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 knew that I had contacted Dr. Clockwork and learn more about his unique fetish…
How did you come up with the name “Dr. Clockwork”?
Dr. Clockwork: When I was first building my website, I wanted it to be designed in a “steampunk” style. I approached an illustrator I knew, who went by the name Molly Crabapple. Molly ran “Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School,” a life drawing class out of NYC, where she utilized burlesque dancers as models. A lot of her artwork was very Victorian-inspired, so I felt that she would be able to implement my vision for the graphic design of the site. I approached her at an event that she was running, and pitched the project to her, asking to hire her for her services. She informed me that she was an illustrator and not a graphic designer and that she couldn’t help me. But I told her more about the history of violet wands, that they originated from a quack medical device in the early 1900’s, and about the medicine shows where treatments with these devices were sold, and that I wanted to give a nod to the history of the violet wand, which was why I wanted to design my site that way. She suggested that I develop a character, and she could do the illustrations for it. I contemplated the idea for a while and developed the character of Dr. Clockwork, as well as a cast of “assistants,” backstories, etc. to give the characters more depth. Most of Dr. Clockwork’s assistants incorporated a bit of wordplay in their names to maintain the parody aspects of it- for example, our “customer service representative” named Ms. Patience Virtue, and our medical specialist named Ms. Temperance O’Ture.
How did you first start the website and selling your products?
Dr. Clockwork: As a sex educator, I had been teaching about violet wands for a number of years. I began teaching further and further away from home, but I wasn’t a big enough of a name yet that events would pay for my travel expenses. So I was looking for a way to pay for all of my travel. Additionally, I had built my own violet wand kit as a broke college student in an attempt to save some money on a very expensive toy. Friends began asking me to build them violet wand kits. At first, I built them for friends and just charged them for the parts, but more and more people began to ask me, and it started taking up a fair amount of my time. I hated the day job I had and decided to make a business of it. I had the opportunity and was young enough that if I failed, I could always move back in with mom and dad while I bounced back. Ten years later we’re still in business, and my products are sold on 5 continents.
What separates electrically-induced pleasure products from other products commonly associated with sexual pleasure such as dildos and vibrators?
Dr. Clockwork: Violet wands and other “electro play” type items are fundamentally different than the standard fare of sex toys like vibrators. Yes, both are powered by electricity, but that’s where the similarity ends. The sensation one feels with a vibrator is mechanical motion caused by the electricity powering a small motor, while what you feel with a violet wand or other similar estim unit is a small electrical current that is output by the unit itself. Pragmatically speaking, the vibrations stimulate nerves associated with the sensation of touch in the shallow layers of skin or other tissue, whereas an output of electricity can create a much stronger and deeper sensation of pleasure.
Can you tell us a bit about the Violet Wand… how it works, what the electrical stimulation is like and what new users can expect
Dr. Clockwork: Violet wands originated as a quack medical device in the early 1900’s called a violet ray. Violet rays were sold as medicinal cure-alls, being able to treat a multitude of diseases and disorders from skin blemishes to cancer. Of course, most of these medical claims were patently false, and the FDA forced most of the manufacturers out of business by the late 40’s and early 50’s. Fast forward to the 80’s there was a resurgence in holistic medicine mainly through pyramid schemes, and a few companies started to manufacture them again. It didn’t take long for the FDA to step in and halt production due to false medical claims. There was a gentleman by the name of Donnie Rice who was part of one of these multilevel marketing companies who found himself in a garage full of these devices and was unable to legally sell them. Mr. Rice was part of the kink community as well and realized that these devices caused a very pleasant sensation, so he changed the name from a violet ray to a violet wand, and started selling them as sex toys. It didn’t take long for him to sell everything he had in his garage, so he did a bit of research, reverse engineered them, and starting making them himself. The rest, as they say, is history.
A violet wand is, at its core, a small, handheld tesla coil. For those without a physics degree, the violet wand takes the household current, simultaneously increases the voltage and decreases the amperage to a safe level, and increases the frequency of the AC current. There are three main ways to utilize this high voltage, low amperage electricity. The most basic is called the “direct” method. A glass electrode is inserted into the nose cone of the violet wand. The electrode contains a noble gas- usually argon or neon. The electricity excites the gas inside the glass electrode, similarly to how a neon sign works. The electricity builds up inside the electrode and arcs through the glass to the recipient, when it is brought near the skin. Depending on how high you set the output of the wand, this can range from a slight tickle to a painful zap.
The second and third methods to use a violet wand are best discussed together since they are very similar concepts. These two are the “indirect” and “reverse” methods. In both of these instances, an accessory called a body contact is used. A body contact is a specially designed wire that is plugged into the wand. The other end of the wire consists of a handle that is held. Electricity flows through the wire and electrifies the person holding the handle of the body contact. At this point, the person holding the contact feels nothing. In the indirect technique, the person holding the body contact can touch their play partner, and the electricity will jump from their skin to their partner’s skin. The reverse technique is similar, but the nonelectrified partner is the one touching the person holding the body contact, and “pulling” the electricity to themselves. Subsequentially, in both methods, any conductive material can be used as a toy and will create a zap when touched to the skin.
The sensation itself is a little hard to describe. It does depend on the intensity that the wand is set to. At lower powers, it creates a tingling, buzzing sensation that is quite pleasant. If the intensity is dialed up, the current becomes much stronger and can feel similar to the sensation of getting a tattoo.
Do you make the Violet Wand products and accessories yourself or are they provided by another company?
Dr. Clockwork: We make a lot of the products and accessories in-house, such as our body contacts and Edison adapters. We contract with a few factories for some other specialized accessories, and a glass blowing facility for our glass electrodes. Other items, like the Wartenberg wheel, we purchase from machine shops that specialize in machining metal medical equipment.
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 definitely try before you buy. If you don’t have a friend who has a violet wand, most stores will have a floor model that they can show you how they work and what they feel like. If possible, try to attend a class at a local kink event. Violet wands are very versatile toys, and you will be surprised by the different ways you can use them. Learning from an experienced player is a quick way to up your game, so to speak. Be creative and experiment, it’s pretty difficult to screw up using a violet wand, save for attempting to take a bath with one. Worst case scenario, it won’t work and nothing will happen. Or you could get lucky and find a new favorite toy. There are many materials that are conductive that you wouldn’t think of.
What upcoming events are you attending where interested individuals can learn more about your products and test them out?
Dr. Clockwork: We’ll be attending Internext and AVN in Las Vegas in January, Kink Fest in Portland, Oregon at the end of March, Northwest Leather Celebration and DomCon in California in May, Fetishcon in Florida in August and a few others here or there throughout the year. We’re still looking for new and interesting events to vend and teach at.