Sisters Doing It for Themselves: Women Sex Toy Designers

Author: by Alicia Guinn

Have you ever wondered who designs sex toys? Or found yourself frustrated at the lack of high-quality toys on the market? Increasingly, women are at the forefront of revolutionary changes in the sex toy industry.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re bringing you short profiles of some of today's female toy designers and manufacturers. They have introduced safer materials to the market, created attractive designs that are both women-friendly and practical, and improved manufacturing standards by insisting on durable, quality workmanship.

More importantly, they all share a passionate commitment to improving women’s lives through quality sex toys.

the Nexus by Marilyn Bishara of Vixen Creations

Marilyn Bishara

Owner of Vixen Creations

For those who consider silicone  "the new black" (i.e. you gotta have it and it goes with everything), you have Marilyn Bishara of Vixen Creations to thank. After working in the adult industry for a few years in the eighties, Bishara discovered that the growing demand for hand-crafted silicone dildos was not being met by early suppliers.

Because silicone is resilient, warms quickly to body temperature, and is easy to clean, Bishara quickly realized that it was a natural material for dildos and anal toys. In 1992 she launched her business with a few models, but has since come to be known for her large selection, her elegant colors (including swirl and glitter!) and her lifetime guarantee. Says Bishara, "I wanted to create something I felt was ‘heirloom quality’—a beautiful, handmade toy you could proudly display in your bedroom or give as a gift."

Bishara’s toys have since earned her a legion of loyal followers, who seek out unique designs like the bestselling double dildo the Nexus, a G-spot cap for the Hitachi known as the G Whiz, and the perennial favorite, the Leo.

Bishara's latest invention is a new generation of silicone she calles VixSkin, which has the same great features of silicone, but has a more lifelike look and feel (think Cyberskin but easier to clean). Check out Tex, Bandit, Lonestar, Rodeo Rick, Buck, and last but not least, the Spur.

The Rabbit Habit Rabbit Habit by Shay Martin of Vibratex

Shay Martin

Co-owner of Vibratex Products

Vibratex, one of the leading importers of quality Japanese vibrators, has managed to make the Rabbit Vibrator a household word. Vibratex imports the original Rabbit Habit,  the toy made famous by its star turn on Sex and the City (and touted by Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria). The Vibratex toy, a newly minted star, has made thousands of woman orgasmically happy.

Shay inherited the business from her dad, who opened some of the first adult stores in northern California to feature quality toys. Vibratex has always prided itself on verifying the safety of the materials used in their toys, of ensuring the motors are of the highest quality, and that the craftsmanship on each toy reflects the care and imagination of the Japanese artisans who design them. You’ll recognize their toys by the whimsical designs, which often depict animals; this style was born out of an older Japanese law which forbade toys from resembling genitalia. The law may now be defunct, but the look has endured. You’ll find a whole line of Shay’s toys in our shop, including the  Elastomer Rabbit Habit, the Rabbit Pearl, and the Pandora.

Metis Black

Co-owner of Tantus Silicone

Faced with a range of toys on the market that she found unattractive and badly designed, Metis Black took matters into her own hands and founded Tantus Silicone with business partner Kris Victor in 1998. It has quickly grown to become one of the leading manufacturers of silicone sex toys.

When Black and Victor started the company, they were concerned about the potentially harmful chemicals found in many mainstream sex toys. They chose to specialize in silicone dildos and anal toys because silicone is a hypoallergenic, medical-grade material that can be disinfected.

"We chose silicone because it is hands down the safest soft material...the more you research the issue of safety and sexuality, the more you will resolve that silicone is the best product in the marketplace right now," Black says.

Tantus also focuses on creating new designs like the Buzz 1 and the ProTouch Plug, both of which feature a removable mini vibrator, as well as the sexy, vibrating double dildo, the Divining Rod.  Tantus also offers a unique dildo called the Rascal with textured ribs and nice girth and the Electra dildo with just the right angle.  "The sex toy industry is radically changing," says Black, "Women are the reason for the changes."

The Rabbit Habit Blueberry Buzz by Susan Colvin of California Exotic Novelties

Susan Colvin

Owner, California Exotic Novelties

You've no doubt noticed the women we've profiled here are small business owners or entrepreneurs who've found a niche in the sex business. Susan Colvin is the exception: she's the owner of California Exotics, one of the leading adult toy manufacturers  in the country. Founded in 1994, Susan broke the mold (literally) of toys designed with male consumers in mind. By paying attention to what women wanted, Susan raised the bar quality-wise in the adult industry, making more reliable toys and packaging them in more attractive boxes. She pioneered some of the first remote-controlled and rechargeable vibrators. The Nubby G remains one of Babeland's all-time bestselling G-spot vibrators, while the Blueberry Buzz, tops our charts as a waterproof vibe.  The Power G  also holds its own in the G-spot department.

Lately Susan's been partnering with sex experts, helping them fashion sex toys that reflect their work with women's sexuality. Check out Dr. Laura Berman's Athena vibe.

Jaguar Jaguar by women-owned Aslan Leather

Carrie

Owner, Aslan Leather

In the fine tradition of "find a need and fill it," Carrie started Aslan Leather in 1992 because she was frustrated by the lack of sturdy, realistic strap-ons. Tired of loose-fitting rings and floppy dildos, she set to work developing a line of high quality multifunctional dildo harnesses and bondage gear that fit body types of all sizes so your pleasure dollar goes further.

Some of Babeland's most popular Aslan models are the sexy Jaguar, the fashionable Black Cat, and the streamlined Commando. The Undercover Harness gets rave reviews, especially from the trans community.  Aslan's Panther Collar and Cuffs are incredibly soft and make tying up your lover a real treat.

Carrie offers women this helpful advice when shopping for a harness, "Choose a style that appeals to your needs. The jock style or two strap sits lower on the hips and allows for greater access while the G style or one strap can sit above the hip bone and the butt strap can double as a butt plug holder."

 

Betty Dodson

Author, Toy Designer, and Masturbation Guru

As one of the pioneering sex-positive feminists, Betty Dodson started her career as an artist, but quickly became well-known for teaching masturbation workshops for women. With the publication of her book Sex for One (originally entitled Liberating Masturbation), she became a nationally recognized advocate for masturbation and an expert in the field of women’s orgasms. We call her "The Grandmother of Masturbation."

 Stud Hunters Produced by Candida Royalle's Femme Productions

Candida Royalle

Filmmaker and Owner of Natural Contours Toys

Candida Royalle first made a name for herself as a successful actress in adult films, but when she recognized the need for erotic movies that appeal to both women and couples, she quit her work as an actress in order to found Femme Productions in 1984.  In comparison to mainstream porn, her films are known for their dedication to plot, romance, and authentic portrayals of women’s sexual pleasure.  Eyes of Desire 2 is one of her most popular films, and Stud Hunters is her latest release. Her film My Surrender is a rare treat of good acting and sweet sexual connection between partners.

"My inspiration is about giving permission to women," Royalle says, "and helping them really achieve sexual empowerment and fulfillment.  And I wanted to get to all of those women that are afraid to go into erotic stores or adult stores,  those who are afraid to step out of mainstream sanctioned areas.  I want them to have access to toys or movies that are great for them."

Royalle also recently released a popular sex advice called How to Tell a Naked Man What to Do.