Earlier this year, the internet went wild over news of a vagina beauty pageant that saw women posting pictures of their labia online in hopes of winning the title of most beautiful vajayjay ever. While some disputed it as sexist, others saw it as a liberating exploration of female sexuality.
Now, it's dudes' turn to show off their genitals for the world to see. The "Balls Contest" started running last week and is structured in the same way as its female predecessor: sign up on the website, upload your picture including a name (it doesn't have to be real) and age, and then wait for the public to rate your goods based upon a number of appearance-based categories such as wrinkles, size, and dangle.
The creator of the contest, Brian Sloan, is offering up a total of $10,000 to those with the nicest sack and will be turning the winners' genitals into paperweights, doorstops, and other doodads, according to an email VICE received from his publicist. Like the last contest, Sloan will also be producing a research paper off the contest's finding. The Vulva Paper can be found here.
Sloan is the creator of both the Autoblow 2, a Fleshlight-type machine that gives blowjobs on demand, and the 3 Fap, a three-hole sex toy that has perhaps the most absurd name in history. Both inventions were made possible through crowdfunding. Strangely enough, the dude is actually a law school graduate—he just knew from the beginning that being a lawyer wasn't the path he was destined to be on. Instead, after graduating, he began flipping antiques on eBay and selling latex fetish wear online before moving to the sex toy market. To understand his strange career path a bit better, we spoke with him over the phone to figure out what makes a good ballsack and why he likes his job so much.
VICE: I've talked to porn stars and other sex workers in the past about this, but I'm wondering how your partner and/or parents feel about your profession being that of manufacturing sex toys.
Brian Sloan: My girlfriend, of course, knows that I'm in the toy business. When people who don't know you hear you're making sex toys, they have all these ideas that it's, like, wild. It's actually very normal stuff. Like, you make things in China, and you deal with logistics, quality control, the website. It's not a very sexy thing.
One thing that was different for her was the vagina contest, because when I told her, she was like, "Oh, that's a really funny idea!" But then when I told her I was going to 3D scan them and all this stuff, she just kind of went, "Oh…." She didn't really fall in love with the idea, but then she forgot, and when she learned about it later [through the news], she felt bad for one day and then kind of warmed up to it.
It's funny, because she's Chinese, and culturally, even in the West, it might be difficult to explain to your fiancée's parents this kind of thing, even though some people might find it funny over there. In China, if her parents ever saw that, she could never explain why selling sex toys would be an OK thing to do. [Laughs] She really doesn't mind, though.
Why balls? Why not do a contest about dicks? It seems like the logical counterpart to the vagina.
I think that a penis contest would be very predictable and nothing new would be learned. Scrotums are something that aren't talked about. I don't actually know which kind of scrotum people would find to be attractive. When we really reeled in on the vulva, I hired this guy who was an oceanographer, and he came up with a way to classify things like, how wrinkly are the labia, how protruding are they? So many things you wouldn't think about.
When you think about the scrotum, you have to think about how complex it is. There are so many things to measure on it. Not just size—some of them have spots. Even the wrinkles, there are so many different wrinkle styles. I think, in many ways, scrotums are much more complex than penises, and much less studied.
With the vagina contest, you faced some criticism about it being sexist by objectifying women and their genitals. From what I understand, you then introduced the scrotum contest to show a balanced, non-discriminatory approach. What kind of things did you hear from people during and after the vagina contest?
Most people wrote about in the middle. Stuff like, "This is really funny, but are we allowed to think this is interesting because it is objectifying to women?" I found it a strange thing to say. Like, it is objectifying, but it's not symbolically objectifying, it is literally objectifying. I am turning these things into objects. That's the point.
The funny thing is that the same people who would call this contest objectifying, wouldn't call it objectifying to turn a man's penis into a dildo, which there are many, many, many of in the world. In fact, I think it's safe to say there are way more varieties of dildos in the world than there are vagina sleeves. I kind of wanted to balance it out. Like, it's to learn something about women, but also something about men we don't know.
So, with the last contest, you created the Vulva Paper. This contest, you're going to be producing the Balls Paper. Do you have a researcher on this and what are they looking for?
Yeah, we basically just have a database which consists of all of the visits [on the website] and all of the votes. The researcher uses a statistic software to normalize all of the data across a range and find an average. Then, he looks at vulvas, and creates classifications of their appearance and characteristics. He ended up coming up with six normal classes. For example, with the vulva, you have to measure the distance between one point and the other. We have screen-measuring software than can tell the exact distance between certain points. We then compare the vulvas and see how proportional they were. The same style will be applied to the scrotum contest. You can find out actual genetic styles of genitals and the data is being given out for researchers to use. It is more than just cosmetics.
OK. What makes a good scrotum then?
That's the thing, I have no idea what makes a good scrotum! I can guess what makes a good scrotum, but if you follow vulva factors, there was an even split between [approval] of protruding and non-protruding labia. I can guess that a bigger scrotum will rank higher than a smaller scrotum, but what about danglines? Do people prefer them dangling from the body, or further inside? I don't know which style of wrinkles people prefer. I don't know what's going to make a good scrotum, but I'm very excited to find out in this context and especially to replicate the good ones into objects.
Are there any specifications for the contest? Do balls have to be shaved?
Y'know, they don't have to be shaved to enter the contest, but those that win will need to be shaved because, when we 3D scan them, the scanner can't scan hair.
That's interesting. Will keep that in mind if I ever photocopy my balls. The email I received says you'll be making the balls into doorstops and paperweights via 3D printing, correct?
No, actually, we don't 3D print them. We use a 3D scanner—which is often times associated with 3D printing—and from that scan, we give it to a factory and they can create a mould from whatever I give them. So, if I give them a scan and tell them to blow it up to four times the size and make it stainless steel, they can make a CAD file and create the replica balls in factory. 3D printing isn't related to this, it's more about accurately capturing the scrotum.
Any friends or family participating in this?
[Laughs] Family? No, no. Not that I know of. I do know a friend who is participating, though.
Are all the submissions anonymous?
Yeah, you can write any name you want on there. A name and an age. We know who the people are via the email address they give us, but it's all anonymous to everybody else. The women who were on the vagina contest were also anonymous.
Are you going to join in, even for fun? I imagine you can't win your own contest.
Yeah, for sure! My partner who's helping me run the contest and is dealing with the technical side of thing won't know it's me, though. If I submitted it very early on, he'd probably figure it out, but now that it's already started, he won't know which one is me. I think he'll probably submit his and I won't know either! It's all a mystery.
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