Sex Toy Shopping: Why It's No Longer a Dirty Little Secret

It used to be something done in secret. Anybody, from good girl to gay guy to carnal couple, had to slink down to the seedy sex toy shop on the other side of town to purchase their private pleasure items. Nobody would've dreamed of visiting their local pharmacy for a titillating toy, let alone dared to do so. Yet thanks to the sexual wellness revolution taking the world by storm, lovers are doing just that.

So why the major change in consumer sex toy shopping?

Public Sexual Discourse

Quite simply, thanks to media adverts, celebrity endorsements of erotic product lines, Baby Boomers seizing control of their sex lives, in-home sex toy parties and HBO's "Sex and the City," consumers are feeling more comfortable shopping for sexual wellness products from mainstream retailers. And with the online sexual health and wellness market booming -- as in an estimated $1 billion in global annual sales -- U.S. brick-and-mortar retailers and pharmacies have been hustling to get in on the action.

Customers are feeling more supported in their sexual health interests and needs beyond condoms and lubricants as more stores devote more shelf space to personal intimacy and enhancement items like vibrators, vibrating couples rings and Kegel exercisers. A huge part of a business's ability to stock such items is the fact that product lines are pushing the sexy without advertising the sex. Everything is tasteful, suggestive and sensual, beckoning lovers to explore.

Sexy vs. Pornographic Appeal

The advertising of sexual wellness category has involved attractive, non-pornographic packaging and clever, non-threatening (as in non-phallic), good-looking design. Such has been made even more desirable by aggressive marketing strategies that stress promoting pleasure, enhancing intimacy and taking your ecstasy to new heights, with visuals and language staying far away from anything indicating triple-X or "hardcore."

Ease of Purchase

Then there's the simplicity of the purchase. Customers who feel overwhelmed in a crowded specialty shop or busy online store like that the products they want the most are easy to find, and that the selection promises to be exactly what they need.

Language Seduction

Finally, there's the messaging of "you deserve sensual, sexual pleasure," an idea that resonates particularly well with core buyers of products like massagers and vibes -- women ages 24 to 42. With products described as "classy," "sleek," "sensual" and "high-end," it's no wonder that consumers agree that they deserve a luxurious lifestyle, which includes elegant, top-of-the-line sex toys. Many have decided to splurge on themselves with these "pamper me" products, feeling that they do indeed deserve nothing but the best on or in their bodies.

The sexual wellness industry's explosive growth will only continue as more buyers become aware of the fact that in taking care of your sexual health, you're taking care of your overall health. Case in point: two recent studies published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine reported that the prevalence of vibrator use amongst 18- to 60-year-olds is at 52.5% for women, and 45% for men. Researchers at Indiana University concluded that use is common and associated with sexual health-promoting behaviors and positive sexual functioning.

Sex knows no shame when the aim is to take care of the self and to take care of your health.