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  Newsmakers   Good vibrations: Hollywood sex toys are creating a business

Good vibrations: Hollywood sex toys are creating a business

Published : May 30, 2016, 6:23 am IST
Updated : May 30, 2016, 6:23 am IST

Workers remove sex toys from metal moulds at the factory of Doc Johnson, a California-based sex toy company, in Los Angeles. (Photo: AFP)

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Workers remove sex toys from metal moulds at the factory of Doc Johnson, a California-based sex toy company, in Los Angeles. (Photo: AFP)

Chad Braverman is an early riser — you have to be to keep ahead as America’s top sex toy magnate, overseeing production of tens of thousands of “pleasure products” a week.

Every day the 34-year-old gets up around dawn, jogs for 30 minutes and heads to work, where he runs the largest maker of vibrators, massagers, strokers and other R-rated gadgets in the US.

Set in a sprawling industrial campus 15 minutes’ drive from Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, “Doc Johnson” is unrecognisable from its origins as a fishing tackle shop bought by Chad’s father and mentor, Ron, 40 years ago.

Ron Braverman, 69, opened for business in Los Angeles in 1976, having spent time in the Netherlands, where his eyes were opened by the liberal attitude to what were then coyly known as “marital aids.”

Today, his 500-plus workforce pours six tonnes (4,450 kg) of molten materials every day into moulds of penises, vaginas and other orifices, supplying retailers and individuals across the world. The company makes a staggering 75,000 sex toys a week — many lovingly finished off by hand, to employ a phrase largely redundant in the high-tech world of “intimate pleasure.” The rise of Doc Johnson coincides with a period of unparalleled growth in the market, with sex toys moving from the edge of acceptable into big business.

Once the domain of seedy adult shops, vibrators can now be picked up at the health and wellbeing counter of major retailers like Wal-Mart and Rite-Aid. Doc Johnson’s many innovations span from the “Palm Pal” in 1976 to the modern day “Tryst,” a silicone device for couples or solo fun, just awarded Cosmopolitan’s June sex toy of the month. In the early days, almost every customer was male, whereas now at least half are women who, Ron says, are far more discerning consumers. A tour of the Doc Johnson factory — a nine-building, 215,000 square foot campus which rose from the ashes of a devastating fire in 1995 — can be an overwhelming experience.

Dozens of anatomically realistic copper-finished moulds of penises, vaginas and anuses — often cast from the body parts of porn stars — sit on row upon row of shelving.

Doc Johnson’s bestsellers include masturbators modelled on porn legend Sasha Grey, the “Pocket Rocket” and the “Rabbit” vibrator, made popular by the hit television series Sex and the City.

Location: Chile, Bíobío, Los Angeles