This article first appeared on VICE Germany
I stumbled upon Spankrags at this year's Venus Erotic Trade Fair and was immediately intrigued, because as far as I know nobody else has printed sexy girl faces on tissues as an aid to onanism. But it's obvious in retrospect: To masturbate successfully and tidily, men need both something to jerk it to and something to jerk it into—why not make something that serves both purposes? Right?
So I decided to sit down with the guys behind Spankrags, Jonathan Courtney and Thomas Viehweger. The meeting took place at Jonathan's office, which sort of looked like the grubby porn industry location I was expecting, complete with a painting of a half-naked Pierce Brosnan.
It's 6 PM and the offices are already quite empty. Jonathan offers me some Glenfiddich whiskey in heavy glasses and I start with the hard-hitting questions.
VICE: First, the obvious question: Why?
Jonathan Courtney: We were working together on a project for a huge German telecommunications company in Darmstadt and spent our lunch with a few colleagues. We talked about the different opportunities women have when it comes to sex toys and men only have two: Buying a Fleshlight or fucking a sheep.
There is just nothing funny you can actually give to someone as a gift. So we just said: "What about tissues with faces printed on them?" Everybody laughed and an hour later we sent emails to each other suggesting names: Jizzies, Jizzrags, Spankrags! Later we got drunk and were like, "Hey, we could actually do that…"
We are designers, but it took us a year and a half to get everything done. Originally, we wanted to have 14 different faces on the tissues—one girl per day for two weeks—but in the end there turned out to be ten.
Was it difficult deciding which paper to use?
Jonathan: We actually wanted to print on tissues with a balsam covering. You know, the ones you use for your sore nose when you're having a cold. We thought that would feel very soft and a bit slippery. But they are not that easy to print on, so we had to find something else that looks good and doesn't feel like sandpaper. Just an hour ago, somebody told us the current paper feels a bit scratchy on their penis, so we definitely have to work on that. But to tell you the truth, we never thought about people actually jerking off with it.
Did you have to do a lot of research for Spankrags?
Jonathan: I've been investigating this field since I was an eight-year-old boy. But we basically asked ourselves: Is it funny? Yes. Do we find it funny? Yes. Do other people laugh when we tell them about it? Yes. Research done. The only thing we really had to look into was if there was already a similar product on the market. And the only product we found were bibs for penises. You tie it around your dick, masturbate, and cum on it.
It's slightly weird to be sitting in a room with three guys and drinking whiskey and talking about masturbation.
Jonathan: It would be a lot weirder if the Pierce Brosnan painting was in the room. Shall I bring it over? [He grabs it and brings the whiskey bottle out of his office] What did you expect from a couple of guys who want to make money by selling jizz rags?
Are you going to print the face of Pierce Brosnan on the female version of Spankrags that you're planning?
Thomas Viehweger: I guess we don't have the budget to afford him, but we could try to sell it to him as a charity project to him. Masturbation can actually protect you from against prostate cancer.
But women are really close to our hearts and we already thought about a treat for them. Our latest idea is penis-shaped tampons. Jonathan: According to our female consultant, the problem is if we produce penis tampons, they have to be as good as the normal ones. They have to absorb the same amount. Perhaps we should take over Always or Tampax. Or we come up with Penax.
I think I would buy Spankrags if they had my face printed on them.
Thomas: This would be a very good idea for a business card, too.