Meet Metis Black from Tantus

Q: What did you have to study or learn to get into this field?

A:  When I was pregnant seeing a midwife, I wanted so much to be a part of that field and I started studying midwifery. My midwife was the first CAM (California Association of Midwifes) President, but this was before that, this was before certification in California. She told me if there was any way to get out of being a midwife to take it because it would eat your life. Not pregnant, I wasn’t as driven to give my life to midwifery, but I had a fascination of how the body worked and sexual pleasure was my focus.

Q: What led you to choose this path?

A: Tantus began 20 years ago. I was privileged to grow up in the San Francisco Bay Area where we had access to really good toys made of really good materials but I traveled a lot. And in cities not as hip as San Francisco finding toys not made of Jelly, PVC with phthalates, was challenging. Silicone toys were being made, but they were being made in very small batches but no one had the vision to mainstream them until we did. Education was a big part of Tantus’ path— we had to educate the stores that silicone toys were worth the extra money it cost to produce them and that people would pay to have toys that didn’t smell, de-gas, where hygienic and would last.

Q: Why do you believe your work is important?

A: Tantus is a mission based company. I absolutely believe my work is important because I know we have made significant changes in the sex toy industry. When I started doing trade events, I was the only one offering silicone sex toys; now almost every manufacturer offers at least some silicone in their line.

Q: Who are (or were) some of your biggest influences?

A:  Looking back I am so inspired by Gosnell Duncan the father of silicone sex toys. He was a black man who had emigrated from Granada. He’d been in an industrial accident and was in the forefront of disability rights back in the early 70’s and the only one talking about sexuality and disability. He created silicone that was safe for the body, it had always been for mold making and hadn’t been safe prior to his work with GE. He began a company that made phalluses for the disability community. He created custom designs and color matched to bodies; he had 5 flesh tones, 2 light caucasian, 3 people of color. He also didn’t judge if you were not cis-gendered or in a heterosexual relationship. He changed lives.

Eventually he took his phalluses to stores in his adult business Scorpio.

Q: What, if anything, has surprised you most, working the field you’re in?

A: How broken people feel when sex toys don’t function well or lubricants make them sting. They don’t place the burden on the product to say… a butt plug that is comfortable being inserted or being taken out. Instead people feel they must be broken in some way—which just isn’t the case. And lubricant that makes you sting has osmology that is removing liquid from your cells making your skin more adverse to friction. There are so many companies that design toys and intimacy products but don’t test them; that have no interest in whether they play well, but they come in three colors and have 10 functions and are made to make money.

Q: What have you learned from this experience, how has it changed you?

A: I think for Tantus we have really gone back to what makes us happy, what gives us pleasure. We have begun a sister company Bido which makes connoisseur BDSM products, we continue making great playing dildos, butt plugs and cock rings, and we have resolved that we don’t want to be a big fish— with all our products made in China. We are happy being a mission based company and continuing to talk about how toys actually play, health and safety, making most of our offerings in Northern Nevada.

Q: What is your favourite piece of advice for people?

A: Eyes are often bigger than orifices.

Q: What are you most excited about for this year?

A: I’ve been traveling more and talking to more consumers, using two ears and one mouth in that order. I love that we meet people where they play.

Metis Black founded and built Tantus Inc. in 1998, a sex toy manufacturing company that has helped change the profile of sexuality products. She has used Tantus to mainstream silicone products and educate the industry on material safety and sexuality.

Metis’ success has brought her accolades inside and outside of her industry. Her articles on material safety standards in sexual products and the chemistry of personal products such as lubricants have been widely published. Some of her publishing credits include American Journal of Sexuality Education, Good Vibrations Online Magazine, On Our Backs, Adult Novelty Business, XBiz, and The Free Speech Coalition.

Over the last decade and a half, Metis has proven to be a champion for sex educators and a mentor to other small business owners.

She has been on the board of The Center for Sex and Culture, a sexuality library, gallery and archive, and the board of The Woodhull Freedom Foundation, a human rights organization that works to ensure sexual freedom.

Learn more about Metis Black & Tantus  

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