After taking a backseat to the female and couples market, the male sex toy industry is finally revving up for a comeback. Fueled by lowered manufacturing costs, technological breakthroughs and innovative designs, the market is experiencing a boom in the production of premium masturbatory aids. Gone are the days of clunky penis pumps and outmoded sex dolls. Today’s consumer can choose from a wide variety of comfortable and sophisticated strokers and realistic — even life size — pussy molds made with nonphthalate gels and thermoplastic elastomers that create a warm, life-like sensation.
“Male masturbators have been an evolutionary process that I have witness firsthand over the last 40-plus years,” says adult novelties vet Al Bloom, director of marketing for California Exotic Novelties. “It’s a market that has changed drastically over the past 10 years, especially in the last five.”
TPR, TPE, and, of course, silicone are materials that 10 years ago would have been way too pricey to work with.
It’s a welcomed change made possible by the price drop of thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), silicone and other manufacturing materials. Bloom continues, “It was shortly after the first dildo was pulled from a mold that someone asked for a real looking vagina. The first generation of masturbators was made with PVC/Hot Melt material, and a sleeve was added for sensations.
“TPR, TPE, and, of course, silicone are materials that 10 years ago would have been way too pricey to work with. Because these materials have come down in price, and the manufacturing process has become more accessible to adult toy manufacturers, new masturbation sleeves are being designed with features such as suction chambers, added lengths, and built in beads — all enhancing sensations.”
Steve Shubin, founder and creator of Fleshlight, an award-winning masturbator cleverly masquerading as a flashlight, remembers the market’s lack of innovation, “The male masturbatory section of adult novelties was extremely limited back in the mid ‘90s. The products available at the time were crude and composed of inferior materials.”
Shubin patented Real Feel Superskin in 1998. The smooth elastomeric gel is used in all of Fleshlight’s11 textured masturbation sleeves. “The design permits for airflow/suction (a patented design) and also allows men of all sizes to use it. The most important part of our product is the material that the gel sleeve is made of, which is amazingly soft to the touch.”
Doc Johnson and Topco Sales also offer their own patented non-phthalate elastomers. Doc’s UR-3 is a life-like TPE used in its bestselling masturbators, including the Palm Pal stroker and its Adult Superstar product lines.
“Our goal was to create material that felt exactly like human skin, especially for our masturbator/stroker category of products,” says Chad Braverman, director of product development and licensing. “A big part of the Doc Johnson business model, in regards to masturbators, has been to partner with the best adult companies and talent available. From our ground-breaking partnership with Vivid Video to our associations with individual adult superstars (i.e. Sasha Grey, Belladonna), Doc has always been at the forefront of bringing real-life replications to males all over the world.”
Topco’s CyberSkin, a soft and malleable elastomeric that warms to body temperature and simulates the elasticity and softness of human flesh, has served as a game-changer for the industry. Products made with this material, such as The Penthouse Pet Collection of authentic pussy molds, are created through a process called Dual Density, in which computerized molding machines inject varying densities of CyberSkin into each product to realistically replicate both the feeling of soft labia and the hardness of pubic bone.
Says Topco CEO Scott Tucker, “CyberSkin was an instant success due to its unique properties. As a result, it’s often mimicked within the industry. Unknowing consumers, retailers and the press often refer to any soft, stretchy or ‘jelly-like’ material as CyberSkin. But, Topco Sales is the sole manufacturer of the genuine article.”
Former auto mechanic and salesman Koichi Matsumoto launched Japanese-based Tenga Inc. in 2005 after a visit to a local adult novelty shop left him cold. He describes the experience on the company’s website: “At that time, all you could see were obscene products. Replicas of the female reproductive organ and toys with names that are too obscene. Something normal like masturbation was only oriented for a unique and specific population. What was missing was an orientation to the general public.”
Tenga has since introduced varied lines of elegantly designed, fun and practical toys, including disposable one-time-use masturbators Onacups, available in styles such as Deep Throat, Rolling Head, and Soft Tube, and The Egg — named for its small, egg-shaped design, meant to be stretched down the male’s shaft. The company also produces the Flip Hole, an easy to clean, flip-top masturbator that features a pinball-like journey for the penis through soft orbs, ribs and vacuum chambers.
“Look at the design of Tenga. It’s totally far from what adult-goods used to be. It has nothing vulgar in it,” says Matsumoto. “If sex and masturbation is just taken as erotic, then it’s not made for the mass public and it doesn’t let people get familiar to it. Masturbation is nothing to be ashamed of. This is the ideal of Tenga at the time of making each product.”
Bloom echoes Matsumoto’s sentiment and explains why marketing male sex toys still requires finesse, “We’re marketing, basically, to women. It’s a 180 degree turnabout from 15 years ago. We walk a thin line with each product, and have to be sure we’re sending the right message to the eventual buyer. When we make an item designed for a man, we have to be sure it doesn’t offend a woman who may be buying it for her man.”
Of course, not everyone sees it that way.
“A few years ago the industry was making just about everything ‘female friendly,’ forgetting about the guys out there,” says Kevin Johnson, publicist for Pipedream Products, manufacturers of the life-size Fuck Me Silly Mega Masturbator. “Fuck Me Silly is all about good old-fashioned hardcore fucking, the kind a lot of guys — even those in relationships — don’t get to do. The product is top notch and comes with a full-length XXX DVD. We’ve also provided toy cleaner, lubricant and powder to maintain the piece properly. It’s everything he needs in a single box.”
Pipedream also produces a line of blowup dolls made to resemble tinsel town babes. Wannabe star-fuckers can get it on with Lindsay Lohan, Jennifer Lopez, and/or socialite Paris Hilton. “We have over 20 dolls now,” says Pipedream CEO, Nick Orlandino. “Demand is pretty high on all of them. We usually have a spike when a star is in the news. The exposure brings millions of hits to our website.”
However, not every guy dreams about screwing Jessica Simpson or peeing on Kim Kardashian. Some fantasize about Asian schoolgirls with large eyes, larger breasts, and pink hair. Enter CalExotics’ line of exclusively illustrated ANIME inflatables. “Our production partner in Tokyo first brought the anime phenomenon to us several years ago,” recalls Bloom. “We were reluctant at first, but sales have been brisk. Whether the buyers are anime collectors, or just regular doll users, the appeal is the image on the cover of the box. In focus groups we have run, men admit that the photo on the box is what turns them on. Many even put the box on the bed with the doll …”
“Hey … we’re selling fantasy.”