A famous idiom warns not to judge a book by its cover, and apparently the same is true of adult establishments, too.
At the intersection of Oakey Boulevard and Western Avenue are two adult options: Little Darlings and P.E.S. The former is a loud and proud, fully nude 18+ strip club that recently made headlines by utilizing a "stripper-mobile" to advertise on the Las Vegas Boulevard. Meanwhile, P.E.S. is the epitome of nondescript. Located in an office complex that also houses a Christian center, blacked-out windows hide the interior and reveal nothing except the reflection of Little Darling’s giant pink sign across the street. What P.E.S. stands for is also omitted on the building’s façade, and the words “The Studio” are posted beneath it. If you didn’t know better, you might assume it’s a low-key photography or music studio.
It’s definitely not.
In fact, P.E.S. is far kinkier than its sexually themed neighbor across the street. Paradise Electro Stimulations, a company founded in the Bay Area but now based right here in Las Vegas, has been bringing erotic electro stimulation (e-stim, for short) to curious adults for more than 20 years. Described by its manager as “the best kept secret” in town, I visited the company headquarters and its adjoining sex shop (that’s The Studio) to see what the (ahem) buzz is about.
First things first: What is e-stim? Erotic e-stim is the use of low-frequency electrical stimulation on the tissue and nerves of male and female genitals.
Most importantly, it isn’t about pain.
“The automatic assumption is shock, cattle prod, Taser, electric fence,” says Anna Fay, who has been doing marketing, customer service, research and development and almost everything else at P.E.S. for nearly a decade. “With this product, it’s not about shock.”
She adds, “You can torture someone by edging them, keeping them from climax, but it’s not about inflicting pain.” Actually, many customers are able to achieve a hands-free orgasm using P.E.S., Fay says. If that’s torture, sign me up.
The simplest form of e-stim comes in the form of electrodes you can insert into the body, as well as various rings. For more advanced users, self-adhesive electrodes are also available. All the electrodes are connected to a power box with knobs to control the pulses and frequencies.
In respect to the products, Fay cautions, “I’d recommend it to everyone, but this is not your first sex toy.”
It does use electricity, and some risks are involved. People with pacemakers or overall heart problems are cautioned from trying the equipment, and if the product is used incorrectly, the man or woman wearing the electrode can receive a painful zap. According to Fay, the most common misuse is mixing up wires or having an air gap between the skin and the electrode.
If it sounds a tad too much like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, don’t start checking over your shoulder for Nurse Ratched just yet.
When used correctly, customers have described the feeling as similar to stroking (for men) and pumping (for women), but without the friction of actual physical contact.
“This is going to sound strange,” Fay tells me, “but when the electrodes are in place, it tingles, like when your leg falls asleep. It’s that ticklish, tingling sensation.”
Unconvinced, I need to experience it myself. Inside The Studio, a base power box is attached to a silicone egg. Taking the egg firmly in my hand, Fay turns on the box and begins to turn the knobs. She’s right. No shock comes, and what does is difficult to describe. The tingling sensation Fay described slowly begins to build in my palm. It feels as if my hand has fallen asleep, but not in an unpleasant way. The sensation is visceral, like it’s coming from within, rather than from an external source.
Still, with the base power box costing $260 and the subsequent electrodes and inserts costing between $35 and $500, P.E.S. products aren’t exactly priced for people to purchase on a whim. While the demo available in the store confirms the process doesn’t involve blue lightning bolts of electricity scarring body and mind forever, making the jump from the weird-but-cool feeling in my hand to tingling sensation in a more erogenous zone is difficult. (What? It will feel like your vagina fell asleep?)
So, how does one make the plunge into the world of erotic e-stim?
There are a few ways, Fay says.
Some are adventurous and comfortable enough with their knowledge of sex toys they know they’ll enjoy the next step. If just the idea of erotic e-stim already makes you tingle with excitement, trying the real thing makes complete sense.
Others are drawn to the toys after experiments with non-sexual e-stim. It’s akin to a curious preteen using an electric toothbrush as her first makeshift vibrator. Doctors often utilize e-stim during physical therapy sessions, sometimes sending patients home with the machines. “People are curious,” Fay says. “They go from there. The pads move.”
Still more come to P.E.S. seeking help for erectile dysfunctions or other sexual issues. “We become the last step,” Fay says, before acknowledging the product’s limitations. “It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s really quite amazing.”
Whatever the reason that first brings customers into the store, Fay says few have hesitations at the checkout stand. “I’m amazed at people who come in completely cold and jump right in,” she says.
I’m less surprised. People will do (or pay) anything for the promise of more pleasure. That they’ll ante up for e-stim isn’t much of a (pardon the pun) shock.