If a Pokémon critter impregnated with a vibrator, and the resulting creature lived in outer space, it would probably resemble a Cute Little Fuckers sex toy.
San Francisco-based gender-fluid activist Step Tranovich started Cute Little Fuckers after they were forced to quit their previous job in 2018, due to illness. The company’s products are marketed as colour-blast characters rather than simple pleasure products, and have found a niche among those looking for cartoonish wholesomeness and personality overload in their sextech.
The overarching theme of the range — pressed home in the messages of comic strip panels the company occasionally puts online, featuring the sex toy ‘characters’ — is gender inclusiveness. As such, they have become popular among non-binary and trans people.
SEXTECHGUIDE caught up with Step to find out more.
SEXTECHGUIDE: Where did your love of weird monsters come from?
Step Tranovich: I was the prime age  when the Pokémon sensation started – everyone within five years of my age has this adorable monster interest in their blood. I like creativity, I like fantasy stuff… Pokémon is where it started and then it just grew from there.
You’ve said that the first sex toy you tried was a rope. Did that influence you eventually going into the sex toy business?
I ended up where I did because of my community work in the BDSM world, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area. I got my first rope when I was in college, and explored that. That created this interest in kink and BDSM and exploring sexuality beyond just what is widely advertised to the public.
San Francisco has such a vibrant queer and BDSM scene, and I got really involved in that. I ended up starting a collective called Loud and Queer. Our mission was to make sexual education and expression accessible and fun.
What was your most memorable Loud and Queer event?
We were invited to an event by this other amazing community called Gender Blender, and they were like, “Do you want to have a room and do something at the party? Maybe you can set up a camera and talk to people and make some concept about that.”
We were like, “What if we brought in two kiddie pools and filled them with lube?” We took a room in this building, tarped it head to toe, and mixed the lube with coloring so it was all neon colours. We had a lifeguard whose job was to tell people not to stand up because they if they did, they would fall flat on their face. It was total slip and slide free for all.
How did things move on to you starting Cute Little Fuckers?
This idea of cute monster sex toys was something that stuck in my mind in the Loud and Queer days. I was just like, “that’s a fun idea”, but I was working another job involving computer work.
I started getting a lot of pain in my arms and losing sensation in my hands. Eventually that started spreading to my feet… I ended up having to leave that work. I had no idea what was going on with my body, I just knew different sensations were shutting down. It was finally diagnosed as Lyme disease.
[Before diagnoses] I had months of things shutting down and me having no idea why. During that time I was like, “Well, what do I do now?”. This idea of these like cute monster sex toys kept popping up in my head. I was just like, “I’m trying to have a crisis here, and I keep thinking about monster sex toys… I have some disability payments, what the hell, let’s give this a go.”
The monster designs are so far from design norms in the sextech industry. Where do they fit in?
The world is becoming a more sex positive, gender positive, body positive place. People are becoming ready for things that match that. Historically, with shame associated with sex and sexuality, that’s been why the designs have been so uncreative.
For a while, culturally, sex was just a vice. Having vulgar body-realistic sex toys matched that… there wasn’t a lot of room for creativity. Then things moved to this next stage of minimalist design. It’s like: ‘Body positivity can be good, but still recognising that a lot of people still feel discomfort having these objects, which are discreet’. Another word that sometimes people feel is ‘classy’: they can have sex while still being classy.
In the adult toy world, things are starting to open up. Creativity and bringing personality into the adult toy world is something that is only now starting to happen. People feeling that sex can be fun and silly and playful, rather than just serious. Because these cookie-cutter designs that we see, they still feel rather serious. Cute Little Fuckers is creating an alternative to those.
The designs are far from the traditional ‘vibrator’ style. Which genders are you marketing to?
I emphasize that Cute Little Factors is gender inclusive, rather than gender-neutral. Cute Little Fuckers is brimming with so much gender… even our toys have pronouns.
How does that gender inclusiveness feed into design?
Bodies are different shapes and sizes, but making our toys as versatile as possible really helps that be the case. For example: anytime you make an insertable toy, if you give it a bend or flare base at the bottom, suddenly it becomes safer for anal use. The amount of people who can safely use that toy is almost doubled.
Also, out Starsi toy has pinpoint stimulation on the tips of the starfish, so it has wide, flat vibrations. One community this is great for is trans women who have not had bottom surgery. Or anyone who has a dysphoric relationship with their genitals. The wide flat area creates stimulation over a wide area, but has sort of a vulvic feel in the hand. The number of trans women we’ve had reach out to us and say that this is the first not-dysphoric experience they’ve had with a sex toy… we’ve had so many people say that.
We resonate strongly with people who identify as queer. We have a lot of people who consider themselves generally queer, pansexual, bisexual, trans and non-binary. These are demographics that have felt left out from a lot of previous outreach and marketing. People [sextech companies] are just like, “OK, we’ve got the straight toys, but let’s be inclusive. Let’s make some gay toys too.”
What will your next sex toy release be?
It’s going to be another insertable toy, which has more of a focus on both the G-spot and prostate stimulation. It can be equally stimulating for both those pleasure points despite being in different bodies. Shimmer is going to be its name.
Finally: a word on the comics. You’re probably the only sex toy company with its own comic strip…
My goal with the comics was to make an extension of this same mission and theme: making positive sexual expression fun. A big theme in my life is making activism fun.