Sexy Mama: An Interview with Dawn Tulman

When most folks think of the sex toy industry, they don’t realize just how many women are working in it, designing, producing, and selling toys. Plenty of them are mothers, giving them a unique perspective on the topic of sex and motherhood. This is the first in a series of interviews with moms who work in this industry, and you’ll see that Sexy Mamas are everywhere.

Dawn Tulman is the president of ToiBocks, Inc., the company that makes the ToiBocks, a discreet wooden box with a hidden compartment for storing your vibrators, lubricants, and other goodies (or even your jewelry).

Tell us a little about your career in the sex toy industry. How did you get started?

When my daughter was 4 she found my toy and I went looking for something I could keep right on the nightstand that she couldn’t get into and when I couldn’t find it, I made my own.  It took many years, a few friends and plenty of money to pull it together but we introduced ToiBocks in 2008 at a tradeshow and we haven’t slowed down since.

How much do your kids know about your being a sex toy maker?

Although I often have toys in the house for both my personal and business (demo) use, the product that I make is completely mainstream.  My kids understand all about privacy.  Each of them has their own special place (that changes) to keep that candy they want to themselves or money they’ve saved away from each other; so they understand how important it is for parents to have a way to keep certain things away from them.

I do have plenty of funny stories, including my own.  I read a text my daughter sent to a friend about mommy having ˜one of those lesbian things’ in the bathroom (whoops, forgot to put it away), so I sat her down and told her that toys are for adults, regardless of orientation, and when you’re older you’ll get it.  In the meantime¦ don’t tell your friends about my stuff!!!

Another time I was in the shower and my four year old was playing around in the cabinets. I hear “Look mommy, it’s daddy’s squishy! I opened the door and he was waggling a sleeve.  “That’s daddy’s!  Put that away and stay out of that cabinet!

What did you tell your kids about sex? (or what do you plan to tell them, if you haven’t yet)

As much as possible without twisting their little brains.  I started my sex education and open communication with my kids from the time they were old enough to understand or be curious about things.  I bring up sex related things as they pertain to their real life.

Their uncle is gay, so we talk openly about what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, even trans.  Zach asked me when he was 8 if he was gay.  I asked, “Do you want to kiss boys? He said no, I asked “Do you want to kiss girls?  He said no, I said “It’s too soon to tell.  It’s critical your children know that you will love and support them no matter who they want to kiss.

A family friend had a teen pregnancy while she was on birth control pills, so we talk about why condoms are so important and why they will all carry one when they’re older¦ just in case.  We see people kissing on TV and in movies, even teens and we talk about what it means, why it’s normal and what are herpes and mono.  I show them news articles about everything from sexting to AIDS.

My daughter decided she was ˜ready to know it all’ at 11, so we talked about everything, especially the emotional end of it and some things that she can expect with hormones, feelings, boys, peer pressure and how no matter how private you think this moment is in your life, somebody is gonna talk.

It’s crazy that at 12, you need to talk about a rainbow party, but if you don’t tell your kids, how can you expect them to be prepared if they’re faced with it?  So my daughter knows about sex and the ramifications of it “ physical and emotional.  My 10 year old knows that mommy and daddy have sex and that’s how he got here, but he’s claiming not to be ˜ready for the details.’  In the meantime, he already knows about STDs, condoms and the other social issues on the periphery.  The four year old doesn’t even know the word sex yet but he does enjoy patting ˜mama’s jelloey butt.’

What about other parents? Like your kids’ friends’ parents? Or teachers? What do you tell them about your work?

It’s easy for me to tell people, anyone that I make a “privacy box.  I usually say, “For things like jewelry, money¦personal stuff.  I usually try to gauge if mentioning toys will be received well.  It’s really funny to watch if the conversation gets to the point of my telling them they can store adult toys in it.

Once I was at a boutique party (purses, clothes, jewelry) with the ToiBocks and these three ladies were just going nuts over it.  They constantly had other people’s teens in their house and things were walking away.  Then she asked me where she could find one in a store and I named an adult store and her eyes lit up like Christmas realizing that she now had a safe place to keep those too¦ she bought three of them right then, one for mom and two for her.

Another great story: many of the moms at my sons elementary school know what I do, but not all of them and I never know who knows what.  A ToiBocks was auctioned off at a spring dance and I ran into the husband of the winner, I said “Oh, your wife won the ToiBocks at the auction!  He looked up at me, panic stricken, “Yeah, but she didn’t know what it was for when she bought it.  I laughed and said,  “It’s just a jewelry box. I told him, “What you keep it in is up to you.

How has being a mom influenced your career? How has your career in the sex toy industry affected your being a mom?

Completely.  My kids are the very reason for this particular career. I came to this from health insurance.  When I was younger I found things in my dad’s room that, literally affected me into adulthood and no conversations were ever had about it, so no learning was done.  When my daughter found my toy I could just hear the phone calls from the parents of her playdates.  I knew I had to do something to keep other people from going through what I did, or at the very least being embarrassed.

Being a mom with three kids, working in the sex toy industry has been challenging.  I can tell them I’m going to Vegas, but not the name of the show.  I coded all my customer names so my husband and I can talk about them without saying their googleable names.  They can’t hear my radio interviews, read my magazine articles or ˜go with me’ to work.  I have a privacy screen on my pc and the older kids know if I hold up my hand, don’t come anywhere near my laptop while I’m working¦ my four year old, not so much.  Fortunately he doesn’t yet know what he’s looking at, so I’m good for a bit longer.

The sex toy industry has just been the best experience of my life.  I love the people, the camaraderie, the enthusiasm.  I get to hear from people every day thanking me for solving their problem.  Oh, and getting to try the amazing products and be friends with the people who make them is just such icing on the cake.

For parents who are busy with jobs, taking care of the kids, housework, etc., what’s your #1 tip for creating and maintaining a happy sex life? How can sex toys be part of that?

“Mommy and Daddy are gonna go talk.  That’s the trick in my house.  When they hear those magic words the older two know they’re watching the younger and that our door will be locked, the music will be on and we will not be out until we’re done.  Don’t knock on the door unless the house is on fire.

We tell our kids how important it is for us to have time to ˜connect’ to each other, that it makes us better people and better parents.  The older two know we’re having sex, they tease us about it and we laugh.  Unless your children can’t be left unattended, don’t wait until bedtime!  Finish dinner and GO.  Whatever you were planning on doing in that hour (or so) just isn’t as important.

I keep a few of my favorites in my ToiBocks on the nightstand.  Depending on how much time we have, we have access to toys that can help us speed things along and if time is on our side, toys that can slow things down.  Sex toys are enhancements, not replacements.  If you’re worried about how your partner will react, it’s all about being brave enough to try¦

Those massage oil candles are innocent enough and really work well.  For actual toys if you have resistance from your partner, find a more interesting way to try.  For him, start with something innocent, like a vibrating cock ring.   Scared he won’t wear it? Slip it on him during oral, he might react a lot better if he thinks it’s helping you and not him.  For her, get something innocent like a massage mitt, a vibrating sponge or a vibrating duck and give her a massage or bath with it.  Once she feels the sensation of something vibrating in her nether regions, she might be interesting in trying other things.

Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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