Sex Positivity for Sex Retailers

When customers come to your store or website, it’s important that they feel welcomed. That’s standard retail doctrine, but it plays out differently when you’re selling sexual products. Your company philosophy has a big impact on how you connect with customers and close the sale.

Since the sex toy industry came of age in an era that was full of sexual shame and silence, it has a long history of breaking down taboos and bringing sex into the open. Sexual acts that used to be kept secret are now discussed on talk shows, in magazine columns, and all over the Internet. The toy industry can take a certain amount of credit for helping make that happen. Now, it’s time to take a look at the next steps.

At its core, sex-positivity is the idea that sexual diversity exists, and that wherever you are across the different spectra is just fine.

Sex-negativity is the idea that sex is dangerous, sinful, dirty, or shameful. And as much as society has created more room to talk about sex, those attitudes are still pretty strong. The fact that so many people feel such deep shame about their sexual desires and preferences shows that we still have a long way to go to overcome sex-negativity.

But if sex-negativity is the idea that sex is bad, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that sex-positivity means that sex is good, or that you have to have lots of wild, kinky sex to be sex-positive. I understand where these notions come from, but they have the potential to create a different set of problems and alienate customers.

I’ve seen how-to articles that talk about G-spot pleasure as if every woman who explores it will have amazing orgasms with it, every time. But there are some women who simply don’t enjoy G-spot stimulation, no matter how they do it. When they read articles that make it seem like any woman can have mind-blowing G-spot orgasms, or when they see signs in your store that say the same thing, it’s easy for them to feel like there’s something wrong with them. That’s not going to help you make a sale. You can substitute pretty much any other kind of sex into that. The pattern is the same across the board.

Another example is the common assumption that everyone wants sex and that everyone wants more sex, or more wild sex, or longer-lasting sex. Of course, there are people who do, in fact, want any or all of these things. There are also people who are just fine with their sexual patterns, whatever they happen to be, and they still want to buy sex toys. Those folks are often ignored or talked about as if they haven’t gotten over their sexual repression, which is clearly not a good sales technique.

At its core, sex-positivity is the idea that sexual diversity exists, and that wherever you are across the different spectra is just fine. If you want sex every day, or if you want it once a week, or if you want it once a month, that’s all good. If you like lots of variety in your sex, or if you like doing the same thing every time, that’s up to you. As long as everyone is happy and nobody gets hurt, the only people it should matter to are the people doing it. And while I don’t think many folks in the industry would disagree with that, it’s easy to sometimes forget that more isn’t always better. When you do, you end up alienating customers. That simply isn’t good for business.

There are a lot of reasons why we fall into that trap. It’s hard to capture the many nuances of sexual diversity in a sound bite or a tweet. Some customers come to us looking for easy answers, and it can be hard to explain to them that there are no guarantees about how a toy might work for them. And sometimes, retailers and writers simply don’t know enough about sex to be able to reflect the incredibly different perspectives and experiences people have.

Whatever the causes, it’s important for the sex toy industry to make room for the many ways people are sexual because that’s part of how you can connect with a wider audience. The folks with more vanilla tastes might not make as many purchases, but there are a lot of them and their smaller sales add up.

So take a look at your marketing material, your store signage, the language on your website, and your training manual. How well do they reflect the many ways people have sex? How much room do they make for different experiences and perspectives? And what can you do to make them more welcoming to more people? You can make it easier simply by having someone else read through your information, both to bring fresh eyes and a different point of view. It can seem like a lot of work, but the payoff is a loyal customer base that knows and trusts you.

Charlie Glickman PhD is a sexuality speaker, trainer, writer, blogger, and coach. He’s an AASECT-certified sex educator and has been working in this field for over 20 years. Charlie is the co-author of The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure: Erotic Exploration for Men and Their Partners. Find out more about him at or on Twitter and Facebook.