So you are probably asking what’s so special about the Magic Wand that an entire article needed to be written about it? Well, the Magic Wand, also known as “Hitachi”, is no ordinary sex toy – it is the toy that sparked a sexual revolution. And this year marks its 50th anniversary.
The Magic Wand’s feminist history starts in the 60s when it was trademarked in 1968 as a handheld neck and back massager by Japanese multinational company Hitachi. It was never intended to be an adult toy. Hitachi eventually took its name off of it, ceased production, and handed it over to a different company, Vibratex, to be re-branded and sold. The reason it turned into such an accidental iconic vibrator is because of its roots in the appliance industry. This wasn’t a toy, but an actual household appliance made with the quality that only a tech giant could provide. While other adult toys were labeled with “for novelty use only” because there was no lab that tested its quality, the Hitachi was a vetted machine that could last decades. It was also inconspicuous and easily accessible, allowing women to discreetly purchase a “neck massager.”
The Hitachi became the symbol for the feminist movement and female sexual liberation in the 70s. Dr. Betty Dodson, a sex educator whose name is most associated with The Magic Wand, taught women how to achieve an orgasm through masturbation with her Bodysex workshops in NYC. She used the Hitachi in her workshops for 50 years and paved the way for women who would become instrumental to the feminist movement.
One of these women is Dell Williams, who opened one of the U.S.’s first female-run sex shops and credits Dr. Dodson Dodson for indirectly motivating her to take the risk. Williams had gone to a Macy’s store to buy a Magic Wand only to have to endure an uncomfortable experience by a male clerk. The clerk was suspicious of her real intentions with the product and asked prying questions that made Williams feel embarrassed and indignant. She believed women should be selling vibrators to other women and opened Eve’s Garden as a mail-order catalog at the time. She saw there needed to be change and decided to do something about it for the sake of all women everywhere.
Fast forward to the Sex and the City era and a similar scenario is played out by Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall). She walks into a Sharper Image store to replace her vibrator, which wasn’t the Hitachi Magic Wand, but looked exactly like it. She tells the salesman, “I’d like to return this vibrator.” When the man tries to correct Samantha and says “Sharper Image doesn’t sell vibrators. It’s a neck massager,” she gives him an educational lesson on the product he’s selling. The scene shows how the Magic Wand sparked a sexual revolution nearly 30 years before and now no longer needs to be sold under the guise of a body massager. Neck and shoulder massager, orgasm inducer, symbol of the feminist movement – the Magic Wand has a narrative spanning 50 years that deserves to be celebrated.