SFW is an art experiment that features GIFs of sex toys that have been desexualized through jazzy design–well, somewhat desexualized. At first glance, it’s not so easy to decipher the various objects rotating and squishing about. However, stare just a few seconds longer and the cheekiness of it all avails itself.
“Alex [Papadopoulos], our producer on this project, went to high school with one of the owners of [sex toy company] Doc Johnson and he was always sending her big boxes of dildos for fun,” Josepher says. “She had always wanted to do some sort of project with them and finally she reached out to Jesse.”
“And I instantly thought of Jenna because we had worked together on a few fashion lookbooks,” Untracht-Oakner says. “I remember, specifically, Jenna saying, ‘yes, for the cause.'”
“The cause” being to cast sex toys in a less skeevy light. Or, as SFW‘s writer Leah Dworkin more eloquently puts it in their mission statement:
Sex-toy imagery is often suggestive, triggering, and discriminatory, not to mention, advertisements for sexual products can easily make certain viewers feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, judged or excluded. Even though this is how the sex-toy industry has marketed itself in the past, we thought it was time for a change. We not only felt a real responsibility but saw an exciting opportunity to create a new breed of visual imagery within the sex-toy marketplace that was progressive, inclusive, positive, socially conscious and approachable–to all sorts of human beings.
SFW isn’t necessarily an ad for Doc Johnson–Josepher and Untracht-Oakner just saw an opportunity rebrand sex toys in general by casting them in Memphis-style backgrounds (think the Saved by the Bell intro montage) with, most importantly, no bodies attached.
“I really didn’t want to use any skin tones whatsoever because I didn’t want it to imply this is for use by X people at all,” Josepher says. “And then, along that line, no gender implications either because to imply one you’re going to have to imply all of them. So we found our lowest common denominator, which is movement.”
SFW is just that: safe for work. Josepher and Untracht-Oakner purposely created GIFs that would circumvent any social media policies on sharing lewd imagery with the goal of people posting and reposting their work as widely as possible.
“The reason why Jenna and I work so well together is because we try to straddle the art and commerce–to do something with creativity and social consciousness and intelligence behind it,” Untracht-Oakner says. “But there’s a bit of a nudge, nudge/wink, wink to our styles anyway. So we definitely wanted to keep it a little humorous.”
“I mean, they’re sex toys,” Josepher continues. “We couldn’t get rid of that aspect.”