I would argue that sex toys can make very appropriate gifts, but that it matters very much who the receiver is.
My husband and I buy sex toys for each other all the time, but not as gifts. Some of our best non-sexual together times are spent looking at the latest toys, reading the reviews, and telling each other what we would do to each other if we ever got our hands on that toy. These verbal sex games often lead to more physical demonstrations of our lust. In short, the mere act of thinking and talking about acquiring a new sex toy can enhance the sex life of both giver and receiver. However, for us, it is the act of exploring the possibilities together that is hot. For that reason, we do not normally buy them as surprise gifts. So, for me, sex toys can certainly be appropriate gifts within a relationship. Indeed, we are so comfortable with the whole concept of sex toys that our Christmas tree this year is going to be decorated with various toys from our ever-growing collection.
But what about buying a sex toy as a gift for somebody you are not in a relationship with and have no immediate plans or desires to get hot and sweaty with?
It is quite common in this country to have sex toys at a stag or hen party, as a 'gift' for the man or woman soon to be married. Inflatable sheep with a 'functioning' orifice might make an appearance at a stag party, for example. In the (often boisterous) spirit of these parties, it seems to me that sex toys, either the silly gag gift variety or the quality ones for serious use, are appropriate gifts.
So now we come to my original question: Would you buy a sex toy for your Mad Aunty Mabel?
OK, I admit it; I once considered buying vibrators for my Mother and sister. I happen to believe that every woman should have a vibrator (more than one, actually) and my husband agrees with me. It was linked with my wish that sex could be one of the subjects that I could talk to some members of my family about. When, in reality, apart from a few conversations with my sister, I couldn't. I cannot imagine buying sex toys for a relative - there is too much emotional baggage involved for this to be a non-taboo subject.
So, in short, no, I wouldn't buy a sex toy for my Mad Aunty Mabel.