“I would love it if a guy pulled out one of those, because then it would show that he’s aware of my pleasure. I think it’s a considerate gesture,” said Kate, a 28-year-old publicist with shoulder-length brunet hair.
Eleanor, 26, a lithe blond fashion writer, lamented: “They’re really hard to turn on once everything gets slippery. We spent a good five minutes trying to turn the thing on before we finally gave up!”
And Harriet, a 31-year-old Southern blond with bangs who works at the United Nations—all the names for this piece have been changed—was elated to share her recent discovery with a friend. “Oh, my God, oh, my God,” she shrieked on the street when they met. “Have you ever heard about the vibrating ring? It’s a little a ring that goes on the penis and at the top there’s a tiny little vibrator and when you’re having sex it touches right on your clitoris and it’s amaaazing.”
Her friend, also 31, who works in fashion, was confused. “You mean a cock ring?”
“No—it’s a little ring and it has a little tiny battery,” Harriet explained. The two young women went in search of a sex shop.
They needn’t have bothered. Any Duane Reade could have sold them the apparatus—discreetly packaged to look exactly like a box of condoms, save for the fine print, and openly displayed among the rainbow-colored racks of condoms for sale throughout the city’s pharmacies and many grocery stores.
The price of the Trojan brand of vibrating ring—$9.95 for a box containing one ring and one optional condom thrown in for good measure—has recently hurled the rascally ring within the orbit of many a New York gal’s weekly Duane Reade run, tossed into the basket along with the lip gloss, Crest White Strips, Us Weekly and Vitamin Water. “Oh, that’s not a weird product at all,” said a friendly employee at the Duane Reade on Broadway and 18th Street, when asked about the vibrating rings. “It’s pretty popular as far as I can tell.”
Indeed. According to Jim Daniels, vice president of marketing at Trojan Brand Condoms, sales at New York City Duane Reade stores of the Trojan vibrating ring—the regular, the higher voltage “Extra Intense,” the “Duo,” the “Magnum,” and an “Elexa” model packaged in a more feminine box—are up 46 percent since 2006. Sales of the product at New York City grocery stores are up 115 percent. (Other condom companies—LifeStyle, Durex—also sell their own versions of the vibrating ring.)
Nationwide, according to Trojan, sales of the rings grew 74 percent last year, to 750,000. (Mr. Daniels said he doled out bronze replicas to each member of the development team to commemorate the launch.) Trojan concentrated its initial campaign on Manhattan, and two years later, sales in the city still skew slightly higher than elsewhere in the country.
It should come as no surprise: After Sex and the City, New York women are far less squeamish about laying down cash for some electric bugaloo. Whether the fellas are as eager to drop 10 bucks on a device that is meant to be worn like a cheap bow tie on the base of one’s love warrior during the act and serves to increase the female partner’s pleasure is an open question. After all, men can get edgy about electricity “down there,” even if it’s just coming from a small battery. The prospect of jolting one’s Jimmy in the process could prove a hurdle to some. And visually, both men and women tend to agree, the product is hardly arousing: a latex ring adorned with one or two tiny, barrel-shaped vibrators, covered in stubby rubber tentacles.
So—is it a buzzkill, or a buzzthrill?
At a Christmas party on the Upper East Side last December, the aforementioned object of female desire was one of the last gifts left standing in a game of Secret Santa. There it was, next to a mini-bottle of Jägermeister: a vibrating cock ring.
“I had told everyone about how it doesn’t work,” said Neel, a 24-year-old writer who was at the party and clearly felt the need to stand up for his own, old-fashioned, unvibrating manhood. “I said that there was no effect. It didn’t do anything and just made you feel silly.”
A young woman nevertheless opened the box and unwrapped one of the little gummy prosthetics. She held it up, turned it on.
Everyone watched as the mechanical beast writhed about on a table like a wounded moth.
“They seemed intrigued, but slightly disturbed,” said Neel of the women in attendance.