Technological Innovation Has Finally Produced Vibrating Underpants

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Jan. 8 2014 2:17 PM

Technological Innovation Has Finally Produced Vibrating Underpants

At this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, sex-toy company OhMiBod unveiled the future of masturbatory innovation: The blueMotion massager, due out in March, which takes that old-school Victorian-style vibrator and puts it straight … into your underpants. The device, which retails for $129, comes with a one-size-fits-all vibrating panty liner outfitted with a Bluetooth chip, allowing it to connect with a smartphone so that users (or partners) can control the pulse and intensity of the vibration. For its next trick, blueMotion also allows users to record a song or message on the device then set the vibration to the pattern. May I suggest: “You just paid $129 to have this message rumble into your underwear.”

Commentators have called the device “smart underwear” and “high-tech panties” that will “take sexting to another level." I suppose it constitutes a technological achievement that someone has figured out a way to lodge a vibrator in our waistbands without the assistance of human hands. And I haven’t actually stuck the thing down my own pants—maybe it’s a revelation! But I’m not sure that panty placement is the place where sex toys really require innovation. "Wearable tech" might be this season's big fad, but there’s plenty of work to be done to raise the standard for regular, everyday vibrators that include no sartorial component. With the exception of a few high-end boutique companies, the sex-toy industry is still teeming with devices that suffer from cheap materials, lazy design, gross packaging, lax customer service, mismatched price tags, and a lack of real firepower.

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For a long time, cheap and easy have been a viable business strategy for sex-toy manufacturers. The problem with an effective, elegant, and durable vibrator is that a woman can buy just one and treasure it for a long time—meaning that she’s less likely to head back to the sex shop every few months in search of a toy that really hits the spot. In order to keep people buying, many innovators in the sex industry focus on dreaming up novelty gags (it’s like a vibrator—but for your pants!) at the expense of crafting lifelong companions. (When, in 2009, star sex-toy reviewer Epiphora road-tested OhMiBod’s “high-tech” iPod-attachment vibrator, a predecessor to blueMotion, it died in the middle of her second session—before she had the opportunity to sync its vibrations with Train’s “Drops of Jupiter.”)  And because the sex industry is still stigmatized, it’s been free to push out lower-quality products because it benefits from the lack of fierce industry competition and public accountability that accompany the design of objects like household appliances and mobile phones.

I predict that the blueMotion vibrator will be a hit at bachelorette parties—meaning, it will inspire more naughty giggles than genuine moans. It’s the penis pasta of vibrators: Sure, it’s edible, but do you really want to serve it every night?

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 

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