Heroes of Masturbation - Dell Williams

Heroes of Masturbation - Dell Williams

My hero of masturbation for today is Dell Williams, founders of the sex toy shop Eve's Garden.  

A lot of people are familiar with Good Vibrations in San Fransisco, which is often considered the grandmothers of women-friendly, sex positive, sex toy shops.  Did you know that Eve's Garden in Manhattan actually preceded it?

Dell Williams was inspired to action when she attended one of Betty Dodson's body sex workshops.  She wanted to get her own Magic Wand (and why wouldn't you)  but found that the only place to buy it was a department store.  The staff there made her feel uncomfortable and shamed her for wanting the vibrator.  She wanted to create a place where women could buy vibrators without shame.

In 1974, she started Eve's Garden in Manhattan.  At first she ran is out of her own home, mainly by appointment and mail order.  She carried only a few products.  Sourcing good quality products in designs, shapes and materials that fit her sex positive, women-friendly aesthetic was extremely difficult in 1974.  The Magic Wand was her major product. In fact, Williams was one of the major contributors to the success of the Hitachi Magic Wand in the USA - purchasing hundreds of them for distribution to her clients.

The demand for William's service eventually allowed her to take up a space outside her home, in a Manhattan office building.  Eve's Garden still operates out of an office building on the West Side of Manhattan.  It offers a curated selection of toys as well as support, advice, and workshops on sexuality.

Williams was among the first of a group of sex shop owners that started a push for more and better quality toys, eventually resulting in the explosion of options we have today.  She was a pioneer in a field that was not at all friendly to women at the time and helped to carve a space for those to follow.   It's because of her and those who were inspired by her that I get to do what I do.

Williams passed away four years ago in 2015.  Her store remains, with a new manager, but with the same sex-positive ethic that started it.

If you'd like to know more about Dell and the history of feminist sex shops, check out Lynn Commela's amazing book, Vibrator Nation.


Tags: dell williams eve's garden history masturbation month