In a world where dildos are sold next to toothbrushes at CVS and Barbara Walters can joke about naming her vibrator “Selfie” on daytime TV, women have become fairly open—nay, even boastful—about their sex toy use. Yet for whatever reason, there’s more stigma attached to men owning sex toys than there is for women: Unlike ladies, who regularly gossip and compare vibrator HPs over bottomless brunch, few dudes will actually cop to owning a Fleshlight (NSFW) or a Pocket Pussy.
There are a handful of possible reasons why men would be less likely to own a sex toy than women, from societal norms to the fact that it’s just plain easier for men to get themselves off, but Brian Sloan doesn’t buy any of these arguments. He thinks the main reason why male sex toys haven’t blown up the way women’s sex toys have is because there hasn’t yet been a quality male sex toy on the market.
“The problem, basically, with all of these [male] products is that they’re underpowered and built like toys,” Sloan tells me. “I wanted to build something that was built like an appliance, not a toy.”
Sloan is the inventor of the Autoblow 2, a hands-free, automatic “robotic oral sex simulator for men” that is currently being funded on Indiegogo. At one and a half pounds and 8.6 inches tall, it’s a lot less compact than the Fleshlight or a pocket pussy; with its squat, blue-and-white cylindrical body and fleshy top, it looks a bit like a porn parody version of R2D2.
Yet what the Autoblow 2 lacks in sleekness and sexiness, it makes up for in pleasure and realism, says Sloan. The device is one of the world’s first automatic, hands-free masturbation aids, which Sloan says “better replicates what being with another person feels like” than a gadget like the Fleshlight, which requires manual movement.
“The future of male products is heading toward super-realistic experiences,” says Sloan. “I think there’s no way to have a super-realistic experience other than having it be hands-free.”
A former lawyer based in Beijing, China, Sloan has been in the novelty industry for years, creating male and female sex toy lines as well as a brand of latex wear. He started working on the original Autoblow (yes, there was an Autoblow 1) three years ago, after noticing a gap in the market for “high-quality automatic strokers.”
“It was like going to a grocery store and being like, ‘there’s no candy bars, I bet people would love to buy candy bars,’” he says. “It was obvious the market was lacking this type of product, and it was obvious guys would prefer a hands-free experience over a manually operated product.”
Aside from the fact that it’s hands-free (meaning that unlike the Fleshlight, which requires up-and-down hand movements to reach orgasm, you can just insert your… self… into the Autoblow 2 and it’ll go to town while you cut your nails or make a phone call or do your taxes or something) the Autoblow 2 differs from most male masturbation sleeves in that it includes three customizable sleeves, based on how large or small your penis is.
So whether you’re well-endowed or hung like a baby carrot, the end result, Sloan says, is that every user “experiences the same tightness” with the product.
Unlike other male masturbators, Autoblow 2 isn’t battery-operated. You turn it on by plugging it into an outlet, and the machine’s spring-powered beads stroke up to four inches of your penis up and down. The point of this, Sloan says, is to make the Autoblow 2 more durable, so it doesn’t wear out after a few months of use. It also uses an industrial-strength motor, so it doesn’t sputter and die out without notice the way most battery-powered sex toys do.
“Most sex toys break after a few months, but if you buy a cappuccino machine, it doesn’t just break. It’s supposed to last for years,” he says. “I wanted to build something to that quality level.” When plugged in with a “simulated load” (aka, a dildo), the Autoblow 2 lasted more than 1,000 hours, which should translate into “years of use.”
Sloan says that when the Autoblow 2 is released in July—it’s just raised $34,000 on Indiegogo, or more than 70 percent of its $45,000 goal—it’ll probably retail for around $150, or a little less than twice as much as a Fleshlight’s retail cost. While most female buyers, who have been quick to embrace the emerging luxury sex toy market, probably wouldn’t bat an eyelash at this pricetag (anyone remember this $15,000 gold-plated vibrator?) there’s a possibility it’ll be too steep for potential male buyers, who have traditionally shied away from the luxury sex toy market.
Sloan has a theory for why men are averse to buying high-priced sex toys like the Autoblow 2: While female sex toy buyers are “suckers for luxury products,” men differ from women in that “you don’t market to them about luxury, you market to them about feeling. The reason why a man would use a $150 product is very simple. It’s because the toy feels better than all the other toys, not because it gives him a luxury lifestyle.”
Perhaps more importantly than how the Autoblow 2 feels, however, is what its implications are for the future of the sex toy market. While having hands-free intercourse with a tiny porny R2D2 might not sound so sexy or appealing at face value, the fact is, Sloan says, that we’re headed toward a future of hands-free, automated, ultra-durable sex toys, that look less like the Fleshlight or a vibrator and more like the Autoblow 2. And although masturbation sleeves aren’t yet being sold alongside vibrators at pharmacies, the future of sex toys will include just as many male consumers as females.
“I guess it’s kind of a double standard, that it’s normal now for women but it’s not yet normal for men. But I gotta think that it’ll equalize. If women’s products are being sold at Walgreen’s, pretty soon men’s products will be too.”
Screengrab via Letsgasm/Vimeo