Understanding Consumers’ Diverse Sexual Lifestyle Landscape

Mark Espinosa

Gather around, gather around! Ladies and gentlemen, please. As I stand here before you on my mighty soap box, with the luminescent California sunshine raining down upon me, I would be quite remiss if I was to allow you to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. An opportunity to experience rejuvenated sexual pleasure, health, revitalized physicality and many other forms of “youthful-tality!” I came here today with a product so potent that the mere mention of it could save you from the very depths of perdition! “Hysteria!” “Sleeplessness!” “Boredom!” These are but a few of the aliments that can be cured by this newfangled contraption. And what, pray tell, is this modern day miracle? Well, it’s a “sex toy,” dear boy! The only one of its kind! Act now to own this innovation of 1880’s technology! Marketed and designed, specifically, for the two known human sex genders and for the one proper form of sexual orientation!

Thank goodness the days of “Snake Oil Salesman” are way behind us. It wasn’t that long ago when product integrity was such a low priority and customer satisfaction was hardly a consideration. In fact, there was little to no connection between the people making the products and the people buying them. (Besides the obvious financial transaction.) This proved to be a long lasting problem that would slowly spread, universally, throughout the entirety of the retail establishment. This corporate assumption of “who was using their products” and “how they were being used” would result in a long-lasting fundamental disconnect between the “buyer” and the “seller.”

With public figures like Laverne Cox advocating on transgender issues, and songwriter Adele demanding a cultural shift in body positivity, the modern sex toy retailer needs to be aware of the massive changes occurring in our society.

It wasn’t until much later that people began to realize that actually listening to the feedback of their customers would result in higher sales. Minds were blown. The concept grew and expanded into a desire to not only better understand the consumer, but the world in which they lived. “Who are our customers and how can be better relate to them?” The evidence to this is clear: when a business fails to acknowledge the changing faces of society and the people living within it, it proved to be financially devastating. Equally, when a company is shown to lack understanding of a certain group of people (especially one that it claims to represent) that damage can be just as harmful to their public image.

The “face” of the modern day sex shop customer has changed dramatically over such a short amount of time. Years ago, the marketing mentality of the sex toy industry was to mostly target towards the predominately male clientele who were coming into their local shops to pick up products for their wives or girlfriends. This explains why a large amount of product packaging included overtly sexualized female imagery.

There was also the assumption that this type of advertising would also appeal to the female customer’s sexuality by not-so-subliminally attempting to mirror their own “sexual personas.” To say that adult retail customers have grown beyond this binary is a huge understatement. This demographic shift will require a drastic mental readjustment. As the spectrum of orientation, body imagery, and gender identification continues to branch out and gain more positive cultural acceptance, there is now a much stronger need to update the focus of your retail marketing. Sex still sells, but do you really know who’s buying?

With public figures like Laverne Cox advocating on transgender issues, and songwriter Adele demanding a cultural shift in body positivity, the modern sex toy retailer needs to be aware of the massive changes occurring in our society. Too often do I hear terms like “pegging” being misused by major manufacturers and customer’s gender pronouns not being properly respected in retail shops.

Sadly, it is sort of expected that, in some aspects of our society, there will always be a “learning curve” for certain individuals. But as manufactures, distributors, and retailers of uniquely personal products, that an increasingly empowered demographics of individuals will be seeking to procure, we will be expected to be more understanding and knowledgeable of their lifestyle choices. We need to be better than that silly ole salesman at the beginning of this article, with his empty promises and uninformed pomp. Human beings are changing and we need to change with them. Because, I can tell you, lesbians are not the only ones buying a strap-on nowadays and lingerie is being made in way more sizes then it was 2 years ago.

Some ways to help usher in these changes can be as easy as hiring a sex educator to come into your shop and educate your staff on how to engage with customers whose gender seem undefined. You can also educate your staff on how to use language in a conversation that doesn’t require your customer to reveal their or their partner’s orientation. Perhaps you can start carrying a few more products that cater to people with disabilities or different body types. Design marketing collateral that represents a broader spectrum of identities. Turn your retail establishment into a safe space for all types of people. Seek to understand their struggle. While these changes in awareness and protocol may not require drastically altering the foundation of your organization, the effects of these changes will seem monumental to communities that were not previously represented in your establishments.

As National Sales Manager of Pleasure Works Wholesale, Mark Espinosa believes that as the industry progresses alongside communications technology, it’s important that we always remember that we get to say that we “give people orgasms for a living!” So, why not have a little fun in the process?