The first thought that comes to mind when one hears "3D printers" is probably not sex toys. However, that is just what Avid Antonelli, a senior studio art major, uses them for.
Antonelli said masturbation and experimentation are the keys to being in touch with one's own body.
"I think that's the core of what's important for everybody. If you don't feel safe being curious, especially with your own body, how do you take that body out into the world?" they said.
Now they're taking this philosophy and starting their own sex toy company: Feminasty. Antonelli is currently making butt plugs and developing a plan to expand the production and eventually bring them into stores.
The plugs they have created so far are made of body-safe silicone. They are small, colorful and take the shape of various animal tails.
To make a plug, they create the mold with a 3D printer, then pour the silicone into it. After waiting about five hours for it to harden, they break open the mold and a butt plug is born.
Antonelli has had a love of sex toys from as early as 15 years old. When they were too young to buy one, they said their friend with an older boyfriend would buy them. However, Antonelli's grandmother did not approve. This broken relationship between sex and pleasure seems to be part of the reason they are so interested in the subject.
"I remember at some point my grandmother had figured out why the door would be closed for an hour and a half with some strange humming noise coming from behind it," they said.
When they told their grandmother they did it because it feels good, "she made this face like I had said I liked jumping off bridges or something like that," Antonelli said.
Beyond negative reactions such as this, Antonelli's passion for sex and the importance of consent also stems from a family history of sexual assault.
Antonelli said they gave some thought to what conditions have allowed sexual abuse to happen. Part of this revolves around little education about consent and conversation about sexuality in general. Their products represent a nuanced way of thinking about sex that's open and experimental.
Antonelli emphasized the importance of having a playful attitude around sex: "Let's not be human, let's be cats," they said.
Their products are different from what is in the butt plug market today because they focus largely on the woman being able to interact with it while she's wearing it, compared with butt plugs that have jewels on the end, or other decorations.
The problem with these other toys, Antonelli said, is they're "not really interactive. Other people can be like, 'Ooh, your butt is shiny now! … But that's still not something I think the person with the item in their butt is really interacting with." In other words, products such as these focus more on the pleasure of the viewer than the person who is wearing it.
Antonelli hopes the long tails on her products will engage the wearer and bring a source of power: "If you have like a long tail coming out of your butt, and you can stand there and look like a character from Avatar while you like hold it in your hand and swing it around, you can build up your sexual confidence because now you have a persona you can play."
Women, according to Antonelli, are often disconnected from their sexuality. Because of this, they make products with the hopes of having a positive psychological reaction for women in being able to be someone different than when they're not using the product.
The wearer can take on different roles: "Are you flirty? Are you going to be super shy and hold the tail in front of your face the whole time?"
They said they hope users will be able to wear the plug under clothing, which is part of the reason for the long tail. The prototypes they have made so far don't have tails as long as they want them to be, but once they do they say the tail will be able to stick out of the pants so the wearer can use them with clothing on as well.
Beyond sex toys, Antonelli has created multimedia projects revolving around orgasms and sexual exploration. Through what they create, they said they hope to get across that: "Sex is important,
consent is complicated and requires verbal communication, and imagination is everything."
Sexual exploration "was powerful because it was my body, I could do what I wanted with it," Antonelli said. Their art and sex toys are an extension of this sex-positive mentality.