Manufacturers Discuss Approach to Lesbian Market
If necessity is the mother of invention, then the LGBTQ community is the mother of pleasure product innovation. As the old days of tacky packaging and toxic toys fall further into the past, lesbians have taken the lead in the evolution of sex toys. Spurred by discerning taste and a desire to create more than simple novelties, lesbian-driven manufacturers are tackling consumer needs in a revolutionary way. These entrepreneurs are addressing aspects of female anatomy and same-sex relationships that have been at best misunderstood and at worst ignored. The needs being fulfilled by the influx of such creative products are all at once simple yet complex. At their roots, satisfying those needs involves knowledge of women’s bodies at a scientific level, and that’s the easy part. The intangible, emotional aspects of lesbian relationships, however, go deeper than most generalist toy companies can fathom. It takes a genuine connection with lesbian consumers to create a product that satisfies every facet of lesbian sexuality.
Despite the now-obvious need for diversity, female designers, both lesbian and otherwise, were some of the first to truly consider how toys connect with the human body. When creating pleasurable experiences through products, one size almost never fits all. Understanding this concept for women, especially lesbians, requires a personal touch as well as a universal understanding for every letter of LGBTQ. “Preferences vary from person to person, as we all like different things, feelings, and tastes,” says Stephanie Berman, creator and CEO of The Semenette. This concept, despite its utter obviousness, is still somewhat new to the pleasure products industry. “Everyone’s sexual appetite is their own and some toys work for them, some do not, but that’s on an individual basis,” notes Metis Black, CEO of Tantus. Though Tantus doesn’t label itself as a lesbian-centered company, Black was among the short list of manufacturers who still took varying consumer desires into consideration as she built her business. “The Feeldoe, the original patented strapless strap-on, was created by a lesbian for her and her partner,” says Black of one of her most well-known designs. “The Feeldoe and the Realdoe are still some of our most sought-out items.”
Couples’ products aimed at straight partners aren’t new to the adult novelty industry. Several companies have opened doors for shared pleasure between men and women with wearable vibrators. Lesbian consumers, however, demand something a little more nuanced. “Not all designs seem to be aware of actual female anatomy, but when you find a company that does pay attention, like We-Vibe or Fun Factory, that can be an extra exciting stimulation,” says Jack Morocco, channel manager of Crave. Mainstream, straight-centric media often seems unable to wrap its proverbial head around two ladies having sex. “A lesbian is still a woman, and therefore, there’s a good chance she still likes penetrative sex … she just likes it strapped onto the body of another woman,” says Berman. Contrary to uninformed stereotypes, she corrects, “I think the biggest misconception about lesbian sex is that not all lesbians hate things that look realistic — in fact, some actually prefer their dildos to look like a penis!” Ask any lesbian in the adult novelty field and most will agree with Morocco and Berman. “Too often the mainstream understanding of lesbianism is just some straight dude’s bad, porn-fueled misconception of lesbian sex,” claims Morocco. It takes much more than a vague idea of female same-sex intercourse to successfully create and market a lesbian adult product. “Lesbian products are best marketed when done so by women who like having sex with women,” she says. “When the design is an accurate, realistic interpretation of lesbianism.”
Rarely, if ever, will you find a lesbian consumer seeking a generalized product. Design, marketing, and a company’s mission all play equal roles in presenting a product line that can genuinely communicate with the lesbian community. “Seeing yourself as finally properly represented is a feeling that is very hard to describe,” says Jack Morocco. “When you can relate to and see yourself in a product’s art or advertising, it becomes way more personal.” Simply put, lesbians aren’t interested in brands that don’t take their specific needs into consideration. Though it’s not unlikely that a lesbian couple will occasionally purchase a generic $10 vibrator, it’s doubtful that they’ll take enough notice to continue to support the vibe’s manufacturer. “The LGBTQ+ community is one that shows the most brand loyalty when products are marketed specifically to them,” says Berman. “It’s almost like showing solidarity for the community — we support brands that support us.” Berman understands her audience from a business and personal perspective. She used her pioneer product, The Semenette, which mimics ejaculation, to conceive her first child with her wife using donor sperm. “As a lesbian woman who created a product for lesbian couples to try and conceive, my initial marketing strategy was to solely focus on the obvious: lesbian couples,” Berman said. “I’m not some huge conglomerate that just calls itself ‘LGBT-friendly’ just to hit a certain demographic. I fully support the LGBTQ+ community, and try to give back any way I can.”
Regardless of where a manufacturer CEO or sales rep may fall on the Kinsey Scale, it’s most important to put heart and honesty into their products aimed at lesbians. Manufacturers like Tantus understand the importance of integrity in their mission. “Tantus has had a long history with queer sexuality and with the LGBTQ community, but we’ve never pigeonholed a toy for an exclusive segment,” Black said. “Today we know gender is fluid and no matter what sexual preference you have, toys can add to your experience.” Crave, best known for their high-end necklace vibe, Vesper, is a company that also prides itself on being conscious of all gender identities and sexual preferences. “A lot of these harnesses and dildos have little pockets or places for bullets,” says Jack. “Our high-quality version of the traditional bullet vibrator can add extra kick to a lot of lesbian partner toys.” Though neither Crave nor Tantus are lesbian-owned, both companies keep close ties within the sex-positive movement. Not every company owner can claim the “L” in LGBTQ. However, a conscious attitude and open mind can still speak volumes within the lesbian community.
The LGBTQ consumer is truly a force with which to be reckoned when his or her specific needs are properly understood. An individual’s preference of partner isn’t a limitation on their buying power. It’s a reason for every manufacturer to invest in the vast knowledge of human sexuality. Just don’t bother faking it with gimmicks or marketing schemes. To the benefit of all sexual humans, ethics are taking the lead over SKU numbers in the future of pleasure products.