The High-Tech, High Design World of Sex Toys
There’s a revolution underway in sex toy design.
Sex toys have a long and checkered history. Legend has it that Cleopatra created the first vibrator from a gourd filled with buzzing bees. Centuries later, in China, dildos were made from stone, wood, and bronze. During the Industrial Revolution, physicians used the newly-invented electric vibrator to treat women with “hysteria.” These designs were primitive, but they were all built according to the technology available at the time. And as technology has advanced, so has sex toy design, writes Rita Catinella Orrell in her new book, Objects of Desire: “The cheaply made…novelty products once relegated to shelves in seedy XXX shops now find themselves greatly outnumbered by sleek designs made from proven or still emerging technologies—teledildonics, app-controlled devices, and 3D-printed designs, for example.” The book catalogs the new marketplace for sex toys, one that’s filled with award-winning, high-tech products.
Jimmyjane was founded by Ethan Imboden (now head of venture products at frog, we’ve spoken with Imboden previously about sex toy design). The award-winning Bay Area company makes high-end sex toys, and renowned designer Yves Béhar designed the company’s first product. In 2013, Jimmyjane released Hello Touch. The vibrator device features a power source that wraps around the wrist, and connects to pulsating silicone pads that slip onto fingertips. It gives the human hand a bionic touch.
DilDIY by Cunicode
One of 3-D printing’s biggest selling points is its potential for customization—and what’s more personal than the products people use for pleasure? Cunicode, a design shop in Barcelona, launched in 2013 to apply additive manufacturing technologies to a line of dildos, called DilDIY. Bernat Cuni, the designer, has a concept app that lets users design and order products. In the future, he plans to incorporate design inputs that will let users customize features like the toy’s volume.
The Trainer Toyfriend
Kjell B. Persson
In the 1970s, an industrial chemist and entrepreneur named Gosnell Duncan introduced adult toy makers to silicone, and helped usher in a materials revolution for erotic product design. Silicone gained appeal thanks to its body-safe and easy-to-clean properties; today, the soft and sensual material is still a favorite among toy designers. The Trainer Toyfriend, from Tickler, is made out of it. The exercise device is something of a two-for-one, in that it helps to strengthen kegel muscles, which can weaken after childbirth, promoting better bladder control and more satisfying sex.
If Georgia O’Keefe designed sex toys, they would look like the Sono Love, a conceptual device (also made from silicone) inspired by the shape of a manta ray and an orchid. Polish designer Patrycja Domanska created it for her diploma work in 2009, so it’s not technically on the market. The idea, however, is provoking: most erotic products either mimic human anatomy or have a clear this-goes-here directive. The Sono Love does neither, in an attempt to spark the user’s imagination.
The recent revolution in adult toy design has seen advances in materials, but it’s also helped to dispel the sense that these products should be taboo. To combat that notion, designers are creating increasingly sophisticated products, with the hopes that customers won’t feel the need to hide them in their sock drawers. Vesper, a design by San Francisco company Crave, does this with audacity: the stainless steel, bullet-like vibrator doubles as a necklace.
Tenga Co. LTD.
Tenga, a Japanese company founded by a former mechanic, is prolific. The company specializes in masturbation aids, and even won a Red Dot Award in product design for its Tenga 3D line. The all-white devices are made from flexible, 3-D printed antibacterial plastic, and each features a different texture—polygonal, or stacked triangular protrusions—to create unique sensations.
Blue Leather Tassel Strap
Shiri Zinn is a conceptual artist who makes luxury sex toys. Specifically, she makes high-end harnesses out of materials like glass or embroidered satin. This blue lambskin one comes outfitted with a ceramic dildo (not pictured), but there’s genuine artistry in the fringe that covers the wearer’s backside; it skips the typical erotic tropes—typically produced for men—in favor of abstract and geometric designs.