My take on the "Urn Vibrator" and why we need to respect design for our elders.

by Shawna Scott April 28, 2015

sex toy, vibrator, urn, perfume, memory box

Yesterday loads of my friends and acquaintances sent me links to a story about Mark Sturkenboom, a Dutch designer who created a kit for widowed women to remember their partners or spouses. It included lots of lovely things: an atomiser to hold the person's perfume, an iPod dock to play your special song, and a stunning gold key for the box that doubles as a pendant necklace. However the part that grabbed all the headlines, was a vibrator that would contain a small amount of the ashes of said deceased partner or spouse.

Much of the reaction to the kit, called 21 Grams after the belief that that is the weight of the human soul, was one of curiosity and discomfort. I think the reason for this is two fold - the morbidity of storing someone's ashes in something as intimate as a sex toy, never mind the fact that keeping someone's ashes is a fairly intimate thing in and of itself; and second, sadly, is the notion that people of a certain age don't or shouldn't have sex. 

With regards to the former, it really wasn't until the 20th century that people stopped taking momentos, liked locks of hair, from deceased relatives. My sister and I were obsessed with mourning brooches for a while, and would send each other links to the most elaborate ones we could find on Ebay and Etsy. Caitlin Doughty, author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, talks about them on her excellent web series - Ask a Mortician. An urn-brator, like the mourning brooch, mightn't be for everyone; but it can be a lovely way for some people to process the death while still feeling a connection to the person they loved. 

I can't fault Sturkenboom's design either. The hand blown glass in the classic shape with the beautiful gold capsule looks almost like a timepiece of some sort. The wooden box that it comes in tip toes a fine line between a vintage and futuristic aesthetic. It's something I would honestly love to have in my home. 

Now when it comes to the later, this is pure agism. It is very sad to see that while our life expectancy continues to go up and up, society's notions about what age demographic are allowed to have sex have stayed roughly the same. And even sadder still, that judgement is almost exclusively placed on the heads of older women. No one bats an eyelid, nor should they, when an older gentleman is given a prescription for the little blue pill, but the same cannot be said for sexually active post-menopausal women, who the media often use as the butt of cheap jokes. 

I was delighted when I read that 21 Grams was inspired by a real woman. I think that it's incredibly important that we continue to discuss, design, and create products for the older generation be they sexual in nature or not. Unfortunately the vast majority of products designed of older people are very utilitarian rather than for entertainment or recreational use. I love that 21 Grams, in both it's function and aesthetic, doesn't talk down to the user or infantilise them. It approaches the idea with both respect and empathy, something we all should bear in mind since that is where inevitably we all will be someday. 





Shawna Scott
Shawna Scott

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