Good Vibrations Founder Joani Blank Dies

SAN FRANCISCO—Joani Blank, the woman who founded the sex-positive Good Vibrations adult retail store in San Francisco and was the inventor of the Butterfly vibrator, died Saturday, Aug. 6, of pancreatic cancer.

Blank died at home, surrounded by her family. She was 79.

In a Facebook post, daughter Amika Sergejev said her mother took the news of her cancer diagnoses in June “like a champ and did like she always does … got down to business and handled logistics and preparations. She chose to have a Celebration of Life rather than a funeral, and at her celebration lat week, she was able to say her goodbyes and feel the love of her community.”

Blank opened Good Vibrations—the second feminist sex-positive store (the first was Dell Williams’ Eve’s Garden in New York City)—in 1977. 

“The world has lost a sex-positive pioneer,” said Lynn Comella, Ph.D., associate professor of gender and sexuality studies at University of Nevada Las Vegas and author of Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed The Business Of Pleasure (forthcoming). “When Joani Blank founded Good Vibrations in 1977, she broke the mold. She brought to life an alternative vision of what a vibrator shop could be—wholesome, comfy, and women-friendly, with an emphasis on sex education. In doing so, she inspired other female entrepreneurs to follow in her footsteps. Little did she know at the time that she’d be helping generations of people—gay and straight, young and old, married and single—improve their sexual lives and relationships and, importantly, simply feel better about themselves. Joani was a dear and valued friend, and I will miss her deeply.”

From  its humble beginnings in 1977 to its current status as a thriving business with several stores on two coasts, Good Vibrations has remained consistent to the philosophy that “pleasure is your birthright.” The Good Vibrations model transformed the industry and brought about a profound philosophical shift together with major changes in product development, innovation and safety, including their ecorotic rating system enabling customers to easily identify which products are the most sustainable, and why.

Blank also was the founder of Down There Press in 1975. The company was known for publishing sex-related books. Blank was the author of several books in her lifetime, including A Kid’s First Book About Sex, The Playbook for Women About Sex and The Playbook for Men About Sex

Blank was a cohousing enthusiast and a volunteer for various social issues and a philanthropist. She was inducted into the AVN Hall of Fame in 2011.

“This fierce revolutionary woman has taught us all so much,” her daughter wrote in her post. “She has done so many things in her full days here on earth.”

Friends, colleagues and fans of Blank shared their condolences and memories of the sexuality pioneer on social media as the news of Blank’s passing was shared.

“We love you Joani Blank and are forever grateful that you helped make the world a more sex positive place,” Good Vibrations posted on its official Twitter. “#GoodVibrations forever JB RIP.”

Metis Black, founder of Tantus Inc., posted, “I met Joani Blank only a couple of times but I am in her debt for my career in so many ways. Thank you RIP.”

“Sad Joani Blank died yesterday,” wrote Annie Sprinkle. “She was a wonderful person in so many ways.”

“Rest in power Joani Blank,” wrote Tristan Taormino. “What a legacy she leaves behind.”

Blank is survived by her daughter and grandchildren.