Interview With Metis Black, Tantus Founder

I know my body very well. I’ve been able to diagnose almost all of my illnesses, known what levels of hormones I needed in my birth control before I ever took it, what things are incompatible with my body, and what things make it feel amazing. But there is one sex toy company that seems to know my body better than I know it.

Every time I try a new Tantus toy I tend to think it looks interesting, but assume it won’t do much for me. And every time I manage to be dead wrong. In fact, two of their dildos that I had put off trying (one of which was in my possession for several years unused) quickly rocketed to the top of my favorite sex toy list after their first time in use. I’ve learned my lesson. If I get any more new Tantus products they will not wait. I will try them right away.

Other sex toy manufacturers make products that I can normally figure out right away whether or not I’ll like them. But even the toys I’m pretty sure I’ll love tend to pale in comparison to the Tantus toys that I end up adoring. So that got me wondering about how exactly Tantus designs their toys. How can they know my body better than any other company out there and better than myself?

Luckily, the President and founder of Tantus, Metis Black, is a friend and mentor of mine and she allowed me to pick her brain to find out what makes Tantus different.

Garnet:  Why did you start Tantus?

Metis: I started thinking and planning Tantus when I was a graduate student at SFSU. I was lucky that I knew good toys from the rest of the mystery materials out there, but I realized others were not so lucky. We started production in 1998 so this was probably 3 years earlier. In 1995 there just weren’t very many options for good sex toys if you didn’t live in SF, NYC, Chicago or Seattle. The web was just a baby and we all worked on dial ups. People were sold on the bubbles in “jelly” toys (which actually indicate bad casting), and never mind the smell. With Tantus we honed our production methods, our designs, and our marketing to get Tantus dildos and butt plugs to MidAmerican stores- stores that may never have even considered that there were health implications that played in choosing your sex toys.

Garnet:  How is Tantus different from other sex toy manufacturers?

Metis: First, we make everything here in the USA. Some of the large manufacturers have a percentage of their products made on shore, but the majority of  products are brought in from China factories (which aren’t known for quality control). Even most of the big silicone companies don’t manufacture themselves. Tantus, Fun Factory, Vixen— we all struggle to compete with the new startups that come with financing to package and big marketing budgets and leave day to day operations to someone else.

And because Tantus’ goal was to spread the benefits of silicone sex toys and quality made toys to the world, education has been a high priority since day one. We were the first silicone to do industry trade shows here in the states. I personally spoke to thousands of industry people about what the benefits of silicone were and why they should be thinking about what they were selling. The early years were really eye opening. You never knew who were going to be your advocates and who were your adversary. It was also one of the reasons we did really well with online stores and with bloggers who were seeking education on materials and toys.

I think we’re also different in that we have a true passion for making the world a better place, a more sex positive place. We’re open with all business information to all of our employees who once a month sit through an all associates meeting where we go through the numbers and we answer difficult anonymous questions that might be haunting our employees.

Tantus, or more specifically I, have a history of being open with startups. I’ve counseled and written letters of introduction for several start-up companies that had new innovative sex toys- including Njoy, Aneros, and Nobessence. I’ve also been the champion loudmouth that complained publically when the big companies appropriated the unique designs of these wonderful manufacturers. Sometimes Tantus is not so popular in those circles.

Garnet:  How do you come up with your designs?

Metis: We design based on our own experiences, usually wishing we had something that did this, or touched right there, etc. We also listen to customers who tell us what they are looking for, or what size they wish a ring came in, etc. And sometimes we’re inspired by art or ideas. For example, our Severin line of plugs were inspired by an art piece in a San Diego art gallery.

Once we have an idea, we will either hand sculpt or use Solid Works to design it, then we will make a prototype or three. Several employees volunteer to try the new item at home and based on their responses we make changes and create new prototypes which are again tested until it works to their satisfaction. We have lots of designs that have never made it to production.

Unfortunately, I have to sit on designs or ideas a while before we actually get them into production and out for sale. I have a long list of items mid process just waiting for their turn.

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About Garnet Joyce

Garnet Joyce

Queer sex educator starting a new adventure with her wife and two cats.