The Rabbit Vibrator Episode

Love Your Rabbit Vibe? Here’s Who You Can Thank

In 1998, the first season of the now-iconic show Sex and the City was breaking new television ground episode by episode. The show’s quartet of empowered, outspoken female characters needs little introduction, but in the late ’90s, Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte were utterly novel in the TV landscape. Not only did these single women evoke independent, career-minded characters earlier played by Mary Tyler Moore and Fran Drescher, but they also enjoyed full, complex sex lives, spoke about sex openly and didn’t let their relationships with men interfere with their strong sense of self.

20 years later, there are an untold number of cultural changes we can attribute to Sex and the City’s legacy—in fact, too many to cover here, since they arguably run the gamut of everything from Jimmy Choo heels as a status symbol to single women’s diverse attitudes towards their sex lives. In honor of the first season’s 20th anniversary, we want to revisit one episode in particular. It not only broaches the subject closest to the heart of Cupid’s Box, but also left the show’s first and most immediately-felt cultural impact. We’re talking, of course, about the famous Rabbit vibrator episode.

The Buzz Heard Round the World

In Sex and the City season one, episode nine, Miranda, a level-headed and unsentimental lawyer, announces at brunch to the show’s other three central characters that she is “in love”—not with a man, but with a vibrator. And not just any vibrator, but the Rabbit, which offers both vaginal and clitoral stimulation at once, plus some vibrating pearls (in the original model) for good measure. 

Watching the episode today, it’s immediately apparent how much has changed in 20 years. To many women in 2018, a new vibrator might seem no more exotic a purchase than a new pair of shoes (which the ladies of Sex and the City famously had plenty of). But in the show, Miranda’s friends, while not quite scandalized, are initially dismissive of the idea that a vibrator could truly be enjoyable. They all voice their objections on the grounds that Miranda’s new best friend is merely a “substitute” for “the real thing,” and not a source of pleasure to be seriously considered. 

However, all that changes once Charlotte, the show’s most innocent and romantic character, test-drives a Rabbit for herself out of curiosity. She becomes so enamored of the toy that her friends essentially have to stage an intervention once Charlotte locks herself in her room with her new battery-powered lover. “Real thing” be damned—it turns out that Miranda was right, and that the satisfaction provided by the Rabbit is more than real enough.

The rest is history. After the episode aired, the sex toy landscape was hit by the buzz heard round the world. 

An Overnight Sensation

According to Forbes, the manufacturer of the original Rabbit vibe (yes, there used to be only one model on the market!) felt an immediate impact, with sales of the toy skyrocketing 700% over the next few years. Likewise, brick-and-mortar boutiques that distributed Rabbit vibrators and other sex toys awoke the next day to women practically lining up around the block to ask for the Rabbit by name, a phenomenon that was up until that point unprecedented.

Simply but powerfully, an hour of television had an overnight impact on the way thousands of American women perceived sexual pleasure broadly, and sex toys in particular. As an alternative to the message that they needed to wait for “the real thing”—whether it was Carrie’s want of a successful marriage, Samantha’s lust for a well-endowed partner, or Charlotte’s dream of the perfect romance—women were hearing something different from a mainstream outlet for the first time. Sex and the City portrayed taking pleasure into one’s own hands (literally) as something purely empowered, joyful, approachable and fun. The show’s glamorous characters were taking their independence one step further by embracing the idea that sexual pleasure—deeply satisfying, come-for-five-minutes pleasure—could be had with or without a partner, and entirely on one’s own time and terms. 

Beyond Episode Nine

This vastly more positive portrayal of sex toys themselves, as well as of their retailers, had an irreversible effect on the industry. Most obviously, the Rabbit vibrator became a phenomenon in and of itself. We weren’t lying when we mentioned above that there used to be a single Rabbit vibrator model available, offered by only one manufacturer. After Sex and the City sparked the Rabbit vibrator craze, hundreds of variations quickly appeared on the market, each putting their own spin on the iconic design. Now, some of those second- and third-wave vibrators are considered the best on the market (for example, the Happy Rabbit, which routinely appears on “Best Rabbit Vibrator” lists).

The show’s depiction of the toy itself as a pleasure powerhouse that’s also pink and chic did a lot of work towards demystifying sex toys, and also created a demand for luxury toys that were as sleek and attractive as they were functional (much like Carrie Bradshaw’s beloved Manolo Blahnik heels). Luxury sex toy design is a booming industry, with manufacturers like Lelo and Jopen offering beautifully designed, highly-specialized toys that fit seamlessly into user’s sex lives as well as into their tech lives.

Additionally, the show’s depiction of shopping for sex toys contrasted sharply with previous cultural stereotypes of sex toys and their sellers being inherently seedy or perverse. Far from it: its scene set in a chic-looking sex toy boutique, where the show’s fashionable characters openly shopped for vibrators and had fun doing it, upended viewer’s expectations of what the sex toy shopping experience might be like. The episode provided them with a true-to-life example of what a fun, non-intimidating and totally unashamed sex toy shopping experience could be like. If you’ve ever strolled into a local sex toy boutique and walked out with a double-eared new toy, or shopped for Rabbit vibrators online, you have Sex and the City and its fans to thank.

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