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What has the journey been like for one of the worlds leading silicone toy makers? What are the secrets of the industry that we don't get to hear?

 What has the journey been like for one of the worlds leading silicone toy makers? What are the secrets of the industry that we don't get to hear?

Interview with Metis Black

April 1, 2009

Metis Black is the founder and President of Tantus Inc. Silicone may be well known now in the world of sex toys, but 11 years ago, when no one else was talking about safe sexual products, she was a lone voice. Although her articles on sexuality and wellness have been widely published, she wants to do more as an educator for the community and is currently in the midst of launching a new sexual health and wellness organization, SHEE. An organization which makes sex product manufacturers responsible for the products they offer, reaches out to the medical community and gives the general public a positive and healthy image. Metis seems to never rest! Whether running workshops and starting new tradeshows, helping new companies find their niche and gain exposure, or bridging the gap with customers and manufacturers, you can count on seeing both Tantus and Metis for a long time to come.

  • VenusFable VenusFable 5 users seconded this question.

    Out of the entire Tantus line of toys, which ones are in your nightstand?

    For you VenusFable I just did an inventory of both Tantus and others... Probably it's way more than you could believe but believe it. I also have three shelves full of toys in a linen closet.

    A look in my night stand

    On Top: Elemental Pleasure's vibe in box, Carragenan lube, Sliquid Ride.

    First Drawer: brass barrel nipple clamps, Basic Water lube by Pjur, 2 Tantus prototypes (1 black, 1 purple that will never be made and I can't tell you why I have 2), VIP in a soft silicone test material, Charmer in 2 tones, Infinity Large in purple haze, Minimassager by Hitachi (not available any more), Ryder plug, leather blindfold (with small holes to see through), Square Pegs Silicone dildo (don't know the name), Infinity Small black, Tulip Small black, Tulip Large purple haze, Squirt dildo in white, very cool leather mask (now removed so it isn't ruined), wood handled leather bat, Rascal purple haze, Aslan leather Jaguar harness with Sire, Pace, Water Dancer with Tantus prototype frog head (not suitable for production but I love it), Brookstone small vibe, leather blindfold with red trim, acrylic G-Force (formerly a master), rubber gloves, Inner Space acrylic dildo, metal mask, each of our Element Vibrators (Omega, Theta, Pi and Delta) in a clear silicone testing material, plug for rechargable Lelo.

    Bottom Drawer: Hitachi Magic Wand (plugged in), Erocillator 2 (plugged in), Alumina Flow, Omega Vibe in black, G Spot Vibe in midnight purple, Wahl Vibe, red harness from Madam-S-Leather, Aslan vinyl harness, Beauty & Damned nurse harness, Rascal purple haze, Ripple Large, John Doe black, Infinity sm prototype in pink, rough plug prototype (codename "bean"), Alumina Revolve, Inner Space steel dildo, Zing with DJ egg and controller, Pjur Original silicone lube, John Doe prototype dildo, Lg Njoy plug, O2 Niagara twilight, Beginner Ball Gag, VIP in red, Ace Small pink, Fun Factory recharge plug, one unknown plug, Acuvibe (I wish I could find the plug it needs recharging), prototype dildo that I didn't think was aesthetic so we rejected (but it hasn't moved from my drawer yet), Goliath midnight purple, Prostate Health prototype in pink, 2 Alumina Revolves and a leather paddle.

    I really need to clean these drawers.
  • Gary Gary 7 users seconded this question.

    Through your work in promoting sexual health and safer adult toys, what are some of the most common misconceptions that you encounter?

    That just because the package says it's silicone is no indication that the sex toy is silicone- with sexual products we are an unregulated industry and mislabeling has been very common.

    That the most important safety feature on a butt plug is not the base (if you relax the plug will come out even if it does get pulled all the way inside) but the arch between the neck of the plug and the body of the plug. If the curve isn't right it can permanently injure your involuntary sphincter muscle, the one that allows you to know when you need to poop.

    That a good sexual boutique store employee may have more sexuality training than your doctor, nurse or midwife.

    And maybe most important, that a good sexual relationship is imperative for your general health and well being.
  • Delete My Account Delete My Account 6 users seconded this question.

    What kind of topics do you cover in your workshops? How can we find out more about your schedule and the workshops you run?

    Most of my seminars haven't been for consumers but for retailers. I've done a lot on safe materials and toys, and on personal lubricants.

    Once in a while I'll do a workshop on g-spotting, beginning anal sex, or non-toxic toys but that's a rarity. I think there are some amazing speakers out there surviving on doing education and I just rarely find the time to travel the sex toy store circuit.

    I am going to be doing a monthly toy segment on Derek and Romaine on Sirius OutQ109 on the first Wednesday of the month around 8 EST.
  • Mr Guy Mr Guy 6 users seconded this question.

    As a business person, what is the biggest challenge that she's faced - financial, PR, etc.?

    And, a follow-up (because I am resolved to not get idiot-slapped down like Chuck Todd): there's been a lot of talk lately about the notion of sex toys doubling of art. One, how do you feel about that? And two, here's an idea for a rocking Prop 8 fundraiser: have a collection of artists design their own Tantus dildos, put 'em on display, and raffle them off. I mean, who WOULDN'T want an art-dildo, right?

    I try to support the overturning of Prop 8 in any way I can, my daughter was a devastated that it passed and when she passed a week later, we took up the fight to overturn it in her name.

    If someone put this idea together I'd be more than happy to support it. It would be awesome (and collectible).
  • Delete My Account Delete My Account 5 users seconded this question.

    How complicated is it to start a new trade show? What are the hurdles that you are encountering? Is there resistance from the established players in the industry? What are the goals in the end?

    Victoria Victoria 2 users seconded this question.

    Can you talk a little about the Love LA show http://lovelashow.com/; what it is and how/why you are involved with it?

    LoveLA isn't a trade show like any other I've ever participated in. It is primarily for consumers and emphasizes sexual health and wellness with quality manufacturers there to answer questions and explain their products. This will be our second year and last year Tantus shared the venue with Njoy, Fun Factory, Sliquid, Pjur, Lelo, and so many others. It was amazing.

    The one thing we don't have is a porn presence. This is all about education and it's specifically aside from the "adult" aspects all other shows I've been a part of have had.

    It was the brainchild of Ian Denchasy from www.freddyandeddy.com. My involvement last year was as a vendor, this year as it will be a fundraiser for SHEE I've taken a much more active roll both promoting and doing administration work.
  • Jimbo Jones Jimbo Jones 21 users seconded this question.

    What is your perception of the silicone toy manufacturing community? Are relationships with other manufacturers (Vixen Creations, Happy Valley, Fun Factory, et cetera) more open or more strained? Does it seem like a cutthroat industry or a sharing industry? Do you think giving too much help to small businesses just starting out could be detrimental to your business?

    What an awesome question. This is a funny business in that I am very respectful of manufacturers of quality products and I don't think they step on my feet nor me on theirs.

    Silicone was started by a company called Scorpio out of upstate New York. Duncan Gosnall was a vet who made them for himself and his paraplegic friends literally as "marital aids". They were quality dildos that gave them better relationships. I think that is still what we strive to do.

    The first time I saw Happy Valley was their first trade show up in Canada. I talked designs with them and I can tell you they are some of the nicest people you'd ever want to know (and I hear they have a poultry farm and bring organic eggs to many of their wholesale accounts). I'm not as knowledgeable about Vixen, but I respect their nitch immensely and I think Fun Factory moved us all to a greater audience. It's a surprisingly friendly industry.

    That said, it's been sad to see small company designs copied by the big boys such as has happened with Njoy, Nob Essence, Jollie. Sad and unfair.

    Regarding helping others, I was lucky to be one of the first maybe 5 people in the industry to see Njoy's original line. I gave them what I could in terms of business ideas and went home and started making introductions to buyers. I don't think that hurt Tantus at all and I cherish my relationship with them.
  • Fred Petrenko Fred Petrenko 8 users seconded this question.

    You do a lot of work with the sex toy manufacturer start-ups. What are the coming trends there? Do you see the notion of computer/internet-compatible sex toys gaining a significant share of the market?

    What do you think can be changed or improved upon in the business relationships between sex toy retailers and manufacturers? How do you feel your products would be best marketed? Can you say that Tantus would benefit if it had more feedback from the end users themselves (customers)? If so, what feedback would you like to have most?

    I'm answering part 2 first and part 1 second sorry.

    For Tantus, communication to store clerks or internet writers- the people who can talk to you in stores every day- is really difficult so marketing is challenging. We use an email blast system and try to get out marketing materials (or let people know those materials exist) but it isn't easy. If your someone who'd like to be on our email blasts go to our website [http:www.tantusinc.com] and sign up. If you are in the industry please email us and let us know you sell Tantus and want company marketing emails.

    The way the industry works is the majority of stores get products though a middle man, a distributor. This allows you to shop for all your items at one place and may allow you to get a volume discount even though you're only carrying 6 of one line and 12 of another and 48 of a third. The problem is that most distributors are phone centers that just wait for you to call in. They don't relay the information about a manufacturers goods other than the color and they are and whether they're selling. They don't really add value they just warehouse and ship.

    I don't see the computer/ internet compatible toys market growing with the exception of the masturbation sleeve with links up with porn to contract like the actress depending on the scene.

    I think as technology improves products will too. I'd like to see more green products but having said that the rechargeable vibrators have been notorious for working 3 to 10 times then being throw aways because the battery will no longer hold a charge.
  • Rufina Rufina 5 users seconded this question.

    As a person who travels a lot, what country do you think has the most progressive public sex education system? What country is the most sexually liberated, or the most sexually accepting?

    I haven't studied public sex education systems so I don't feel qualified to answer that.

    Having traveled a lot, while I know culture has a lot to do with your personal sexual identity. I can't really say Berlin is more liberal minded because, while they have more BDSM and sex clubs, they don't have thriving women's businesses or stores where quality and education are relished (not that there are none, but they aren't doing very well). Amsterdam has 100's of stores of shlock, but only two small boutiques with very limited selections.

    I think of everywhere I've traveled, Canada probably has the most fervent stores and do the most education and networking. Sue Johanson started as a nurse in a high school who worked to get birth control to students so perhaps it does start with public education.
  • Fred Petrenko Fred Petrenko 9 users seconded this question.

    Dear Metis,

    Thank you for visiting our community where everyone quite obviously admires you greatly. We are very glad to have you here and talk to us about your products, your company, and your plans.

    Here are a few of my questions:

    You have put a serious effort into bridging the gap and establishing general awareness between the business of sex and the public. What would you say are the biggest obstacles in the way of better understanding and acceptance by the general public of what a responsible sex business is? Is it lack of proper sex education? Is it religion? Government? Or is it more the stigma of the business of sex which for many years has been associated with unhealthiness, moral quandaries, and what some still fervently term ‘deviant behavior’?

    Honestly I think we've trivialized sex by making products we call "novelties" and even "toys". We have, as a 40 year old industry, marketed our products as dirty objects with porn images and next to dirty magazines. It's a legitimate marketing strategy, appealing to the forbidden, but it just isn't where I want Tantus to be, nor what Durex and Ansel want to report in their yearly public income statements.

    Reading SSL Healthcare's 2007 annual report sent to its stockholders, better known to us as Durex, (which is available on line because they are a publicly traded company) is very telling. No where in over 100 pages do they mention their fastest growing division as making "toys" or "novelties" they make sexual wellbeing products.

    I think before we change society's views we have to edit our own vocabulary and our own images. We are well on our way to doing just that though, and I think one day soon there will be sexual health and wellbeing stores in the malls right next to Apple stores.
  • Rufina Rufina 12 users seconded this question.

    Do you work on helping to develop any set of safety standards for the manufacture of sex toys, such as government regulations (FDA)? Do you think we need FDA safety standards? Do you know if there is any movement in that direction?

    Tantus manufactures to FDA registered standards gearing to the 21CFR . SHEE has talked about a code of ethics for businesses getting certification. This includes work hour schedules and child worker regulations as well as materials and pigments that are not hazardous.

    I'd like to think the industry can regulate itself before the politicians get involved. Politicians are interested in issues that will get votes, and I don't think sexual products are good for their careers. If we wait until the politicians can no longer ignore the health issues involved a lot of businesses will be going down. I think it's for everyone's best interest that we organize ourselves now and prevent catastrophe.
  • Fred Petrenko Fred Petrenko 13 users seconded this question.

    We have heard a great deal about the responsibility of the sex toy manufacturers. What would you say are the main responsibilities of the sex toy retailer to the consumers and to the manufacturers?

    You know I just got back from Australia where a "manufacturer" who imports all of their wares from China told me he was really careful about the quality of his silicone- and he pointed out his stretchy clear product. I immediately told him it wasn't silicone but was a TPR or TPE, but honestly he didn't know. It was a typical example of how little importers understand manufacturing. So you have to wonder, if the manufacturer doesn't have information, how is a retailer of the product supposed to get this information. It's a big problem.

    Some buyers really do due diligence regarding what they sell (they do smell tests and burn tests), but it's hard for most of them not to believe the product marked silicone that sells for $10- $20 just can't be silicone.

    I try not to blame but I do want the system to change. Testing and certification are really the only way to make sure of what it is your buying whether you are a "manufacturer", a retailer or a consumer. Let's make it happen soon.


  • Cinnamon Chambers Cinnamon Chambers 11 users seconded this question.

    As a bisexual female currently in a purely hetero relationship, most of my "real life", straight, shy, female friends are clueless about the health and safety issues with sex toys. It is never discused, and most of them only know toys through parties like Passion Parties, and Pure Romance. How do you see it being best to reach out to that demographic,with information to help them keep their bodies safe from harmful toys and products?

    I think people feel like products aren't offered that aren't safe and that just isn't the case. The Dutch EPA did a test in 2006 where they randomly choose from a store 16 sex toys to test their chemical composition. Of those 16 products they found 3 had arsenic, 6 had antimony, 12 had lead and 7 had cadmium- cadmium is a heavy metal with is accumulates in your body each time you use the toy.

    One of the toys had so much cadmium that the European Union would have required a radio active label coming in from China had they known. The toy that was radio active was a slimline vibrator that no one would have suspected- the problem was that the vibrator was yellow. Cadmium was used to pigment the product.

    People, whether they are buying from their neighbor at a pleasure type party or from a brick and mortar store feel that businesses know what's in the products their selling. So few "manufacturers" actually manufacture their own goods that it's ridiculous. Tantus makes everything here in the states, and there are just a hand full of others who do. The majority of products come from China and even if you spec out materials, unless you have someone there you don't know if the next batch will be made out of the same stuff the first ones were.

    I wish I knew exactly how to reach the demographic, because right now I feel that it encompasses everyone. I'm hoping I've done what I could as a business and an individual and hopefully in creating the SHEE Organization we can do more proactive work.

  • With SHEE, in terms of reaching out to the medical community, will you offer information on the use of sex toys with Endometriosis, PCOS, (I have both) or other reproductive syndromes or diseases?

    The whole idea of SHEE is an organization where we can educate ourselves in the sexual health industry and educate and make safe consumers.

    We would love to have more journal references up from medical journals and social science journals when they write about sexuality. I'd also invite you to start discussions about what those points the journals haven't researched yet, remember the research on the anatomy on the clitoris is only about 30 years old and a woman's collective needed to start researching it themselves because no one else was interested in finding out exactly what the clitoris consisted of and how the nerves worked and just how many there were.
  • In regards to SHEE- with the goal of holding fellow sex toy manufacturers responsible for the materials they use in their sex toys, do you think if they were to switch to silicone or aeronautical aluminum, that it would create competition for Tantus?

    And if manufacturers like Cal Exotics switched to crafting toys in tune with the high standards of Tantus, what would you personally do to keep your company from losing customers to these corporate giants?

    Looking further down the road with SHEE and its possible potential, do you think there will ever come a time when sex toys will need FDA approval (or another regulated stamp or approval) in order to be placed on the market?

    Has SHEE encountered any obstacles or protest from fellow sex toy manufacturers?

    reddog2196 reddog2196 2 users seconded this question.

    Is there a possiblilty of Public Service Annoucements, to let people know about safe sex toys? Would these kind of radio or tv spots be a way to advertise Tantus and other safe companies to buy toys from?

    While I answered regarding FDA and self regulation earlier but II think SHEE labeling will be a real benefit for stores who want to offer products that are certified safe. The European Union is starting to demand TUV testing on sex products from China as well (I just saw some of the certification in Australia). I think public demand will clean up this very real problem.

    Regarding obstacles and protests- everyone called us immediately upon reading our press release to get involved and be a part of SHEE- Cal Exotics, Topco, Doc Johnson even Pipe Dreams. We got no negative response at all.

    And while there won't likely be public service announcements, one of the most important parts of SHEE, as I see it, is the PR effort we make collectively to make people aware of safe sexual health and how to make the quality of life better through good sexual relationships.
  • Sammi Sammi 6 users seconded this question.

    I know that SHEE is your current project. Will this be a non-profit organization, and if so, how will you generate funding for its support?

    Oggins Oggins 12 users seconded this question.

    How is the SHEE organization working out? For the record, I think it's fantastic but do you find a lot of resistance to this organization? Have you had any other companies openly support you and agree with these concerns?

    We are still putting SHEE together. So far it looks like a "not for profit" company because it gives us more operation choices.

    Besides membership fees, LoveLA [http://www.lovelashow.com/] and other retail events will be fund raisers getting SHEE launched. All the profit from ticket sales is going strait to SHEE and we are hoping to take the Love shows on the road to New York and Chicago. Ultimately our goal is to reach out to consumers. A consumer trade show where we can talk in a healthy manner about sex and where there are free sex ed courses taught by luminaries such as Midori, Nina Hartley, Jamye Waxman and others- seems like the best way to make that happen.
  • Babely Babely 10 users seconded this question.

    I want to introduce my mans internal g-spot to his own toy. What is popular for men and a good starting point.

    We'll the first thing you always need to do with a virgin is seduce him. And really I'd want to know is he tempted already?

    40% of men, after the age of 40, will experience some sort of prostate issue, usually enlargement. An enlarged prostate is not only uncomfortable but will make urinating painful and make sex next to impossible. The first thing their doctor will tell them is to put their finger inside and massage the gland. Learning to relax the sphincter muscles and the PC muscles may prevent this and prostate massage is the perfect way to begin.

    If he hasn't had any anal play before I'd recommend putting a small vibrator, such as a bullet, against the taint (the skin between the balls and the anus) and let him experience an external prostate massage. Also the C-Sling we make is a cock ring (cock rings go over the whole package) that has a tongue which massages the prostate externally.

    For internal prostate massage I have two suggestions. The ProTouch which with the bullet vibrator out (you can use it externally on the taint) may fit over your finger. The way the ProTouch is shaped it's the perfect shape for a "come hither" motion. Tantus' new Prostate Health is a little more flexible and has an ideal shape for tickling the prostate. Not only that, the finger grip on the base is awesome no matter how much lubricant you have on your fingers.

    The prostate creates up to 95% of the fluid that makes up ejaculate. Prostate Specific Antigens (PSA) is also the fluid that women create in the G-spot glands. If you squirt it is the same fluid. If you don't squirt you probably retrograde ejaculate your fluid back to your bladder- after orgasm 70% of tested women had PSA in their pee.
  • Nashville Nashville 6 users seconded this question.

    Any chance of Tantus creating a cock ring made out of the same type of aeronautical aluminum as in the Alumina line?

    Right now we don't have any plans to make metal rings. I think that market, while it hasn't been mass marketed is fairly well developed. I recommend Gear Essentials to anyone looking for metal cock rings.
  • Do you feel that Tantus is currently competing with other sex toy manufacturers?

    If not, what do you personally believe are the things that keep Tantus toys a cut above the rest?

    Nashville Nashville 4 users seconded this question.

    Will you be expanding the toys offered in the Alumina line?

    Nashville Nashville 2 users seconded this question.

    When it comes to anal toys, I am a customer that loves very diameters and circumferences. Any chance that Tantus will create an even smaller plug than the Little Flirt or Slim?

    Nashville Nashville 2 users seconded this question.

    All of your vibrators use a bullet for vibrations. Any plans to create vibrators with moving parts or fully functioning electronics? Such as a rabbit style vibrator with a clitoral stimulator that vibrates and a shaft that rotates, wiggles, or thrusts?

    Nashville Nashville 3 users seconded this question.

    Do you plan on creating toys made of silicone that have interchangeable parts like the Aluminum line?

    Nashville Nashville 3 users seconded this question.

    In regards to the Alumina line- after working so long with silicone, was the switch to aeronautical aluminum an easy adjustment? Who dreamed up using this wonderful material for production?

    Sarah Sloane Sarah Sloane 3 users seconded this question.

    I love the concept of the Alumina line...I got to check them out at a recent event that Tristan Taormino was vending at, and I love the interchangeable handles & "business ends". Do you have any plans to sell the parts solo? Or with different materials?

    Second...now that you're exploring aluminum, are you looking into any additional materials for Tantus sex toys to be created in?

    Ciao. Ciao. 15 users seconded this question.

    There has, at least from what I noticed, been a great increase in the number of higher end/higher quality sex toys being produced. Tantus has obviously for its entire history been at the forefront of this. Do you think this trend will continue with more unique and high-quality toys replacing cheaper "novelty" type items? Has this upswing encouraged Tantus to develop and expand its line of toys? Do you feel that higher quality toys will encourage more people to try out toys for the first time?

    We have always attempted to create designs based on healthy materials and often we have chosen to redesign the standard toys that are in the market: cock rings, starter plugs, fleshtones etc.

    The one issue you have to work with regarding silicone, is that the technology for silicone is much different than for other materials. Molds are different. The "rabbit" style vibrators haven't been very successful in silicone. Fun Factory's Mermaid for example I didn't feel was effective because you couldn't get the silicone to flow through channels as thin as most rabbit ears are and the silicone on that type of toy is a thin sheath over the electronics. We developed the Delta, which does have the clit stimulator and acts effectively because the bulk of the toy delivers vibration wonderfully to the small leaf.

    Because of the limitations with working with silicone and molds, we have looked at other FDA certified materials and of course Aluminum. I want to know that Styrene is safe though (the basis of most of the TRP's and TPE's) and I've heard mixed reports. Last thing I want is to leap before I know what's up.

    I don't know if safe toys encourage more first time users- but I know I sleep well at night.
  • Jimbo Jones Jimbo Jones 14 users seconded this question.

    Tantus has a new line of aluminum toys aptly called Alumina. What prompted the departure from 100% silicone products? Do you think Tantus has caught any flack for this line?

    When we started we were looking at other materials as well as silicone, but we just got so involved with the production of silicone that we didn't go on. I love playing with hard toys, glass, acrylic, wood and metal (I'm a toy slut what can I say). When I hired a CEO four years ago, one of our priority's was to create other safe sexual health products. Alumina is the first to come out but hardly the last.

    To meet our demands for safety is difficult, and we've had several raw silicone producers not be able to meet our quality needs.

    To be a Tantus product means it has to meet medical standards. We manufacture to FDA standards and we look at how the material and pigments will react with a persons body so first and foremost it has to be safe. Aluminum met all of our demands.
  • Liz2 Liz2 7 users seconded this question.

    I too am a huge fan of Tantus products especially your line of butt plugs. But the Feeldoe is so rigid that the angle for penetration is impossible in certain situations, ie. female to male. Any thought of a basic modification?

    I've used it female to male but the original purpose of the Feeldoe was missionary style female to female. The larger two Feeldoes have a little different saddle area and is easier to use on men.

    We usually recommend walking around with a Feeldoe before you try using it for sex. Get used to the weight and how it shifts your center of gravity- it's kind of fun.
  • Jimbo Jones Jimbo Jones 6 users seconded this question.

    How do you feel about the new competition for the historic Feeldoe in the 'L-shaped' double-ended dildo category?

    Well the Feeldoe is one of the only patented toys in the marketplace. It has a use patent as well as three design patents. That said, most of the L shaped double- ended dildos are infringing on those patents and most of the manufacturers have been served cease and desist letters. Patent law takes a long time and is very expensive but the payout can ruin a business.

    Some companies are just reckless I guess.
  • Red Red 9 users seconded this question.

    Did you guys approach the inventors of the Feeldoe or did they approach you? On that note, how are new designs "invented" for Tantus products? For example, the A Bomb kicks some serious ass and seems to be a unique shape in the buttplugs market - did it come to you in a dream, or maybe as the result of carefully calculated anatomy defendant engineering?

    The patent holder of the Feeldoe approached us. In fact we get approached several times a month to make products, unfortunately silicone isn't the perfect material for all designs and the products also have to work with our brand and audience for it to be viable.

    As my partner says- "Unlike most manufacturers, at Tantus we fuck". Our designs are made taking into account a lot of anatomical information but ultimately we play with a product and make changes until it plays the way we think it should.

    Plugs are the most challenging, and probably what Tantus is most known for. The most important part of a plug is the curve from the neck to the body of the plug (that's the part that can injure the involuntary sphincter muscle when it's removed). If you look at plugs in most stores and see the hard edges and know what damage it can do you'll start cringing.

    The A Bomb is one of those pieces that was played with and changed several times before it hit production.
  • PurpleReign PurpleReign 19 users seconded this question.

    Tantus products are great - we have about a dozen now. (And the info on the Tantus site is always great to send people to.)

    A few items could benefit greatly from a little tweaking - I'm thinking about how universally appreciated the base of the Ryder is, and how that didn't make it into the designs of such otherwise well-thought out products like the Infinity or Ace or Tulip large sizes. That newer flanged base can be really unpleasant, especially compared to the comfort of the Ryder.

    Is the cost of resculpting and remolding to prohibitive?

    Thank you.

    You know we got a lot of flack for the base of the Ryder, which is my favorite plug, being too small. We looked at the other standard designs and ended up with the base that is on the Infinity, Ace and Tulip. I'm so sorry it isn't working for you though.

    The beautiful thing about these new plugs is the variety of neck sizes. I just got back from Australia where I was having dinner with some store owners and clerks and one of the clerks asked me why some plugs just won't stay put. The answer is that the sphincter muscle comes in different widths, and the more developed your muscle the more neck you need on your toy. One size does not fit all. In fact if the muscle band is too big for the neck it creeps up part of the body of the plug, it will fly out every time. The smaller diameter neck is there to clinch your muscles around and unless it's long enough, the moment your body contracts (orgasms) your muscles will automatically push out.
  • AnalArtist AnalArtist 17 users seconded this question.

    First off, I am a huge fan of your companies work. The ryder is my favorite plug and my warm up plug. I have two question. One I was wondering if you where ever thinking about making bigger anal toys? I love the feel and the design of the Ryder but would be I also love the fullness feeling.
    The next questions, I was wondering what research and designs have to go into making your toys. I go to an art college and all the pre work that has to go into these toys. Would love to see the whole thought process and some sketches and how they are made.
    Thanks again for all the great toys and can't wait to see what you have in the future.
    Josh

    We make plugs from 3/4" diameter (Little Flirt) up to 3 1/2 " diameter (Tex) so I think we have plug sizes covered. If your stepping up from the Ryder you might want to look at the Infinity Large or the Tulip. If your trying to train yourself up the Severin is the ideal safe way to go.

    When we have an idea we first reach for pen and paper. After we draw it we are now using a CAD program (Solid Works). We take it to the 4 axis CNC and create a prototype. We make a mold over that prototype, play with it and start making changes until it plays like we think it should play.
  • Oggins Oggins 18 users seconded this question.

    Tantus seems to be ever growing in their product line and I am thrilled! I'm wondering though, is there a certain product that stands out from the others for you or one that you are extremely proud of?

    Thank you. My favorites are many. Like many of the writers here, I love the Ryder and it remains my favorite plug. The Flow is my favorite in the Alumina line and I squirt the most with it (sorry if that's TMI). In a harness I love love love the VIP.

    I'm most proud right now of the Prostate Health product- I think men have been ignored for far too long and most prostate toys out now are rigid and don't flex which can be dangerous.
  • Cinnamon Chambers Cinnamon Chambers 15 users seconded this question.

    What has been the most and least successful toy design? Which was your favorite?

    The most successful design would be a toss up between the Little Flirt- the perfect beginning toy for anal play which was just redesigned so it stays in and fits the cheeks a little better and the C-Sling a cock ring (goes over the whole package) with a tongue that massages the prostate externally.

    Our worst design would be either the South Beach or the Neo- we were too intellectual for our own good.

    My favorite, on the other hand, is always something in the works. Right now the code word for the piece I love is Chacute. The angle is like the Acute and it has ridges like the Charmer, plus it has a great base for harness play. You should see it with a real name either in July or September. Keep a look out.
  • Nashville Nashville 5 users seconded this question.

    I know that a lot of people have issues using silicone lubricants with silicone toys- even if reviewers here say it's alright to use Bodyglide lube with Tantus products, customers are still leery.

    Can you ease shopper's minds with a few quick words of why and how Tantus toys are compatible with Eros Bodyglide lubricant?

    Silicone is inert which means it doesn't have loose electrons trying to bond and become stable. It is a stable elastomer (elastomer means it is stretchy). That's why it doesn't degrade, smell or melt next to any other product, unlike many other materials used for sexual products. The only thing silicone will attach to is silicone. When you have a lesser grade of either silicone lubricant or silicone dildo/ plug the silicone's will start attaching to one another. The bond is gummy and difficult to remove (I can usually remove it with my thumb nail but that's time consuming).

    When you love silicone lubricants and you really want to use your silicone toy with it I recommend doing a patch test on the base of the product. Rub a little lubricant on the toy and see what happens. It will get gummy fairly quickly. Also when your finished, clean your toys immediately after using a silicone lubricant.

  • Ilya Ilya 6 users seconded this question.

    Tantus manufactures a big variety of insertable toys/cock rings and only one male masturbation sleeve. Why is that? Do you plan on expanding your line of masturbators for men?
    Thank you.

    We started talking about it as soon as we finished the Stroker prototype. We just haven't gotten to it yet.

    The beautiful thing about our Stroker, and what makes it different from every other masturbation sleeve out there, is that you can actually wash ours. You can boil it, bleach it or put it in your dishwasher. Just don't use silicone lubricant with it. And if you carefully turn it around so the ridges are on the outside and put it over the penis, you can use it to add to your girth for a little something different.
  • When designing toys, do you have a target demographic?

    Our Cowboy line was specifically targeted to the more fetish and gay population who haven't had quality products that last before. Elements were a smaller line of vibrators primarily geared in pink and purple to a female clientele.

    One product doesn't fit everybody's needs, nor would I want it to.
  • Avery Dragon Avery Dragon 15 users seconded this question.

    I've been both selling and purchasing your products for roughly a year in a company in Dallas, TX. During training, it was drilled into my head as to how wonderful Tantus is, and after my first purchase, which was the Echo, I do heartily agree and push your products more. I do have a couple of questions. I have been wondering if you were considering expanding you O2 line? Also, have you considered expanding your color choices in your products? The Peacock and Ambrosia colors i assume didn't fare to well, nor the sherbet colors, but the green you had for St. Patrick's was rather nice.

    I'm trying hard not to answer every question now with a "thank you" but thank you...

    We are in the process of expanding our O2 line and making flesh tones. The beauty with that material (a super soft silicone exterior and a hard silicone interior) is it is so flesh like yet unlike other materials out there (Cyberskin, Realskin, ?) it's also still hygienically cleanable.

    Actually the Peacock and Ambrosia did great. We had them in production for years, unfortunately the more colors we made the slower our production schedule. We were having a lot of problems getting back to the smaller batches of color and it slowed down our whole manufacturing process. In the end we had to choose to be better business partners to stores rather than artists.
  • Red Red 8 users seconded this question.

    How is a silicone toy made, and what does the production facility look like? Is tantus a big factory with big hot fires under bubbling pots of melted silicone, or perhaps a clean white lab with polymer chemists wearing safety goggles? Did you start out in a garage somewhere or...?

    Silicone is first off made from silica (sand) in a heat process- that's for the raw material. It comes to our facility (we have a 20,000 sq ft warehouse) in drums. Silicone is two liquids, a base and a catalyst, which when combined make a solid. Nothing is melting and we try our best to be very neat and clean however it hasn't come to wearing white lab coats yet.
  • Neuron Geek Neuron Geek 4 users seconded this question.

    Does Tantus use any 3-Dimensional computer modeling in the design process? Which high-tech innovations do you use?

    It depends what we are making but about 4/5 of our products we design using a cad program and make prototypes on a 4 axis CNC machine.
  • ScottA ScottA 6 users seconded this question.

    There is such a wide variety in the density of silicone that can be used for toys, from the soft and floppy to the stiff. Tantus toys seem to tend more towards the medium range, with some (such as the A-bomb and the Feeldoe line) made from stiffer silicone. How do you decide what density of silicone to use, and what questions do you ask yourself?

    Leapfrogging on to the earlier question about the Feeldoe - any chance of an O2 Feeldoe (FeeldO2)?

    We use 3 different shore hardness's of silicone right now and each are based on toy performance. The harder toys include the G-Force which is a handled toy, the ProTouch which is for prostate and g-spot stimulation, and the internal silicone in the O2. The A-Bomb and Feeldoe aren't actually a stiffer silicone they are just dense so they seem harder. I don't see how to make an O2 Feeldoe. The mold would be impossible to work that way.

    Feeldoe tip: Put some water based lube into a condom and put it over the top of the Feeldoe shaft. This will actually simulate the soft flesh of a penis and be somewhat like O2.
  • Jimbo Jones Jimbo Jones 6 users seconded this question.

    As a pseudo-collector of Tantus toys (I think I have 20 so far) I really appreciated the noticeable increase in e-mail promotions that started about six months ago. What prompted this change and has Tantus seen measurable benefits from it?

    Thank you- it is quite an honor to be so prominent in your collection.

    While we wanted to get emails out, both to end users and to retailers, a lot sooner we finally found the right person to take charge of that project. Often our development hinders on having enough hours in the day to do what we think needs doing or the right person to do the job.

    The benefits are both that people see articles on things like "Kegels for Everyone" which they might otherwise miss and we promote safe toys that may have been missed.
  • Liz2 Liz2 6 users seconded this question.

    How does Tantus receive feedback from users of their products? Many of the prior questions have the same issues (base design of butt plugs) for example.

    Rufina Rufina 11 users seconded this question.

    From where do you draw your inspiration when designing new toys? Do you get more ideas from nature, art, personal experience?

    Customer reviews and suggestions are some of our best inspiration and we pay close attention to what sizes and shapes we are selling and what images are most looked at online.

    Other designs like do the Severin line come from art (a glass piece I saw in a gallery on Ray Street in San Diego), but most come from trying to hit anatomical targets.
  • Nashville Nashville 3 users seconded this question.

    Any plans to branch out and craft realistic vaginas, more masturbation sleeves besides the singular stroker, molds of breasts or porn star's penises?

    I don't think we will ever make molds of breasts or porn star's penises, asses, pussies, etc. I don't think that is Tantus and I think we would alienate our customers.

    At one time I did think of doing a sex educator collection. I think it would be amazing to see what Ducky Doolittle, Carol Queen or Violet Blue would create. I have lots of ideas like this, but they aren't always practical. But this one... who knows, maybe one day.
  • reddog2196 reddog2196 6 users seconded this question.

    On some of our Tantus toys the company logo seems to be hand scratched into the silicone base, are any of these your signature?

    Alas no. The older pieces that haven't been redone still have the etched in Tantus with the date of the original copyright.
  • Carrie Ann Carrie Ann 17 users seconded this question.

    From what I've seen, all the Tantus vibrators use watch type batteries. Any chance Tantus will branch out into a different sort of vibrator? Something that uses rechargeable batteries, perhaps? Or a vibrator that plugs in to charge?

    Unfortunately rechargeable batteries for toys haven't been great. They need a regulator so you can control how much charge your giving the battery otherwise, after a short while, they don't hold a charge (or that's been my experience). But we are ever aware that the watch batteries suck and are a huge problem with the environment. We've been looking at some new products trying to see what is possible.

    Give me 6-9 months and let me come back to this answer. LOL
  • Avery Dragon Avery Dragon 11 users seconded this question.

    Slightly silly question I suppose, I get asked several times "What does you mother think of you working in ~this~ kind of store?" and I suppose I have the same question, minus the spite. What does your family think of you and your work? How did you break it to them? "Hey mom, how was your day? Oh by the way, I'm going to make the best dildos money can buy!" Were they originally apprehensive to the idea? or did they support you the whole way?

    Well when I told my dad he smirked, my mother unfortunately died when I was a child. My siblings have been great though and my sister for a while did my accounting and tax preparation.

    However the big story is that my daughter was the coolest kid in high school and college! At 17 her sex education text actually had images of Tantus products. She was always very honest and proud of me.
  • Cinnamon Chambers Cinnamon Chambers 5 users seconded this question.

    What have you found to be the biggest struggle in changing the face of the sex toy industry, and with your company? What is your biggest regret or what you would have done differently so far with Tantus?

    Trying to build consumer awareness because it's a hidden topic even among friends has been our biggest challenge. And even before the consumer, getting distributors and stores to buy into the idea that customer service should be educated regarding sexual products; not just this one is blue and has three speeds but real information like that the Charmer hits the g-spot without you knowing where your g-spot is and the ridges are a width that make your PC muscle automatically contract each time you pull it out a step.

    My regrets are fairly minor. If I had had more resources I'm sure I could have built up the business quicker but that's all hindsight. I'm pretty proud of Tantus and what we've created.
  • Jimbo Jones Jimbo Jones 20 users seconded this question.

    I was wondering if you could walk us through the beginning of your foray into sex toy manufacturing. What were you doing before? What prompted you to move into that area? Why silicone when most of the rest of the industry was choosing something else? What do you think really got Tantus on the map?

    When I first began playing with the idea of making sexual products I was in graduate school (English MA program) in the San Francisco Bay Area. I worked doing marketing and management for a pewter foundry and had worked with artists in the fine craft world.

    Fortunately, in SF, we had a lot of good sex products but it was the era of goddesses and dolphins and frankly even though the toys were silicone, there wasn't much I wanted to use.

    When ever I traveled outside of my safe little politically correct island, the stores didn't offer anything I'd put near my body for any reason. Jelly, PVC, was all the rage which stinks to high heaven since it's primarily phthalates. The safest thing around was latex because it was the only products not made of mystery material, but with latex sensitivity that left me with nothing.

    Since no one was marketing better products to the mainstream, I figured I would. My business partner had a background in making silicone molds, so he was very familiar with the material and things just came together perfectly. We targeted first the market that already bought silicone, then the fetish market and slowly we educated the mainstream. It took years to get people aware and willing to take a chance on products that were quality but we did it.
  • Victoria Victoria 8 users seconded this question.

    I am curious about how you got started…what was it like in 1998? Did you start out with a workshop in your home and move to bigger spaces as the business grew? What was the first toy you ever made that was usable? I’d love to hear about that first year. Thanks!

    As Mike, our CEO, tells it it started at my kitchen table- but he wasn't there and really Tantus started in a 1200 sq ft warehouse that we just happened to illegally live in. LOL

    In 1998 we came out with a line of 6 dildos: Neo, Nouveau, Paisley, Rhythm, South Beach (which featured a flamingo in bas relief) and Cowpoke (which had a hat, boots, lasso and a wandering armadillo in bas relief- it was fun and functional) and three plugs- Big Flirt (now Flirt), Little Flirt, and the Stud.

    We were really lucky. Bend With The Wind, another silicone manufacture, had just announced they would no longer be wholesaling and we came into the market just as they left a void. I sent out wholesale packets and had orders in two days. We'd built the company on $10,000 and credit cards and within 3 months of production we were starting to pay off the credit cards. As I had worked in a small manufacturing company I knew the downfalls so we had lots of back stock and we shipped within 2 days, which was unheard of with silicone companies.

    The first discontinued items were the South Beach and Cowpoke (everyone wanted to review them but no one wanted to buy them) and everything we made that was green.

    About six months in we started the Silk line which are even today our most popular dildos.
  • Gary Gary 10 users seconded this question.

    What made you decide on the name Tantus? Where did it come from?

    Tantus is the Latin root word of tantalize. I think I found it in a Latin dictionary... I'm weird that way.

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About Metis Black

Company: Tantus
Occupation: Dildo Maker
Achievements: Created the world’s largest brand of non-toxic, healthy sexual products - Tantus Inc.
Current Project: SHEE- a sexual health and wellness organization; LoveLA trade show July 11 and 12 in LA CA
Statement: The W.H.O claims there are over 100 million sex acts a day. That's over 69,000 people coming every minute. I'm definitely not selling enough sex toys.
Publications: Kegels For Everyone; Sex and Brain Chemistry; Got Lube, Got Lube 2-Goodvibes.com; On Our Backs 2005-Sex Toys: Deep Inside the Industry-view articles at tantusinc.com/content/topic/sex-ed
Education: BA SFSU, Graduate School Mills College
Age: 44
Editor’s note: Metis Black is one of the more innovative and fearless people one will encounter in the adult industry. She’s vastly knowledgeable and passionate about her business, which is ultimately your pleasure!

Recent interviews

  • July 11, 2012 Fred Petrenko: "EdenFantasys Celebrates 10 Years of Sexy Innovation! " Read full interview
  • January 24, 2012 Sex Educator and Author, Ducky Doolittle: "Ducky Doolittle, an Author, Speaker, Educator, and Activist, has spent the last 23 years being on the forefront of sexual education. Why did she decide to become a sex educator? How did she come up with the title and content for her book? What does she plan on doing next?" Read full interview
  • November 15, 2011 Editor and Author, Delilah Devlin: "Delilah Devlin, an editor and author, has tried multiples careers in her life before finding her calling in writing erotica. What brought her into writing and editing erotica? Where does she get her inspiration for her writing? What's the hardest part about being a full-time writer? " Read full interview
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