How Sex Toys Are Made, Because A Lot Of Effort Went Into Your Favorite Vibrator

When we think about sex toys, we usually think about what we do with them after they're created. But there's a lot that they go through beforehand. From the formation of an idea to successful trials, many measures are taken to ensure a sex toy is high-quality enough to put in, on, or around your body. In fact, according to Steve Thomson, CMO for the sex toy company LELO, most sex toys that get designed and tested actually don't go to market.

"It's pretty much a full engineering challenge," Anna Lee, co-founder and lead engineer for the smart vibrator company Lioness, tells Bustle. "People may be familiar with how well-designed vibrators should be waterproof, have a good range of vibrations, and be easy to use. There's very little research around good engineering for vibrators. There have been years and years of studies and papers done on how to dampen vibration in machines and products, but we face the opposite problem: how to make better, stronger vibrations and remove dampening factors."

While many of us appreciate our sex toys, we don't always fully appreciate all the effort that goes into them. So, in case you were wondering, here are all the stages that your vibrator probably went through before it got into your bedside drawer.

The Idea

With all the sex toys out there, you might expect companies to run out of ideas. But LELO's customers are always contacting them with new requests, Thomson tells Bustle. Before that, the company got most of its ideas from team members and their friends. Companies also often conduct research to try to figure out what's missing in the market. Alexandra Fine and Janet Lieberman, co-founders of the sex toy company Dame Products, have spoken to sex toy shop owners and even conducted surveys of users to figure out what people are looking for.

Prototyping

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The version of a toy you see on shelves isn't usually the only one that was made. Companies will create prototypes with all different aspects of the design switched up, from the shape to the speed of the vibration. With products people more commonly talk about, like chairs and computer mice, there are studies on the best designs, Liz Klinger, co-founder CEO of Lioness, tells Bustle. But for vibrators, you kind of have to start from scratch and do your own research.

Testing

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To figure out which iteration of the product works best, you have to test it on real people. For every product you see in a sex toy shop, several versions of it underwent beta testing before the right prototype was selected. How do you get to be one of these lucky testers? Usually either by knowing someone at the company or by responding to public call-outs. "We have an enthusiastic group of sex experts and testers who we turn to regularly for frank honest feedback, selected from our newsletter subscribers," Thomson says.

With other products, testing usually involves observation, says Klinger. But most people don't want you to watch them masturbate, so you have to rely on their verbal feedback. Another challenge with sex toy testing is that you can't reuse sex toys with multiple test subjects, so you have to keep making many new prototypes. Only after hearing a lot of feedback on a lot of different prototypes do companies go ahead with mass-producing sex toys.

Quality Assurance

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The sex toy industry is embarrassingly unregulated. Klinger says a lot of toys use chemicals that aren't even allowed in children's toys. However, certain brands establish their own standards for the materials they use. Lioness uses body-safe silicone, and LELO makes sure their products are certified by SGS and Intertek.

Design

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Once you've ensured that a sex toy can work and is safe, you need to think about the aesthetics, says Thomson. This can include factors like color, name, and packaging. Cost plays a big role in these considerations, since just adding a new color can be labor-intensive for a manufacturer, says Klinger.

Production

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Then, at last, the sex toys you know and love are created. Since this usually involves working with a manufacturer and producing products in large quantities, it requires different considerations than building a prototype, says Klinger.

Toys don't typically reach this step until they've gone through the previous ones several times. "Usually, you plan a couple of cycles into your schedule, since it's unlikely you would create the best version of the product your first time around," Fine and Lieberman tell Bustle.

So, now you know: Your last masturbation session may have only taken a few minutes, but if you used a toy, you have years of labor to thank for it.

Photos: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Courtesy of Dame Products; Giphy