Inside a clear case at the Museum of Sex, there’s a smooth, oblong cut of shiny rose quartz resting on top of a white box. Nearby a woman flicks a leather paddle into her hand and giggles while two other women playfully slap handcuffs on and off their wrists.
I am staring at a selection of Chakrubs, the sex toy line created by Vanessa Cuccia that hopes to “bring a sense of sacredness to your playtime.” I pick up the rose quartz, this crystal meant for channeling unconditional love, and I hold it in my hand. It’s weighty and cold, but in a soothing way, a solid way. While the benefit of crystals have long been debated in and out of the scientific and spiritual communities, they’ve consistently maintained their mystique. There’s a reverence a crystal inspires, this thing that’s supposed to mean so much, that potentially has so much power, that whether not it actually “works” doesn’t necessarily matter. Even in the form of a dildo.
A nearby display of other sex toy lines features silicone structures in all shapes and sizes that buzz and shake and swirl in a candy store of colors. I run my fingers over them and they feel sticky to the touch. I press the button on one that curves like an old-school telephone handset. It shakes so much and so loud I fumble and laugh uncomfortably while trying to turn it off, eyes widening and teeth gritting in embarrassment.
Such is not the experience with Chakrubs. Produced with all-natural materials like the aforementioned quartz, but also maplewood, labradorite, amethyst, aventurine, jasper, and more, the company hopes each toy will help users will release themselves to the crystals’ healing properties, gleaning an energy of ease and comfort from the stones while opening themselves up to pleasure. No batteries or charging required.
Cuccia created the line in 2011, after having worked for a time at The Pleasure Chest, an LA-based sex shop with cult status. In her early 20s at the time, she took a job there hoping reconnect with her own sexuality after the end of a six-year-long emotionally and sexually abusive relationship. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’ve a quarter of my life done and I don’t enjoy sex,’” she says. “I remembered enjoying my sexuality before I had sex and when I was alone, so I realized I had something that needed work.” Cuccia worked as a web order fulfillment clerk, and in her downtime would read books in the store about sexuality and pleasure and would in turn learn about herself. As an employee, she was offered a discount on products, but nothing really appealed to her. Around the same time, a house guest was hosting a webseries that discussed the overlap between science and spirituality. Cuccia ventured with him to the home of a woman to discuss spiritual philosophies, and upon seeing the woman’s crystal collection, Cuccia was inspired. She would set Chakrubs in motion the following year.
Also a musician, Cuccia would move to Santa Cruz in 2011 to record with an independent record label, living in and recording in a house with several other women there who would become the first focus group for Chakrubs products. Together they would discuss what they wanted the products to look like, to feel like, drawing the designs they wanted. Cuccia researched the crystals that were safe for insertion, and this group tested the first prototypes as well. The original shape of the first Chakrubs toy was (and still is) smaller at one end and gradually gets larger. “What I liked about [this shape] was that it reminded me not of a male sex organ, but of what I would imagine the space inside of me looked like. It was representative of my own sacred space,” Cuccia says. She has since produced toys in other shapes like anal plugs, cock rings, and more, as well as adding the Forest collection, which also includes toys made of the aforementioned dyed maplewood. In 2019, the company will add candles, lube, and workbooks for its yoni eggs and original Chakrubs to its collection.
For Cuccia, developing the Chakrubs line has also been an exercise in self-reflection. She found the first two years of the company particularly difficult to get through, realizing how much shame she had internalized about sexuality up until that point. At the age of 3 or 4, Cuccia had experienced labial adhesions, in which her labia stuck together, and would have to have her doctor and her mother spread her open regularly and apply creams so they didn’t adhere again. “Don’t let anyone touch you like this,” her mother would say. These memories resurfaced. Ideas about sexuality had been entering Cuccia’s consciousness from an early age, and she didn’t realize how deep-seated they were when she started working on Chakrubs. “It seemed as though I have always had an issue with being open,” she says, though it became symbolic to her as she got older.
“While I was creating this company, this brand, it felt as if I was carving out my own path of identity,” Cuccia says. Alongside developing the lines, she was also working with the products herself, and discovered kinks and fantasies she describes as being on the darker side. This led her to create the Chakrubs Shadow line, which includes toys like a custom ball gag with stainless steel chains and ridged, curving toy made entirely of obsidian. “There was this desire I had to say that something isn’t just spiritual because it looks spiritual, something is spiritual or sacred when you give it the attention that it is, and that’s anything,” she says. “It was acceptance on a much more holistic level than just having things be ‘love and light.’” It was an embrace of self that included both the light and the shadows, in other words.
Cuccia hopes Chakrubs will inspire similar positive experiences in its users as well, a release from the shame, the idea that sex is dirty, that’s melded into sexuality even from the spiritual world. While of course an orgasm can help a person relax, Cuccia also believes the intentionality of using a crystal allows people to access pleasure from a more mindful space. “That’s really what Chakrubs encourages, that time for self-reflection. It definitely is something that you could just use as a sex toy and it would be great, but because of the crystal element it asks more of us,” she says. “It’s really asking you to observe yourself and your relationship to your sexuality.”