What Is the Sex-Positive Movement and How Are Pleasure Products Contributing to It?

Hands-free vibrator Eva II. Photo Courtesy: Dame Products

When it comes to sex toys, the days of the bright pink, phallic, vibrating object as the dominant choice in the market are over. Fortunately, the days of going to a seedy-looking sex shop to buy one of those adult toys and feeling guilty about it are also pretty much done.

"It’s important to have thoughtful well-designed products that are designed for women. The vast majority of what we’ve seen was designed by men at women [...]. They just didn’t really fully embrace the user of these products," says Ti Chang over a Zoom video chat. Chang is co-founder and VP of Design at the sex tech company Crave, which was founded in 2010 after the industrial designer Chang had already launched a line of sex jewelry called INCOQNITO in 2008.

Crave products are sold through the company’s website but also at mainstream retailers like Nordstrom, where they’re available in-store and online.

Dame Products co-founder and CEO, Alexandra Fine, seems to be on the same page as Chang when it comes to the evolution of sex toys. Over email, she tells me about Dame Labs, the research arm of her sex tech company, where customers inform the process of product development — "from the type of stimulation a product provides to where each button is placed," she writes, adding they test their products with real people. "The Dame community is working to humanize a product space that isn’t always speaking to the audience it serves."

Dame, which launched in 2014 and was founded by sexologist Fine and engineer Janet Lieberman, has a team of full-time engineers to ensure their products are based on research and also get all the technological sophistication they need as standard consumer products.

Browse the products by Dame and Crave but also those by other leading sex tech companies — such as Lora DiCarlo, Lelo and Womanizer — and you’ll see a diversity of offerings. And I don’t mean just in terms of the colors you can choose from, but also in the shapes, sizes, materials and functions of the devices. There are waterproof toys, flexing vibrators, hands-free devices, suction stimulators, pleasure products that are designed for solo play and those for use with a partner. There are even small, inconspicuous gadgets ideal to take with you while traveling.

You’ll also see mainly people with vulvas or vulva-owners — terms used by Chang and Fine to describe their users — represented on those companies’ websites. "The sex industry is on an exciting swing from a male-centric vice industry to a female-centric wellness industry," says Fine.