Now that single women officially outnumber married ones in the United States, it's worth remembering that it was New York feminists in the seventies who first advanced the idea — long before Maureen Dowd made her first pop-culture reference — that men might not be so necessary. (At least, not until fish started needing bicycles.) And what did those activists say could take the place of men? Vibrating sex toys, says 85-year-old Dell Williams, founder of Eve's Garden on West 57th Street, which she claims was the first sex shop in the city owned and run by women. "Vibrators are a girl's best friend, not diamonds," she says. She recalls with particular fondness "The Rabbit," a bedside companion first introduced in the eighties that ran on three batteries. "It had a clitoral stimulator that looked like a rabbit. It appeared in Sex and the City and suddenly became very popular." Williams, a divorced former actress and advertising exec who opened her shop in 1978, says that three-decade-old books on feminine fulfillment — like Betty Dodson's Sex for One and Lonnie Barbach's For Yourself — remain best-sellers at Eve's Garden. "Marriage hasn't done that well for women in our society," she says. "Think of all the violence, all the prejudice. Marriage is not so great for women, and women are saying, 'I'm not so sure this is what I want.'" She doesn't rule out giving marital life another try herself, though. With one condition: "I would have to have my own bedroom." —Mary Reinholz
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