To say that sex toys have come a long way, would be an understatement. If we look at the world’s oldest sex toy — a 20-centimeter-long dildo created roughly 28,000 years ago — and look at the high-tech sex toys we have now to pleasure ourselves and our partners, the evolution of sex toys isn’t just impressive AF, but fascinating. Even in the last decade or so, as sex toys managed to escape the taboo surrounding them and joined the ranks of the mainstream, they've come even further. Did women in the ‘70s ever think they’d see the day when sex toys no longer needed to be plugged into the wall, but were wireless and could be used by partners a world apart?
With every year comes new sex toy technology and, honestly, not only are our sex lives better for it, but so is the world. Each new innovation takes us further from the archaic taboo that was associated with sex toys for far too long and that's a really important thing. Human sexuality is meant to be explored and celebrated; not locked up in a dark room like a dirty secret.
“We expect to continue to see the rise of vibrators you can leave out on your dresser without feeling mortified,” Polly Rodriguez, CEO of Unbound, a sex-positive quarterly subscription of boxed sexy toys, tells Bustle. “Like all consumer products, customers value objects that are aesthetically pleasing."
Here's what the sex toy industry has to say about what's on the horizon for 2017. (Spoiler alert: this is going to be an orgasm-induced year for sure.)
This year is all about on-demand economy, as consumers eat up new technology that’s coming their way, Rodriguez says.
“Customers want their orders FAST, with a higher level of customer support, and a seamless return policy,” Rodriguez says. “In 2017, I believe that as technology erodes barriers of entry, we'll see more and more e-commerce shops pop up, and customers will be inundated with choices. For us, the big opportunity is to continue to build brand loyalty by providing an unparalleled customer experience. If we don't, the customer will just go elsewhere.”
2Toys That Cater To Niche Sexual Interests (Basically, More Kink)
No matter how you feel about the franchise, you have to admit that Fifty Shades of Grey introduced a whole group of women to sexual behavior that they may not have discovered otherwise. With that discovery came an openness toward BDSM, as well as a curiosity to explore even more avenues of sexual satisfaction. Although the book was published in 2011, we’re still seeing its effects and with the release of the latest movie, there’s likely to be another surge in that curiosity.
"Not coincidentally, there [was] another 50 Shades of Grey film released on Valentine’s Day this year and we’re seeing a flood of new kinky accessories to meet the anticipated demand," Babeland Co-Founder Claire Cavanah tells Bustle. "Beyond that, kink has become fashionable and wearing harnesses, collars, and restraints is a sexy trend."
Rodriguez echoes this sentiment. "In a post-Fifty Shades world, customers are curious what else there is outside of BDSM," says Rodriguez. "We're going to see an even deeper curiosity surrounding other niche sexual interests. Specifically, I think role play, pegging, and open relationships will all become more prevalent this year."
3Innovations That No One Has Utilized Yet
Coming up with new and exciting innovations is absolutely essential when it comes to staying ahead in the sex toy industry. In 2016, LELO released the HEX condom, a re-engineered latex condom. It's also a trend that's very much going to continue into this year.
"As always, LELO will be playing the cards close to our chest on new technology until it's ready to go to market," a rep for LELO tells Bustle. "In the same way Beyoncé can drop an album from nowhere, we get a thrill of dropping something really awesome without much warning. We're working on two different and new types of technology right now, and they're both nearly ready. They're both the most advanced bits of tech we've developed to date and we've been working on them for a very long time, so it's all very exciting. One of them involves an innovation no one has really utilized yet, but we have to be guarded about that, to the point that everyone involved has signed an NDA."
I, for one, am on the edge of my seat for what LELO has up their sleeve.
4Fashion-Forward And Design-Centric Products
One of the major achievements in the production of sex toys is that many of them don’t even look like sex toys. If you have a gold, diamond-encrusted dildo and happen to leave it in the living room, no one will be the wiser as to what it is. Same goes with vibrators that double as jewelry.
"Although it's taken the adult category far too long to catch up, we're finally starting to see not only design centric products but those that are fashionable and wearable as well," Rodriguez says. "Our collection that came out in January focuses on this core component and the fact that women want to be able to wear their sexuality, quite literally, on their sleeve.”
5One Word: Teledildonics
Although teledildonics — sex toys controlled by the Internet — first came about during the ‘90s as technology searched for safe ways for people to enjoy sex as a response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, today they’re being used in sex toys to make long-distance sex better.
“I do think that teledildonics will continue to trend and improve — along with even sex robots,” Alex Fine, CEO of Dame Products, tells Bustle. “Have you seen Westworld?”
Such a thought might seem a little out there, but Fine’s prediction isn’t exactly a stretch. Sex robots are really not that faraway, and we don’t know what the end of 2017 will look like… we could all be dating robots by then.
6Health And Wellness Toys
When The Womanizer Deluxe was created, it became the first of its kind to use something besides vibration to stimulate a woman’s clitoris. Instead, the company chose their patented PleasureAir Technology to get women off. A recent study found that The Womanizer Deluxe is so successful in giving women an orgasm, that it’s now being used to treat women who find it difficult to climax. It’s no longer “just” a sex toy, but a health and wellness device that can really make a huge difference in women’s lives. This is a trend that’s likely to continue.
“Many sex toy designers are making the connection between pleasure and health and I expect to see more in this category soon," says Cavanah. This is fantastic news for women who struggle to orgasm.
7Technology Is Going To Get Even More Creative
As to be expected, technology is going to really take off this year. I mean, we are already talking about sex robots, after all. "What happens in the world of apps is usually adapted for sex somehow," says Cavanah. "I expect to see more connectedness and new ways to customize your vibrator."
Alex Fine agrees. “I would say that sex toys in 2017 will continue to, as one would expect, incorporate technology in new and different ways,” says Fine. “I think we'll continue to see it used in circumstances in which it's useful and in others where it serves a slightly superfluous role, as it's tended to do in the past year or so.”
Although sex toys, vibrators especially, were once marketed specifically to women, in recent years toys have been created for men, too. "Until recently [male toys] have all looked to replicate reality, they’ve looked to replicate human interaction," Adam Lewis, founder and CEO of Hot Octopuss, the company behind the world's first Guybrator aka Pulse III Solo, tells Bustle. "Women’s toys have never been that way. They’ve never looked to replicate or replace human interaction. Male toys have... looked like vaginas, so they’ve had that stigma [of being a replacement for a 'real' partner]. As a brand, we want to change that stigma."
Cavanah thinks male sex toys will be hot this year too. "We’ve seen many new, diverse offerings for anyone with a penis in the past couple of years and this is on trend to continue," she says.
9There Will Be Even More Women Behind These New Creations
As more women step up to the plate to not just own their sexuality, but share their knowledge of it in the hopes of closing the orgasm gap, Fine predicts we're just seeing the very beginning of sex toy products being created by women and sex toy companies being owned by women. "We'll continue to see more and more women-founded companies in this industry, which obviously we're excited about," says Fine. "The future is female!" She's definitely right about that.
So keep your eyes peeled; sex toys are only going to get better and more technologically advanced this year, and we're all going to benefit from it. Bring it on!