Dr. Clockwork is an expert in the field of electrically-induced pleasure and medical play devices. His website, Dr. Clockwork’s Home for Electrical and Medical Oddities, features a wide variety of electrical and medical pleasure products as well as news and events for the erotic and fetish communities. I first met Dr. Clockwork at the 2015 Adult Entertainment Expo and was amazed by his signature product, the Violet Wand. I knew that I had to peek “behind the curtain” and learn more about Dr. Clockwork and his unique fetish…
C.J. Asher – How did you come up with the name “Dr. Clockwork”?
Dr. Clockwork – I’ve always had an affinity for steampunk. At first, I just wanted to have kind of a steampunk design to my website, so I asked a friend of mine who goes by Molly Crabapple to design my site for me. She run Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art Class, and does beautiful Victorian-esque artwork with burlesque dancers and the like. “Bawdy” is a good word for it. At any rate, I told her about violet wands and how they came from old victorian medical devices, where snake oil salesmen would travel around having medicine shows selling treatments with them, and I asked her if she would design a steampunk site for me. She said, “well, I’m an illustrator, not a graphic designer so…. no. But maybe you should come up with a steampunk medicine man type character and I could do an illustration for you.” I thought this was a brilliant idea so I retreated to my underground laboratory (my bedroom) and developed the character of Dr. Clockwork.
C.J. Asher – How did you first start the website and selling your products?
Dr. Clockwork – Once I had developed the character of Dr. Clockwork and gave it a bit of depth by creating a backstory, and a cast of assistants, I asked Molly to illustrate the characters for me, and I asked another graphic design friend of mine to design a site around the characters. I integrated the illustrations and the graphic design, and developed the initial site over the next couple of days. Prior to deciding to sell BDSM toys for a living, I was a web developer by trade, so actually building the site was fairly straight forward for me.
C.J. Asher – Tell me about your background and how you got into fetish/pleasure toy lifestyle?
Dr. Clockwork – I’ve always known that I was different than the other kids in my neighborhood. While the other kids were playing football and soccer, I was fascinated by Harry Houdini. I wanted to be an escape artist. I found a particular joy and a sense of superiority in tying up the neighborhood kids and watching them struggle in vain to get free while I effortlessly shirked whatever bonds they put me in. Of course, being an odd duck doesn’t sit well with most neighborhood children, which began a childhood of being bullied and generally abused by my contemporaries. As such, this turned me into a very angsty teenager looking for an escape from my hellish suburban reality. I found that escape online. I found chat rooms where no one judged me. One room I found particularly interesting, was a room called “Fantasy Roleplay.” What I wasn’t aware of at the time, was that this was an “adult” room that my 15 year old self had wandered into. There, I watched people openly discussing their sexual fantasies that sent my mind reeling. People do these things? What is this S&M (it wasn’t called BDSM back then) thing? You mean I could just tell someone to do something and they’d do it? This was a modicum of control over my environment that I desperately craved, especially to my hormones-a-raging teenage self.
I was always honest with people about how old I was, but I was very well spoken for someone my age, and I don’t quite think that people believed me when I said I was a teenager. This was also a very different time period than now. In the mid nineties no one really cared about what happened in chat rooms on AOL, so no one seemed to have a problem with me staying. Chris Hansen wasn’t a thing yet, so there really was no paranoia about someone under 18 being in an adult room.
I learned that there was a community of people who actually did these things in person, not just talked about them on the internet. There were places you could go to do these things. Of course THOSE places were 18 and over, and they were far away from my suburban town, at least a lot further than I could travel at 16, so I had to wait.
I had found a couple of pornographic books my father had stashed away and became fascinated by the writing style and more specifically some of the subject matter. Very taboo topics that I don’t need to get into the details of. But something within these books resonated with me. The more taboo the subject, the more fascinated I became.
A few years later, I turned 18 and had the freedom to travel further than around my suburban town. The couple of years I had spent fantasizing about BDSM had come to fruition. I found myself at the Hellfire Club in NYC. I think I lasted all of an hour there before I was so terrified I had to leave. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw there. I still “played” with girlfriends in private with spankings, rope and the like, but it was a couple of years before I ventured out into the public community again. Luckily, the atmosphere of the community had calmed down quite a bit since then, and it became a much warmer and inviting place to explore one’s sexuality.
C.J. Asher – What separates electrically-induced pleasure products from other products commonly associated with sexual pleasure such as dildos and vibrators?
Dr. Clockwork – We use electricity in sex toys all the time. Vibrators run on little battery powered electrical motors. More powerful vibrators even plug into the wall. But those are simply using the electricity to power mechanical motion. Electrical play is based on directly stimulating the nerves in the body, completely bypassing the need for mechanical stimulation.
C.J. Asher – Where did you obtain your electricological education and experience?
Dr. Clockwork – I’ve always been a curious child- taking things apart, putting them back together, and usually had a mystery piece or two left over. My undergraduate degree in Information Technology and my Masters in Information Systems were pretty easy for me, so I audited a few mechanical and electrical engineering classes for fun. Having said that, I also had grown up with a VERY healthy dose of fear of electricity. At a young age, I learned the hard way not to stick a fork into the electrical socket. SO people who played with electricity were always “those weirdos” to me. I knew better than to trifle with the almighty Ampere.
I went to an event at a dungeon in Washington, DC. A friend of mine had a violet wand, and he asked me if I wanted to try it. “Absolutely not,” I said to him. “Why would you think that I would be ok with something like that?” But he took me aside and calmed me down and explained that they were perfectly safe, and I should try it once, just to say that I had. That was enough to convince me to at least TRY it. So he zapped me once and I exclaimed “oww, that hurt… do it again!” I then turned to my girlfriend at the time and said “oh, we’re buying one.”
A few days later I started scouring the internet for information about this wonderful new toy that I had found. I found a few resources online. There wasn’t much available at the time, but I read everything that had ever been written on the subject. I sat through every class on the subject. I eventually pieced together my own violet wand kit, and I learned a lot by trial and error, and figuring out new and interesting ways of using it. I eventually gained enough knowledge and experience that people started asking me to teach classes on the violet wand.
C.J. Asher – What advice do you have for new customers who want to try out your products but aren’t sure where to start?
Dr. Clockwork – The best advice I can offer is to try before you buy. Whether it be a tester at your local toy shop, or you find someone in your local community who has one, you definitely want to make sure it’s going to be something that you’re going to like, before you make an investment. Once you’ve gotten a feel for what the violet wand can do, you’re going to be able to get a rough idea for what other accessories will do/ feel like.
C.J. Asher – How large is the electrical play community?
Dr. Clockwork – The electrical play community is relatively small, but it’s definitely growing in popularity. People have a natural fear of electricity, and rightly so. There’s a good reason why we learn at an early age not to stick a fork into the electrical socket. When handled irresponsibly, electricity can be a cruel Mistress. Likewise, when you pick up a flogger or a paddle, you get an immediate sense of what it is going to do. Electricity is an ethereal and abstract concept. You can’t feel a volt. You can’t hold an amp in your hand. Most people have no idea how electricity actually works. We know what it DOES, but that’s a very different concept. So because of that, electrical play has been a fringe type of play, even within the BDSM community. That said, as communities develop and the people who play within those communities get more and more experienced, they intrinsically begin to look for what’s new? what’s next? What can they do that’s more advanced and/ or more edgy? Electricity works well for that, and as the BDSM community grows and develops more, so will the electrical play community.
C.J. Asher – Tell me a bit about the Violet Wand… how it works, what the electrical stimulation is like and what new users can expect.
Dr. Clockwork – The violet wand is an electrical play toy. It is based on an old quack medical device from the early 1900’s called a violet ray. Snake oil salesmen would travel the country selling treatments with these things making all kinds of claims that it could cure cancer, regrow hair, and hundreds of others. Obviously, it did none of these things, but nonetheless, it became a very profitable industry. Violet rays became so popular, in fact, that they could be purchased from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. In the late 40’s to early 50’s the FDA stepped in and shut down most of the industry for false medical claims. Fast forward a few decades later, and a few very clever kinky people found them, thought that they felt good, and reverse engineered them for our purposes.
A violet wand works by taking line current and increasing the voltage and frequency of the electricity, while simultaneously decreasing the amperage to levels that are safe. At the most basic level, glass electrodes filled with Argon, Neon, or other noble gasses is inserted into the wand. The high voltage current excites the gas inside the electrode and it glows similar to a neon sign. When brought near the skin, the electricity then jumps through the glass and arcs to the area nearest to the electrode, creating a tingling sensation. Another popular way of using the violet wand is to use an accessory called a “body contact.” This is a wire that plugs into the wand, and the top holds the handle, and their touch, or anything conductive that they are in contact with becomes electrified. Conversely, the bottom can hold the handle and the electricity can be “pulled” from them as well.
C.J. Asher – How have the novel and movie Fifty Shades of Grey impacted your business? Have you seen direct/indirect effects within the fetish lifestyle community?
Dr. Clockwork – Honestly, Fifty Shades hasn’t directly impacted my business. Electrical play is mentioned as a hard limit in the book, and is not mentioned since then. I like to refer to electrical play as “the type of play that E.L. James was afraid to write about.”
Indirectly, Fifty Shades has done a lot for the fetish community, whether they like it or not. In fact, most Fetish/ BDSM lifestylers hated the book and felt that it portrayed them in a very negative light. The relationship between the main characters is abusive and would not fly in the actual fetish community. Furthermore, the book portrays lifestylers as if we all have had dark and troubled pasts. This is far from the case. Many lifestylers have had very healthy childhoods and grew up to be well adjusted individuals.
Regardless of how lifestylers view the book, it has impacted our community. It’s started to get people talking about BDSM in the open. It’s no longer a topic that needs to be whispered about. There’s been an influx of people into the community after reading the book, though not as many as was anticipated. The issue now becomes one of education. There are people out there who have read the book and have seen the movie and want to learn more. They’ve gone to their local sex toy shop and have purchased their first toys.
Unfortunately, most of these people don’t necessarily have the vocabulary to even know what to look for beyond that. Most are completely unaware that there are local people who share the same interests as they do. I feel that it’s important for store owners to become the bridge between these people, and their local community. Store owners need to open the conversation with those who have found their interest peeked and say to them “did you know there are local classes that you can take where you can learn more than what’s in the books and that there are people and resources available in your own town?” I think that the books have done a great job at being a first step, but there has to be a second step that comes afterwards.
C.J. Asher – What products do you enjoy using personally?
Dr. Clockwork – I’ve been doing this a long time. As such, I’ve developed a pretty varied skill set. Aside from the violet wand, which I am best known for, I enjoy single tail whips, floggers, paddles, canes, fire play, and many many others. To be honest, though, there’s a lot more to BDSM than the toys that are used. A lot of BDSM play surrounds the relationship dynamics of the individuals involved. Power and service are huge parts to the equation, but are seldom discussed because there isn’t a physical product behind it. It’s all mental. I enjoy that aspect more than anything. I enjoy caring for my submissive, and receiving service in return. My submissive helps me run my very complicated daily life. I don’t know what I would do without her.
C.J. Asher – What’s your top selling product?
Dr. Clockwork – My top selling product would have to be my solid state violet wand starter kit, and the body contact accessory. The starter kit is a good way for someone new to get involved with electrical play without the high dollar buy in of previous iterations. The body contact is the single most useful accessory, as the user can really get “hands on” in their play, and allows them to be creative in that anything that is metal can now be used as a toy. The possibilities are virtually limitless.
C.J. Asher – Are your products available at retail locations or only through your website?
Dr. Clockwork – My products are available in a number of retail locations, and are available through my website as well.
C.J. Asher – Do you make the Violet Wand products and accessories yourself or are they provided by another company?
Dr. Clockwork – A lot of the products are made in house. I do, however, contract out some of the work. I physically CAN blow glass, but the equipment is very expensive, so it’s easier for me to just contract with a glass blowing facility, for example.
C.J. Asher – Do you have any personally published articles, blogs or other material on the field of electrically induced pleasure?
Dr. Clockwork – Most of my writings on electrical play can be found on Fetlife.com. I’m in the process of writing a book on the subject, but that’s been on hold lately as I just don’t have a lot of time to sit down and write as often as I’d like.
C.J. Asher – What products are in development in Dr. Clockwork’s Scientific Laboratories?
Dr. Clockwork – I’m working on a few fun new toys, but a lot of those are in the early stages of development, so I’d like to keep those under my tophat for now.
C.J. Asher – What upcoming events are you attending where interested individuals can learn more about your products and test them out?
Dr. Clockwork – I attend a number of events every year. Most of which are lifestyle kink conventions. Coming up for the next few months, I have South Plains Leather Fest in Dallas, Colorado Leather Fest in Denver, Frolicon in Atlanta, International Ms. Leather in San Jose, Leather HEAT in Los Angeles, Bondage Expo Dallas in Dallas, Dom Con LA in Los Angeles, International Mr. Leather in Chicago, Southeast Leather Fest in Atlanta, Thunder in the Mountains in Denver, TESFest in Piscataway, NJ, GWNN Bash in Austin and Fetishcon in St. Petersburg, FL.