Alternate title for this blog post: In Which I Make Decisions That Are Difficult To Explain To My Parents
The fundraiser is live. Click here to check it out!
As preparation for the big surgery fundraising push I plan to launch soon, I’ve been reaching out to anyone I can think of, asking for donations to use as donor rewards. Basically, I plan to use the Kickstarter model where donating $X will get you something: $10 might be a postcard, $20 might be a copy of my book, and so on. I’ve already been given (or promised) over $1,500 of awesome stuff to give away: trans-positive porn from Handbasket Productions, artwork from some amazing artists (both online and local to Chicago), a Fleshlight and other assorted sex toys, gift certificates to some great Chicago theaters, cut-and-styles from awesome stylists, and more. It’s a wonderful mix of cool things (all of which I selfishly want to keep!!) that sort of highlights the many different circles in which I travel.
One of the things I want to do, and then use as a backers’ reward, is cast a mold of my penis, from which to make dildos, candles, chocolates, and so on. The possibilities for ridiculous products are endless. (I also just think the idea is hilarious.) On the advice of Searah (owner of Early to Bed and all-around awesome gal) I emailed a few sex toy manufacturers, hoping for some advice and – maybe! – some help with the project. On Thursday, 12/6, I received an email from the New York Toy Collective:
Thanks for reaching out. My partner and I were just reading your email and sure, we’ll help out.
Can you be in New York City on Monday [12/10], we’re doing penis 3D scanning as part of a larger promotion. The details are below- let me know. If so we can offer you a free scan which you can use to make your own replicas – you won’t even need us
Were you thinking of these as usable dildos (body safe material) or more as art pieces or statues? Art materials are significantly less expensive than body safe materials, I’d also suggest wax candles. A slow burning wax so that each penis candle lasts about a year and a half, just like the real thing.
We’re a startup and actually planning an indiegogo ourselves, so we’re pressed for time and funding as well but we do want to help out.
Chelsea & Parker.
I was out with friends at the time, and bemoaned the impossibility of taking them up on their offer: four days away was far too soon to put together a trip to New York. Among other things, I’d need to cancel my rehearsal with my high school students. A coworker who I was out with said, “No you don’t. I’ll take on the rehearsal. You’re obviously going to New York on Monday.” One fundraiser later, to help offset the ticket costs, and I was on my way to New York City and 3DEA.
Chelsea and Parker have been getting lots of coverage (these links are all potentially NSFW, what with the dildo images and all): the Huffington Post, Fleshbot (VERY NSFW), Urban Daddy, i09, Jezebel, Venturebeat, and elsewhere on the web. The most in-depth article is the one from Fleshbot, which describes the author’s experiences getting his penis scanned. From that article:
Obviously, one of the major advantages laser scanning your cock has over taking a plaster cast of it–as one must for those ubiquitous Clone-a-Willy kits–is that instead of having to maintain an erection for twenty minutes, you only need it for three seconds. Still, that can be long time given the situation. My situation consisted of me, the open robe, my poor shaving job, Parker, Chelsea, Jeff the 3D technician from Direct Dimensions, his giant Konica-Minolta 910 swooping lasers over my wang, and “Anchorman” on mute on the TV.
I don’t need to tell you how long I spent doing my thing with the KY or how many times I had to excuse myself from scanning to go back to the bedroom, but let’s just say all the blushing I did made it hard to keep my blood where it counts.
After five scans from various angles, I put my clothes back on and learned about the rest of the process. The images are combined to build one solid 3D model that gets printed in polyamide by the 3D printers at i.materialize. Then girls of NYTC do the rest by hand: they take that model, treat its surface, bring back any unique details lost in printing, make a mold, whip up some silicone, pour it in, and let it set. They even hand mix their own colors, and not only do they do four flesh tones (cashew, caramel, hazelnut, and chocolate) but they can also capture undertones, such as the reddish-purple luster of a swollen dong. They’re true artisans.
As he recommends, on Sunday night I made my first-ever attempts to shave Down There. During that process, I learned three things:
- Shaving Down There is difficult and uncomfortable
- My hot water runs out faster than I expected
- Getting laser hair removal on my crotch is going to suuuuuuck
I don’t know that I did an amazing job, but hopefully it’s good enough for the fancy cameras they’ll be using.
The scanning is done. I met Chelsea at 3DEA, where I got to see some 3D printing in action. They had vases, rings, bracelets, and even more complicated things. You could get a 3D scan of your face, and then have it printed out as a mini-head (perfect for the Beetlejuice fans out there).
There were 3D-printed bras, intricately detailed sculptures, and – of course – sex toys. It was really awesome, and (hopefully) a sign of things to come: where you can download digital plans for almost anything imaginable, feed your printer gel/ink/food/plastic/etc, and end up with a tangible object, ready to display/wear/eat/fuck.
At 4PM, Chelsea brought me and Jeff (the 3D photographer) up to a hotel room where 3DEA is located. There was a giant Minolta camera, a laptop, and the expectation that I would be able to hold an erection long enough to scan from 5-7 different angles.
The hotel room was a swanky, $500-a-night affair, with an open front area and a big bedroom (and HUGE, gorgeous bathroom). I was sent back into the bedroom, instructed to put on a tiger-pattern-trimmed robe, and told to “get myself ready.” I was also told that I couldn’t keep the robe; Chelsea laughed and said that might be the question of the day.
Of my many problems, getting turned on has never been one of them. Still, this was something else entirely: being mostly nude in front of two strangers, both clothed, and one of whom was pointing a giant laser-scanning camera at my crotch. Jeff told me I’d have to turn in the swivel chair after every shot, to get a capture from different angles. Jeff was much more profesional than I imagine I could have been, discussing the importance of “capturing the morphology from as close to 360 degrees as possible,” instead of simply saying “we need good dick picks.” It was also surreal trying to get myself turned on while listening to Jeff and Chelsea discuss how things had been going, and throwing me occasional questions about my fundraising project. A deliciously sexy time this was not.
Still, I pulled up some porn on my phone and tried to think happy thoughts. Chelsea and Jeff said most participants had to go back into the bedroom a few times throughout the shoot to “get back in the right frame of mind.” I was no exception. We captured only one shot (with me naked in a bath robe and my legs awkwardly spread) before Jeff said “we’re losing some definition.” I went back to the bedroom and reapplied myself.
After a few back-and-forths, I was able to find the right porn and the right state of mind, and we got through the rest of the photos. Chelsea and Jeff were incredibly nice, and it was very interesting talking with them about how things looked (ha!) from their end of the camera.
Chelsea, and her partner Parker, started New York Toy Collective for similar reasons: they wanted high-quality, custom made, packable, silicone dildos that were neither poorly made nor obscenely expensive. They set out to create some, and they did! When they heard about 3DEA and the possibilities of 3D scanning and printing, it seemed like a natural fit for them.
Jeff works with a company that does 3D scanning, ranging medical to military to TV/movies and whatever else needs to be scanned. He talked about scanning the skulls of conjoined twins to help surgeons prep for surgery, scanning the fence of the White House as part of a US government survey of the building and surrounding grounds, scanning the inside of a tank to make a perfect digital and physical training simulator, scanning actors faces and bodies to create digital duplicates for film and television, and (of course) now scanning various penises with the New York Toy Collective. They confirmed that I was the only trans woman (so far, at least) but that the spread of people had been pretty wide: kinksters, exhibitionists, people looking for fun gifts, men there with their partners, men there alone, and so on.
The emotional experience of getting scanned was…odd. Unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It elicited simultaneous body shame and body pride, and made me want to both run and hide and stand proud. It was also surreal having to…not perform, exactly, but maintain an erection in front of strangers. One of the things Chelsea mentioned, which makes tons of sense, is how the scanning has given her more respect for men in pornography – even with pills or aides, they need to stay erect for long shoots and under stressful conditions.
And, of course, there was the reporter.
Shortly before I got to 3DEA, as I was waiting in a coffee shop, I got a call from Chelsea saying someone from the NY Times wanted to speak with me as part of a story he was doing about 3DEA. You can see my stream-of-consciousness reaction near the end of this post. Ultimately, he wasn’t from the Times, but from an online component of Time Magazine. Still exciting, but less crazy-inducing. He wanted to film the interview in the hotel room where everything happened, but Chelsea and Jeff had some appointments so we went out to grab a bite to eat.
The reporter (whose name I am embarrassingly blanking on) was really sweet. EDIT: His name is Salim Essaid. Here’s a piece he did on protests in NYC about Gaza, and here’s his website. He’s a Palestinian who grew up in Saudi Arabia and the States and has worked freelance with Time Magazine for the last six months or so. He’s doing a larger piece on 3DEA, and thought my story would work well. And, ya gotta admit, “Trans woman scans her penis to make dick candles” will probably get page views. Talking with him was fine, if an added layer of surreality – we staged some of the scanning shots, which meant I once again disrobed so he could artfully capture the essence of the scanning process without any naughty bits.
And that was that. I left the hotel and went to meet up with the friend I’m staying with. Chelsea said the process of turning the digital 3D scan into a mold will take at least a few weeks, and she expects mine will get to me in early 2013. Since the fundraiser will be a year-long effort, I told her she didn’t need to rush if there were other dick-scanning clients who wanted their dildos in time for the holidays.
I hope to launch the fundraiser soon, and having me in a piece on Time Magazine’s website is lighting as fire under my ass to get it done ASAP. So, maybe even by the end of this week, you will be able to pledge Real Cash Money toward my surgery and get the promise of a penis candle in return. Given that I won’t have the mold until January, I’m expecting the candles won’t start shipping until at least late February, and I’ll use that time to also experiment with chocolate and body-safe dildos. Candles (from what I’ve read) are pretty easy and cheap to make, so seem like a good base reward. Then, hopefully, I can offer more fancy things as I get more skill in using my custom dildo mold.
As I have been repeating throughout the last week, my life is weird. And, when I can, I seem to embrace that weirdness as much as possible. Life is fun, isn’t it?
NOTE: The fundraiser is live. Click here to check it out!