Awkward ‘experiential’ sex toy test
Last week I joined a media tour of a sex toy factory in Brisbane. It felt appropriate and timely in the lead up to Valentine's Day, as I'm currently single, and my date for the day is likely to be rechargeable.
The tour was billed as experiential, which left me slightly worried I had signed up for an orgy. What's more, I always get searched at airport security, and I wasn't keen on explaining a case full of dildos on my journey back to Sydney.
Still, curiosity won, and I found myself at the Lovehoney warehouse with several excited young women and one brave young man.
Warning: This article will contain plenty of sexual references so if you're easily offended, you may want to stop reading now.
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Lovehoney, we were told, is Australia's number one online adult retailer, importing 800 new products in 2019 alone. At least 100 of these products were on display on shelves around our otherwise standard meeting room.
There was the "Lifelike Lover", a dildo that did look exceptionally realistic, other than for the fact that it wasn't attached to a human. There was a bright pink "Rabbit", the vibrator made famous by an episode of Sex and the City. And there was the We Vibe "Chorus" toy for couples, which I could try to explain but it would require a diagram and some rather bendy stick figures.
Rob, the Lovehoney director - who looked more like a soccer dad than a sex toy empresario - gave us a lively tour of the stockroom, where even more items lined the shelves awaiting transportation to their forever homes.
Many of the toys were recognisable - a lipstick size vibrator, a nurse's costume, some handcuffs, a pair of knickers - but some were a little confusing for this intrepid sex reporter. I speak particularly of a giant, heavy, replica penis that would make an effective door stop, or perhaps a weapon to fight off intruders, but might be a little impractical for sex.
Then there was the "Hot Shot" black, mug-like contraption, which apparently warms and vibrates around whatever is inserted. My first thought was that it would be great for hot chocolate, but apparently it is designed for something rather more intimate.
I was less befuddled by the lube. There were endless bottles of lube. Plain lubes, edible lubes, lubes in fruit flavours, lubes that tingle, and some gin and tonic flavoured lube that was really very tasty. (I *may* have sampled a bit when Rob wasn't looking.)
After the warehouse, we headed upstairs to visit the Lovehoney customer service department. The whole area looked like any other work environment, but in lieu of pot plants, the desks were decorated with dildos: a dildo with stuck-on eyes bobbing next to a computer, a dildo sporting a panda clip attached to a corner, and a long, rubbery penis hanging forlornly from a desk.
Back in the meeting room, we listened to talks by a series of experts, including a sexologist, a sex educator, and activists in the adult industry. They spoke of sex positivity and shame-free sexual pleasure, and by the end I could hear the words "prostate massager" without flinching.
After the presentations, we were each asked to grab a toy that resonated with us and hold it in our hands. I was rather taken with a set of glass anal beads that looked like they would make a lovely swizzle stick for a G&T, but I settled for a pink vibrating wand that made a satisfying buzz.
And then for the "experiential" part: we were directed to play with the toys, right there in the room in front of everyone.
Okay, so we just played with the toys in our hands. No clothes were removed, or intimate areas touched. But the gentle humming of the machines was quite soothing, and after a few minutes the awkwardness faded away, and I felt like I was ready for a post-pseudo-coital snooze.
In our final exercise, we were divided into small groups and asked to create an ideal date night with accompanying toys. One group's date involved sexy lingerie and Chris Hemsworth (who apparently is considered a sex aid in himself). My group's date involved a lot of alcohol, and my special swizzle stick, and a hamburger with the lot.
By the end of the day, I had my eye on several items, and I could say "strap on" and "stimulate" as easily as I could say "chair". And so, with a bag full of delightful, rechargeable Valentine's Day dates, I headed back to Sydney.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, my bags were searched again at the airport. And no, this time I didn't care at all.