AUSTIN, Texas — Men’s Health this week published a feature on one of the world’s most popular and ubiquitous sex toys — the Fleshlight — and its rise to fame.
The story asks the burning questions, where did the Fleshlight come from and why does it dominate the male sex toy market?
“Who looked at a flashlight for the first time and thought, ‘Yeah, I’d bang that?’” the Men’s Health piece asked.
Fleshlight, which touts itself as the No. 1 manufacturer of male sex toys, was invented by Steve Shubin, who had to look forward to nine months of abstaining from sex with his wife — until a lightbulb-moment struck him.
“In the mid-1990s, Steve and Kathy Shubin, a professional tennis player, learned they were expecting twins,” the Men’s Health story said. “But Kathy’s age (she was 40 at the time) meant that her pregnancy was high-risk, so her doctor warned her against having sex.
“Staring down the barrel of a nine-month dry spell, Steve and Kathy discussed their options. He wondered how Kathy would feel if he bought a masturbation aid — not just something that would help him jerk off, but a sort of sexual stand-in.”
And then Steve Shubin got busy, and decided to make a sex toy of his own.
“The Shubins invested $50,000 in inventing the patented SuperSkin, which realistically replicates the feel of human skin. (The patent is a closely guarded secret.),” the Men’s Health story said. “They also introduced a line of ‘sexually usable body portions’ — basically, vagina and anus sleeves — in 1995.
“The body parts did not sell: Prospective buyers seemed nervous about loved ones stumbling upon big rubber fuck butts in their bedrooms. Steve realized he needed something smaller, an innocuous object that could hide in plain sight.
“The answer: tools. One item — roughly three-inches across and with a bulbous head, perfect for gripping — emerged as a clear frontrunner.”
Once the idea came about, Fleshlight was born and a patent was later issued.
“Since then, they've introduced Fleshlights filled with mouths, anuses and anatomically ambiguous pink holes and an array of porn star genitalia,” the Men’s Health story said.
Steve Shubin told Men’s Health that since it commercially was rolled out in 1997, the Fleshlight has sold more than $1 billion of the devices.
Along the way, the company has earned industry honors. Fleshlight has won several XBIZ Awards for its products, including Male Sex Toy of the Year in 2014 and Innovate Sex Toy of the Year Design in 2015.
While Fleshlight dominates the male sex toy category, the Austin, Texas-based company has competitors.
The Men’s Health piece pointed to former Fleshlight employee Chris “CT” Schenk, who created and distributed a masturbation sleeve blewit! using a crowdfunding campaign that raised about $100,000 on Indiegogo.
Schenk told the magazine that men are “focusing on what’s working” and that there’s little incentive to reinvent the wheel.
“Like in every industry,” Schenk said, “until someone comes out with something that really stands out as a unique experience that people are drawn to, [the manufacturers] copy each other.”
Schenk said that many manufacturers are chasing “a desire for the new experience,” but that comes with its own set of limitations.
Men’s Health also spoke with Brian Sloan, the creator of the Autoblow 2, a cylinder where the user inserts a penis for an automated massage that replicates the feeling of blow job and 3Fap, a sleeve that fuses three mechanized orifices into one masturbation station).
Sloan said that “the biggest problem facing the whole adult toy industry is that ... the mass market isn’t willing to pay $300 or $400 or $500 for a sex toy. Because if there were, we could make them incredibly awesome products for that price point.”
The Men’s Health story can be read here.