Greg DeLong has been making butt plugs since the age of 12, so he knows a thing or two about the sexual mechanics of the ass. Perhaps it was only a matter of time, then, before he turned his interest in sex into a full-time business venture.
In 2005 DeLong co-founded Njoy toys, a company that makes sleek, stainless steel sex toys geared toward “intelligent perverts.” His products are sold all over the world. Sex bloggers rave about them. Legendary porn star Nina Hartley is a fan. And now DeLong has another feather to add to his cap: a 2011 AVN nomination for Best Small Sex Toy Company. Not bad for a guy with a degree in mechanical engineering who, just a decade ago, was designing bikes and kitchen products.
In two weeks, the annual AVN Adult Entertainment Expo will roll into town and set up shop at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. Part sexual spectacle, part trade show—think sexy porn starlet meets buttoned-down CEO—the Expo is a veritable sexapalooza. It attracts approximately 25,000 attendees annually, from porn performers and directors to sex toy manufacturers to fawning fans and members of the press. If you are a player of any size in the adult industry —or if you aspire to be—this is the place to be and be seen, to promote your business and generate some buzz.
DeLong will be among those making the trek to Vegas in early January. I recently spoke with him by telephone about butt plugs, orgasms and other fun and racy topics.
DeLong is part of a small but growing segment of the adult industry composed of sex educators, queer porn performers, engineers, designers and socially progressive business people who exist on the fringes of what DeLong describes as the “McPorn” business. If “McPorn” represents homogeneity and the formulaic same-old, same-old within the adult industry, DeLong and the companies with which he most closely identifies are the wave of the future—the innovators and trendsetters that are redefining industry standards.
According to DeLong, 43, the timing was right when Njoy entered the sex toy market in 2005. Other companies, such as Fun Factory and Lelo, had primed the market by introducing thoughtful, well designed products that people could take pride in using. Yet such companies were few and far between. “It just occurred to me having been in product development and knowing something about branding, that neither existed in the sex toy industry in the late 1990s. No one was putting energy into designing these products,” DeLong says. As he saw it, the market was just begging for a “new paradigm” of quality and design.
DeLong realized early on just how important industry trade shows are for building brand recognition. “What we are really making are four letters: n-j-o-y,” he tells me. “And to be in the game, you have to show up. We wanted to get our brand in front of people, and you have to go to trade events to do this.”
DeLong is a hands-on business owner, overseeing design, development and quality control at his company’s headquarters in Massachusetts. He has sketched sex toy designs on cocktail napkins, designed 3D models using the latest engineering software, re-polished products by hand and re-glued boxes to ensure that the highest quality items reach his customers. In five years, DeLong tells me, only five pieces have been returned to the company because of quality issues, a rate of return virtually unheard of in an industry where cheaply made products and planned obsolescence were, for decades, standard.
Fundamental to Njoy’s philosophy are “omnisexual products” that can be used by men and women of any sexual orientation. When he designed the Pure Wand, his first and arguably most popular design, DeLong was motivated to make a product that could reach both the prostate and the G-spot. The design process, as he describes it, was “very intuitive.” He knew he wanted to make a pretty shape, and that it needed to be curved, so it would be easy to hold. “If you could’ve seen me,” he laughed, “I was cutting out these paper designs and reaching around my back to see if it could get to the places I wanted to reach.”
The design he is most proud of, however, is his line of butt plugs whose functional yet comfortable design is the result of a great deal of thought, effort and mechanical ingenuity. “There’s just more going on with the ass,” he explains. “You have to be able to sit down comfortably with the butt plug inside. You don’t want it to fall out. You don’t want it to spread the ass cheeks too much.”
“Who knew?” I marveled.
DeLong is the epitome of a sex nerd, and nothing illustrates this better than his “orgasm calculation.” Not too long ago, he told me, he decided to calculate how many orgasms were happening around the world as a result of people using his products. Based on a modest calculation of one orgasm per month for every Njoy product ever sold—leaving some wiggle room for items that people might use only on special occasions, or that sit for months on end in the proverbial underwear drawer—DeLong estimates there have been 1.5 million Njoy-inspired orgasms to date. “Not bad, huh?” he remarks.
As our conversation winds down, talk turns to mutual friends, AVN parties and specialty cocktails. “Did you hear about the Njoy cocktail?” DeLong asks. This year, a bar in Helsinki, Finland concocted a luxury cocktail for a special event. The sexy adaptation? For the price of 69 Euros, the drink featured a frozen Njoy butt plug—yours to keep—instead of ice cubes.
AVN nomination aside, I lightheartedly joke, nothing says, “You’ve made it,” like a butt plug in a martini glass. So to DeLong and company, congrats—and bottoms up!