Some surprising things happened to us during lockdown. We suddenly started gardening – compost ran out. We started baking – flour ran out. And, perhaps more surprisingly (or not), we started buying a lot more sex toys. After all, when you can’t go out, you may as well make staying in as pleasurable as possible. This Christmas, as a result, components for vibrators are, you guessed it – running out.
I have to express a personal interest in innovation in this category, having been given the unlikely opportunity to become the MD of a new sex toy company when I was 28 – a sex toy that was revolutionary enough for people to part with £2.5 million across two funding rounds to develop and get to market. Staggeringly (fuelled by worldwide Covid-19 lockdowns), sex toy sales are up between 50% and 80% year-over-year, with Australia leading the pack. High levels of innovation (I wanted to call this pleasurevation, but my colleagues had had enough of my word hybridisation antics) are fuelling this market thanks to the expiration of the infamous and fabulously named US “teledildonics” patent in 2018, which prevented many companies from launching web-linked sex toys.
The last webinar of our 2020 “Survive & Thrive” webinar series – the 29th one – paid homage to the true innovation being showcased in the SexTech market and the increasing legitimisation of self-pleasuring, couples play and sexual pleasure as a tool for wellbeing (or even just to alleviate the problems some people are having sleeping because of the global pandemic). As celebrities such as Lily Allen and Emma Watson are increasingly open about their use of innovative toys like wevibe and websites like www.omgyes.com, which really open up candid discussion about sexual pleasure in an accessible, acceptable, educational and engaging way. All these innovations are empowering women to increase their understanding of the pleasure their bodies are capable of giving them. In many cases, self-pleasure also has a role to play in overcoming issues of sexual dysfunction; to learn to orgasm in different ways, to help heal sexual trauma, as well as translating into fun new experiences with your partner (it seems that couples who play together, stay together).
But this innovation isn’t just for the ladies – applications are proving revolutionary for men’s sexual health issues – with app-linked sex toys proving more effective for enhancing performance and overcoming erectile dysfunction. It’s proven itself investable by the likes of Procter & Gamble, though investment across the board is still strongly linked to products who make “sexual wellness” claims rather than those who make claims about “pleasure”. There are still some things which are too taboo for the boardroom to openly embrace.
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To see our SexTech Survive & Thrive webinar, you can watch it here.