Adult retail has been undergoing a transformation in recent years. The adult stores of the 1990s and 2000s focused heavily on porn video sales and catered to a predominantly male clientele, but these days, many of the people patronizing adult retail are women in search of sex toys. Men, however, are buying sex toys as well, and retailers and distributors are taking notice.
Inga Van Riper, brand strategist for BuildTheStore.com, cited male consumers as an important growth market for sex toys.
I think the industry could potentially see much more profit if we moved away from advertising and selling products in such a gendered, sexual orientation-based manner. -Brandon Bartling, The Pleasure Chest
“Sex toy sales for men have steadily increased since 2012,” Van Riper told XBIZ. “In fact, the male sex toy market is one of the fastest growing markets for the sex toy industry. Many of the experts are predicting that the male sex toy market could grow to a $15 billion market by 2020.”
Sex toys, according to Van Riper, have been enjoying greater social acceptance among men — and that includes heterosexual men.
“In the past, the sex toy industry was only marketing to the gay and bisexual community,” Van Riper explained. “The reason was that sex toy companies believed that this group was freer to experiment with toys. Since sex toys were pitched toward gay and bisexual men, many heterosexual men connected sex toys as a ‘gay product.’ Today, education has been extremely important (in) marketing sex toys towards the heterosexual community. This has indeed helped with the shift in the market and the increase (in) sales for male sex toys.”
Brandon Bartling, New York City manager for The Pleasure Chest, asserted that both high-end products and budget items have their place in 2017’s sex toy market.
“I think one misconception that a lot of people tend to have regarding men and sex toys is that men are not invested in spending money on their sexuality,” Bartling told XBIZ. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. There are the obviously expensive purchases that are made by some men, such as on high-end prostate stimulators, masturbators, larger anal toys, etc. But something else to keep in mind is that some of the products available to men are not products that have as long of a lifespan as other products. Cock rings break, some masturbation sleeves are one-time use, anal toys come in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures and types — and variety is the spice of life. And so, over the course of the year, one could make the argument that men may actually end up investing more money in their sexual pleasure products than many would suspect.”
Bartling added that it is wrong to think that straight men are not interested in anal toys.
“There is a lot of gendered marketing in the industry in general, which will likely never change,” Bartling observed. “But when it comes to what gets penises and prostates off physically — regardless of sexual orientation — that will never change. So, although some products may be very clearly marketed towards a specific demographic, ultimately — if someone sees a product that looks like something that would get them off — they’re going to buy it. I think the industry could potentially see much more profit if we moved away from advertising and selling products in such a gendered, sexual orientation-based manner and shifted the conversation specifically to bodies. With access to information, people are smart enough to know what will make their body feel good regardless of orientation.”
Nick Mahler, director of sales for Dallas Novelty, noted that the online retailer’s “sales (of sex toys) for men and women have been moving closer to 50/50.”
Mahler told XBIZ, “Male sex toys will continue to follow the advancements of the high-tech female toys such as more app-controlled, network-connected devices ... Silicone toys have really started to come out faster than ever before along with more remote-control toys.”
Mahler continued, “I think toys for guys are definitely making a turn towards being mainstream, with more reality shows talking about them and men’s magazines showing the latest toys. We are adding just as many men’s toys on our site as we are toys for women.”
Allison Travers, director of marketing and communications for Eldorado Trading Company, observed that gay, straight and bisexual men are all important to the pleasure products market in 2017.
“Some manufacturers do market their products specifically to gay or hetero men,” Travers told XBIZ. “For products that are geared towards gay clientele, you see a lot more risqué packaging, with images of sexy men in provocative poses and raunchy verbiage. For lines targeted specifically towards hetero men, usually they have images of female adult performers, couples or have simple, straightforward packaging. However, there are a lot of male lines that market for neither gay nor straight men, but just men in general. For example, Malesation makes it known that their products can be used by any man regardless of who they’re using it with. Their packaging is black and red (and) appeals to men regardless of sexual orientation.”
Travers added, “The hetero and gay markets are different. The gay market tends to be into bigger insertion products like sleeves and plugs. Also, men are beginning to show their softer romantic side; so, the more upscale products tend to move away from having raunchy verbiage or images on them to simple and clean packaging.”
Domina, partner relations manager for AdultShopping.com, noted that next to vibrators and dildos, men’s sex toys have become the site’s third most popular category.
“Sex toys for men are becoming very popular as men learn more about the pleasure options available for them and toy offerings become more sophisticated for men,” Domina told XBIZ. “Once upon a time, not so long ago, options for men’s toys were very slim and not so appealing, such as blow-up bubble heads or slimy masturbators. Today, the quality and sophistication of men’s toys have evolved tremendously, and many men’s toys are more like cool gadgets and luxury items aimed at the metrosexual man. So, higher quality products, innovation and better selection have collectively helped to increase the sales of men’s toys.”