Consumer spending changed a lot during the pandemic. Among the industries that took off in 2021 are fun industries like restaurants, amusements, gambling venues, hotels, performing arts and air transportation.
Plants, puppies, and pots and pans were hot items in the last 22 months as people feathered their nests. Soaring sales of sourdough starter surprised everybody. But the hot demand for sex toys was overlooked. That is a mistake for two reasons.
Sex Toys And Money Making
First, sex toys are a booming business. Most of the quality producers of sex toys are privately owned, so we don’t have Wall Street analysts touting the sector. But changing levels and compositions of sexual desires and practices means sex toys are competing for the consumer dollar. Despite the profitability, is notoriously hard to get funding. Big investment firms shy away from sex toy companies as advertising in the USA is basically prohibited. In Germany, billboards advertise sex toys— in the USA that content is heavily censored. Reliable U.S. banking and fee processing is also elusive. Social media is also tricky. Advertising “sexual wellness content” can trigger accounts being shut down or shadow-banned.
Nonetheless sex toy sales are up around the world. Sales shot through the roof, especially online and people are becoming more adventurous in their toy choices. Forbes contributor Sharon Edelson reports on WowTech’s and Lovehoney’s merger to become the largest “sexual wellness” – notice the American euphemism for sex toys – merger.
Sex During Covid — Big Surprises
The sex toy company Fun Factory was bracing for a bruising when President Trump and the rest of the world shut down the economy in March 2020. They suspected overall depression would cause people to stop dating and hunker down and tightened up. But to their surprise the demand for sex toys went way up, especially the first week the stimulus checks were sent out. Sales of harnesses, dildos, and wearable dildos rose by almost 300% since 2020. And based on Christmas sales in 2021 penis sex toys are anticipated big sellers in 2022.
The Fun Factory’s 25th anniversary survey of 650 customers — 59% of respondents identified as heterosexual; 19% were bisexual, 9% were pansexual, and 5% were homosexual — found rising fantasies about different techniques surpassing role changing as a dominant fantasy. Demand for “pegging” entered the top 10 fantasies of American couples for the first time. Autoeroticism and the capital equipment you need for that rose in popularity. Men, especially, said they were open to changing their masturbation routine — 57% of men, compared to only 34% of women.
The taboo against male sex toys, relative to female sex toys is easing up. 70% of respondents believe they are becoming more widely accepted. For reasons related to traditional objectification of female sexual activity, female sex toys are more acceptable. Though in high demand, Fun Factory managers tell me it is difficult to find their products on the web because web blockers and trolls interfere with the search. I had to investigate terms through “Google scholar.”
Sex Toys and Public Health
The second reason overlooking sex toys is a mistake is that sex is a public health issue. Acting on sexual desires is a move towards healthy living.
Sexual practices changed significantly during COVID in surprising ways. David L. Rodrigues and Kinsey Institute’s Justin J. Lehmiller publishing in the Journal of Sex Research carefully probed survey results finding that, during the COVID-19 pandemic and recession— a majority of established couples experienced a decline in sexual activity, even those in committed relationships where they were living with their partners. COVID, it seems was a buzz kill.
Sex and Terror Management During Pandemics
But for a significant minority a heighted fear of death inflated sexual desire for their partner and boosted sexual functioning. Terror Management Theory predicts individuals act to cope with fear of death.
This is good news and important for planners anticipating the next pandemic and lockdown. Sexual activity is another form of self-help behavior and healthy living. And engaging behavior with their partner is an important part of human well-being. Exploring sexual desire and fantasies is on par with a move towards mocktails and other substance abuse avoidance strategies and other moves towards self-improvement.
As the Biden administration rewrites its blueprint preparing for the next pandemic maximizing health, wealth, and equity attending to healthy sexual desire should be a priority. Economic activity in the sex toy industry is one tool in maximizing health and wealth. So, consumers, investors, and public health officials may pay more attention to this industry now in the shadows.
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