For many years, the very idea of a “male sex toy” was regarded by most people as something of a joke. The term brought to mind images of cheap, rubberized blowup dolls and their ludicrous puckered mouths, or clumsy penis pumps that looked more like medieval torture devices than something into which you’d ever willingly insert your member. These were products you’d buy as a gag joke to give a man at his 50th birthday party, perhaps accompanied by sarcastic greeting cards filled with jokes about impotence and hair loss.
Times have changed, however, and the male sex toy sector is now far more than merely viable; it’s downright vibrant. The obvious question, of course, is why?
“The biggest trend in regards to pleasure products is the fact it is becoming more common to talk about, even for men,” Aneros CEO CT Schenk told XBIZ. “An increasingly large amount of media outlets are now covering ‘male sex toys’ as if they are a brand new phenomenon. The stigma attached to pleasure products is receding in the U.S., and more people are exploring their sexuality. This creates a shift in marketing, as the best way to reach consumers is by online word-of-mouth. People turn to platforms like the Aneros Forum to learn what their peers have to say about products.”
Adam Lewis, CEO of Hot Octopuss, echoed Schenk’s assertion, telling XBIZ that in the five years his company spent developing its PULSE “guybrator”, he kept a close eye on the male sex toy market and saw a clear — and global — trend towards greater acceptance.
“The demand is increasing for premium products and generally more science is going into the research and development of these toys,” Lewis said. “A decade or so ago, men’s sex toys were seen as a bit seedy in comparison to women’s toys, which had been glamorized by, among other things, the famous ‘Sex and the City’ episode featuring the Rabbit.
“Now men’s sex toys are, if not on a par with women’s sex toys, certainly much less of a taboo. It has been great to see sex-positive bloggers — both male and female — writing about this topic and pointing out the double standard that has been applied when it comes to sex toys.”
For some manufacturers, the most significant recent trend, in effect, has been consistency; in other words, the same lines and products have remained their top-selling items, regardless of new product launches and various consumer fads.
“Our most popular products have been pretty consistent over the past two years and they are Hump Gear, our line of Fat Boy Extenders, Cock Armour and the Speed Shift cock ring,” said Rob Reimer, chief marketing officer for Perfect Fit. “I always say that if you make a great quality product that is functional and fills a need, it will sell.”
In a nod to market realities that will ring true to many adult entrepreneurs, Reimer also noted that being at the leading edge of a trend sometimes proves a double-edged sword.
“A trend that we saw which was good and bad was for our Hump Gear product, which was designed by Perfect Fit CEO and designer, Steve Callow,” Reimer said. “We marketed it as the world’s first fuckable butt plug. It became the best-selling product of 2013 on many online stores, and to this day is one of our top products with an XL version coming out this month.
“The down side when you launch a popular product is that you get knock-offs and people steal your designs. But if you are consistent with your marketing and sales strategy, the cheap knock-offs never really get a hold in the marketplace and they slowly fade away.”
Part of what’s driving the sale of male sex toys is increased media exposure; as is the case with essentially any consumer product, the media plays a key “tastemaker” role, pushing their audiences in certain directions, intentionally or otherwise.
“We like to think Hot Octopuss has been doing its bit for the cause by getting ‘guybrators’ into plenty of mainstream media outlets since PULSE launched last September,” Lewis told XBIZ. “In the U.K., for example, we’ve been featured in the Daily Mail twice — and the Mail is as respectable and traditional a newspaper as you can get. We’ve also been in Maxim Australia recently and several different European news outlets.
“In the U.S. the mainstream media is less open to the idea of sex toys in general, but journalists have so far been receptive to PULSE because of the medical science underpinning it and its potential for use in erectile dysfunction and for people with disabilities.”
Speaking of Australia, any company selling male sex toys would be wise to shower lots of marketing attention in a Down Under direction, according to Reimer, who noted that international expansion is an important element of Perfect Fit’s strategy for growth.
“Australia is always a great place for strong male sex toys sales,” Reimer said. “They are the largest sex toy consumer percapita, so we make sure to visit there at least twice a year and meet with our distributor and store owners. We also just launched with a brand new distributor in Japan and it has been a huge success for us.”
In addition to being pleased with the pace at which they are selling, Reimer says he’s greatly encouraged by an ongoing sea change in public perception he has observed with respect to male sex toys. “This has been really exciting because you can see the attitudes about male sex toys are changing in countries which were previously a bit more conservative about sex.”
If history is any indication, those changing attitudes bode well for the future of male sex toy sales — and of pleasure products, in general — in the years to come.