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“The reality is, when you make sex toys, you realize that these products are right up against a lot of debates about inclusiveness, or expansiveness, as we like to say,” explained Jules Margo.

Margo is the co-owner of Hot Octopuss, a company that specializes in sex toys designed for every kind of human in order to explore pleasure to the 100th degree. From pulsing vibrators to sexy dildos for solo or group activities, these designs are for folks who identify as cis, straight, trans queer, gender-diverse, and beyond.

The company began about six years ago when Margo and her best friend and now Hot Octopuss co-founder Adam Lewis were discussing the lack of penis vibrators on the market. They learned that penises require a very different type of stimulation than vulvas and found out about a technique called penile vibration simulation.

This technique is typically used in the medical field for folks with erectile dysfunction or disabilities like paralysis. Through this discovery, Margo and Lewis became very interested in the more techie side of sex toys and how each one works differently on different genitals. They then developed Pulse, their trademarked “Guybrator,” which does not require an erection and is hands-free pleasure.

Pleasure for All

Since the beginning of Hot Octopuss, it’s been important to the company to specifically provide accessible accessories for different abilities and ages. They additionally are mindful of the language they use and are expansive in the products they provide for different abilities, ages, and genders.

“We want to be inclusive. and we like to use lots of different words and language. We call some of our products ‘Guybrators,’ which is a very gendered term, but we also talk about penis toys and use lots of other words that are more open,” Margo explained.

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“What we found is, some words that some people might find offensive, to other people are quite empowering. We play around with language quite a lot, and we play around with our campaign to try and give a voice to some of these issues around the stigmas associated with sex. There’s lots of different kinds of people.”

Brooklyn Bridge of Stigma

As Hot Octopuss began a new advertising campaign in 2019 which aimed to break down common prejudices and phobias that stand in the way of women achieving healthy and happy sex lives, they were immediately met with resistance.

“We thought that we would be able to do a billboard campaign in New York, like we’ve seen lots of other people do, that would really make a point about the stigma and taboos associated with sex or masturbation,” Margo explained. The idea was to kickstart a conversation around women understanding their bodies and reclaiming their pleasure.

Hot-Octopuss-mock-up

The campaign signage captured woman-identified activists posing topless, an ‘X’ placed over their nipples, highlighting the beauty of non-model human bodies. No mention of sex or sex toys was present. However, the campaign was deemed “too inappropriate” and was banned by numerous media buyers because it put women’s bodies on display.

“You’re not allowed to show naked bodies; you’re not allowed to talk about sex toys; you’re not allowed to show women showing the finger,” Margo explained as to what the reasons they were given about the banning. “Even if we didn’t do any of those things, simply because we’re a sex toy company, we’re not allowed to advertise or campaign for anything public.”

‘No’ wasn’t an acceptable answer for this one, Margo and her team at Hot Octopuss decided. With a background in charity campaigning and fundraising, in addition to growing up with a mother who was a sex therapist and a father who is gay, the ban was an equation which Margo could expertly solve.

Instead of resigning to defeat, Hot Octopuss decided to reach beyond the campaign’s initial plan and grew the idea of erasing stigma and taboo into a social justice movement. The inception of #showstigmathefinger was born and now has a life of its own.

Saying F-You to NYC

“I’m not really that kind of person who shared a lot of my stories before, but now, given the platform to my voice be heard, this is very empowering for me,” said transgender activist Victoria. Originally from the Philippines, Victoria now lives in the United Kingdom and has faced prejudice and stigma her entire life.

“There’s so many trans women out there who aren’t really open about how they own their body, their sexuality, and their desires. I’m kind of carrying my community to empower them and bring awareness that we enjoy this; we deserve this,” Victoria said.

Victoria-Hot-Octopuss

Photo by Aleksandra Karpowicz

Victoria explained that the photoshoot was a beautiful process, a gentle exercise in embracing her body and standing in her truth. Once the photos from the campaign were revealed, she found herself having an emotional response.

“Standing with other women in that room validated my identity,” she said as she swallowed back tears. “It validated my existence.”

“The stars of the campaign are giving a fearless F-you to years of stereotypes that society has placed upon them. They’re standing up for anyone who’s ever been told they are too big, too old, or not pretty enough to enjoy sex. It’s our responsibility to make sure these voices are not silenced,” Margo declared.

The Hot Octopuss team decided to collaborate with local NY street artist Cowan Whitfield who offered a wall outside of his studio to display the campaign photos so that the images could still be made visible and spark that conversation of stigma and taboo they ultimately wanted to have.

hot-Octopuss-CowanWhitfield

#showstigmathefinger

“We set up a site specifically for the campaign where people can either share the story with us or they can come visit the website and find out more,” Margo said. They also have dedicated a specific product which will give 10 percent of each purchase to a charity chosen by the activist models.

Though they were initially furious with the denial of the campaign, the movement that resulted is even greater, impacting the community as a whole. Hot Octupuss understand that pleasure, sex, masturbation, and connection are a fundamental part of a full, happy, and healthy life, and they want to continue providing resources and knowledge to all kinds of folks that they are capable and worthy.

When asked if she could have imagined being on the forefront of a movement at the inception of Hot Octopuss six years ago, this is what she had to say.

“I mean, no, because I was really naive, I think, like many people, about the actual reality of what many people experience with regards to sex and masturbation, and how much prejudice really there is still in that.”

Whether it’s the vision from the start or a path that is stumbled upon, sometimes the movements that have the most impact are simply started by finding a need in the community and figuring out a way to fulfill it.