Jan
18

From velcro to veterans: the history of Sportsheets

Military veteran in a sling designed by Tom Stewart, founder of Sportsheets

Sportsheets International began quietly, as a small business operating out of founder Tom Stewart’s garage. It was 1993, and Stewart had already spent years teaching himself to sew. He had a vision, one that had been sparked years earlier as he watched David Letterman, decked out in a velcro suit, jump on a trampoline and stick himself to a wall.

What if you could stick your sex partner to a wall?

The result of this inspiration was the company’s flagship product — a soft velcro bed sheet called the Sportsheet. With the accompanying anchor pads and cuffs, users could strap their partners down anywhere on the bed.

The following year, Stewart asked his sister Julie to become his partner in the business. Neither had any formal business experience, and the company wasn’t initially making much money, but the tides quickly turned. There was a definite market for the Sportsheet. Eventually, more of Stewart’s family joined the business, and they now operate out of a 17,000 square foot building in Huntington Beach, California. They’ve developed more than 400 different bondage and positioning products, with half manufactured in the US.

Tom Stewart, you could say, has become an expert on encouraging sexual creativity and helping people achieve sexual positions. He also spent 20 years in the military. So it made sense when, five years ago, he was invited to show off his products at the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes Road to Recovery ​conference, which brings wounded troops and their families together. His straps, slings, and harnesses were a huge hit with attendees — so he kept going back, listening, brainstorming, and inventing.

That’s how he came up with the heavy-duty adaptive sling pictured above, designed for a quadriplegic veteran wanting to have sex in the missionary position. He also invented a strap to facilitate doggy style for folks who can’t bend over easily. Even something as simple as a thigh harness can change a couple’s sex life, as Stewart explains:

One of the products we came up with was what’s called a thigh harness, and it’s like a neoprene knee brace. If you slide that up your thigh with a dildo inside the little hole, all of a sudden you’ve got a dildo mounted on your thigh. I took this thigh harness and other strap-ons to a [retail sex] show in Canada, and there was a guy in a wheelchair who came up and said, “Hey, I want to try this.” We put this thigh harness on him, and we put this dildo on his right leg.

I said to his girlfriend, “Come over here. Squat down on this thing — imagine you’re naked and this dildo’s going inside of you.” So, she was kind of grinding on his thigh — you know, simulating — and she’s going, “Oh my God, this is phenomenal. We can have intercourse like this!” This was really the beginning of products for people who have disabilities.

As Sportsheets enters its third decade in business, they remain true to their motto of “Keeping Couples Connected.” Although the company began with only a single product, today they are known for their work with disabled veterans, their inexpensive bondage products such as paddles, feather ticklers, and handcuffs, their great beginner’s harnesses, and the ingenious Under the Bed Restraint System. Tom Stewart is currently working on a hollow dildo strap-on harness for folks experiencing erectile difficulties.

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