Hitachi Magic Wand: The Making of a Feminist Sex Symbol

The Hitachi Magic Wand was first made available in 1968 as a personal massager for aches, pains, and sports injuries. The AC-powered handheld massager had a bulky plastic body and simple power switch on the handle. It made its way overseas from Japan to the United States, where the US Food and Drug Administration registered the wand as a medical device for relieving sore muscles and tension. However, the wand was largely popularized by sex educator Betty Dodson for its effectiveness in helping people achieve orgasm by using the massager on their genitals.

Betty Dodson held workshops in the early 1970s, where she taught people about the sexual benefits of using the Hitachi Magic Wand. In her “Bodysex” workshops, Dodson would have up to fifteen nude women each use a wand on their clitoris in a room together for two hours. In her 1974 book, Liberating Masturbation, and in multiple adult magazine interviews, Dodson recommended the wand be used to aid in masturbation. Through her workshops using the Magic Wand, Dodson taught thousands of women how to have an orgasm, making it into a liberating sexual icon for many women in the early 1970s.

The Hitachi Magic Wand was popularized by women at the time for two reasons: 1) it focused the attention of mastubation on the clitoris as opposed to penetration, allowing more women access to orgasms, and 2) since the massager was used as a vanilla household product, it was more discreet than a dildo would be if someone happened to come across it. Because these massagers could be purchased from home goods stores such as Macy’s, women felt more comfortable buying the massagers than other, less discreet sex toys at the time.

In 1977, Good Vibrations opened its first feminist sex shop and sold the wand, dubbing it “the Cadillac of vibrators.” Over the years, the Hitachi Magic Wand became a best seller in sex shops across the country and the product was more well known for its sexual applications.

In 1979, the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology published a study on Female Sexual Arousal Disorder, where Magic Wands were given to subjects who had notable issues reaching orgasm. They concluded that using the Hitachi Magic Wand was the most effective treatment for those in the study, opening up more opportunities for women to try the wand as a masturbation tool. 

When Hitachi and their US distributor split in 2000, Hitachi moved to stop producing the wands due to the popularization of them as a sex toy, although Magic Wand Retailers in the UK and other countries continued to sell them. However, Hitachi did team up with Vibretex, a sex toy distributer, to continue producing to meet the market demands in the US after the wand was featured on a 2002 episode of Sex in the City.

Babeland, a newer feminist sex shop, published a book in 2002 called Sex Toys 101, where their founders dubbed the toy the “Rolls-Royce of vibrators,” echoing the earlier claims of Good Vibrations.

In 2013, Hitachi decided to drop the Magic Wand from their productions again in order to distance their respectable technology company from the sex toy industry. Their US distributor, Vibretex, convinced Hitachi to continue producing the wands following some slight changes to the product and a complete rebranding without the Hitachi name. Magic Wand retailers in the US continued to sell the wand, now called “The Original Magic Wand.”

Since then, the Magic Wand Rechargeable (2015) and Magic Wand Plus (2019) have been released, bringing notable upgrades to the wand including multiple speeds, patterned settings (on the Magic Wand Rechargeable only), and a safer, silicone head. The Magic Wands continue to be a vastly popular sex toy–even to the point where they now lack the discreetness they once provided in the 1970s.

Sex educator Carly sports the Hitachi Magic Wand tattooed on her middle finger.

I asked Carly, a sex educator from New York who has a Magic Wand tattooed on her hand, what she thought about the Magic Wand. “It’s unapologetic in its size and its power,” she said, “It shows you to not judge a book by its cover and try new things.” 

In the year 2020, the Magic Wand lives on as a feminist icon. In the rise of feminism, this product played a big role in giving women everywhere access to their own sexual pleasure. The reputation of the Magic Wand has lived on through generations of women. Despite Hitachi’s attempt to distance itself from this claim to fame, it has made a mark on history within not only the sex toy industry, but also on a huge social movement into sex-positive feminism.

   

This article was sponsored.
As always, all opinions are my own.

xx SF

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