Erectile Dysfunction Getting You Down? There's a Sex Toy for That

Credit: Hot Octopuss

There are plenty of tools to help men get or stay hard, from pumps to pills to penile injections. But most of them are invasive — requiring a prescription, medical professional, or, well, a pump. Fortunately, a new male sex toy does one better. Utilizing an affordable and accessible version of an established but limited medical technology, the Pulse offers pleasure to both parties with some simple, patented vibration.

The tech behind the Pulse, penile vibratory stimulation (PVS), is decades old. Simply put, it involves using vibrations unlike a typical female vibrator’s just around the head of the penis to trigger an involuntary ejaculation. In recent years, it’s become a favored fertility tool for treating men with spinal cord injuries, beating out techniques like electroejaculation (pushing a vibrating probe up against the prostate to force ejaculation) for many practitioners. But the few PVS tools recently made available without prescriptions retail for several hundred dollars, are sold via medical supply shops most people will never come across, and often are not usable alone by someone with mobility issues.

In 2008, a Brit named Adam Lewis found PVS while researching potential male sex-toy designs. After years of tinkering, he developed a simplified, consumer-grade version of the medical system, dubbed the PulsePlate: Targeting high-powered oscillations rather than low-powered vibrations at the sensitive frenulum, it wasn’t as powerful as medical models, but remained effective. In 2013, Lewis launched a sex toy, retailing for under $100, using the tech: the Pulse.

From the outset, Lewis had people with disabilities and other erectile issues in mind. He made sure that the Pulse could be used hands-free. “The enjoyment of sexuality is a basic human right,” he told Disability Horizons in 2015, after the toy had gained some notice. “We’re really glad Pulse has helped give some people back a sense of ownership or dignity in their sex lives.”

But beyond making PVS cheap and easier to use, Lewis tried to make the Pulse something men would want to buy, including those without disabilities who might enjoy a wholly new sexual sensation. Although at times tasteless marketers, like when they faked a story early last year about putting masturbation booths for guys in New York City, Lewis’s team did succeeded in breaking from other men’s toys’ major design flaw: fruitlessly trying to mimic the look or feel of human anatomy, to seedy effect. The end product is sleek and understated.

“We didn’t want a sex toy designer,” says Lewis. “We didn’t want any preconceptions that someone would bring to the table [about how male sex toys should look or feel]… We wanted to appeal to the guy who would never buy a product such as this.”

Over the past two years, Lewis and company have upgraded their device as well, putting out a Pulse II Duo that could be used as a couple’s toy with dual vibrations for a woman (which likely increased its accessibility as well, given that many men first encounter sex toys through female partner play), and a Pulse III with more powerful settings and variable features to customize.

These efforts at delivering a device with not just utility for populations in need, but broad appeal, solid, and ever-improving functionality and affordability seem to have paid off. Back in 2013, Hot Octopuss sold just a few thousand units through word-of-mouth. But as of 2017, the Pulse has finally attracted enough attention and buy-in that it’s widely available and well promoted within the worlds of sex toy and men’s product retailers

That’s great news for men — with or without erectile issues. It’s also likely just the beginning. The Pulse line is part of a recent explosion of new male sex toy designs, which seems poised to continue. With any luck, the next few years will see even more toys coming online that will make sexual gratification easier for those in need, and more diverse for the rest of us to boot.