WIA Profile: Metis Black
Each month, industry news media organization XBIZ spotlights the career accomplishments and outstanding contributions of Women in Adult. WIA profiles offer an intimate look at the professional lives of the industry's most influential female executives.
Metis Black started Tantus with the goal of shaping the pleasure products industry into a safer, educated marketplace. As a pioneer in silicone toy manufacturing, Black says she experienced resistance but now sees the fruit of her labor with the increased usage of body-safe materials. Her crusade to spread awareness didn’t end there; Black continues to educate professionals and consumers alike with sponsorships and participation at nationwide conferences. In this month’s WIA Woman of the Month spotlight, Black discusses her ongoing journey in sex toy safety and education.
What inspired you to launch Tantus and to take a stand for sex education and sex toy safety?
In 1997, when we began doing due diligence to start Tantus, education and information about sex toy safety was non-existent. Being a woman, I really wanted a healthy alternative for me as well as for every other woman out there. There were small feminist boutiques in select urban areas that had silicone toys, but 99 percent of adult businesses hadn’t seen a silicone sex toy. In fact, toys made up of PVC with 60–90 percent phthalates were all the rage even though they smelled horribly, gave people headaches and created chemical burns in some people. I knew if we could just educate the store buyers and owners we could create a brand that offered a safer alternative. It took us a few years but it was a very rewarding accomplishment.
What is a typical day at the office like for you?
My job at Tantus as president and founder is a lot of staying on top of educational opportunities and creating more of our practical body-safe designs — keeping us true to our mission.
Tantus sponsors several sex education conferences and I often participate in seminars and panels regarding safety and sex toys and aligning toys with pleasure-based sex education. We’ve not only sponsored Momentum and CatalystCon but we’re also very proud of our continued relationship with The Sex Ed Conference.
I have been working closely with the board of The Center for Sex and Culture archive and library in San Francisco. As Carol Queen, CSC’s director, says “every single sex-related item in a society that is obsessed by and ashamed of sex, is vulnerable to extinction.” We are an industry that is hidden away in the back of closets and in nightstand drawers. The CSC’s collection recognizes and legitimizes our value as sex toy designers and manufacturers, and as retail businesses.
And when I’m not looking outward I’m looking in on Tantus’ day-to-day procedures and future projects. We have a very unique system of creating new toys where we create functional designs then send them out to a team of expert testers who can communicate how the toy works for them or misses the mark so that we can make changes and get it to do what we envision before it comes to market.
What challenges have you confronted in your career and how have you overcome them?
Actually the hardest part of my career was also the most rewarding — it was those early years explaining at trade shows and industry events why silicone products were worth the price and better for their customers; remember this was before LELO or Fun Factory. Tantus was the lone silicone toy company showing up and talking about the superiority of the safer materials; and it wasn’t just about safety, it was buying habits as well. Convincing store owners that something that would last would not end their relationship with a customer was almost harder than letting them know that many of the products they were selling was unsafe.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Tantus is so lucky we have spearheaded so much change within the adult toy industry. So many people have had richer, more fulfilling sexual experiences because of all the work we have done. Even when they aren’t playing with a Tantus product, consumers of silicone products are reaping our legacy.
What is your personal motto or mantra that you live by?
The World Health Organization claims there are over 100 million sex acts a day. That’s over 69,000 people coming this very minute. I’m definitely not selling enough sex toys.
What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
Tantus is said by raw silicone material manufacturers to be the largest purchaser of RTV silicone in North America. We have been visited by the who’s who of the silicone world, presidents and vice presidents of huge multinational corporations. We get such amazing respect from these outside professionals who have aided us all even though (or perhaps because) we are really at heart just a dildo company. We also have had amazing reviews by OSHA. We believe in the safety of our employees and it shows — they have recently recommended Tantus apply for the SHARPS program. We would be the 23rd business in Nevada to get SHARPS certification.
What are your goals for the future of Tantus?
We’ve spearheaded so much social change in our first 15 years; I want Tantus to continue normalizing pleasure sexuality education which of course includes the use of sex toys and making the industry safer for everyone.