Masturbation Pioneer Dell Williams Dies at 92

Eva K./Wikimedia Commons
Eva K./Wikimedia Commons

In 1974 a department store clerk laughed at Dell Williams when she tried to buy a vibrator. Her response? To open up her own vibrator store, thus becoming the founder of the first sex shop catering just to women.

At her kitchen table, Williams founded what became Eve’s Garden, at first a mail-order business, eventually a store in an office building on West 57th Street on the West Side of Manhattan, and finally a website.

Williams became a champion for women’s masturbation. Defending Britney Spears’ 2003 song “Touch of my Hand,” Williams said, “In the past 50 years or so, even as medicinal and moral fears of masturbation have ebbed, but the stigma remains. Hopefully Britney’s honesty and her song can help women overcome feelings of embarrassment and instead embrace something so natural.”

Williams was a keen fan of masturbation dating back to when she took a workshop from masturbation evangelist Betty Dodson, who advocated the use of the “Hitachi Magic Wand,” a vibrator used for muscle relaxing. When Williams asked for one at Macy’s, “a pimply twenty-something” asked her ,“What do you want it for?”

Williams vowed to herself and all those who would come after — never again. Never again would a boy humiliate a woman who wants the tools of that particular kind of female empowerment.

These days her website sells a whole range of vibrators, including the “Rabbit” made famous by the show Sex in the City. You can also buy a “Fifty Shades of Grey Submit to Me Bondage Starter Kit.” And you can still buy the thing that started it all, the Hitachi Magic Wand, for $79.95.