Tuesday, November 8, 2016

12 Things I Learned On My Sex Toy Factory Tour!

Butt plugs patiently awaiting their destiny
“It's kind of like Wonka's Chocolate Factory, but for sex toys :-),” emailed Erica Braverman, Communications and PR Manager for Doc Johnson, inviting me to tour their North Hollywood factory.

The 215,000 square ft sex toy factory, the largest in North America, once housed a novelty company until Ron Braverman, Erica's father, bought the business in 1976 and ditched everything but the sex toys. “A few of our initial product offerings included our 8” Classic Dong, Motion Lotion, and our Classic Butt Plug in three sizes,” says Erica. In a market where it's now not (that) weird to use the word “classic” when describing a butt plug, Doc Johnson is thriving, cranking out 2,500 different products, 75% of them made in America.

When I got to the factory, instead of being greeted by a chocolate river—which, for the record, would have been nice--there were gigantic cans of mystery substances labeled enigmatically, like “black jelly base, fresh breeze scent.” And, to my delight, the factory floor truly was Wonka-esque. Everywhere I looked, there were brightly colored sex toys being molded, shaped, and otherwise being handled in a way that would constitute sexual harassment were they real body parts.

After popping my eyes back into my head, I managed to learn a few things about sex toys and the industry as a whole. Namely:

--People put some big-ass stuff up their holes.
There were butt plugs half the size of traffic cones, dildos the size of a grown man's forearm, and if that wasn't gonna do the trick, dildos shaped like actual arms. There were not just a few of these supersizers to service a niche market of people with especially receptive orifices, there were a lot. Stacks everywhere.

--Flavored lubes are no longer just that one cloying strawberry flavor.
There is an insanely huge array of lubes, gels and body icings to make your partner's private parts taste less like private parts and more like marshmallow fluff, red licorice or red velvet cake. A cinnamon bun spray I tried was surprisingly good. (For a more literal interpretation of “cinnamon bun,” there's a hot cinnamon anal lube, perhaps so you can freshen your breath while licking someone's ass. #Multitasking.) Inexplicably, ye olde strawberry is still the top seller. I imagine that they're shipping most of these back to 1975, but I didn't ask.

--The person molding your next strap-on is most likely a kindly-looking Latino woman in her 40s or 50s.
Doc's line workers move diligently and efficiently, weaving pubes onto disembodied vulvas or hot ironing genitalia to get it just so. As they brusquely power sand various body parts—a sight which is extremely difficult not to anthromorphize--most wear the kind of expression of someone who could be just as easily be slapping labels on cans of peas. Long inured to the sight of a big pile of unpainted dildos awaiting their attention, their demeanor is somewhere between “Sigh, these realistic veins aren't gonna paint themselves” and a serenity akin to companionable silence of a longtime sewing circle, but with pubic hair.

--Sex cosmetics are a thing and it's a huge market.
Sex cosmetics promise all kinds of magical-sounding benefits and include everything from sprays that plump lips, prevent dry mouth and numb the throat for optimal oral sex to lubes that warm, cool and/or enhance sensitivity. There's a Sta-Erect cream, a prolonging spray and all manner of arousal gels including a new “liquid vibrator” that somehow starts vibrating after application which, if you must know, I'm too afraid to try. There's also fake cum (several types!) as well as faux pee.

--What, exactly, is the taste of faux pee?
If it's from a Piss Off cock, that would be “tropical.”

--There is a real artist behind what you're putting in your behind.
Doc's sculptor/artist's is Anjani Siddhartha, an earthy, sexy woman of indeterminate age who is currently working on a toy that looks like a finial for a curtain rod. Like that bad recurring 1993 SNL skit where the shopkeeper saw everything through the lens of “you can put your weed in it,” Siddhartha looks at everything—yes, including your finials—to see could be made fuckable. Surprisingly often, the answer is yes.

--Fake vaginas, like real ones, are full of mystery.
My three takeaways.
--Fake vaginas have no curb appeal. All the good stuff is near the entry point and inside, so the outside is just kind of a flesh colored rubbery rectangle. Thus, packaging on fake Vs is hugely important.
--There is no preference in labia shape or size. Any woman still worried about her own equipment can stop this very second.
--Porn stars regularly come in to have molds taken of their body parts. For the female porn stars molds, the labia is an accurate, spot-on re-creation, but the inside is generic, that is, pussy approximate.

--Sex toy exec really read those online user product reviews.
Even the weird ones like this Amazon review for the Belladonna's Magic Hand, black which reads “...easy to clean and don't smell too bad.”

--The Next Big Thing is anal.
"Toys for heterosexual man are a huge emerging market,” says Erica. “Straight men are discovering they have a prostate, which basically like the female g-spot.” To facilitate these tentative explorers, Doc has several beginner anal training kits, with sets of butt plugs, a vibrator and lube, so you can “kind of work your way up,” says Erica. She likens their popularity to the appeal of well-stocked makeup kits. You might not use all those eye shadows (or...butt plugs) but it's fun to have the array of options.

--Branding has made it to the sex toy industry.
Before sex toys went mainstream, you got what you got, style-wise—generally that style statement was a combo of utilitarian and sleazy. Now it's kinda gauche to stick just any old thing between your legs. High-end stuff that's more artsy/less body part-looking is big, like the Tryst Multi-Erogenous Zone Vibrator. Branding at Doc's includes the upscale, GQ-ish OptiMALE line, a line with Kink.com full of black leather and fucking machines, and WonderLand, with toys packaged like a whimsical fairy tale book. If a Tim Burton character needed to take the edge off, they would for sure reach for a WonderLand toy.

--At Doc Johnson, there is no official job of Product Tester.

--Not all factory tours end with some sort of poetic comeuppance, ala Wonka tours.
That is, I was not overfucked by an onslaught of dildos for my sin of Lust. Still unsure if that's good or bad. 

jill, home now with a huge bag of swag.

This article originally appeared on AlterNet as "11 Amazing Things I Learned at Touring a Sex Toy Factory." Meaning, yes, you got a bonus bit of knowledge.


ValdVin said...

It's kind of like Wonka's Chocolate Factory, but for sex toys :-)

I invite you to hunt up an episode of Adult Swim's cartoon "Lucy, The Daughter of the Devil" called "Dildo Factory". (It's not for children, but is not more raw than basic cable.) I have a feeling you've got the slightly off-center humor to enjoy it.

Jill Hamilton said...

ooh, i will check it out! thanks ValdVin! ps still to afraid to try the scary vibrating gel. not that you asked.

Mongo, At The Moment said...

You never disappoint, Jill; this is a terrific piece of writing. Fun and tasty, too, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

I LURV reading sex toy reviews, the strange mix between factual and pornographic information is so attractive. PS Left you a 10 $ tip today as you write so well!

in bed with married women said...

Thanks Mongo! so fun! I love a factory tour any but this? C'mon!

Anonymous, you did! what a great thing to wake up to--thanks!!

Anonymous said...

I have at home a glass dildo from edenfantasys, i dont think is dangerous like if it should be from plastic , the glass is more clear i think