Sex & Relationships

Why Using Sex Toys, Watching Porn, and Going Green Is an Easy Fit

From pedal-powered sex toy delivery services to recycling vibrators, the adult industry has actually made going green sexy.

On Friday the 13th of August 2004, Florida got the first of a series of hurricanes that would knock us even more senseless than we usually are. Crazy, dangerous days followed Hurricane Charley here in Orlando -- days with power lines littering the streets, Red Cross trucks bringing us ice and in the dark, sweltering nights without power. All news and light was dependent on batteries. I had batteries. Within 36 hours I used them all up in my vibrator.

I was not the only one. Nine months after the hurricanes, births in some central Florida hospitals shot up 21 to 26 percent according to USA Today.

Conservative Republicans who live in fear that someone, somewhere is having an orgasm, might do well to note this. People who don't have anything to do -- like work or spend money -- are free to have tons of wild, working-class sex. Sometimes the only optimistic thing in your life is an erection.

So it was a stroke of genius when Larry Flynt of Hustler and Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild, asked Congress for a $5 billion bailout for the porn industry. It was the first and only laugh anyone has provided in regard to the economy thus far, with two generations of porn kings pointing out that the emperor had no clothes. Some of us thought -- well I thought -- for the first time -- "Hey, yeah! WTF? Why do they get a bailout? Where's everyone else's bailout? Where's my bailout?"

Flynt has since owned up to the joke (remember, this is a guy whose use of satire got him sued -- unsuccessfully -- by Jerry Falwell in a landmark First Amendment case). He told the crowd at the XBiz State of the Industry conference that he's "anti-stimulus and anti-bailout," but also "I think we all need to support Obama," and. "There are people out there who are really hurting."

Dang! And we had the perfect plan to put the adult industry in the pink: having it go green.

"Obama has touted green energy as a way to create jobs and reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels. The stimulus includes money to boost alternative-energy products and increase efficiencies in buildings," says an Associated Press story on the stimulus plan.

With a president keen on the fact that renewable is do-able and a country keen to embrace green as the new black (if only because reduce, reuse, recycle is a cheaper way to live), we looked for some ways in which the adult industry can -- and already is -- making our sexual world and the world of adult entertainment as green as the Grinch's ass.

Green Filmmaking

"You can, in any line of work, bring in green thinking," actor and independent filmmaker Larry Fessenden (Wendigo, Habit) says in a phone interview. Fessenden was far ahead of the eco-friendly curve when he wrote Low Impact Filmmaking, A Practical Guide to Environmentally Sound Film & Video Production in 1992, a book that is now, appropriately enough, available online.

"Even something as simple as printing a script on both sides of the page," can make a difference, he says. And adult films are already a model of the industry. "There's a certain minimalism to porn," Fessenden says. "There's no large emphasis on the script, so not a lot of paper waste ... not a lot of effort made in terms of location or set building. Or costumes." He's joking ... somewhat.

"Another thing about porn ... it's found primarily on the Internet, which is the most eco-friendly delivery system of entertainment, as opposed to manufacturing and shipping DVDs." Some of Fessenden’s advice for Flynt and friends to go eco includes "make sure there's a good recycling program for his magazines," and when asked if passing them around would work, he goes me one further and suggests having them bound for future generations to enjoy. "Pick up green advertising," he says, and feature "more nude recyclers ... nude people building wind farms."

"They need to sex-up environmentalism," Fessenden says with a laugh, citing theSuper Bowl-banned PETA ad as an example of one attempt. "Let's change the meaning of 'Drill baby, drill' -- let's put it back in the bedroom and take it out of our wildlife refuges. Get people all hot and bothered about cooling the planet."

Use Nature as a Backdrop

Everyone loves sex in the great outdoors, especially if they've had a few and can't feel the ant bites, sunburn and bird poop that just hit their hair.

OK, unless you're totally shitfaced on dopamine, sex outdoors is often an awesomely uncomfortable experience that'll find you tweezing sand out of holes you didn't even know you had well into your golden years.

It looks like a good idea sometimes, though, the perfect way to be at one -- or two, or three -- with nature. Usually the dizzyingly fresh air contributes to this feeling of healthy horniness, but sometimes just the sight of a big sky, snowy mountain or majestic ocean can be stimulating.

Why not, then, make a few adult feature films in our magnificent national parks? Certainly the parks could use the PR and the site fees. Visitations to national parks were down by 800,000 overall in 2008, which isn't a terribly steep decline, but doesn't look great when compared to the increase of 275.6 million visitors in 2007. And viewers could benefit from such a beatific backdrop ... no one has to know where you got this great idea all of a sudden to go see the Badlands, or, gawdhelpus, Big Thicket. And what can't you do with a name like Grand Teton?

Recycle Sex Toys

OK, before I'm deafened by the collective "Eeew!", it's not what you think.

Dreamscapes LLC, an eco-friendly adult-products company out of Tampa, Fla., certified by the Institute for Green Business, recently started an innovative program where the public can send in their unwanted novelty items -- the Island of Misfit Sex Toys, as it were.

President and CEO David Kowalsky says Dreamscapes offers a 90-day guarantee on all products, and one day, in noticing items returned, he thought it didn't seem right to just give them a toss. In keeping with Dreamscapes’ green philosophies, he figured out a way to recycle them. The products are first cleaned and then taken apart.

"Say it's a programmable multispeed vibrator," Kowalsky says. "The plastic shell is removed. The silicone computer chip is taken out, the motor is put into a separate bin, the rubber or silicone is separated from that, and then after we have 100 weight of different materials, we send it off to recyclers."

A variety of companies buy the recycled materials and makes items, from handbags to tabletops, out of it, and yes, they do make sure the companies they deal with, which are all domestic, know where the materials come from. Since beginning the program in December, Kowalsky says, 600 individuals have sent in old toys to Dreamscapes and why not? You get $10 off on a future Dreamscapes purchase as an incentive for more good green fun.

Pedaling Sex

Larry Fessenden says that the Web is the greenest way to deliver entertainment, but what about by bicycle? We just had to give the nod to Chicago's Antony Mikrut, who started a 24-hour sex toy bike courier service in the Chicago area because -- one supposes -- sometimes at 3 a.m. your partner and your own dexterity just aren't enough.

The only footprint such a delivery service is leaving is in the Chicago snow.

Interestingly for Kinky Llama, Mikrut's company, he says his shipping business is 98 percent men while his delivery business is to women, and 98 percent of which he takes to mean that when women want it they want it now. Wise man, Antony Mikrut.

Working What You've Got

At a time when a lot of people can't afford the luxury of sex toys, or even the batteries to use in them, learning to use our own bodies more effectively is the ultimate green solution, and maybe a few instructional videos might be a good, inclusive and lucrative idea.

"When you learn how to use your breath, sound and movement to enhance your turn-on and expand your orgasm, you don't require batteries," says Sheri Winston, founder of the Center for the Intimate Arts and teacher of "wholistic sexuality," which emphasizes breathing techniques, vocalizations (in other words, moaning as loud as you like and not caring what the neighbors think) and the use of the pelvic muscles to make your orgasms bigger, better, more (as a novice student, I've already gotten the benefits of it).

"The greenest bedroom doesn't need plastic and silicone to increase the hotitude -- just learn to use the equipment you were born with to it's fullest potential," Winston says. And boy, is it sustainable. Winston says that with these techniques longer and more orgasms -- we're talking 15 and 20 in a row -- are possible for anyone.

Real People, Real Sex

Porn is based on fantasy, and yes, asking it for a bit more naturalism is kind of like asking that Harry Potter not do quite so damn many spells. But in an industry that turns out about 12,000 movies a year, certainly a variety of body types can be highlighted.

I've never watched a Girls Gone Wild video, but from the insomniac-hour ads, it seems like all the testimony in the world that natural sells -- naturally thin, young and cute, sure, but it's a goddamn start.

A more democratic range of appearances would open the doors of employment to more types, like the fine folks of Ugly NY, a modeling agency that specializes in a range of looks -- funny-looking people, regular-looking people, interesting-looking people, even a few attractive people.

According to the "Today Show," the Ugly Talent Agency in London has been finding these looks for 30 years and only recently opened a New York office. An Ugly model can get up to $600 for a print ad. People like seeing normal humans like themselves -- and seeing them in adult features might boost consumer confidence, as in, "If that ugly bastard can get laid, so can I. I'm buying some condoms!"

And while we're at it, the genital area that has been bleached and waxed more than a hospital floor has certainly had its 15 minutes, hasn't it? Hard as it is to believe, realistic looking vulvas and breasts might be a novel-enough idea to attract consumers again.

If aestheticians lose some cash in the Brazilian-waxing business, maybe they can make up for it in a colorful way, like talking clients into the Betty Beauty all-natural dyes "for the hair down there" in a variety of shades, some natural, some not -- like hot pink and turquoise (especially interesting for the aging populace who are looking down upon gray gardens).

Use and Promote Green Toys and Products

In all the joking about bailouts, I had totally forgotten that Hustler has its own toy line, and most of the toys I clicked on on its Web site are listed as phthalate-free. Sunny Rodgers, product development director for Hustler Toys, says they anticipate introducing some new items later this year.

"Theresa and I are both heavily involved in the design process, and being women, are concerned with having our toys be phthalate-free, female-friendly and where possible, hypoallergenic," Rodgers says (the Theresa she mentions, by the way, is Theresa Flynt, daughter of Larry Flynt).

"There are many organic options that we are excited to explore. We would also like to educate our consumers more about care and cleaning of their toys, and energy-efficient options, such as rechargeable vibrators." OK, so Hustler was a little bit ahead of me. It wouldn't be the first time.

Many stores already offer a gratifying and lovely variety of toys, accessories and products that cater to the green, health-conscious, sophisticated consumer. "People don't want sex to smell like Jell-O Pudding," says Babeland spokeswoman Pamela Doan, referring to the heavy-scented, sticky lubricants most of us remember in the days of yore. Babeland's two new organic lubricants -- Naked and Fresh -- have a gentler taste and scent (Naked is lightly lemon flavored, and Fresh has a hint of mint). They also have "a soy-based candle that has a low burning point and that melts into a massage oil that's heated." That's hot.

Dildos made of earth-friendly materials like glass, metal and wood are also finding more interest, Doan says. "At first, people looked at those and thought they were more novelty and art objects," but they've "become much more popular. And they're beautiful." She mentions the "Fling," a hand-carved toy "that's good for G-spotting or using in the butt for the prostate, and it's made of sustainable hard woods and has an organic varnish on it that's body safe -- they really are just gorgeous looking as well."

You can dress for sex in a way your Mother Earth would approve of as well, with eco-friendly companies like Enamore, which makes clothing and lingerie from fabrics like bamboo jersey and hemp and has a super-sexy '40s pinup flare you just don't think of when you think green. (Admit it: You still think gauze skirts and deodorant crystals that don't work, don't you?)

Earth Erotics boasts phthalate- and PVC-free toys and accessories for men and women, and the Sensual Vegan offers Glyde vegan condoms, "made without the milk protein found in some latexes," says the company's site, and the condoms are not tested on animals.

Recycling condoms is not quite a reality yet -- except in a case in China where some hairbands were discovered, by a curious consumer, to be made of recycled rubbers. OK, you can go ahead and go "Eeew!" again.

All industries have to evolve, and although a 22 percent drop in DVD sales has occurred (it's right there on LarryFlynt.com) The New York Timesreports that the purchase of adult novelties has shown a marked increase. "As the old adage goes, 'You can't download the dildo,' " says Kristofer Kay, editor of StorErotica Magazine, who says the adult industry is evolving, not just as a result of easy downloads off the Internet but also because of a change in consumer savvy.

Adult novelties, which used to be whispered about, are now sold in mainstream and high-end stores, Kay says, and sex toys are being talked about on Oprah. "Once you've hit Oprah you've made it," he said.

"You're getting Madison Avenue marketing techniques in the adult industry ... they're not only adult novelties, they're becoming sexual-health products."

Education is another step in the diversification of the adult industry, Kay says. The new savvy consumer wants to be educated, stimulated ... and satisfied. All businesses evolve, and hopefully this desire for education is indicative of a changing attitude in our society -- a sex-positive (and environmentally friendly) one.

For those of us who remember the smirking lasciviousness associated with going to the "porn store" (this was when VHS was king), the new attitude on the part of buyer and business is a refreshing one.

Between consumer openness and a greener national attitude maybe we -- and the adult industry -- will all get a little more adult.

Liz Langley is a freelance writer in Orlando, Fla.
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