Cult Beauty, Feel Unique and Boots have all recently set up dedicated sections on their websites devoted to sexual pleasure and wellness after noticing a growing demand from customers.
Historically, the topic of desire in women has been taboo but we are seeing signs that female sexual liberation is on the up. Recently, the BBC aired its “messiest new podcast”, Unexpected Fluids, on Radio 1, exploring “eye-wateringly honest” accounts of real-life sex (stories of when sex gets “sloppy, goes floppy and a little bit wrong”).
We’ve got honest about pubic hair, with shaving company, Billie, making headlines as the first women’s razor brand to show pubic hair in its global ad campaigns. And, unsurprisingly, we’ve seen an exponential boom in requests for products that cater to female pleasure and hygiene. It seems women are, literally and metaphorically speaking, taking matters into their own hands – a recent study found that British women masturbate on average 2.5 times a week – and retailers are wising up.
Over the last year Feel Unique saw a 115% surge in searches around sex and wellness – a figure that continues to grow. Cult Beauty’s “female wellness” page became the most visited page at launch and the third most visited page across the site to date. Within 24 hours of the category launching, all of the Smile Maker vibrators sold out (the Tennis Coach, G-spot vibrator, proved the most popular).
This isn’t exactly news to Smile Makers (who have also topped the sales at FeelUnique and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop). Their devices have created a fun, lighthearted conversation around female masturbation, with streamlined, stylish tools in pastel shades of silicone. Even the language used is celebratory and audacious. The Fireman, a flame-shaped watermelon-pink clitoral vibrator, “knows his way around a fiery situation” and is “mighty skilled at cooling things down,” while The Frenchman, a tongue-shaped powder blue vibrator is a “sexy linguist,” who will make you “delightfully fluent in his native tongue.”
“’Self-love’ and ‘wellness’ are trending words, often used when describing beauty regimes – especially on social media platforms – but sexual health and sexuality, explains Feel Unique’s CMO, Jennifer Roebuck are also core to that conversation “As a retailer, we spent time researching the sexual wellness industry before we decided to join other retailers in this space. Our new sexual wellness category features a curated assortment of brands that we know have credibility amongst our millennial customer base. The brands and products also represent our inclusive approach as a retailer, offering a considered range for men and women,” she says. “Sexual wellness shouldn’t be taboo – we would like to start normalising the conversation about sex and sexuality in retail.”
It’s not just vibrators and sex toys that are being made available, “sexual wellness encompasses many other sectors, including mood, intimate care, fem tech and self-care,” explains Jennifer. So what else is on offer? Elvie’s discrete teal pelvic floor trainer has become a bestseller across all three retailers, Moon Juice’s powdered aphrodisiac Sex Dust is another top hit on Cult Beauty, Fur Oil is available, to give you softer pubic hairs and Intimina’s assortment of menstrual cups enable you to find a size that’s comfortable for you.
The aim is to alleviate awkwardness. Even though we’re not entirely open about our sexual health publicly, privately, retailers can see we’re interested in investing in it. “Our research shows that 80% of people believe that your sexual wellbeing can increase self-confidence, and nearly 60% of us believe it can improve general happiness. But we still don’t feel completely comfortable talking about female sexual pleasure and intimate health,” says Helen Normoyl, Marketing Director for Boots UK and Ireland. “Which is why we are using our own communications channels to help normalise sexual wellbeing as a topic, as well as giving customers an accessible way to find out more.”
The increased conversations and tools aimed around female satisfaction are designed to shift the mindset away from the pornographic and highly sanitised idea of sex most people have grown up with. In its place, is a bare-all approach that looks at sex through a normalised, lighthearted lens. One that encourages us to explore our bodies in an uninhibited way. How? By putting sexual wellness in the same category as caring for your skin and hair. Here, you’re buying your vibrator, massage oil or mooncup alongside your moisturiser and shampoo. It’s an approachable and arguably more comfortable experience than making your way to the back of a sex shop (though, to each their own, obviously). Just like our physical and mental health, our sexual health is not something we’re prepared to neglect.
It’s no wonder research by SmileMakers found that more women in the UK own a vibrator than a dishwasher. Investment aside, it sends out a clear statement about modern-day women and our priorities. Namely, there’s no way in hell we’re staying put in the kitchen.