It was during a casual doomscrolling session on Instagram that I first came across one of Jen Stein’s dildo designs. Encased in a glass jar, her sex toy traded a full bush for one made of neon green grass, complete with a stone-paved door, a fairy figurine and a garden gnome wearing a mask in an ode to isolation season.
I was immediately intrigued by the bizarre brazenness of her art, which prompted me to check out her profile @adultartsandcrafts2. What I found was a collection that blew me away.
From cocktails to cupcakes to a cactus she has fittingly renamed the “cocktus” (“such a prick”, as her caption says), Stein’s Instagram profile is a delightful exploration of the weird, wild, wonderful world of dildo art. But a quick scroll through this rabbit hole of whimsical ingenuity makes it increasingly evident that her sex toys aren’t just forms of phallic fun. Each dildo goes deeper than what meets the eye.
Take, for example, her “Don’t be a Pandemdick”, a warning sign filled with red flags to ward off anti-maskers.
The 'Pandemdick' is Stein's statement against anti-maskers and COVID-19 denialists.
Or the “Shoot cum, not guns” piece—a humorous stance against the alarming number of gun violence cases in the U.S.
Stein’s art stand out not just because they’re delectably designed dildos but also because of the meaning she ascribes to each design: a meaning she spells out with the most capricious captions, each injected with big pun energy.
So, I decided to hit up the 28-year-old artist from Los Angeles, and get the low-down on why she designs dicks for a living, how people generally react to her designs, and how her art has affected her dating life.
(Interview edited for length and clarity)
VICE: Hey Jen! Your dildos have tons of big dick energy. How did you get into designing sex toys?
Jennifer Stein: I was working in music marketing and travelling a lot. I always had an artistic side, and a lot of ideas going on in my head. Then one day last year, sometime in February 2019, a friend and I were chilling at her house while she was giving me a tattoo. I noticed a glass jar and a dildo on her kitchen counter, and I could immediately envision putting the dildo in that jar and turning it into a mushroom. And so I did!
After that, all these wild ideas just kept coming to me. It started off as just a fun hobby that I did on the side along with my job. I had a separate Instagram account for some of my art already. So I decided to turn that into a page dedicated to my dildo art about a month later, and it just got way bigger than I ever expected. I started out with just wanting to keep things funny, but I think I always wanted people to be more open about their sexuality.
Can people actually use these dildos to masturbate?
On a sanitary level, no one should use it as a sex toy. I’m using pins and hot glue, and there’s no way that’s sterile. I have worked with prosthetics for trans people and tried to make that in a way that it could still be used because in this case, it’s something that can define someone’s identity. But generally, my dildos are just a form of art.
So what did you hope to achieve through your dildo art?
I’ve always been open about my sexuality, but I find that there’s a lot of stigma against women who try to express their sexual side. On the one hand, female bodies have been objectified in art for centuries, and saying a woman has nice tits or a great ass is so normalised. But anything besides what the straight man wants is not commonly accepted. By turning dicks into art displays, this is my attempt to balance that disparity.
A lot of your art also makes strong socio-political commentary. Was it intended to be that way?
Though I started making these dildos more as a hobby, I slowly realised it was a great way to package my socio-political opinions. I used to be super active on Twitter, but when I tweeted certain things, people would find ways to disagree with me, or ask intrusive questions. But I realised that instead of a tweet, if I say the same thing as a caption next to a piece of art, it translates into something completely different for the same people.
As I learnt more about the country’s political situation, I had more ideas on how to integrate it into my art. When Trump was impeached, I made a Trump Impeached tea, and before that I made a Trump butt plug. When Amy Coney Barrett was nominated for the Supreme Court, I made a dildo that said “Justice, not just dicks”.
The idea was to talk about current issues that affect us all, but do it in a way that is appealing and engaging to people. The most important thing for me is to start a conversation and de-shame and destigmatise these overarching ideas.
How do people usually react to your dildo designs? What are your customers like?
I think people enjoy and appreciate the shock value of my art. On my first Instagram page, I had about 7,000 followers, but each post would get a lot of engagement, and thousands of shares. I think that’s because not everyone is comfortable with following a dildo art page, but will still share it and talk about it with their friends.
I think my customers are a split between women and men, including gay men. Once, a sports league approached me and asked me to make custom dildos for them. A lot of teachers and HIV activists like my work and feel it’s a good way to give people sex education and advocate for sex positivity.
I’ve had some interesting conversations with my clients or followers about whether they can display these dildos in their office. I would encourage people to do that and sort of reclaim their sexual identity, but I do understand that not everyone is comfortable with that. Then I have cases like this one girl, whose boyfriend said he loved the dildo, and then asked if they could hide it when people come over.
So how does this affect your dating life?
What dating life? (laughs)
When I started this project, I was at a point where I was so career driven, solely focused on sex. I even saved a guy’s name on my phone as Uber because all I did was ride him! I love dicks, but not necessarily the person attached to them. For me, sex is just sex, and I’m mature enough to keep things separate. In fact, I’d probably chase a guy out with a dildo if he starts getting too comfortable after we’ve had sex. My priority was my job, and while I did date, I felt a lot of people’s intentions weren’t pure.
But since COVID-19, I’ve been isolated, because I’m not about to risk my life for potential bad dick. I also insist that whoever I meet gets tested or quarantined for two weeks, and not a lot of people are willing to do that. The isolation has left me in a weird spot, and made me want something real.
I think any guy who dates me has to fuck with my dildos. If someone can’t handle my dick art, I won’t be able to handle a relationship with them. But I don’t want someone to just make small talk. If I’m going to date someone, I want real intimacy.
I like to joke that I’m making these dicks so I can manifest a dick for myself. The other day, someone randomly slid into my DMs and said she showed the art to her boyfriend, and they wanted to set me up with their friend.
How have you managed to navigate Instagram censorship?
I think I’ve never been someone who felt the need to censor herself, so I never thought twice about what I posted on my Instagram. In October, just before I could start posting some “Cocktober” designs around Halloween, I saw that my account had been deactivated. I didn't get any warnings so I'm not sure why my page was disabled. I know this one Trump-supporting troll did report me a bunch of times because he disagreed with my opinions.
Losing my first Instagram account was tough. It’s not about the followers or the likes, but because I lost an entire community and the conversations we shared. I’m censoring some stuff, and not sharing everything that TikTok allows on reels. Now I’m sharing everything on every platform, so hopefully I don’t ever have this problem again.
What’s up ahead?
After living in quarantine throughout the pandemic, I sort of wasn’t as creatively motivated as I normally would be. I wanted to take this time to educate myself, and help support those in need. I actually started an OnlyFans account where I would trade petition signatures for my nudes, and also gave money from my subscriptions to the American Civil Liberties Union, where I was volunteering. I’m also trying to research what we can do for internet freedom.
For my dildo art, I want to start finding more sustainable options, because it’s not very environmentally conscious to use materials like silicon or plastic right now. I have a lot of ideas, maybe I’ll start making dick purses.
I’m also working on a “12 Days of Dickmas” collaboration and giveaway with this page called @dildonightmares on Instagram, so lots of exciting stuff coming up.
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