Words by: Juliette Capomolla Art by: Charlotte Elwell
It seems to be only fitting that, in a year as lonely as ever, we all turned to our sex toys for solace. Sales soared once we were all forced to stay at home last year, ironically allowing us to find company in ourselves. But it’s not like this hasn’t happened before. I mean, in the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) sex toy sales boomed, while people saved their pennies by staying inside. And what better way to waste time than with a dildo bed-side?
Perhaps this is the one time where we might give thanks to the ominous enigma capitalism for responding so rapidly to our desperation. The global sex toy industry is estimated to be worth nearly $40 billion and is growing almost tenfold annually.
It can’t just be my Instagram feed that is littered with ads for sex toys. Every prominent female I follow has collaborated with a sex toy company now (perhaps hyperbolic, but you get the point). Think Abbie Chatfield, Cara Delevingne, Lily Allen and Gwyneth Paltrow, among many other like-minded pioneers.
Yes, you heard it here first — women are finally allowed to enjoy sexual pleasure for themselves. No longer are sex toys marketed purely to the male gaze, but instead, we’ve seen an incredible surge in female sex toy producers. Gone are the sleazy, white salesmen, and in come the modern, young women advocating for female sexual pleasure. And may I just say, finally.
We’ve moved well beyond the infamous ‘Rabbit’ vibrator, but I’ll still give Sex and the City the credit for opening up the dialogue about sex toys and female sexual empowerment. For all her flaws and mis-steps, Gwyneth Paltrow and her brand Goop have also done a lot to change the conversation around sex toys. She is widely considered one of the first celebrities to normalise masturbation and female sexual pleasure by advertising *ludicrously expensive* dildos. Once considered erotic and scandalous, sex toys have undergone an intense rebranding and are now encompassed under the wellness umbrella. I mean, if you ask me, it’s pretty hard to ignore the fact that sexual health is a massive part of wellness.
Perhaps it comes with age, or perhaps this conversation has simply been stifled for decades, but chats about sex toys and sexual pleasure are becoming increasingly common amongst friends. It’s thanks to this dialogue that I feel so empowered to chat freely with my friends about sex. The sexual empowerment and liberation that flows from the top-down is undeniable, and it’s all thanks to many loud voices making lots of noise about sex toys. It’s needless to say that this conversation goes well beyond merely the prominence and lucrative nature of the sex toy industry, but really boils down to the acceptance and empowerment of female sexual pleasure. When we no longer feel like we have to have sex for someone else, we can truly learn to enjoy it and have agency over our sexuality. For somone like me, that comes from shedding shame associated with sex, and for others, it comes from exploring their own body before they allow someone else to do the same.
But I won’t mince my words when I say this, what sexual wellness means to me, might be totally different to what it means to you. Whether you masturbate or not, whether you use sex toys or don’t, whether you’ve never had sex and never want to or simply have no idea yet — you should be empowered to make whatever decision fulfills you.