Vibrators and other sex toys are readily accessible to customers at major national retailers, such as Walgreens and Walmart.
However, local grocery chain Metcalfe's Market decided that this week's edition of the Isthmus weekly newspaper, which depicts a half-dozen of the sexual massage devices on its cover, was inappropriate for the family atmosphere the store seeks to create.
Isthmus’ cover story, “Bringing sexy back,” describes a new vibrator that two locals designed for post-menopausal women and those recovering from cancer treatment, which often impairs women’s ability to experience sensual pleasure.
Store co-owner Tim Metcalfe informed the alternative weekly on Thursday that the store would not be displaying copies of this week’s paper in the store entrance at Hilldale Mall, next to other free weeklies, such as the Cap Times and The Onion.
Instead, Isthmus readers can request a copy of the publication at the customer service desk located near the front of the store.
Ellen Barnard is co-owner of the Willy Street shop, A Woman’s Touch, and one of the developers of the vibrator, called “Vaginal Renewal,” along with her partner, Dr. Myrtle Wilhite. Barnard says she is sad but not surprised by Metcalfe’s decision.
“We’ve been banned from putting vibrators in advertisements since we started,” she says of her store, which focuses on women's sexual health and pleasure. “We were actually asked not to in Isthmus years ago.”
In fact, she says, Wisconsin Public Radio declined her offer to advertise two years ago, citing concerns that such a sponsor could offend some listeners.
Barnard says she believes her business has been so effective at helping people seek counsel on sex topics because she accepts and “honors” people's various discomforts.
But, she points out, that discussion of female sexual dysfunction would provoke such discomfort reveals how female sexuality remains much more controversial than male sexuality.
Indeed, few American men can watch a football game without learning that, if they’re having any sexual difficulty, they should ask their doctor if Viagra is right for them.
Says Barnard: “We have sexual dysfunction ads on television -- for men.”
The old double standard continues.