opinion

Male-Branded Toys: No More Penis Envy

Bob Johnson

Male-branded pleasure products, both straight and gay, once considered a “novelty” in the novelty business are now selling as fast as their female counterparts.

Nearly all of the major novelty manufacturers have their own male star line, some, like Icon Brands, specializes in man parts spurred by a strong consumer demand. Although its core products are produced for the Falcon and Raging Stallion gay brands, Icon says male stars appeal to both men and women, and both are fans. Rebecca Weinberg, director of product development, says her company makes 20 pieces for Falcon and Raging Stallion, that include “the superstars of the genre,” including Chad Hunt, Key Ryker, Roman Heart, and now Jesse Santana and D.O.

The signature pieces give fans the feeling of being with the actor, both literally and figuratively, and that’s the core appeal. -Weinberg

But Icon’s also a source for Evil Angel, producing straight stud Rocco Siffredi and Flash Brown signature pieces. “We chose Rocco because of his relationship with EA of course, and because he’s simply the biggest male porn star in the world. We chose Flash because he’s the hottest new black star, having won numerous Best Newcomer awards, and his large size is very much in demand,” Weinberg says.

The signature pieces give fans the feeling of being with the actor, both literally and figuratively, according to Weinberg, and that’s the core appeal. And the demand typically comes at the fan level. Icon gets emails and hears fans at shows saying “Hey, why don’t you mold so and so.”

“We also know when there’s a buzz about a performer just by being in the business and talking to retailers and distributors. When the buzz is pervasive and the product fills a void in our lines, we move forward,” Weinberg notes.

California Exotic Novelties has also embraced the boy toys, but with a different approach.

Director of marketing Al Bloom believes that traditionally male porn star products aren’t as successful as female porn star products “for obvious reasons,” but the company decided to appeal to a broader audience with rock star Phil Varone’s Sex, Toys, and Rock ‘n Roll Collection.“

Phil has a broader audience because of his drummer days when he played with Skid Row, Saigon Kick and Vince Neil, as well as because of his appearance on reality shows like ‘Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew’ and his Playgirl Magazine centerfold,” Bloom says.

He adds, “With Phil’s line we decided to take an approach that took advantage of his diverse celebrity, as well as his rock star image. To successfully brand a line one most always consider the target demographic first. Phil’s rock and roll-loving fans were who we had in mind when designing his collection, and that’s what makes his collection different than anything else on the market.”

But the popularity for male products is not all new. Nearly three decades ago, Topco saw the appeal and produced its first male celebrity line endorsed by Kevin Jean in 1983 and now with Tommy Gunn and Peter North products in its lineup, the company produces a variety of items, including molded body part replicas, cock rings, penis pumps, anal plugs, vibrators and more. “Just like our female celebrities, Topco selects its male licensed performers based upon their popularity and marketability,” marketing communications manager Erica Heathman says.

On the gay side, Topco licenses three celebrity lines including Chi Chi LaRue’s Rascal Toys, Lucas Entertainment After Hours and Dirk Yates Ammo.

Male stars have also found a home at New Sensations’ NS Novelties. The company’s Realistic Dildo series features straight stars Manuel Ferrara and Shane Diesel.

“Not only do both of the performers have a huge fan following, but their products provide a very different and very unique experience for the end user. Shane is one of the most well-endowed men in the adult business and his dildo appeals to those looking for the ultimate filling experience. Manuel, being the only male performer to ever earn four titles for Performer of the Year, has an overwhelming amount of fans and followers that have specifically requested a mold be made of his penis for their own personal enjoyment,” says managing director Lavi Yedid.

Doc Johnson COO Chad Braverman admits that generally female stars have always been the bread and butter of star branding, but some male stars have transcended the norm, like John Holmes, Jeff Stryker, Mr. Marcus and now James Deen — all of whom have partnered with Doc Johnson.

The company has also “molded” the gay TitanMen line of products.

He agrees that popularity equals sales. “We’re thrilled to announce that we have a new line underway with the current biggest male star, James Deen. He’s getting tons of mainstream press and has an immensely vocal base of Internet savvy fans…we’re looking forward to debuting the James Deen signature line in July at the ANME show,” Braverman says.

CalExotics’ Bloom is also excited about the future of male products. In addition to its Phil Varone rocker line, the company also produces products for COLT’s gay performers — and they’re not done yet.

Bloom reveals that the company has another male celebrity collection in the works but, “We are so early in the development stages though I can’t go into any detail. The lawyers wouldn’t like it. Let’s just say that it will make gigolos everywhere proud.”

Icon Brands also has something to be proud of when it comes to their male novelties. Weinberg says success in this arena completely depends on the star. While female-branded products sell more than male in general, Weinberg maintains that a strong male piece will sell more than a weaker female piece. “It’s all about the name and the star power, and we’re selling an awful lot of Rocco and Flash right now,” she says.

When asked if these products are marketed any differently from female star products, she says, “We use the same trade magazines generally, although the consumer books will vary. Regarding packaging, the male-directed pieces are more hardcore; female-directed packaging is more discreet. Males want to fuck, females want to make love.”

And they both like a good, hard penis — whether it’s real or not.

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