A Thread Between “Marital Aids” and Social Ills


Sometimes you’ll read something or listen to some speech or discussion, and it’s like looking at a jumble of myriad colored strings.  Different topics will come up, and the writers or speakers clearly think they’ve moved on to something different, but still, some of the threads look like they’re of the same color.

That was the feeling I got from Matt Allen’s Uncut episode with marketer Dante Bellini of the RDW group.

The most prominent display of the hue in question could be seen in the way Bellini kept kind of skirting past Matt’s point about fixing the problem of fatherlessness as a solution to gun violence.   Digging into the statistics and the psychology of suicides and mass shooters, one common factor is the absence of a father in the household.  On a topic like gun violence, we can’t avoid the effects of human relationships, and to the extent that we’re reluctant to talk about them, we’re avoiding the deeper cultural illness, either because we can’t see it or we don’t want to see it.

That thread seemed also to run through Bellini’s anecdote about the Vermont Country Store, a classic, folksy, venerable, and somewhat-staid variety shop.  In a way that seemed like a mildly braggadocious recitation of a story he’s told many times before, Bellini described to Matt how, when he handled marketing for the company, he let slip to a reporter that they carried, let’s say, adult intimacy items, which became a big national story.  At first, Bellini said, the old man of the family business was furious, but business spiked and, presumably, materialism struck a blow for acceptance.

Now, some years later, I wasn’t able to find the items on the company’s Web site, and spokespeople haven’t responded to my inquiry as to whether they are hidden or not for sale or what, so I don’t know what the longer-term trajectory of that unexpected publicity might have been.  The key point, to me, is that Bellini, as its public relations consultant, changed the nature of the company’s image without telling its owners.  In his telling, they weathered the storm and even embraced the attention, but still, he didn’t get their approval.

The bigger point, though, is this:  At the very least, one could make the case that a vibrator as a “marital aid” (as Bellini referred to the device) is an indication that, on the whole, the marriage is indeed in need of some aid.  Now, I’m no prude, here, and I wouldn’t criticize individual couples for their decision to play around with these things.  As with matters of conscience, why people do a thing makes all the difference, and anybody else should be wary about judging unstated motives or the sincerity of those that are stated.

We can acknowledge that such things can be a playful part of a healthy marriage, however, without losing sight of the fact that they will often be a substitute for — and an indication of — something that’s missing.  The difference between those two sides of the question is the difference between The Vermont Country Store’s selling such products and Bellini’s slyly making national news of them.

Apparently, Dante Bellini has so thoroughly absorbed the cultural revolution that he thought it acceptable to trample over his client’s corporate sense of modesty without even asking.  It isn’t surprising that he would tend to skirt evidence that the same social standards are a leading factor in rising suicide rates and a tide of school shootings.

Our new mainstream culture holds that the tools of orgasm are good and that embarrassment about what they might indicate is silly.  Another manifestation of the same mentality might be the holding that the tools of death are bad and that the social changes behind their monstrous use is irrelevant.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    “Marital Aids” are depicted in ancient Egyptian art, perhaps it is time we just became more accepting. In the age of “sexbots” (I can’t imagine that, until they produce one that can cook) there are bigger questions.