Sex Toy Story

You can't buy a vibrator in Burleson, but there are plenty of dildos

Ah, the good old days.

They didn't last. When stag films started featuring vibrators in the 1920s, the ads faded from respectable women's publications. No more shopping for sex in the "wish book."

With feminism and the sexual revolution, the vibrator made a comeback in the '70s. There was no doubt this time about its intended use: It was usually shaped like an erect penis, made from lifelike latex, with external nodes for additional stimulation. Today, some models light up, talk ("ooh baby!") or feature rotating ridges, like the Rabbit Pearl model featured on Sex and the City.

Selling sex and satisfaction: At a Passion Party outside Johnson County, Joanne Webb passes around her wares. Only 10 percent of her sales are for vibrators.
Mark Graham
Selling sex and satisfaction: At a Passion Party outside Johnson County, Joanne Webb passes around her wares. Only 10 percent of her sales are for vibrators.
Joanne Webb has Teri Dees, left, and Deja Allen laughing as they pass around the merchandise at a Passion Party.
Mark Graham
Joanne Webb has Teri Dees, left, and Deja Allen laughing as they pass around the merchandise at a Passion Party.

Medical treatment for sexual dysfunction sometimes includes the use of vibrators. For women who have difficulty reaching orgasm--some studies show two-thirds of women can't climax through intercourse alone--vibrators can transform frustration into fantasy fulfillment.

In Texas, says BeAnn Sisemore, you can sell a Rabbit Pearl to stick on top of a cake. But selling one to a woman and explaining how to use it is illegal.

Sisemore sits in her office decorated with cherubs and nymphs and Victorian girls in gilded frames. Wearing high heels and a pantsuit with a fur-collared jacket, she's a bulldozer disguised as a girly-girl. She's filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of five other Passion Party reps challenging the Texas statute that got Joanne arrested.

Widowed at 24 and still single in her 50s, Sisemore says she attended one of Joanne's Passion Parties and learned more about her sexuality than she had during marriage and years of dating. "I'm from Mineral Wells," she says. "I was raised a Southern lady. She might do it in the back of a car, but she doesn't make any noise. I never said the word orgasm out loud until I took this case. I had never heard about my G-spot. I didn't know they had a cream that would make you more sensitive."

Sisemore whips out a package of condoms and points out that they are not approved by the FDA for either contraception or protection from sexually transmitted diseases. They're marketed to increase genital stimulation.

"Why aren't they raiding Wal-Mart?" she asks. "What about Bob Dole and Viagra? A woman's device is criminal, but a man's device is a blessing. I think that is bullshit! This is about a woman's right as a person, whether with another person or alone, to be as sexual as she wants to be."

A Righteous Fox

From the beginning, the Webbs were a sensual couple. Some would say too sensual.

When Chris Webb saw the girl with long copper-colored hair greeting people at the Baptist Student Union, he turned to his friend Dan Castro and said, "Now there's a righteous fox."

Nineteen years old and a virgin, Chris was looking for a wife. Despite his commitment to God, Chris knew he was what St. Paul might have called "a burner." (I Corinthians 7:9: "But if they cannot contain, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn.") Moses and Abraham had gorgeous and godly wives; Chris believed God would bless him with a "righteous fox."

Chris' buddy eyed the conservatively dressed Joanne. "She just radiated beauty," says Castro, now an attorney in Austin. "All the guys wanted to date her." Then Castro looked at Chris--curly blond hair, 5-foot-6, Coke-bottle eyeglasses--and said, "You don't stand a chance."

After accepting Christ in the fourth grade, Chris was so on fire for God that he was licensed to preach by the age of 16. In 1978, attending the University of Texas at San Antonio on an ROTC scholarship, Chris witnessed on the street, in pool halls, anywhere he could reach people who'd never set foot in a church. He prided himself on being a renegade for God.

Joanne, a Catholic who'd been "born again," liked the Baptist Student Union because it was the most active Christian group on campus. But she had a boyfriend. Besides, Chris was too cocky and flirtatious. Chris considered his beguiling ways a ministry, building up the self-esteem of others--usually women.

They became friends, but Joanne kept her distance. After breaking up with her boyfriend, she began praying for a man with a passion for God. Chris kept coming to mind. He was so intelligent and funny. They could talk about anything.

Their first date was a Halloween costume party. By Thanksgiving they were engaged. They set a date for the following summer. But a lot of kids at the student union didn't think the match was made in heaven. "In the circles we were running in," Castro says, "everything you did was under scrutiny for how spiritual you were." Castro and others saw in Chris the warring of two natures: the spiritual and the sensual.

"A lot of people had problems with us as a couple," Joanne says. "I was too sweet, and he was too brash." And their ardor too blatant. At one point, the director of the student union pulled them aside and cautioned them: "I'm reminded of the marriage bed." They had no clue what he was talking about; they weren't sleeping together. Joanne had experienced only one sexual relationship, and Chris was still a virgin.

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