After becoming involved with sex-positive collective Fair Moans, Meredith Maloney achieved a longtime dream of expanding the material and tools for sex education.
“I’ve always had an interest in opening up a sex toy shop in Pittsburgh, and that’s kind of like a passion of mine, is this idea of inclusive sex education and having body-safe products for everybody,” says Maloney, who runs Fair Moans with fellow collective members grizzemily cross, Jocelyn Kirkwood, and Nicole Gallagher.
Founded in 2015, Fair Moans covers a wide range of sexual experiences and desires, including BDSM and trans health. To reach the community, they host a number of year-round workshops and pop-up sex shops at events like the annual Pittsburgh Pride.
Their mission continues on Feb. 22 when the collective hosts its first-ever DIY Silicone Device Workshop at the Garfield art and technology community space, Assemble.
Presented as part of Assemble’s 21+ programming, the event fits in with the collective’s focus on locally-made sex gear and accessories that are safe for all bodies.
“Our products that we try to carry are for people with a variety of practices,” says Maloney, citing items like harnesses for people who want to have sex with an extra appendage. “We definitely focus on having products that different people can use that are not just heteronormative.”
Tickets for the workshop are available for $50, which accounts for the cost of materials and refreshments, with limited spots open for half-price or free for Garfield residents.
Along with Jayla Patton of Assemble, Maloney will demonstrate how to sculpt and cast a sex toy from body-safe materials. The process includes using clay to shape a device that will then be made into a mold and filled with silicone. Participants can make a sex toy from scratch or bring a sex toy they already own in order to customize it further.
Maloney says the workshop gives people the ability to craft something that works better than what’s usually available on the market.
“There’s this idea that when you go to the store you’re going to buy something that looks like a penis, and those are the things that a lot of stores will carry, even online,” says Maloney. “This is an opportunity for people to make something that is from their own imagination and that will work for their body.”
While sex toys and accessories have boomed into a multi-billion dollar market, some groups, especially in the LGBTQ community, still feel left out by the focus on dildos, vibrators, and fleshlights. But there has been some progress, with companies creating safe, innovative products for a variety of needs (one Google search for “LGBTQ sex toys” produced numerous lists of products designed for gay, lesbian, and trans consumers). One market research report released by Technavio in 2018 predicted that the global sex toy market would continue to accelerate, citing growing LGBTQ populations in developed countries as a key factor.
What the Assemble workshop hopes to do is empower participants to take matters into their own hands (so to speak) by giving them to skills to purchase materials and make their own sex toys at home, as opposed to waiting for the market to cater to them.
However, Maloney stresses that the workshop involves a more simplified approach compared to how devices are usually manufactured, which puts the silicone through certain processes to make it medical-grade and food-safe, so users are able to sterilize it. “We’re not going to be able to do all of that in this workshop, but we’ll let people know what we are doing and how that differs from what you buy at a store,” says Maloney.
While the first workshop is currently sold out, Maloney says they plan on hosting more in the future, including one in the spring.
“I think that it’s going to be an experiment, for sure,” says Maloney. “People are going to walk away with toys and, along the way, they will not have done everything perfectly, so they’ll have the ability to go home and try it again."