Tailoring Toys: Sexual Diversity Drives Demand For Specialty Products

Jordan Fenster

Find a need and fill it, the old saw goes. According to manufacturers of products designed for the LGBT community, that cliché is as true now as it ever was — particularly because the “gay community” is not one, uniform community but several, each with a distinct individuality.

The end result for manufacturers appears to be a choice to either develop products that can be altered or molded to meet the unique needs of a unique audience, or to create a product that meets a wide array of needs and market it in different ways.

There are different facets of gay people in the gay community. The language, ideals, priorities are different, even sexually. People involved in the club scene, some who are younger or older. -Nick Mancini, Channel 1 Releasing

“There are different facets of gay people in the gay community,” according to Nick Mancini, PR affiliate manager for Channel 1 Releasing. “The language, ideals, priorities are different, even sexually. People involved in the club scene, some who are younger or older.”

Therefore, Mancini said, you have to keep an open mind when you’re developing LGBT products.

“You would definitely have to use different tactics to target different communities,” he said.

When developing the Semenette, Stephanie Berman tried to be narrow in her approach. She and her wife wanted to start a family but, as she said, “After the first couple tries we were left feeling unfulfilled.”

After all, the options available to a lesbian couple have not been traditionally appealing. You could go to a doctor’s office, which might lack intimacy and, beyond that, your options are “using a needle with syringe or an actual turkey baster,” Berman said.

“I came up with the idea of using the same type of technology that would allow a much more intimate, private experience,” she said.

The Semenette is an ejaculating dildo. Said in those terms, Berman’s product might not be unique — there are other such products on the market. But what makes the Semenette unique is the replaceable tubing and custom parts, designed for one-time use.

The medical-grade silicone dildo is designed to be worn in a harness, creating the possibility for insemination in an intimate way, and it was marketed for people like Berman.

“I put all of my efforts into marketing to the LGBTQ community, specifically lesbian couples,” she said.

Therein lies the rub. Other communities unexpectedly expressed an interest, Berman said. Men with erectile dysfunction, men with disabilities, the fetish, BDSM, pegging community, all reached out to Berman.

“Being able to mimic an ejaculation is highly desirable for a trans couple,” she said.

But, in appealing to those markets, Berman ran the risk of disenfranchising the originally intended audience.

“One of the things I heard from the lesbian community is they don’t understand why I made this look realistic,” Berman said. “They asked, ‘Why would you invent something that looks so much like a penis?’ My answer has been, it’s extremely hard to please every community.”

Kristen Tribby, director of marketing and education for Fun Factory, said the key to effective product design is not designing for gay people or straight people, but paying attention to the sexual needs of what potential clients need.

“Our product designs are based on filling a need for our customers,” she said. “We do not design our products with a specific sexuality in mind, instead we focus our development on filling a need within sexuality. This makes our toys very fluid, attracting all sexualities to the Fun Factory brand.”

Kathy Hartman, spokesperson for Nasstoys, said their popular harness collection is designed to be one-size-fits all.

“The Nasstoys harness collection, ‘Harness the Moment,’ feature four excellent one-size-fits-all comfortable, washable adjustable harnesses that accommodate your favorite pegging or fucking toys perfectly allowing maximum stability and control that will not interfere with your technique,” she said. “Girls and boys both love them.”

California Exotic Novelties, too, has developed products, the Apollo line, for example, that are intended to appeal to a wide range.

“This collection is made for today’s modern man. Decidedly metrosexual, it appeals to both gay and straight,” CalExotics President and CEO Susan Colvin said. “The line encompasses pumps, strokers, enhancers, prostate toys, and an entire range of intimate apparel.”

According to Chief Marketing Officer Rob Reimer, Perfect Fit is not necessarily intended for any one community.

“We like to say that we’re a men’s brand rather than a gay brand,” he said. “We have toys used by men regardless of sexual orientation.”

For example, there are the plugs, cleaning systems, sheaths and cock rings, which make up the biggest portion of Perfect Fit’s business.

“We have a line, Armour Gear. It’s a really comfortable, teardrop-shaped cock ring that actually pushes your gear out from your body, like a push-up bra for men,” Reimer said. “It’s made to be worn for a long time, to get a bigger bulge.”

That’s the intention of Colvin’s intimate apparel line — to appeal to men who want to appear to have larger penises, regardless of sexual orientation.

“Guys love it,” she said. “The line comes in boxers, briefs and jocks. They feature built-in removable enhancer rings to provide support. It also helps make him look and feel bigger.”

The Semenette, though, is still somewhat in the development stage — it’s been on the market for about a year — and Berman is still sussing out how to make a product that meets many seemingly contradictory needs.

The result may be a line of Semenettes, with non-realistic color options to make the product less phallic looking for lesbian couples.

“I’m toying around with a bunch of different colors,” she said. “I get a lot of requests for some fairly interesting color options.”