Sex & Relationships

11 Amazing Things I Learned Touring a Sex Toy Factory

"After popping my eyes back into my head, I managed to learn a few things about sex toys."

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The email was tantalizing to say the least. “It's kind of like Wonka's Chocolate Factory, but for sex toys :-),” wrote Erica Braverman, spokesperson for Doc Johnson, inviting me to tour the company's 215,000-square-foot North Hollywood factory.

The sex toy factory, the largest in North America, once housed a novelty company making fishing lures, gag gifts and a few adult items until Ron Braverman, Erica's father, bought the business in 1976 and ditched everything but the sex toys. (Ron's son Chad heads operations.) “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.

To my delight, the factory floor truly was Wonka-esque, though instead of being greeted by a chocolate river, there were gigantic cans of mystery substances with labels like “black jelly base, fresh breeze scent.” Everywhere I looked were brightly colored sex toys being molded, shaped and 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. 

1. 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 forearms. 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.

2. 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 they're shipping most of these back to 1975, but I didn't ask. Still, they're working on new contenders every day, like a white chocolate raspberry truffle, and employees can weigh in on which taste best. Erica Braverman said she had the lab whip up a Doritos-flavored prototype for her. She reports it was “good for a first try.”

3. The person molding your next strap-on is most likely a kindly-looking Latina 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, most wear the expression of someone who could be just as easily be slapping labels on cans of peas. Long inured to the sight of an unpainted dildo, the workers' demeanor is somewhere between “Sigh, these realistic veins aren't gonna paint themselves” and the companionable silence of a longtime sewing circle, but with pubic hair.

4. 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 spray, 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.

5. There is a flavor called faux pee.

If it's from a Piss Off cock, that would be “tropical.”

6. There is a real artist behind what you're putting in your behind.

DJ's sculptor/artist 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 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 if it can be made f**kable. Surprisingly, the answer is often yes.

7. Fake vaginas, like real ones, are full of mystery.

My three (mini) 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 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.

8. Sex toy execs really read those online user product reviews.

Even the weird ones, like one Amazon review for Belladonna's Magic Hand, which reads, “easy to clean and don't smell too bad.”

9. The Next Big Thing is anal.

"Toys for heterosexual men are a huge emerging market,” Braverman says. “Straight men are discovering they have a prostate, which is basically like the female g-spot.” To facilitate these tentative explorers, DJ has several beginner anal training kits, with sets of butt plugs, a vibrator and lube, so you can “kind of work your way up,” she says. 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.

10. 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 kind of gauche to stick just any old thing between your legs. Branding at Doc Johnson includes the upscale, GQ-ish OptiMale line, a line with full of black leather and f**king machines, and WonderLand, with toys packaged like a whimsical fairy tale book. If a Tim Burton character needed to take the edge off, she would for sure reach for a WonderLand toy.

11. There is no official job of product tester at Doc Johnson.


Jill Hamilton writes In Bed With Married Women ( Follow her on Twitter @Jill_Hamilton.

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