of stress has been relieved, haha.

Amazon Reviewer
There’s a long-running precedent for this type of obfuscation, explains Hallie Lieberman, a journalist and sex historian who most recently authored Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy. After Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville invented the electro-mechanical vibrator in the late 1880s, the product came to market around the turn of the century, and sold, Lieberman explains, as tools for a host of physical pursuits — except achieving orgasm. Magazines advertised vibrating “health devices” that promised to cure everything from sciatica to muscle soreness to “caked breasts”. (Lieberman explains that the latter may have something to do with breast cancer or physical complications from breastfeeding.) There were also massaging beauty tools that claimed to reduce wrinkles and weight gain, along with vaguely-named “labor-saving” devices; “They never explained what the labor was [that was] being saved,” says Lieberman, “but [advertisements] would show a housewife and her tired muscles.” They were always accompanied by visual hints that the tools could be used in a sexual context, like illustrations of underwear-clad men and women or an array of attachments that bore a distinctly phallic shape — “but there’s no reason you need to reduce wrinkles with something that looks like a butt plug,” Lieberman points out.
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There’s no reason you need to reduce wrinkles with something that looks like a butt plug.

HALLIE LIEBERMAN
Almost 70 years later, another ambiguous sex toy quickly became a household name thanks to feminist and sex educator Betty Dodson: the Hitachi Magic Wand. After its invention in 1968 by Japanese electronics company Hitachi, Dodson embraced the toy in her classes on achieving orgasm, and famously calling it “the Cadillac of vibrators” and helping cement its status as “one of the most recognizable sex toys on Earth,” as Engadget put it in 2014. Hitachi, however, has remained staunchly and notoriously mum about the wand’s pleasurable powers, even to this day. (More than one reviewer even compared the Luna to the Magic Wand: “Not nearly as powerful as a Hitachi but ... also a third the size and battery powered,” wrote Mike, “and unlike with the Hitachi the size allows this one to be inserted inside to get the g-spot. Wife really likes it.”)
We’d expect such pretense in the clandestine early 1900s, but in our current sex- and body-positive era, why would a brand hold back on publicly proclaiming the pleasure-giving potential of their toy? “There are still countries — like Pakistan, and India, technically — that don’t allow the sale of sex toys,” Lieberman explains. “Of course [they] are still sold underground or in other ways, but if you’re saying your device isn’t a sex toy, it’s much easier to sell in countries where it’s illegal.” (In 2018, the LGBT Sentinel created a world map delineating nations or jurisdictions whose laws might prohibit the sale or distribution of sex toys — which includes the state of Alabama, where a 1998 anti-obscenity law “[banned] the distribution of ‘any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs for anything of pecuniary value,’” according to the Seattle Times.)
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It’s been years since Viagra was first advertised on TV [in 1998], and you still can’t advertise a vibrator on Instagram.

HALLIE LIEBERMAN
Lieberman also points out the imbalanced conventions governing popular advertising venues — social-media channels like Instagram and Facebook, for example, “don’t allow sex-toy ads.” (“Ads must not promote the sale or use of adult products or services,” reads the “Prohibited Content” section of Facebook’s advertising guidelines. “Ads promoting sexual and reproductive health products or services, like contraception and family planning must be targeted to people 18 years or older and must not focus on sexual pleasure.”) Sex-toy start-up Dame waged a well-publicized lawsuit against New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority in 2018 when the agency banned advertising for the brand’s pleasure products — while equally or more explicit advertising for breast augmentation and erectile-dysfunction medications have run unchallenged for years. “Male sexual desire is considered legitimate in our culture, but female isn’t,” Lieberman explains. “It’s been years since Viagra was first advertised on TV [in 1998], and you still can’t advertise a vibrator on Instagram,” Lieberman explains.

Whoever said money can’t buy happiness did not invest in this vibrator.

AMAZON REVIEWER
No matter the reasoning behind Luna’s cagey presentation, it’s certainly popular with Amazon users. “After using this bad boy I believe there is a GOD that wants us to be satisfied and happy,” wrote Apple T. “Sweet Jesus mother of God, I can’t believe how QUICK and EASY it is to have an orgasm.” Over time, as Lieberman points out, the narrative has shifted from the brand to a handful of experts to the legions of satisfied customers using the device. “Back in the ’60s and ’70s, you had … Betty Dodson saying ‘This is a masturbation device.’ Eve’s Garden in New York City, the first feminist sex toy store, only had three products at the beginning — one was a Magic Wand. So before you had owners of sex toy stores and all the big feminists saying this — now you have all the consumers.” We’re happy to listen to the chorus of reviewers proclaiming the toy’s orgasm-inducing abilities — especially at the can’t-beat-it-with-a-stick price of $25. As reviewer Jessica’s said: “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness did not invest in this vibrator.”
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