We are honored to feature an interview with TANTUS Inc. founder and President, Metis Black. Over the last twenty years, TANTUS has earned a reputation for top of the line sexual wellness products crafted with quality and health in mind. They have championed the use of body-safe materials and manufacturing processes of the highest caliber. In recognition of this interview, we invite our customers to use the code "METIS" to take 15% off of our selection of TANTUS products.
How did your company or organization get its name?
Tantus is the Latin root word of Tantalize. I’m a little bit nerdy- so yes, I own a Latin dictionary.
What is the appeal of your product? What differentiates your products from those of your competitors?
Tantus was the first company to mainstream silicone sex toys. Here was the safest soft material and you had to live in San Francisco, Boston, NYC to know about it. Within the industry, all those who were there attest to the fact I was the voice educating anyone and everyone about safe sex toy material and silicone.
We have always used the highest grade silicone and we make form factors that really work for bodies. Each toy is tested on a variety of body types and if it doesn’t do what we envision, we rework it until it meets our satisfaction.
How has Amazon affected your business?
There’s so many knock offs, you never know what it is your getting on a site like Amazon and Tantus does not directly deal with Amazon. Frankly, this industry has known lesser brands who knock off your products anyway. It’s very frustrating and it puts small innovative companies out of business. It’s important to know who you’re buying from and to buy from a curated selection cause WOW there’s a lot of “novelties” that really are novelties.
Because of increased demand, markets tend to see more counterfeit products available. Have you seen a lot of cheaper knock-offs particularly from overseas?
There is a name brand who’s rumored to have family in China who own the factory; they began with knock offs of three of our products and this month I was sent images of one of our hottest releases last year the Uncut #2, a realistic with foreskin intact, with exactly the same veins and their logo. They took our art and put a new base on it and their logo and made it with lesser material. Yet fighting a battle on copyright is a very expensive and soul sucking endeavor.
Besides wider acceptance, how has industry changed in last 10 years? 20 years?
The industry is so much more inclusive than when I began Tantus 19 years ago. When we design we think about able bodies and less able bodies, reach, grip, the variety of flesh tones, and safety. 19 years ago buyers were thought to be all male bodied, buying products for female bodied, which is one of the reasons so many toys were so large— I knew better. I knew that the toys I’d bought for myself worked much better than those men had gifted me. Women choose the toys that will work for them now and they research what works and what doesn’t and make certain that they last. Women stand up and advocate for themselves when a toy doesn’t work.
How do your products enhance customers' experiences?
Not all toys are going to work for every body, but Tantus makes safe sex toys that aren’t going to cause burning, rashes or inflammations; Tantus makes safe sex toys that work with your body (an example is the Charmer- a dildo with steps so that when you play with it pulling it in and out with the steps towards the pelvis, those steps find your g-spot. You don’t need to know where your g-spot is they toy does all the work). Tantus products are easy to clean and care for as well. You can boil them, bleach them (in a 10% bleach solution) or put them in your dishwasher. And storage is so easy because real silicone doesn’t melt or discolor next to other silicone. You can just put them, after cleaning, in your nightstand ready for your next adventure.
What would you like customers to know about your products and company that marketing materials might not adequately communicate?
Tantus is a mission based company. We believe that each person has the right to a healthy sex life and that sexual health encompasses many aspects of physical and mental well being. And Tantus was one of those companies who changed the entire industry— for years we’d go to trade shows and be the sole silicone products there; talking about toxic toys and safe materials and why it was important. Now everyone has silicone sex toys, so apparently I was a very effective.
Tantus is also a big believer in sex education and human rights. We have a very diverse resource center online at tantusinc.com/sexed including several articles I’ve written over the years, a PDF of the Danish EPA’s report of the chemicals of randomly chosen sex toys, and articles from many well known bloggers and sexologists. I am also on the board of directors of Woodhull Freedom Foundation, the only human rights organization working full time on affirming sexual freedom as a fundamental human right, www.woodhullfoundation.org. We hold a Sexual Freedom Summit in Washington DC once a year, August 4-7 2016 in Alexandria VA, which I encourage everyone to attend. This year we have tracts on Disability and Sexuality, Racial Justice, and Men’s Sexual Health and Pleasure.
What are three products in your line that you think do not get enough recognition?
Our O2 line at Tantus is something special that’s sometimes overlooked. This is a line of dual density silicone that feels and plays amazing. The inner core is a hard material, perfect for being able to drive in a harness or on a suction cup, and the outer material is so skin like that it’s incredible. Online you have to take my word for it, or that of reviewers and often in stores it stays in the package with no testers out to feel. Our latest realistics, the Uncut #1 and #2, Gary and Alan, are all in this amazing material and we have non-realistic toys Cush and Flurry. Try it, you’ll like it.
Who is your target market?
We started, 19 years ago, with a line for female bodied market but our target has completely changed. Tantus’ target market isn’t based gender because we recognize that gender in our culture is fluid. Our packaging reflects that change— using colorful bubbles rather than models or gender appropriate color codes (pink/purple or black). We recognize people that like larger toys come in all sexes as well. Gender and orientation just limit everyone.
So who is our target market- someone who is experienced with their own body. I like to think of our customer as a connoisseur of pleasure. We usually aren’t someone’s first sex toy—but we’re the ones they stay with once they know what they are looking for.
With the trend of Americans' expanding waistline, have you had to make accommodations? If so, what kind?
We started making long handled toys over 10 years ago with the G-Force. And the Feeldoe® makes an amazing solo toy by using the bulb as an ergonomic handle. While dildos that are 6 ½ inches long are still our best sellers, we make several products over 7” in length so that with strap-on play you have more reach, and don’t have to be a Skinny Minnie to have use it in a harness.
The adult toy industry is largely unregulated from a medical perspective so there are some manufacturers who market their use of "body safe" and "medical grade" materials (e.g. the industry has moved from rubber, to PVC to Silicone among others). Do you think the industry would benefit from more regulation and oversight when it comes to materials? Does your business encounter stricter regulations and more oversight in other countries?
I’m not one to recommend FDA, as it will eliminate well over 99% of the toy companies as the cost of getting each product through clearance will cost over 10k. Only the highest cost, biggest brands will survive.
The CPA oversees consumer protection and that includes sex toy consumer protection which might be enough, but doctors will still have to recognize that the rash you bring them, the inflammation or discharge is coming from contact with a sex toy. Long range health issues are very difficult to connect from these industry “novelties”, and they are even more elusive to prove.
How do we make it a safer place? We educate the consumer and we educate the medical establishment; including that the KY Jelly they are using for pap smears actually takes moisture away from your body.
But one of the amazing things that’s happened in just the last 5 years, is the EU’s ground water policy R.E.A,C.H. Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals. If you import into the Europe more than 100 tons of products a year those products need to meet chemical standards that ensure the ground water safety for the future. By 2018 the quantity goes down to 1 ton (2000 lbs). This regulation has been the biggest reducer of toxicity in sex toys. As the activist calling out others 20 years ago, it’s been an exciting turn around to watch.
What criteria do you use in selecting your materials? How do you test/evaluate your products?
Tantus works with a silicone team that formulates raw silicone and we have incredibly exacting standards. We choose our silicone not just based on price point but based on clarity, the quality and quantity of fillers, the honesty and integrity of our business partner and the ongoing quality control which we look at like a hawk. 90% of the sex toys Tantus makes, we make in our facility in Sparks NV. We also have a plant in MI and work with a Chinese plant. When we work with someone else, those toys always go through third party validation to make certain it is what we qualified. We were the ones who educated the market on material safety; we strive to bring to our customers the best they can get.
Our company believes that enjoyable sexual activity is important to healthy adult lifestyle regardless of physical disability. One group of consumers whom we are trying to serve is the physically challenged. What kinds of products do you offer or recommend which can help those with physical disabilities reconnect with partners?
Tantus does too and yet, we don’t think sex toys should be labeled as being for specifically able bodied or less able bodied. As my friend, sex educator and ageless sex advocate, Joan Price says “At some point in all our lives, if you live long enough, you will be less able bodied.” Our G-Force, Echo Handle, Goddess Handle and Anaconda have been touted by many disability advocates. And the fact that they are inclusive rather than specialized toys is also recognized.
I’m very excited because one of my biggest projects is soon to be released- Rumble™ a vibrator for every body. This has been my baby for the last 5 years. It’s a feather weight vibrator that is so ergonomic it takes next to no strength to hold, and it still has a thumpy rumbly motor. I have a older friend with arthritis and I accidently put it in her non dominant hand and she was amazed that she could securely hold it and use it as big cumbersome wands she can’t. Being inclusive means so much to us at Tantus; as does making good products that really work for people.
Customers (okay me really) are curious as to how you do product research. How do you develop products? Are there focus groups? Are there online discussion groups? Do you use market trends? Is there a futures market in vibrators or dildos of which we are sadly unaware?
First we here at Tantus, are self-proclaimed sex toy lovers. You don’t usually hear that from a manufacturer, but I love sex toys. So when we are developing a product, we usually have in mind what it is we want that toy to do. We have used multiple mediums to create artwork, but currently we are primarily using a CAD program and doing design work digitally (even on the realistics). We invested in some amazing 3D printers (not your home office style machines) and we will print out a design make a mold of that artwork and make several prototypes. If it plays well for us, we send it out to testers who are known reviewers. I used to have friends test, but “Yes it works” isn’t a usable testing. I want to know the parts that worked amazingly and the parts that hurt, should be changed like so, to work on this type of body but not that type, etc. We alter the prototype and recreate it, sending it out again until it either makes the cut or we decide it never will.
I’ve always dreamed of being on a brain trust- perhaps a sex toy brain trust is an idea whose time just hasn’t yet come.