7 Commitments Sex Toy Companies Can Make in 2017

In 2016, I found my sex blogging niche by challenging companies and pushing for ethical, equitable, feminist business practice, so it seems only fitting to close out the year with a list of how sex toy companies can do better in 2017. Enjoy!

  1. Center ethics, equity, and justice in business practice. This is a big one, and it encompasses everything else on this list. My main point of this specific bullet, however, is to acknowledge that sex toys and the sex toy industry are part of the fight for sexual freedom and sexual rights more broadly. I firmly believe that this work is inherently political. (If your company doesn’t like that, it may be time to reevaluate your reasons for being in this industry.) Now more than ever, especially with Tr*mp’s inauguration looming closer each day, sex toy companies must not only boldly and bravely stand against injustice, but actively work to defend and expand human rights.
  1. Urge other companies to be better, and call them out if necessary. One of the most heartening things I saw this year was when L’amourose called out LELO for their HEX condom campaign. In the tweet, L’amourose writes, “Not in our families, not in our industry, not in our society.” Not in our industry. It’s a short message, but a strong one. If companies want to demonstrate their commitment to sexual freedom, they should speak out when they see something that harms those values, even if it’s coming from a peer in the industry.
  1. Diversify advertising. Sex toy consumers are not just white, cis, straight, thin, and able-bodied, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at many companies’ websites. Exclusionary advertising runs rampant in this industry. From toys categorized by sexual orientation and gender, companies’ focus on whiteness, and fat-shaming used as a marketing device, we’ve got it all. Thankfully, it’s not difficult to make changes that have a big impact. As a first step, companies can remove sexual orientation and gender-based sex toy categories from their websites. For a lengthier but crucial second step, companies can create advertising and marketing campaigns that feature fat people, people of color, disabled people, and queer and trans people. (Note: while centering marginalized folks in advertising is necessary, don’t tokenize us. Before reaching out to hire us, please understand why you should include us. And please, please pay us equitably.)
  1. Include fat and disabled people in any new toy testing process. Because every person’s body is different, there is a huge range of accessibility needs and concerns to take into account when crafting sex toys. Some toys won’t work the same way for fat and/or disabled people as they will for thin and/or able-bodied people. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s just a fact. However, fat and disabled people are often shut out from any sex toy prototype testing process. (Why? Let’s review #3: this industry prioritizes thin, able-bodied people.) From now on, I want to see companies reach out to fat and disabled bloggers and educators to test their toys. Not sure who to reach out to? Email me and I can point you in the right direction.
  1. Stop asking for unpaid labor from sex bloggers and educators. This is not a goal to work towards. This is something to stop immediately. It is really that simple. Read this if you’re confused.
  1. Don’t hire abusers or create condoms that compromise people’s health and safety. Okay, yes, this is obviously about LELO, but how could I not highlight the company that has received my “You Royally Fucked Up And Continue To Do So, Now Please Leave Forever” award? It’s an honor I don’t want to bestow on any company ever again. Take this opportunity to learn from LELO’s countless mistakes. When in doubt, don’t do as LELO did: a mantra to conduct business by!
  1. Promote sexual freedom, not shame. When shopping around for sex toys, words and phrases like “naughty” and “it can be your little secret!” will likely pop up on companies’ websites. Companies also often prescribe certain ways for the consumer to use the toy – for example, “use this with your man!” is a common one that irks me to no end. While comments like this may seem offhand or harmless, they’re actually insidious and stigmatizing. People should be encouraged to use sex toys however they’d like without implications of who they should use it with, or be shamed about how open they are about owning sex toys in the first place. Sex toys are a normal, everyday part of life for many, many people. It’s time for companies to market toys using a model of freedom and positivity rather than shame and stigma.

If your company would like to discuss any of these points further, please email me to discuss my consulting fee.

  • FieryRed

    Fuck yes to all of this. Thank you for being you.

  • Beau Belle

    Hey, great piece!

    But, as an in-store sexuality educator with 10 years experience, I’d like to share my thoughts on not listing toys per gender or sexuality in store and online. Having met thousands and thousands of customers (mainly women, to be fair) over the years, I wholeheartedly disagree with your statement. So many (so many!) customers ask for ‘lesbian toys’, ‘couples toys’ ‘toys for single use’ etc. This is a daily occurrence in our shop, and popular search terms on our website.

    Now, you and I know that the product purchased doesn’t know or care who it’s going home with – it’s job is to deliver mindblowing pleasure. BUT – for a newbie (someone who is new to sex toys and sexual empowerment) the choice is overwhelming, sometimes scary and often stressful to navigate. Therefor a listing helps. The listing are there because the *customers* want them – as retailers, we are merely responding to consumer need.

    There can be several listings featuring the very same products, but for a customer who is lesbian and is looking for something suitable, it can be a *relief* to find a listing called “lesbian toys” rather than having to trawling an entire site not knowing what to look for. Your comment is shaming those customers.

    Might be worth thinking about?

    Renee @ Sh!

  • Caitlin M.

    Renee,

    I have to respectfully-and I do mean it!- disagree that this is shaming customers. The issue at hand is that MANY customers are turned off by and even turned away by this kind of labeling.

    Some heterosexual guys would do better with a “penis toys” section than a “toys for boys” section, which may include anal toys and they may not like that, for example.

    Making assumptions about people’s gender based on what toys they’re looking at throws gender non-conforming and trans people under the bus, and
    often is inaccurate even for cis-gendered people. Assuming someone’s sexuality based on toy preference by default is a problem, as well, as straight guys might be interested in butt toys, straight couples may be interested in harnesses, and while I’d be inclined to tell people to get over their stigma, it’s just a label, that’s not really a solution when you can’t sit and talk with people one-on-one–and even if you can, you can’t convince everyone. I’ve tried.

    There CAN BE toy sections like this if your customers are asking for it–“Our Most Recommended for Lesbians” or something like that, but those shouldn’t be the top categories.

    The most inclusive way to label product categories, the most sensical to boot, is to describe what they do or what they do it with, i.e. harnesses, cock and ball toys, dildos, vibrators, anal/butt stuff, etc.

    No-nonsense and logical labels like that work great for larger categories while you can also have specialized sub-categories for popular picks for lesbians, couples, and the like.

    This just makes sense for companies who want to be inclusive of everyone, and is the conclusion I’ve come to after working with a variety of retailers with different needs and demographics, and interacting with dozens of online retailers as a blogger. It’s really hard to find a way to include everyone, and this is the closest compromise that leaves the fewest people out of the equation, while also leaving room for specialized sub-categories if it’s something your specific customer demographic is looking for.

    Caitlin @ Sexational!

  • Renee – I’ve read more than one blog post dedicated to telling stores to stop labeling sex toys by gender, and yes even sexuality (and written by a lesbian!). I’ve seen it said a lot on social media and even Reddit. And I have to tell you that not once have I seen someone say that they felt shamed. Not publicly, not privately, not on Reddit.

    Perhaps people ask about “sex toys for lesbians” because they’ve seen that rhetoric too much and have bought into the marketing, that this is for straights, and this is for lesbians, and this is for girls, etc etc.

    I work with a number of shops that are first-and-foremost LGBTQ-friendly, which cater to gender expression and are run by folks who are not straight. Yet they all resist labeling toys by gender or sexuality.