Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis has the support of a New York-based sex shop, whose owners insist she is a "valid candidate."
Gerrie Blum and Mitch Kessler, the owners of ASWGT, Inc., or Adam and Gillian’s Sensual Whips and Toys, donated $40 to Davis’s campaign last year, according to the Texas Ethics Commission.
Kessler’s job title is "whipmaker," and he donated $30 to Davis in June 2013, according to Davis’s filing last July. Blum, whose occupation is listed as "Make SM leather toys," donated $10.
Kessler and Blum are the founders of ASWGT. They go by the names "Adam Selene" and "Gillian Boardman."
"Longtime practitioners of consensual erotic BDSM, Adam and Gillian have been providing a wide variety of ‘implements of affection’ from their Long Island Workshop, since 1987," their website states.
ASWGT, which is based in Capiague, New York, began out of the club scene in New York City in the 1980s.
"When they began to play in New York City’s public venues in the mid ’80s, they soon found that … in BDSM, as in golf—‘one club is not enough,’" Kessler and Blum write on the website. "As a matter of economy, they began to design and build their own toys. As they filled their own toybag with whips and paddles for all seasons, and to suit the preferences and tolerances of a variety of play partners, they were repeatedly asked, ‘Could you make one for me, too?’"
Kessler and Blum get their inspiration from forms of punishment used in the 18th and 19th centuries. They sell "Dragon Canes" modeled off of rattan used for ancient punishment in Singapore, which are only meant for "very serious players."
All of their products "have been ‘feel tested’ … on each other—or on people capable of enjoying their more severe creations."
Blum told the Washington Free Beacon that her donation to Davis was a "symbolic" gesture.
"When I made the contribution, first of all it was not company funds it was personal funds," she said. "Second of all, it was a small contribution as an indication that she does have support, she is a valid candidate, and, you know, go get ‘em."
"I have not made further contributions because I’m not in Texas," Blum added. "It was a symbolic, women’s vote kind of contribution to encourage her to take the next step."
Davis has declined to disclose the identities of 100,000 small donors, like Blum and Kessler, who have given $3.25 million to her campaign this year. Davis is not required to disclose names of individuals who have donated less than $50.
Donating to the Davis campaign is not Kessler and Blum's first involvement in political activism. Blum has worked as a lobbyist, according to their website, and both are advocates for decriminalizing marijuana in New York.
Blum and Kessler’s expertise extends beyond sex toys, as the pair also claim to be the "pioneers" of an online sex network.
"Soon after they met in 1984, Adam and Gillian became pioneers on the information superhighway as operators of The Utopian Network—a computer bulletin board system—one of the first ‘BBSs’ recognized in the FidoNet (Node 107/269 followed by 107/169) as devoted solely to sexual interests and alternative lifestyles," their website says.
They now use the Internet to "reach BDSMers across the country and around the world."
Blum and Kessler also ran a pro-feminist BDSM journal, "The Guardian," which they describe as a "kinky cross between Popular Mechanics and The Nation."
A recent poll shows Davis trailing Attorney General Greg Abbott by 16 points.