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Sex toy company encourages shoppers to ‘Vibe It Forward’

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Illustration by Max Fleishman

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For women, few purchases are more personal than the acquisition of one’s first sex toy. Vibrators are as unique as the women who use them, and buying one for the first time is a rite of passage. Which is why Unbound co-founder Polly Rodriguez was so surprised when she discovered that many of her company’s customers were using different billing and shipping addresses when placing their orders.

“It turned out that a lot of people were buying vibrators and accessories as gifts for their friends, mainly female-to-female,” Rodriguez explained in an interview with the Daily Dot. “We thought that was just absolutely amazing and great and we wanted to capitalize on that and encourage more women to do [it].”

Founded in 2012, Unbound is best known for their Birchbox-style subscription sex toy service aimed at singles and couples who want to spice up their goodie drawers. At the beginning of 2016, the company launched a new initiative, Vibe It Forward, inspired by this purchasing pattern.

Here’s how it works: first, spend $100 or more on products for yourself in Unbound’s online store. Next, Unbound will send you a form to complete, asking for a friend’s contact information, with the option of adding a personalized note. Unbound will then send said friend a complimentary Iroha mini, a vibrator with a retail value of $24.99.

Rodriguez told the Daily Dot that, in addition to being a financially sustainable option, the Iroha mini is “a great introductory vibe.” Part of its appeal is its style—as a small, external vibrator, the Iroha mini can be used for clitoral stimulation, which 75 percent of women need in order to achieve orgasm. From a practical standpoint, this makes it an ideal gift for someone who isn’t used to larger, penetrative vibrators. 

Though Unbound was inspired to launch Vibe It Forward because of existing purchasing patterns, there is additional data to back up the their findings. Last fall, Swedish “intimate lifestyle” brand LELO found that, out of 2,000 women, 65 percent of women age 35 and under received their first vibrator from a friend. Although the gifting of sex toys among friends is less common in older demographics, 47 percent of women over 60 received their first vibrator from a partner. The trend of vibrator exchanges, then, is neither new or uncommon.

Rodriguez and her colleagues at Unbound feared a potential backlash to the new campaign, but s far, the response has only been positive. “People have been really excited to participate,” Rodriguez said. “We were nervous that people might react and say, ‘Oh my gosh, no, this is a really personal thing, I would never gift a vibrator to someone,’ but it’s been the opposite.”

Illustration by Max Fleishman

Carrie Nelson

Carrie Nelson

Carrie Nelson is a writer and documentary filmmaker. Nelson’s reporting for the Daily Dot focused on LGBTQ issues, feminism, and internet culture.