“We are fighting for gender inclusivity, not with fists and force, but with little friends everyone can love.”
Cute Little Fuckers emphasises diversity in the world of sex toys
Reducing Cute Little Fuckers to sex toys and cute monsters would be doing the up-and-coming brand a disservice, even though both of these elements play an important role in the brand philosophy. But there is much more to Cute Little Fuckers, as we learn in our interview with the creator of the brand, Step Tranovich.
Step, how did you get involved with sex toys?
Step: For a long time, I was almost living a double life, working on electronics during the day and running sex positive events at night. When I became victim to health issues that forced me to leave my career at the end of 2018, my future was open and uncertain. I decided to fill that void with the natural blend of these two seemingly disparate lives: sex toys!
Cute Little Fuckers is your own sex toy brand, founded in 2019, and now, the first products are on the market. Can you tell us about the development process?
Step: We prototype all of our toys in-house with 3-D printing and DIY injection moulding. Through customer interviews and beta testers, we made sure to include perspectives from as many gender identities, sexualities, ethnicities, and body types as possible to make toys that are loved by many, many types of people.
What is the philosophy of Cute Little Fuckers? What do you want to bring to the world with your brand?
Step: At Cute Little Fuckers, we believe sexual expression should be accessible, inclusive, and most of all, fun! Our toys are made to be as approachable as possible for first-time toy buyers, while also being interesting for long-time toy users. We include many different perspectives into our design process to make toys that feel welcoming to as many genders, as many sexualities, as many people as possible! And an oft-forgotten fact about the adult toy industry is that people want sex to be fun. We make fun toys!
Your first three products are Trinity, Starsi, and Princette Puppypus. Could you please tell us more about them and present their unique selling points?
Step: All of our toys are characters in their own right, so I will introduce them for who they are and then get into their design strengths. All of our toys are designed to be used in multiple ways (even more ways than I will list here), and on each box, there is a comic outlining some of our favourite ways to use each toy.
Princette Puppypus uses the pronouns they/them or the royal We, and their favourite things are pizza and butts. Princette makes for an incredible butt plug but is praised even more highly as a clitoral stimulator because of the way their head nestles into the clitoral hood. Their tentacles all vibrate for added stimulation. And the shape slips between fingers so easily, making this one of the most ergonomic toys on the market.
Starsi prefers to just be called Starsi and loves napping and hiding things. The placement of Starsi’s motor causes each tip of the star to vibrate at a slightly different intensity; paired with the settings on the vibrator, you can hone in on exactly the vibration level you love. Pinpoint sensation on the tips or smoother large-area sensations across the back are available. Easy to hold or sit on for hands-free orgasms, this toy is loved by many different body types.
Trinity (she) hangs out with their polyamorous partners Tripp (he) and Trine (xe), and together they love hugging, dancing, and cave exploring. Trinity makes for a great internal toy! Her flared base makes her anal safe and also allows her to be fastened to a strap-on holster. The features on her sides (her partners) provide added stimulation to sensitive G spot and prostate areas.
All of our toys are 100% high-quality silicone and are some of the strongest handheld vibrators on the market. The rumbly power of the 10-setting vibrators is always the first thing people celebrate when they hold our toys for the first time.
Do you have plans to launch more products?
Step: Yes! We just launched our first three toys, and we are already working on designs for more toys to come. As far as what and when – we are keeping that under wraps for the moment.
Who is the target group for your products?
Step: It’s hard to pin down, our customers & community are deeply intersectional. But I would say that we are for people who feel like the standard society script of what sexuality should look like isn’t for them. For some people, that is about queerness or gender. For others it’s about their fetishes. And for many, it’s just about growing up in a society where women are told they shouldn’t be sexual. We are like the most adorable and innocuous band of rebels. And some people don’t care about all that and just like really cute things. And that’s OK too!
How has the response to your brand been so far?
Step: Incredible! Our kickstarter campaign was funded on its first day and raised three times its goal overall. The level of success and positive feedback was totally unexpected. We only publicly launched our toys in July, and several major adult toy retailers in the US have already picked up our toys. Our online reviews have been incredible, and the personal emails people have sent me have been the sweetest; a few have even made me tear up. I am so grateful and blown away by the positive reception!
How do you explain the media interest in you and your story?
Step: What we are doing is different, but what we are doing is also honest and endearing. Rarely does someone look at our toys and not find a smile on their face. We are fighting for gender inclusivity, not with fists and force, but with little friends everyone can love. And the gender binary isn’t the only binary we are taking on. In the adult toy industry, until now you’ve had to choose between realistic veiny dildos or stoic space probe vibrators. Cute Little Fuckers shows people there’s another way to relate to your sex toys. And people are loving it.
You have defined Cute Little Fuckers as not just a sex toy brand, but rather as a community. Why this approach?
Step: People who engage with us aren’t just customers and prospects, they are my people. We share interests and values and culture. We care about a world where people can approach sex in a healthy way, in their own unique way, a way that makes each of us feel included. Yes, I am at the centre of the Cute Little Fuckers company, but to say Cute Little Fuckers is just me, or even just the staff, feels ridiculous. There are plenty of people outside of our legal structure who participate in various ways, from making fan art to volunteering at events to simply engaging with us online. Even at the most basic level of purchasing a toy, they are supporting us in achieving our shared interests, and we are supporting them in the same way. That sounds like a community to me.
How is this community idea reflected in your activities?
Step: At the most basic level, it really shows in the way we engage with the people around us. We don’t treat our customers as a means to a paycheck, we treat them like you would a friend. Because, well, they are my community members, they are my friends.
Before Covid, we had a lot of physical community gatherings in California. We would host or sponsor or attend a ton of events, from workshops to parties to discussion groups, all sorts of things. I loved giving people tours of our prototyping facilities, and teaching aspiring creators how to use our techniques to build their own things.
Now that physical gatherings are not possible for the foreseeable future, we are exploring more ways of connecting with our community online. We are already creating a bunch of fun and helpful content for free for our community, including a webcomic series about all the toy characters, videos where we answer peoples questions, and soon, there will be a podcast where we interview incredible people in our community.
In 2019, you started a Kickstarter campaign that ended up being extremely successful in a very short timeframe. Why did you choose to take the crowdfunding route?
Step: I am not independently wealthy and raising money in the adult toy world is notoriously challenging, especially in the United States, and especially if you are a queer gender non-binary person. I didn’t have money or the support of an institution on my side. What I had was an idea that people loved, the skills to make it happen, and a community that believed in me. Crowdfunding was the right tool to pull all of that together into an economically successful venture.
How do you market Cute Little Fuckers? Which distribution channels do you use to reach the consumers?
Step: We sell Cute Little Fuckers through our online store, but our main focus is retailers. We are already working with a number of value-aligned retailers in the United States, including Good Vibrations, Babeland, and SheVibe to name a few. Our marketing involves making tons of engaging content, working with queer and sex positive influencers, and some ad budgeting as well. And, as you mentioned, the media has been really interested in us, so that’s great marketing in itself.
Is there any interest in expanding your distribution network in Europe with distributors or retailers?
Step: YES! We already get a ton of online sales from Europe! We are looking to expand into European distributors and retailers in the near future. If you are a European retailer or distributor interested in working with us, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to consider having you as part of our European launch!
When you look at the market for sex toys today, what positive developments do you see, and what are the things you dislike?
Step: I notice that the world is changing. The way people relate to gender, sexuality, and especially sex is becoming more comfortable and open. In a recent study among young Americans, only 48% of Gen Zs identified as purely heterosexual. [Study conducted by the J Walter Thompson innovation group.] And I believe it. I see this in the people I meet, the stories I read online, and most clearly in the rapidly growing Cute Little Fuckers community.
The demand for sex toys is going up, but the types of sex toys young people are looking for are not the hot-selling items of the past few decades. They want toys that are as weird and queer and open as they are.
Some sex toy companies are noticing this and adapt to blast off with the market growth this sexual renaissance will bring. But too many companies are just oblivious. And those companies are going to be left in the dust for it. When a retailer tells us that Cute Little Fuckers is too weird or queer to add to their inventory, I don’t expect to see that company around in 10 years.