Considering how, ahem, intimate people get with their favorite sex toys, it’s surprising how little we know about them. Here we peel back the latex curtain and tell you 21 surprising things about how sex toys are made.
People with internet access and a passion for learning can discover how many things are made. I personally was fascinated by this video of how maxi pads come into being. And now you can add another item to the itinerary for your voyage of discovery. Here are 21 facts about what goes on with the stuff that goes in (you).
1. Animals are the most popular “shape” for dildos besides, well, the obvious. You can buy them in the shape of dolphins, unicorns, cats, teddy bears and a surprising array of insects.
2. Silicone, steel, Pyrex, glass or specially laminated wood are the only materials deemed safe for use inside your body, according to a Yale review. (Pyrex, not just for casserole dishes anymore?)
3. Color is a cultural preference: The Belgians like their toys orange but not red; the French love light purple but won’t touch yellow; and North Americans aren’t picky according to The Fun Factory, one sex toy manufacturer.
4. Working in a sex toy factory doesn’t make you a sex god. “It can start a conversation, and in order to have sex with someone, first you have to talk to them. So in some ways, yes, it does help,” said one dildo factory worker to Vice.
5. Anal vibrators now are made with a safety grip at the bottom after too many people accidentally lost them up their nethers and had to have them surgically removed.
6. The process of making silicone sex aids is colloquially known as “cooking” in the industry thanks to the method of pouring melted silicone into molds. “Cooking a Hot Pocket” takes on a whole new meaning now…
7. Companies use focus groups, people typically between 20 and 45 years old, to test out new sex toys before deciding which ones are the most popular. Volunteers are paid for their time (in actual money, not just orgasms).
8. Thanks to a London company, you can now have a custom cast of the orifice of your choice out of bronze, glass or even chocolate. Although it does involve being injected with the same gel that dentists use to make teeth molds.
9. Areolas are spray-painted on sex dolls with pro makeup sprayers loaded with permanent paint.
10. Toys made with vinyl, latex or a combination of these with other plastics (for example, a silicone-jelly mix) are not considered to be safe for skin contact and should only be used with a condom, says Yale.
11. People get emotionally attached to their pleasure plumbers and companies report receiving “love notes” from customers, addressed to their favorite toy.
12. The sex toy industry is valued at over 15 billion dollars worldwide and has a growth rate of 30 percent.
13. Those eerily realistic-looking “dreamdolls” include an internal heating system inside their aluminum frame to give their silicone skin a warm feeling, just like real human flesh.
14. You can make your own sex toys out of ordinary household objects. You’ll never look at a spoon the same way again.
15. Despite their reputation, dildos aren’t meant to be boyfriend replacements. “A sex toy is never a replacement for a real penis — it’s an addition,” says the CEO of The Fun Factory to Vice.
16. There are no safety regulations for the sex toy industry as the FDA considers them “novelties.”
17. Fleshlights use real women as models to make sure they get the anatomy right. Porn star Eufrat Mai is known as “the originator.” Teen Mom star Farrah Abraham recently made news for posing (?) for her own model.
18. Makeup artists and hair stylists are hired to make sure sex dolls are done up according to the most current trends.
19. Inflatable dolls are all pre-inflated to make sure there aren’t any holes (at least where there aren’t supposed to be any).
20. One of the fastest growing subsets of the market are Christian sex toys, marketed to couples who want to use them as part of their marital relations and without porn.
21. It’s illegal to manufacture or sell sex toys in India, Malaysia and South Africa. China currently produces 70 percent, the vast majority, of the world’s toys.
A version of the story was published March 2015.
Interested in learning more about sex toys? Here’s a guide to Amazon’s best-reviewed vibrators: