“I was very logical for my whole adolescence until I got a little older and I moved to LA. I started to reintroduce myself to these aspects of the metaphysical world,” explained Vanessa Cuccia, the founder of Chakrubs— a company that makes “sex toys made from 100 percent pure crystal.”
She was addressing a small class of women at Please, a sex shop in Park Slope– for the occasion, the shades were drawn at what’s normally a proudly-transparent establishment. Eileen, Vanessa’s friend and member of her original “focus group” cradled an acoustic guitar and a permanent smile.
A few years ago, Vanessa started carrying crystals around with her “everywhere she went” (according to the event invite that first attracted me to this class), but her bond with crystals took an entirely different turn after a woman with a “very large crystal collection” presented her with a particularly attractive specimen. “That would make a great dildo,” she recalls telling the room full of neo-spiritualists. “And the idea just kept growing and growing and growing.”
Chakrubs are not just dildos that happen to be made from crystal, at least in Vanessa’s eyes– rather, as the name implies, they are chakra aligning, spiritually stimulating companions helping you sparkle your way through the dark and lonely abyss of self-love. She claims her products help facilitate a “sacred” approach to sexuality. “Everything is sacred when we give it that intention that it is so,” she told the class last week.
I’d glimpsed these mysterious, vaguely phallic crystal tubes in an array of beautiful colors once before– in their home below the glass case at Please. There were three varieties: the “rose bud” (“for Kegel exercises,” Vanessa explained) and two oblong forms– one resembles approximately the shape that fell out of Lenny Kravitz’s leather pants while the other is closer in size to the average carrot (not baby).
As you might expect, the device merely used for transfigured Kegels is the most cost-effective at $65 per egg. But if you’re down to clown with the big boys, a one-and-a-half pounder can cost you a pretty penny– up to $189 for The Prism model, which comes in quartz (a crystal “used for psychic protection because it counters black magic and protects from negative energy”). A custom rose quartz “Diletto” on sale for $350, is a bit more lifelike than what’s currently available at Please. It rings in at a hefty two pounds and would make any classical marble sculpture envious.
Sid Azmi owns Please, which despite having a diverse selection of toys, isn’t exactly a sacred sex shop. “The idea is we want to talk about different parts of sex and sexuality,” she explained of the shops all-inclusive attitude. “Of course the badass sex sells more– rope bondage was a hit. We had to turn people away.”
Chakrubs are exceptional even in this setting, amongst a vast selection of bendy, silicone neon forms and replicas of swollen, cartoonish organs in a variety of flesh tones. But they actually vibe with Sid’s two-part philosophy of promoting realness and “wholesome sex” (i.e. healthy sexual practices, including use of non-carcinogenic, body-safe toys, and thinking about “sex in its entirety– you don’t have to have an orgasm for it to be counted as great sex,” she explained). “I want the instructors to talk about challenges too,” she said. “People have this idea that sex is sexy, but often times it’s not– you’re figuring out yourself and what you like, as well as what the other person likes too.”
The High Priestess of Chakrubs began her class with an inspirational poem accompanied by Eileen’s meditative guitar plucking:
Being honest is the only way to feel loved, because if you’re not expressing who you truly are and they tell you they love you, you will not be able to receive their love. You will feel conflicted. It takes work to know yourself so you have to study, you have to do the work. You have to know who you are in order to receive love.
You have to get to know all the crevices of yourself and with that you will lose judgment toward others because you will understand how much there is to a person. The one you love will better be able to express themselves in front of you leading to deeper intimacy and connection which will them lead them to do the same service in non-judgement to you which will enable you to feel comfortable with being honest.
You may or may not be familiar with the pseudo-scientific philosophy behind crystal healing, usually understood in conjunction with the idea of chakras, a spiritual concept of the self present in many Eastern religions including Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism. But it was actually some dead white Englishman who introduced the rigidly hierarchical chakra system we’re more familiar with in the West, way before Edward Said was all like, “No.” Most of us probably only encounter chakra-speak once in a while in yoga class, something to the tune of: “OK, now that you’re in child’s pose give your third eye a bit of a massage.” Which is always a confusing thing to hear, and therefore we may associate the chakra system with awkwardness, inflexibility, and hunger.
According to the Western interpretation, there are seven chakras, each associated with different colors and different areas of the body, as well as psychological, emotional, and even physical traits. The idea is that in order to be a completely enlightened, fully realized person (in health, self-conception, and in others’ understanding) the seven chakras have to be completely aligned and open (i.e. not blocked).
For instance, if you’ve got a clog in the ol’ root chakra (a red glowing orb located at the coccyx, or that little humanoid tail at the base of the spine), it’s not unlikely to spiral into sobbing fits while rifling through your refrigerator. As Vanessa explained, people suffering from an unfortunate root block often use food to fill the emotional void, and physically “you may suffer in the legs or lower back,” she warned. Psychologically, you’re pretty messed up too because “you’re easily seduced by power, money, prestige,” and chances are you’re “unmotivated” to boot. Yikes.
Thankfully, there are known cures. For instance, you can choose to be proactive about the situation and pick up a pair of these babies. And when your root’s finally well adjusted again, you can expect to be “feeling financially stable, healthy psychically, grounded, self-reliant, looking to grow and improve your standing in life.” But even if you find some kind of workable solution you’ve probably had a pretty bad go of it already– different chakras are developed at various points in our life, and the root chakra is apparently solidified when we’re babies. A healthy root chakra requires love and attention from caregivers to properly mature. Parents, they fuck you up– and apparently are to be blamed for your career in finance and weekly sob-feasts.
The notion that crystals have a certain kind of power over these chakras, Vanessa explained, is based on the idea of balancing energy. “The natural state of the universe is harmony, ease. Crystals have perfect molecular structures, that’s why they’re so beautiful. That’s why that have that clear color. They’re different from a rock. Because of that perfect molecular structure, they emit a very healing frequency that cannot exist with diseased frequencies, so when we hold a crystal near us it’s having a very positive effect on our electromagnetic frequency.”
As insane as it sounds, some of these assertions are (sort of) based on actual science in that crystals– a kind of atomic structure that is present in objects all around us (table salt, glass windows, ice cubes)– sometimes have properties that could be interpreted as “powerful.” For example, certain types of crystalline structure promote electrical conductivity. Still, I felt more than a little stupid dipping my fingers into a basket full of crystals, strictly following orders to select the one that was calling my name.
But I felt like being a decent person and playing along because Vanessa was kind enough to share her legitimate reason to pursue crystal healing. She revealed to the class that, even though she was a young woman in a committed relationship, for a time she was experiencing “sexual blocks.” Satisfaction was frustratingly hard to come by. “If you’re not sure of who you are, of where you stand, and what your values are when a person says, ‘I love you,’ there’s going to be a block there,” she explained.
The idea to make dildos out of crystal, then, came about as a personal need first, money-making scheme second.
Vanessa traced her blockage back to her childhood when she remembers her mother, a “normal, suburban housewife” (her father is an inventor), having a “paranormal” experience. “That led her to become clairvoyant for a while and so there was this mystery in my household that my mother was receiving these messages,” she recalled. Sounds awesome, unless of course you’re familiar with the film Poltergeist. “I was a little girl witnessing these very strange things, that led me to be a little scared of the unseen world as a child.”
For a time, Vanessa stuck to the finite world as a means of protecting herself. “I just blocked that aspect out of my life,” she said. After moving to LA, she met Jordan Pearce, who Vanessa introduced as “the creator of Spirit Science“– an animated series consisting of various “lessons” that draw connections between spirituality and science. Aha.
Being a pedagogical sort of dude, it made sense that Mr. Pearce impressed upon Vanessa his fascination with the spiritual realm. “I had him come live with me and he would have boxes of crystals sent to the apartment,” she recalled. This was her first real introduction to crystals. Soon enough, she was carrying a few choice pieces around with her everywhere.
Vanessa’s spiritual reawakening really began, though, when she started to question why she was having sex trubz. “I was never pleasured with sex, I was like, ‘What is going on? Why is this happening?’” she remembered. “Maybe it’s because of shame that I felt uncomfortable with sex, I wasn’t sure.”
But whatever it was, Vanessa knew there was at least a small kernel of fear she had to dig out. “So I put myself in the middle of it,” she told the class. Vanessa got a job working at a sex shop in LA called the Pleasure Chest. “I decided to face my fear and it really did the trick because all these people at the shop were so brilliantly accepting of everybody,” she explained. “We were taught how to greet people with non-judgement, with this thing that’s so personal. People are coming in with such vulnerability and you learn how to talk with them.”
The perks of being trapped inside a Pleasure Chest included a discount. “But none of the products really attracted me,” she said. Then came the fateful night at the crystal collector’s home. “It just made sense to me, my hunch was right. It was something I created because I needed it, I wanted it. And then it turned out it was helping other people as well.”
According to Vanessa, the healing properties of crystals translate directly to sex trubz. “Crystals can hold memories,” she asserted. “Computers have the major components of crystals in them because they can store information.” Vanessa claims that after repeated use, her crystal dildos will remember exactly what turns you on and make sure to tickle your chakras properly, so to speak. “When you’re orgasming with a crystal, that energy is being programmed into the crystal,” Vanessa explained. “I’ve been using my black onyx stone on me and I can just hold it on my body and feel it pulsing– it’s incredible.”
If we’re to believe the testimonials on Vanessa’s site, these crystals are getting the job done. One anonymous customer writes, “I loved that it initially felt cold, although that is a complaint I’ve seen from some. Upon having it inside me for some time, it became so warm and energized. I eventually felt like I was having sex with an actual partner who loved me unconditionally and wanted my pleasure more than theirs.” Another from K.P. reads, “Parts of me that were closed have cracked open with new life.”
Toward the end of the class, a student volunteered to have her chakras analyzed by what Vanessa described as a pendulum. Such an exercise could apparently help the brave woman select the right Chakrub for her. “Basically I’ve programmed the pendulum to signal to me if a chakra is open or if it’s closed,” Vanessa explained. “If it’s open, the pendulum will move in a circle and if it’s closed, the pendulum will move in a line or be a little bit erratic.”
Vanessa instructed the volunteer to lie down on her back and close her eyes, while she started to slowly move the pendulum over each chakra point on the volunteer’s body. I waited patiently for Vanessa to pull the old ouija board trick but as much as I focused on her hands, they didn’t appear to be budging. Only the pendulum intermittently twirled and shook. Vanessa smiled as the pendulum made wide, fast circles around a chakra the volunteer had indicated was a powerful feeling locus.
With so many chakrubs to choose from, and so much personal chakra blockage, what’s a girl to do? “I say you go off of your intuition,” Vanessa said, carefully petting the crystal cucumbers which clinked in response.
“Does everybody have one?” Eileen giggled expectantly.