Equal Opportunity Orgasms (and Other Venerable Pursuits)

The perfect Dildo, New York Toy Collective
Image courtesy of New York Toy Collective

Founded in 2012, The New York Toy Collective was born out of two queer womens’ quest for the perfect dildo.

Unable to find the perfect accessory, Chelsea and Parker* put their talents together to produce the Shilo, a handmade, posable, silicone, nontoxic dildo. At first, they sought out male participants to create models for their perfect dildo, but after many hilarious trials and failures, Parker crafted the ideal phallus with molding clay. Thanks to Chelsea’s marketing skills and Parker’s in-depth, scientific knowledge of polymers, their company has grown over the years from a mad-scientist test kitchen in a tiny Manhattan apartment to an internationally recognized, community-driven small business. Every step of their venture has been one step closer to achieving the company’s mission “to create high-quality toys and foster a sex-positive culture” with “self-affirming products for all forms of gender expression.”

 
“It is very frustrating that the term ‘flesh tone’ defaults to white, as if all flesh is pale, so we originally offered color matching. We had a zillion color options that looked like a MAC cosmetics counter.”
 

AWT: What is the origin story of the pack and play product?

New York Toy Collective—Chelsea: I was really into going to play parties [gatherings where people specifically go to hook up]. I would pack up my toys in a bag and bring them with me. Before play, I would have to stop what I was doing to don my harness and strap-on. It felt like a whole production. I wanted to be able to wear my dildo in my pants without causing a scene on the train. I also really wanted a dildo that I could use to receive oral and go straight to penetration. I spent hours on the internet and only found versions made of low-quality materials in purple and pink, or $1,000 prosthetics that glue to your body. Apple had come out with multiple iPhones at this point, and it just felt crazy that you could carry a computer in your pocket but there weren’t any products on the market that would allow you to discreetly wear a dildo. I guess more people put their money into making tech gadgets than making better dildos—so we set out to change that. With $8,000, we started making prototypes, bought a domain, and paid a friend-of-a-friend $250 to make a website. That year I became very familiar with my local post office, purchased a printer and lots of ink, and learned how to open a business bank account.

 
“Standing up to pee is useful in many situations. For some people who identify as transgender or as gender-nonconforming, standing up to pee can be essential in public restrooms or urinals.”
 

AWT: Why did you want to create a realistic phallus?

NYTC—Chelsea: I like toys that look like human anatomy because I like to pretend they are an extension of me. I’ve always struggled to find a product that actually fits my skin tone. It is very frustrating that the term ‘flesh tone’ defaults to white, as if all flesh is pale, so we originally offered color matching. We had a zillion color options that looked like a MAC cosmetics counter. We had every customer coming over to the apartment holding color samples to their forearms at that point. That proved to be a very challenging business model, so now we narrowed our options down to the four skin tones that work for pretty much everyone. We call them, in order of lightest to darkest, Cashew, Caramel, Hazelnut and Chocolate. We also found a demand for non-realistic colors. The most popular is a black and blue swirl. It’s very butch, leather pride.

AWT: Can you describe one of your newer products, the SAM?

NYTC—Chelsea: Over the years, New York Toy Collective has had countless requests for a representational silicone STP [Stand-To-Pee]—products that allow folks without penises to pee while standing up. In fact, STP devices are so helpful that they are given to women in the U.S. Armed Forces during deployment to Iraq.

STPs come in a variety of forms. The two most common are representational [looks like a penis] and non-representational [does not look like a penis]. In March 2016, New York Toy Collective debuted Sam, a representational silicone STP, available in four skin tones. For those looking for a non-representational STP, we also offer the PStyle in a variety of colors. [The PStyle is not shaped to realistic phallus representation]. Standing up to pee is useful in many situations. For some people who identify as transgender or as gender-nonconforming, standing up to pee can be essential in public restrooms or urinals. Some people find that STPs and packers [realistic phallus replicas worn under clothes] help with dysphoria and confidence, while others use them for safety. Some simply use them for the aesthetic.

Many people who do not identify as trans or gender-nonconforming also benefit from our product, especially when traveling, out at nightclubs, or camping. For those of us who are used to squatting or lining dirty, wet toilets seats, the ability to urinate while standing offers a great convenience by saving time and energy, and offering peace of mind.

AWT: Your unique skills—Parker’s expertise as a chemist and Chelsea’s experience with production and marketing—helped make this company successful. Can you expand on how each of your particular backgrounds melded together to form your business?

NYTC—Chelsea: In Malcom Gladwell’s “David and Goliath,” he talks about how we need to change the game to suit our skillset and, in essence, live in our strengths. Don’t try to do everything—it isn’t efficient. One of the reasons Parker and I work well together is because we have very different skill sets.

I went to a smarty-pants school, but I was dyslexic so I thought I was stupid. I worked really hard in high school just to get B’s, and studied my butt off for the SATs. I got a full scholarship to Colby College through the Posse Organization, and while there I petitioned for an independent major in popular culture—I was living in my strength. I then did six years at Viacom working at Comedy Central and MTV Networks before quitting to do New York Toy Collective full time.

Parker: My background is in chemistry, engineering and material science. I can really get into procedures, schematics, technical specifications and data tables. When Chelsea said she wanted a silicone dildo she could wear in her pants and use for sex, I knew I could figure it out. After many, many hours of research and hours of trial and error, we had a working prototype.

 
“There is also an amazing network of queers and women in the business who have had our back from day one—without them we wouldn’t be here.”
 

AWT: In your quest to create a high-quality sex toy, what are a few of the challenges you’ve experienced, especially being women in the sex-product industry? What are the rewards— besides monetary?

NYTC—Chelsea: Being a businesswoman is difficult because many of the gatekeepers are men who continuously talk down to you. Being in the adult industry is challenging because banking and credit card processing is always a hurdle—banks don’t like to deal with adult businesses nor do credit card companies, so they dump you and make you pay higher fees.

Within the adult industry, most buyers are professionals without discrimination. There is also an amazing network of queers and women in the business who have had our back from day one—without them we wouldn’t be here. We owe everything to our retailers. I also love selling products to people at events and then seeing them come back the next day with a smile on their face.

AWT: As a grassroots company, what are the particular concerns in your business—product, employees, production, marketing, etc?

NYTC—Chelsea: Each year there is something new to learn. Year one, there were the website and credit card processors. Year two was about product launches and hiring. And now in year five, it’s packaging and figuring out better distribution to our international buyers. Our marketing is through word of mouth, sex educators, and retailers. Mass marketing isn’t needed for our products because the individuals who are looking for well-made sex toys do their research. These are luxury problems.

I encourage everyone who has the guts and drive to become an entrepreneur. Your life is what you make of it. I get to spend time with my kid and watch them learn to walk. When I go to work, I am greeted by amazing people. We make products that add value to people’s lives—no regrets.

* Last names have been omitted
per sources’ request

This interview originally appeared in the Money issue. Find more inspiring stories from the Money issue here or read the Editorial Note from our Money issue.

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