their empire of rubber
July 13, 2012 9:51 PM   Subscribe

'Los Angeles is home to the nation’s adult novelty business, which is dominated by the Big Four: Topco, California Exotics, Pipedream, and Doc Johnson. Successful niches—leather, men’s masturbators that resemble flashlights—are mined by smaller companies, but as with any industry, owning the market is everything, and Doc Johnson is the Procter & Gamble of sex toys. ' - LA Magazine profiles Doc Johnson(NSFW)

Previously on MetaFilter: The Vibrator Gets An Overhaul
posted by the man of twists and turns (48 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Each month the company pours 125 tons of rubber, manufacturing 330,000 dildos, vibrators, and synthetic buttocks"

That's a lotta buttocks.
posted by subbes at 9:58 PM on July 13, 2012


Dvid Gardetta in Sex Toy Land, a postscript by the author.
In every direction you turn, piles of rubbery phalluses—orange, purple, pale, and a striking green—assault your eyes. They loom on the desks of saleswomen busy saying “hi,” on the workstations of happy product designers, and—numbered in the hundreds—on the shelves of conference rooms where business meetings are held daily. Try imagining that in your office.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:09 PM on July 13, 2012


I knew some kids back in college who found a 12-inch dildo on the side of the road, brought it home, and called it 'doc johnson'. They would keep it on the mantel, take it out and hit each other over the head with it, seemingly oblivious of where it came from.

in retrospect, that was the worst house to crash overnight at. I do not miss college.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:16 PM on July 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


I used to know a fellow who went by the name "Doc Johnson" on purpose. I'm gonna choose to imagine that the head-bonking dildo is named after him personally, as a tribute to his charm and savoir-faire.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:43 PM on July 13, 2012


Having started in on the article, I'm also charmed by the phrase "cuddles clitoral bumper."
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:45 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


At least from what was written in the article, it sounds like the real innovation in design is coming from smaller companies, rather than the big one. I guess it's a demographic thing like any other, but if I was going to buy sex toys they wouldn't be molded porn actor genitals (or a hand, yuck!), but rather the more modern, clean designs.
posted by Forktine at 10:48 PM on July 13, 2012


I should mention this would not have bothered me at all had it been bought at a shop for head-bonking purposes.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:50 PM on July 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


What happened to Carrboro and Hillsborough NC?

When I was in grad school, PHE/Adam and Eve was a useful way to think about less desirable jobs: would I rather move to Bumfuck, Nowhere and teach a zillion courses for $30K, or would I rather stay in NC and pack dildos for a living? More than once the dildos won and I didn't apply.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:51 PM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


A girl at work was looking at renting a house from another workmate, sight unseen, and the potential landlord brought in some photos for her to look at.

And there, thrusting up proudly on the pot-belly stove, was the reason I had to explain to an 18-year-old girl what fisting was.

I believe it was Doc Johnson's Fist of AdonisTM.

There was a dildo on the bookcase too, but that was less remarkable.

I have often wondered about the people who make sex toys, as well as those who design carpets patterns. This goes some way to explaining it.

Also, seems a good place to leave a link to the Scary Sex Toy Friday blog (NSFW).
posted by Mezentian at 10:52 PM on July 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


*sigh*
Metafilter: the reason I had to explain to an 18-year-old girl what fisting was.

... because someone would have.
posted by Mezentian at 10:54 PM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


At least from what was written in the article, it sounds like the real innovation in design is coming from smaller companies, rather than the big one. I guess it's a demographic thing like any other, but if I was going to buy sex toys they wouldn't be molded porn actor genitals (or a hand, yuck!), but rather the more modern, clean designs.

I think here's the relevant line: "When Ron took over Marche in 1976, sex toys were designed by men and purchased by men for women who mostly stayed clear of the seedy bookstores where they were sold."

I've yet to meet anyone who's really specifically into using the big veiny-ass fake porn star dongs with the little stylized testicular hemispheres at the bottom. Granted, I don't really have an impressive sample size here; I'm sure someone gets off on using that stuff. But I wouldn't be at all surprised if like 99% of the market there was straight men who wanted to believe that that was what their wife/girlfriend/whatever was into.

And gag gifts. Getting someone a tasteful discreet high-quality blown glass somethingorother is just not as amusingly fuck-you as getting them a RON JEREMY FUCKAMATRONIC BANGWIZZLER 3000, limited edition extra-veiny model.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:10 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've yet to meet anyone who's really specifically into using the big veiny-ass fake porn star dongs

If this thread doesn't unearth a single owner and lover of the RON JEREMY FUCKAMATRONIC BANGWIZZLER 3000 or the like, Metafilter is not the place I thought it was.
posted by Mezentian at 11:13 PM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Brings back memories of being a dildo packer for Xandria Catalog in SF in the 80s. Much of our "product" came from Doc Johnson, about whom many stories were imagined aloud as we tried to keep normal while surrounded by walls of double dongs,Joni's Butterfly and Dancing Bears.

One thing I remember distinctly is that the packing in the boxes of vibrators,et al, that came from DJ was old porn book pages. Most of it was extremely hard core in content- lots of bestiality,etc..., but very funny in writing style. I still have collages made from pages, albeit no longer displayed since I am a middle aged mother.

Mezentian's post reminded me of the sculptures I made out of broken and sample dildoes which would have to be hidden when relatives visited...ah, not so innocent youth.

Now the returns clerk- that's a whole other story.
posted by Isadorady at 11:18 PM on July 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've yet to meet anyone who's really specifically into using the big veiny-ass fake porn star dongs

You do realize that this country was founded by a group of religious nuts whose primary goal in life was to appear as pious as possible outwardly while being some of the kinkiest motherfuckers on the planet?

Old habits die hard.
posted by JimmyJames at 11:28 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


You do realize that this country was founded by a group of religious nuts whose primary goal in life was to appear as pious as possible outwardly while being some of the kinkiest motherfuckers on the planet?

on that note:

Counterpunch The Other Sex War
However, a third front involves adult, consensual and non-coercive sexual practices that are considered to be unacceptable. They include pornography, sex toys and adult “entertainment” (e.g., gentlemen’s clubs and play parties). These activities often involve commercial exchanges like downloading online porn, buying a lubricant or paying an admissions fee at a club or party. Yet, the sex occurring between and among the participants is not commercial. This front receives far less attention then the other two, but suggests the outlines of a new, very 21st century American adult sexuality, an era scarred by the banality of sex.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:39 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty jaded, but this...well...yeah.
posted by jewzilla at 11:43 PM on July 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


scarred by the banality of sex

Protip: To avoid scarring during banal sex, be sure to use plenty of blube.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:49 PM on July 13, 2012 [24 favorites]



And gag gifts. Getting someone a tasteful discreet high-quality blown glass somethingorother is just not as amusingly fuck-you as getting them a RON JEREMY FUCKAMATRONIC BANGWIZZLER 3000, limited edition extra-veiny model.



I don't recall if any of them were the Ron Jeremy model (at least one was John Holmes) but working as a dildo packer did give me the opportunity to send a large box of assorted ginormous dongs to my friend in Seattle. Since mailing such a package *snert* would have been quite costly, I sent the box with another friend who happened to be flying thataway.

To this day, he loves being able to say "SO THERE I WAS, WALKING THROUGH THE AIRPORT WITH 25 POUNDS OF COCK..."


And Scary Sex Toy Friday... that brings back some memories. I used to have a collection of truly horrifying rubber things. (Had to be careful how they were stored - they would melt to each other if they touched. This served in making them more nauseating and resulted in some potent off-gassing.)
posted by louche mustachio at 12:09 AM on July 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have often wondered about the people who make sex toys, as well as those who design carpets patterns. This goes some way to explaining it.

Also, seems a good place to leave a link to the Scary Sex Toy Friday blog (NSFW).


What's sexier than a woman's vulva?
Four Vulvas
. Arranged like some beautiful, non-euclidean flower, pulsing to the thin, monotonous piping of an unseen flute.

It ... it all makes sense now, the old texts, all of it.

This was a squat, plain temple of basalt blocks without a single carving, and containing only a vacant onyx pedestal.... It has been built in imitation of certain temples depicted in the vaults of Zin, to house a very terrible black toad-idol found in the red-litten world and called Tsathoggua in the Yothic manuscripts.

They were pinkish things about five feet long; with crustaceous bodies bearing
vast pairs of dorsal fins or membraneous wings and several sets of articulated limbs, and with a sort of convoluted ellipsoid, covered with multitudes of very short antennae, where a head would ordinarily be.... As it was, nearly all the rumours had several points in common; averring that the creatures were a sort of huge, light-red crab with many pairs of legs and with two great bat-like wings in the middle of their back. They sometimes walked on all their legs, and sometimes on the hindmost pair only, using the others to convey large objects of indeterminate nature. On one occasion they were spied in considerable numbers, a detachment of them wading along a shallow woodland watercourse three abreast in evidently disciplined formation. Once a specimen was seen flying—launching itself from the top of a bald, lonely hill at night and vanishing in the sky after its great flapping wings had been silhouetted an instant against the full moon.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:43 AM on July 14, 2012 [12 favorites]


I remember when Johnson & Johnson decided to get into the sex toy market with their line of products branded "The Big Johnson". Most people don't remember Comcast's late-night porn channel, Cumcast. Viacom started out as a late-night porn channel called Viagra-Cum, for men who stay up all night. When LG Electronics merged with British Petroleum to form LGBP, I thought they were onto something interesting, but left it to others to clean up the spill. I would have felt better about the Exxon Valdez if it were called the Sexxon Valdez, because who hasn't had to clean up a wet spot? Somebody told me that politics makes strange bedfellows, but now they make them cheaper in China.

The phrase "sex toy" bothers me, because many toys are not sexy. I do love my Slinky.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:11 AM on July 14, 2012


and a coda for sebastienbailard:

ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
posted by taz at 1:23 AM on July 14, 2012


I would be happy to go over the portfolios from the user centered design process used for product development in order to ensure that user research has correctly identified unmet needs among the target segment base of the population.
posted by infini at 5:25 AM on July 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


They loom on the desks of saleswomen busy saying “hi,” on the workstations of happy product designers...

Y'know...Over the years, I've had occasion to design some out-of-left-field stuff, but never adult toys (dammit!). Oddly, it never occurred to me that, yes, some human somewhere actually has to design these things. Which, then, leads me to wonder if there's some manner of industrial ergonomic design guidelines published for this sort of work (IEA0069?)
posted by Thorzdad at 5:29 AM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Problem being, in my...friend's...experience, that Doc Johnson has totally let QA slide to hell and back and their toys tend to break down far too often.
posted by Samizdata at 5:46 AM on July 14, 2012


I've yet to meet anyone who's really specifically into using the big veiny-ass fake porn star dongs

I suppose they can't all be bought for frat boys to thwack each other over the head with. But then I guess even the ones purchased ironically can be used in an un-ironic fashion as well.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:46 AM on July 14, 2012


Doc Johnson is the Procter & Gamble of sex toys

Not until they have to change their logo because someone considers it Satanic.
posted by tommasz at 6:02 AM on July 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Doc Johnson has totally let QA slide to hell and back and their toys tend to break down far too often.

Pat Califia complained about this w/r/t BDSM toys back around 1988.

There is more room than most people realize for do it yourself inventiveness in this space. Surely in this era of mail-order laser cut leather, 3d printers, and surplus pager vibrator motors there is a hackaday project waiting to be made.

Or, on the other hand, cucumbers are still available at the grocery store.
posted by localroger at 6:03 AM on July 14, 2012


What's sexier than a woman's vulva? Four Vulvas.

That was always my favorite early Steve Reich piece.
posted by mykescipark at 6:34 AM on July 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think I've found my kickstarter project!
posted by five fresh fish at 7:10 AM on July 14, 2012


I've yet to meet anyone who's really specifically into using the big veiny-ass fake porn star dongs

I very much want this to become the 21st Century version of "Nobody I know voted for Nixon."
posted by Navelgazer at 8:20 AM on July 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, seems a good place to leave a link to the Scary Sex Toy Friday blog (NSFW).

Wow - never has the phrase "WTF?" been used more appropriately or sincerely.
posted by mosk at 8:43 AM on July 14, 2012


Hmmm, only 30 some comments here so far, and we've already had several people discussing their employment decisions with regard to work in the sex toy industry. I guess there's a high demographic on MetaFilter skewed to working in the adult novelty business that I didn't know about.

That may explain some things.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:04 AM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is more room than most people realize for do it yourself inventiveness in this space

Hmm, it looks like Slashdong has actually started updating again.
posted by hattifattener at 9:17 AM on July 14, 2012


Heh, mefi always surprises me. We have experts on everything. There is a job called "dildo packer" which not one but two mefites in this thread have held.

*ponders how different life might have been had dildo marketing been considered eons ago when plotting career paths*
posted by madamjujujive at 9:32 AM on July 14, 2012


There is a job called "dildo packer"

To be fair, that may describe more than one type of job.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:53 AM on July 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I worked in the customer service department of a shipping company when I was in college and Doc Johnson was one our customers. I was assigned to the account and I spent at least two hours a day tracking down lost boxes and scheduling deliveries for them. One of Doc's employees was a really friendly guy and somehow we wound up talking about sex every time we spoke on the phone. He would be like, "Good morning, HotPatatta! I need you to track down a box of silicone butt cheeks that were never delivered to my customer in Amarillo. By the way, do you like to finish on your boyfriend's ass or on his face?" He seemed so nonchalant about all of it and he got me to answer every question he ever asked. On Valentine's Day one year, the receptionist called and said a box had been delivered for me. It was the heaviest damn box I've ever had to lift. I struggled to get it upstairs and all the ladies I worked with gathered around as I opened it. Inside I found a Valentine from Doc Johnson, an inflatable leather daddy, dildoes of every size and color, and an assortment of lube bottles. Best Valentine's Day ever.
posted by HotPatatta at 10:28 AM on July 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Heh, mefi always surprises me. We have experts on everything. There is a job called "dildo packer" which not one but two mefites in this thread have held.

It has always been a great conversation starter for me as I age out of the hipness and street cred limits. At one time every member of my then boyfriend's band, two of their girlfriends and one brother comprised the entire warehouse department at the "marital aids" warehouse. Our supervisor hated us calling ourselves dildo packers, since we were supposed to be in the "helping" industry.
I,too, sent many boxes of interesting plastic product to friends around the country. Usually with no return address. Doc Johnson has a warm place in my memory. Really.
posted by Isadorady at 10:33 AM on July 14, 2012


I actually have one of the toys featured on Scary Sextoy Friday. (But I think I will not specify which one.)
posted by restless_nomad at 12:05 PM on July 14, 2012


Some FTMs prefer the "realistic" type of dildos.
posted by desjardins at 12:33 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Our supervisor hated us calling ourselves dildo packers, since we were supposed to be in the "helping" industry.

So you were supposed to be "dildo helpers"?

That...sounds like something you add to hamburger (HAMBURGER!).
posted by biscotti at 1:53 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Would…you…be interested in molding your ass today? is where I started laughing.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:15 PM on July 14, 2012


I have never told this story so I may as well tell the whole web. A few years ago my best friend gave me an expensive Rabbit as a partially serious gag gift for my birthday and of course we got drunk in her kitchen and took photographs of ourselves waving the damn thing around.

Trouble was that was the set I was shooting for fieldwork and had forgotten they'd show up in the middle when I absent mindedly downloaded that week's worth of photos into a folder and let my colleague browse through them for a powerpoint.

We shall say no more.
posted by infini at 2:22 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


.....so, here's where I say it'd be awesome to have a walk-in closet wherein one of the back shelving units opens to reveal a mysterious room. Upon walking in, the motion sensor detects your presence and softly illuminates the black on black decor, the main focus being simple displays made of black or clear glass supporting and complementing various dildos. Like how the Queen's jewelry was displayed in "The Prince and Me" or how highly prized diamonds are showcased.





Or, you know, a shoe box could work.
posted by DisreputableDog at 5:46 PM on July 14, 2012


You haven’t cringed until you’ve watched a technician remove the skull panel of a lifelike robot to set her action to “skank.”

Then, I am proud to say: I think I have lived.

This story was fascinating. All that was missing was the mob. But we got Arnie and Nancy Reagan. And Nixon. Close enough.
posted by Mezentian at 5:55 PM on July 14, 2012


"Neither Chad nor Ron can explain what sells and what doesn’t. The company doesn’t do demographic research."

Seems like they may be missing some opportunities here.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:13 PM on July 17, 2012


*waits with bated breath for some MeFite to claim experience in demographic sex toy research*
posted by BlueHorse at 10:28 PM on July 22, 2012


Ethnographic demographic sex toy research, sure. Very small groups of participants. Intense personal interaction. "Participant observation." Yes, okay, I'll see myself out.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:22 AM on July 23, 2012


You forgot your participatory co-creation design workshop notes, nebulawindphone, on your way out...
posted by infini at 7:24 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


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