Dave Gardetta in Sex Toy Land

The Los Angeles magazine writer-at-large doesn’t blush easily. A visit to adult novelty manufacturer Doc Johnson’s Valley office for “Doctor’s Orders,” his July feature on the family-operated business, did the trick

Photograph by Jeff Minton

By now almost everyone knows that America’s pornography business is situated in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. Few people, however, realize that the Valley is also home to the country’s largest sex toy manufacturers. Certainly I was unaware of this fact when, three months ago, I began a profile of the family-run company Doc Johnson—the world’s biggest manufacturer of vibrators, dildos, and vacuum-action penis pumps.

Walking onto the set of a porn shoot comes with its own uncomfortable moments—“Are they really doing that on the fireplace mantel?” But nothing in life prepares one for the experience of stepping into the offices of an adult novelty business. In every direction you turn, piles of rubbery phalluses—orange, purple, pale, and a striking green—assault your eyes. They loom on the desks of saleswomen busy saying “hi,” on the workstations of happy product designers, and—numbered in the hundreds—on the shelves of conference rooms where business meetings are held daily. Try imagining that in your office.

You can’t—which is why the introduction to Doc Johnson is so flustering and flabbergasting for the newcomer. Everyone who works at the sprawling North Hollywood plant is serious about their job. And they want you to be comfortable. But those penises are everywhere, impossible to escape—the elephant in the room only a newbie sees. It’s true that adults have fainted on the spot after walking into Doc Johnson’s overwhelming environment. Luckily, I did not. Instead I hyperventilated, shuttling my sight to and fro like a shifty interloper—exactly how I felt. Eventually, on other visits, I began settling down. Yet that first day I still ended up needing a few hours and a glass of wine in front of my own fireplace mantel to recover. Call me old-fashioned, but that is the proper use of a hearth.

ALSO: Read “Doctor’s Orders,” Dave Gardetta’s July profile of Doc Johnson

Photograph by Jeff Minton