SURROGATE COCKS, INC.

Fun Factory in Bremen is Europe’s largest, and we think  best, vibrator maker. I used to pass their flagship store in Berlin on my way home from the pool about three times a month until the penny dropped that they weren’t selling Scandivanian lamps but battery-powered pleasure tubes. A couple of months later, myself and Steve were driving north to check out the mothership.

8

Germany’s Fun Factory Pumps Out the Dildos

It happens to a lot of men. You meet a beautiful girl, and for some reason you can’t divine, she’s attracted to you. You get to know her, take turns putting your mouths in unspeakably awkward places, establish sides of the bed. Then one day, like a dead fish to the head, it hits you—your girl has an object of affection that’s dearer to her heart than you.

Dildos, double dongs, sister’s alone-time pussy pal, void fillers, oyster shuckers, curtain rods, stocking stuffers, clam hammers, flower trowels, spleen spelunkers—they come in many forms with as many different monikers. And all are an equal menace to the self-conscious male. So we set forth one bright afternoon in early summer to visit Europe’s largest sex-toy factory and duke it out once and for all with the greatest threat to the flesh-and-blood penis since Abraham invented circumcision.

The Fun Factory is located on a small extension of land near the Weser River in Bremen, North Germany. The building sits low on the horizon, between a car-parts warehouse and a paper mill, looking like the kind of prefab factory they build as a backdrop on big-budget movie sets. But when you get in tight and put your face up against the glass pane of the front door, you’re struck by a fantastic wall of color that’s less a den of sin than it is Romper Room.

Dildos, like cars and chocolate bars, are produced on assembly lines, and the operatives who busy themselves molding, massaging, and cleaning them are not the sweaty-palmed phallophiles you might think they are. They’re about as normal as an average German mother, albeit one who might turn a blind eye to the bondage gear littering your living room when she makes a surprise visit.

Take Sabina, for instance. She’s been working at the plant for five years. Her favorite vibrator is the Dolly Dolphin, a pocket-size trooper based on the smiley, bottlenose half of Flipper. Dolly is splash-proof and nontoxic (yay, moms!) and comes equipped with a powerful motor that makes it buck and jerk like it’s trying out to sing for a Joy Division cover band. But the production of these devices is a lesson in nonchalance. “Our job is just like we’re producing pencils,” Sabina says, her hands deep in soapy water while she scrubs the latest batch of masturbatory sidekicks. Down the aisle, the Russian girls are stoically ramming what will one day be a girl’s best bud into nondescript packaging. It’s hard—but not necessarily joyless—work making fake dicks.

The factory employs as many men as it does women. Twenty-something Benni is one of the youngest male employees. When he’s out catting around Bremen, the people he meets will assume the Fun Factory is a disco. Once he explains that it’s actually the genesis of female gratification, these new friends tend to get a little excited. But do dildo-factory credentials get a person laid? “It can start a conversation, and in order to have sex with someone, first you have to talk to them. So in some ways,” says Benni, “Yes, it does.” As the line starts backing up and he wades into a pileup of teeny black rubber members, he awkwardly admits to having a couple contraptions in his own arsenal.

Gunther is a couple decades older than Benni. He’s got the cool blue eyes of a seasoned porn videographer and wields a blade through the excess silicone of new molds like he’s gutting herring. “It’s just a job,” Gunther says. “I’m not embarrassed by what I do.” Not that we asked.

Gunther shares a workstation with Fritzy, a mousy little woman who blushes when pressed to speak English but doesn’t bat an eyelash when a shipment of love beads comes rolling down the assembly line. She’s working on a package of anal vibrators called Stubbys, which have a safety grip at the base so enthusiasts’ buttholes don’t vacuum them up into the netherworld. We’re told this happens often enough to make it a legitimate concern. “We see pictures on the internet all the time,” says Fritzy, her hands furiously stuffing motors into dark, seven-inch shafts. “Surgical operations, vibrators covered in blood… The anal muscle is very strong. People don’t realize.”

They make around 400 boyfriend replacements each day at the Fun Factory, which has been producing sex toys for the international market since 1995. In the industry they call the process “cooking”: Liquid silicone is poured into a mold, heated and cooled, and then removed and assembled.

Dirk, the CEO of Fun Factory, founded the company with his former wife. Nowadays he is single but appears to be taking bachelorhood in stride. “Most girls I meet know the company before they know me,” he says, wearing a shirt-and-jeans combo that only a European CEO could get away with. Much to our dismay, he adds, “This is actually a very nonsexual atmosphere. We don’t have the usual taboos here, but apart from that it’s a very normal workplace.”

We bring it to Dirk straight: Aren’t his products doing to men what the dishwasher did to dishwashing gloves? “Vibrators are your friend, not your enemy,” says Dirk. He has the same tone of voice that drug dealers adopt when giving ten-year-olds their first hit of smack. “When you go to a woman’s house and find a huge vibrator in her bathroom, you should remember that she brought you home because she wants to have sex with you. And if she plays with herself, she loves herself. That’s really important.”

In all, it’s about 150,000 battery-powered artificial dicks a year, and each one with the ability to hunt down G-spots like a truffle hunter’s pig. It’s no surprise that the Fun Factory lays claim to its share of direct-hit orgasms. Dirk’s secret weapon is his quality-control group: A crack team of 20 individuals—14 women and six men—between the ages of 20 and 45, who spend their days at home in pajama tops and slippers, testing Fun Factory products. At the end of a four-week test period, the group presents its results, and Dirk’s design team decides to forge ahead or consign the would-be pleasure plumber to the must-try-harder bin. Previous iterations that didn’t make the cut were a line of vibrators shaped like famous buildings and another one that took its inspiration from a crocodile.

Functionality is obviously the most important aspect of a vibrator, but personality is a close second. People develop emotional attachments to their sex toys, and the company often receives desperate letters from customers looking for discontinued lines. The idiosyncrasies, Dirk says, are also regional: The Belgians like the color orange but not red; the French enjoy soft violets but won’t touch yellow; and the North Americans, well, the North Americans don’t keep their eyes open long enough to care about color—they buy whatever’s in arm’s reach.

“The whole point of life is reproduction, and that depends on sexuality,” says Dirk as he escorts us to the door after a long day. The sun is dropping slowly over the ancient city of Bremen. “And remember,” he calls after us, “a sex toy is never a replacement for a real penis—it’s an addition.”

An addition. As we drive off, the phrase is just enough to keep us from turning around, ramming through the metal doors, and setting the whole factory ablaze. The brazen casualness of the Fun Factory is not helping our insecurity issues. They realize that they’ve won and are now patronizing us. Still, we know vibrators and dildos are not man’s natural enemy. They’re just another of your girlfriend’s annoying friends: ever present, always in the right, and a constant reminder that you’re as dispensable as the guy attached to the penis she used before yours.

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