Talking Toys: Q&A With the Pleasure Chest’s Thip Nopharatana
With so many pleasure products on the market to choose from, it’s important to make an informed purchase. I phoned Thip Nopharatana, a manager at The Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood, Calif. to get her take on what she was particularly impressed with these days regarding toys or any other aspect of the pleasure business, and this is what she had to say.
Lynn Brown Rosenberg: What do you find interesting about the innovation in sex toys?
Thip Nopharatana: My interest in sex toy technology stems from the idea that what differentiates humans as an advanced, intelligent species is their tool use — if humans have evolved over time to develop tools specifically designed to hunt and cook food and tools that have made leaps and bounds in medical science, then humans inventing tools for pleasure and sexual health should also be considered in measuring human evolution! Often when we refer to tech gadgets and the advancements we've made in the last 10-50 years, we commonly think of computers and whatnot, but it's so impressive and fascinating to be able to apply that kind of engineering to sex toys.
Rosenberg: Do you feel this new incarnation of toys will help people in a different way than before, and if so, how would it help them?
Nopharatana: Absolutely! First and foremost, I feel like having all these exciting sex toy gadgets on the market will soon transcend its novelty and taboo factors and begin to normalize sex toy use, which ultimately begins to help normalize sexuality in all its different expressions. If something's being written up about in Wired magazine, sex toys (ergo sexual pleasure) are less likely to be viewed as something shameful, reserved only for a maladjusted deviant's enjoyment. It helps promote the idea that healthy, educated, "normal" folks are into pleasure too; that we all as humans like to feel good, and we all have the right to enjoy our bodies and ourselves! I will sometimes have customers who feel embarrassed about their sexual preferences and ask me questions like, "Is it weird that I like wearing nipple clamps?" And I always respond, "Not at all! Look at it this way, they wouldn't make nipple clamps if there weren't other people like you who enjoyed it too!" Due to all this outdated yet sexual shame deeply rooted in social conditioning, people are hesitant and resistant to engaging in their perfectly healthy desires. Would it be weird if you wanted to be able to remotely control your partner's vibrator from across the world? No, that sounds totally cool!
These new toys also help blend the already fine lines between physical health and pleasure. For example, we carry a fancy kegel exerciser called the KGoal from Minna Life (an awesome toy company based in San Francisco, which by the way is one of the most tech savvy cities in the U.S.), whose vibration intensity corresponds to pressure, not buttons! So the harder you are able to squeeze your kegel muscles, the more it vibrates! Something like that definitely makes doing your kegels a much more rewarding experience. On top of that, the KGoal is connected to a phone app that can monitor your progress like a Fitbit (wearable product that measures all sorts of data regarding physical fitness that’s also from a San Francisco-based company.) How cool is that!
Rosenberg: Do you think these toys are more marketable and if so, why (i.e. how they will affect the pleasure business?) Are they more expensive and what is their price range?
Nopharatana: I think these toys are more marketable to certain people who are already into tech gadgets in general and to those folks who are always willing to up the pleasure ante in new and exciting ways. Its effects on the pleasure business would extend to just bringing more media attention to the industry with its groundbreaking innovations. Because of the technology and how new it is, these toys are going to cost more. I know there are a lot of consumers who are uncomfortable with the idea of spending over $100 on a sex toy and there are people who just can't afford it — but at the same time, there are those who are more willing and able to invest in quality and their sexual pleasure/health. And over time, these newer more luxury technologies won't be as new or coveted anymore as tech trends often set the standard for basic 21st century tech needs in the U.S. For example, remember when touch screen technology in smartphones (also smartphones in and of itself) were such an impressive luxury? And now it's pretty difficult to find a cell phone with actual buttons anymore!
Rosenberg: What is the goal of most of these toys, i .e . to reach orgasm faster or increase pleasure or both?
Nopharatana: I can't speak on behalf of these toy companies and what their goals are for manufacturing their products, but toys for me aren't so much about creating instant orgasms at the touch of a button. I prefer to think of the bigger picture — sex toys are an aid to exploring ourselves: our bodies, our desires, our relationships to ourselves and others, and I like to steer folks from having such a focus on orgasms being the end-all be-all ultimate goal of sexual pleasure. I believe that obsessing over whether or not an orgasm is reached is an unhealthy take on sex. I hold far more value to the journey, not the destination! Especially a journey where pleasure can be processed without limiting expectations. Technology has brought people together in a very major way through the exposure and exchange of ideas. Although some folks attribute it to some sort of downfall of humanity, I try to remain more optimistic. Technology in itself is a neutral, albeit very powerful thing. I view the goal of these toys as a means of bringing people together in terms of intimacy (with others or with themselves) through the ability to explore their sexuality and its infinite expressions in ways they've never done before.
Lynn Brown Rosenberg is a sexuality speaker, and the author of “My Sexual Awakening at 70.” She can be contacted at www.lynnbrownrosenberg.com. Her memoir can be found on Amazon.com.