China is traditionally conservative on sexuality, but surprisingly, it also produces over 80% of the world’s adult products. More interestingly, the SM props seen in the famous movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” were designed by a 66-year-old Chinese lady.

Lisa, from a small town in Northeast China, is the country’s first designer specializing in SM products. The consumers who use her designs are spread across over 20 countries.

Initially, the film’s producers requested Lisa to create 10 props, but Lisa thought it wasn’t sufficient and voluntarily added more items like whips, which the author appreciated and even incorporated into the storyline. Today, let’s explore the story of this unique adult product designer.

Lisa and E.L

Lisa and E. L. James

Fifty shades of grey

Who is Lisa?

Lisa was originally a doctor, assuming she’d lead a typical life of work, marriage, and motherhood like many Chinese women. Around 2000, she accidentally entered an adult toy manufacturer in Shenzhen. There, she met a designer of adult toys who had studied abroad and learned how to design SM products from him.

At that time, most of China’s adult products were imitations of foreign goods, which couldn’t meet the local consumers’ needs due to cultural differences. Unlike in countries like the USA and Japan, adult novelty in China was not sold as regular items in stores. They were only available in self-service adult stores, where many Chinese people only secretly bought them at night.

China self-service adult stores

Choosing to leave the respected profession of a doctor to design SM products, Lisa faced strong opposition from families. However, driven by her passion and talent for adult toy design, Lisa bravely quit her job as a doctor and devoted herself entirely to designing SM products.

She is always the first to arrive at the studio and works for 12 hours each day. All her works are personally designed and hand-drawn, and sometimes she will spend nights sitting on the floor, sketching twenty to thirty designs. Even when hospitalized for diabetes and high blood pressure, she continued to design from her bed and remotely directed her work via phone.

Lisa designing adult toys

Why Lisa's SM products are popular among Generation Z?

Let’s take a look at the 3 main reasons,

1. Focusing on Ergonomics

Being a former doctor, Lisa has a deep understanding of human anatomy. She even personally tests and evaluates her designs to ensure they adhere strictly to ergonomics while still providing intense sensory experiences for consumers, which is particularly crucial in the adult toy industry.

For instance, she knows where to tie the ropes to avoid joints and nerves, how long they should be kept on, and the importance of the ties’ intensity. A lack of knowledge in these areas could potentially lead to irreversible damage.

Lisa testing the sm props

2. Meeting Diverse Needs

Lisa often communicates with adult toy enthusiasts to understand the needs and preferences of users from different ages, genders, and cultural backgrounds. She then tailors her designs based on the feedback.

For instance, when designing props for “Fifty Shades of Grey“, Lisa visited the UK twice to understand local needs better. She often chats with the younger generation and has come to understand that Generation Z is bold in their individuality, preferring macaron hues and small animals. Initially, she couldn’t understand how these preferences related to adult toys. Eventually, persuaded by her younger friends, she began to design items that cater to the tastes of the younger generation.

sm props designed from Lisa

3. Understanding Women

A survey indicates that about 82% of American women own at least one sex toy, making women the primary consumer base for adult products.

Lisa has a natural understanding of female preferences. She designed items like rose and cherry blossom-shaped toys that not only meet functional needs but also resonate emotionally. Her designs have transformed sex toys from being awkward accessories to fashionable items. This kind of rose toy also gained millions of views on TikTok.

rose toy designed by Lisa

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