By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
NORTH HOLLYWOODI owned Juli Ashton's ass and pussyI spanked her cheeks, teased and probed her two orificesbefore I ever met her. Let me clarify: I had Juli Ashton's Ultra-Realistic Pussy & Ass, a rubber replica of the famed porn star's private parts, before I saw said star in the flesh. After her career on film, she went on to co-host Nightcalls on Playboy TV and radio, which she's done for 10 years. When I first met Juli (heyjuli.com), I already felt I had a connection to her. After all, her rubber genital self accompanied me around the country to dozens of workshops and lectures. When I couldn't have a real live model, I always had Juli on (in?) which to demonstrate techniques. She brought my sex education to life.
Last week, the real Juli took me to the world headquarters of Doc Johnson (docjohnson.com), one of the world's leading sex toy manufacturers. I was expecting one huge factory, but it was more of a compound, with multiple buildings all buzzing with activity. I got a tour from the president himself, Ron Braverman, who proudly proclaimed, "We were the first company to manufacture and market butt plugs." My hero! Doc Johnson makes over 5,000 different products, including vibrators, penis pumps, lube, blindfolds, and anti-porn crusader Catherine MacKinnon's worst nightmare: disembodied replicas of porn stars' famous bits (like Jeff Stryker's cock and Jenna Jameson's cooch). It hit me when I saw the recognizable crotch creations: I was visiting the place that created, and still churns out, Juli Ashton's Ultra-Realistic Pussy & Ass, and I was there with Juli. Life had come full circle.
We visited that very department, where designers had recently taken plaster casts of the pusses of four starlets: Lexie, Monique Alexander, and newcomer twins Lacey and Lyndsey Love. From the plaster cast a mold is created, explained Braverman, and "we really try to make it as close to the real thing as possible." The four plaster cunts sat in a circle, but they weren't labeled, so I wasn't sure who was who. I noticed that a small stray piece of plaster sat next to one. One of the workers said, "She had one very large labia. I had to fold it over her opening to make the cast, and it broke." He carefullydare I say lovinglyplaced the piece of plaster where it should be to demonstrate. "I'm going to reattach it before I make the mold," he said, and his statement was strangely sweet. Braverman informed Juli that they've improved the technology and the process, which only takes 30 minutes from start to finish. Juli considered doing a special 10th anniversary pussy and ass as we walked over to the next building.
From there it was a whirlwind of sex toy production. I can't adequately describe the sight of copper cock molds moving swiftly along a conveyor belt, of toys being pulled from those molds and tossed into a cold-water bath to cool, of sparkling pink jelly dongs laid out in a row, of fat baby-blue butt plugs waiting patiently to be put into their custom-designed packages. Or the area where certain toys (known as "the realistics") get a personal touch: hand painting. Here, women gingerly brush pink dye onto cock heads and pussy lips and clits (to mimic the engorgement process during arousal) or draw bluish veins on peach-colored shafts. The color looked garish, but Braverman assured me that as it gets absorbed into the material, it will fade and look more natural.
Rarely do people ask themselves, "Where do dildos come from?" before they pick one out in the store, bring it home, tear into the packaging, and take it for a test drive. They are such personal items that bring us great pleasure. And there I was, at their place of creation. I watched with great reverence as double dongs made their way down an assembly line, suction cups were methodically attached right under the balls of realistic dildos, and bottles were filled from huge vats of strawberry-scented lube. At quality control, each product was carefully inspected for imperfections. I half expected to find a testing area in a typical focus-group room with one-way mirrors, this one filled with naked people trying out toys and rating them on a questionnaire. If that exists at Doc Johnson, I didn't get to see it.
I did, however, get a peek inside the new-product development department, which was the highlight of my visit. There, designers were brainstorming ideas, experim-enting with new toy materials, and testing different design elements. I smelled the prototype of a scented toy they're working on (it was either peach or some kind of melon, I'm not sure). I spotted a uniquely shaped butt plug, and asked when it would be on the market (about six months). I found inspired creations that I look forward to seeing on the shelf at my favorite toy shop. I felt like Donald Trump getting a look at new luxury jets before anyone else.
At first glance, Doc Johnson seems like any other factory, with the hum of machines creating the soundtrack of the workday, signs about worker safety prominently displayed, and staffers chatting on their lunch break. Plus, it seemed like a good place to work judging by how upbeat everyone was. People smiled at me as I eyed chocolate-brown dicks standing upright on a shelf, and no one seemed stressed or frenetic. There was good energy in the place, and I want my dildos coming from a place with good energy. I wonder, though, how the over 600 employees who work there don't get distracted by the things they create, handle, inspect, and package every day. They are surrounded by sex life spicer-uppers, masturbation tools, and battery-powered orgasm generators. How can they keep from running to the bathroom to jerk off, as I wanted to do halfway through my guided tour? Shockingly, I managed to score zero free shit from my visit (and I could really use a new Juli, since I've, um, worn her out). But that's OK, because Doc Johnson's bestselling toy, the Pocket Rocket, was already in my purse. I never leave home without it.
Please visit puckerup.com.