In a buzz-happy sex toy market, non-vibrational toys have some big shoes to fill. Using a vibrator is like taking the easy street to pleasure. A battery-free toy requires a little more effort and imagination. Taking cues from art, psychology and the human body, inspired manufacturers have cooked up unique creations for consumers seeking more than a few extra pulsation settings.
The growth of the batteries-not-required sex toy category mirrors the recent boom of sexual health awareness. In its wake, specialty toy designers have spawned fan-filled niches that reach the furthest depths of desire. Njoy’s stainless steel wands were some of the first to earn a devoted following, closely matched by Tantus’ start of the silicone revolution.
In terms of creativity, the sky is the limit for non-vibrating toys. -Steven Vest, Bad Dragon
Since then, myriad boutique companies have sprung up over the past few years in response to a consumer base ripe with sexual knowledge and unafraid to embrace their kinks. Non-vibrating sex toys have even launched entire new categories, some of which created micro-movements in sexual wellness. From the sexual-spiritual awakening powers of Chakrubs’ crystal wands to the high-art ceramic and porcelain insertables of artist Adele Brydges, the possibilities are endless when you aren’t tied to the engineering necessities of a motor.
Walk into any adult boutique and it’s obvious where the scale tilts. A good vibrator at a decent price isn’t all that difficult to acquire given the overwhelming amount of choices in every size, shape and color. Well-made motor-less toys with similar body-safe, pleasure-giving properties aren’t as prevalent. When a customer chooses a toy without power, they’re not just looking for an orgasm; they’re looking for an experience.
“Consumers seek out non-vibrating toys when they have fantasies or desires that vibrating toys can not fulfill, or are looking for something that is 100 percent body safe and has been customized with the customers’ personal touches,” says Steven Vest, marketing team leader for Bad Dragon.
If you’re looking for true niche sexuality, Bad Dragon has covered some truly unique bases. Their colorful, customizable dildos are works of fantasy art. The company turns unicorns, werewolves and scaly, mythical beasts into friendly (and very horny) personalities that aim to pleasure their human counterparts.
Dragon muzzle masturbators and T-Rex phalluses are crafted down to the last detail. Needless to say, consumers that desire a dinosaur aren’t going to balk at the lack of a motor.
“More people will purchase our toys and yearn for them to someday offer the option of vibration rather than not purchase them in favor of another manufacturer’s vibrating models,” says Vest. “The niche our product fills differs from vibrating products because many of them are generic in terms of shape and color while ours are uniquely shaped, textured and colored with the customers’ vision in mind.”
There are some limitations to vibrator engineering for those that want to have sex with a unicorn — or, in the case of Crystal Delights, become one. CEO Shellie Martin’s glass sculptures range from the popular glitter of Swarovski butt plugs to animal tails that transform wearers into bunnies, minks, or fairy tale horses.
“I feel like a non-vibrating product has all the advantages,” Martin said. “We have worked really hard to create a beautiful, artistic product that will last a lifetime without the need for additional parts like cords and batteries. Most vibrators can’t do that!”
Boutique companies like Bad Dragon and Crystal Delights have specialization on their side, which can be incredibly time-consuming for larger businesses while filling million-dollar orders for thousands of SKUs. More discerning consumers seek smaller-scale production outfits for this exact reason.
“A Godemiche customer has this feeling bubbling inside them that they just ‘need it,’ very different to trying to make people ‘want’ our products,” says Adam Breedon, CEO of specialty silicone brand Godemiche. “Our customers are empowered by the product to show people, to talk about them, and to be brand ambassadors.”
Sex toy artists like Breedon aren’t clamoring for mainstream attention, and even abhor it in the wrong form.
“A person that asks me ‘why should I buy one of your toys’ is quickly told that they shouldn’t! Yes, I tell people they should not buy our products,” Breedon said. “It’s not just our products that have allowed us to become the business we are today. It’s our views, our determination to make a change in society, not the industry.”
The pleasure product industry has been pumping out multi-colored PVC dildos for years, but consumer interest in mass-produced toy stereotypes is waning. Body-safe and sexually aware are the name of the game now. Industry staple Fun Factory has found the balance between boutique-level quality and internationally recognized quantity. “Silicone has always been our main material of choice,” said Kristen Tribby, Fun Factory USA’s director of marketing and education. “As sexuality education becomes more mainstream, customers have really appreciated that our products are made in Germany, where sexuality products are regulated in a way that they’re not elsewhere.”
While Fun Factory is mainly a vibrator company, their non-vibrating designs, such as the thrusting Stronic line and unique double-ended dildos, have garnered even more attention.
“Vibrators tend to be the go-to approach for pleasure, but we have had great success with offering alternatives,” says Tribby. “Our patented pulsator technology, which is used on our Stronic line...[creates a] thrusting motion that gives a whole new sensation which works for both vibrator lovers and people who prefer something different to vibration.”
The excitement of selling non-vibrating toys lies in the elements of surprise and change, which is not always welcome in the usual big-business atmosphere of prediction. This is exactly what sets sex toy artists apart from mass-scale manufacturers.
“In terms of creativity, the sky is the limit for non-vibrating toys,” Vest said. “We find that there is no consistent shape that is a surefire seller, because some people prefer girth, some like texture, others want a curve or a thin taper on their toy, it all depends on their individual tastes.”
This kind of feedback might terrify a company with multiple warehouses and factories overseas, but it’s just what fuels smaller groups of passionate artists. Sales will keep your company afloat, but small business digs deeper than revenue.
“We set out to be a different company by challenging people,” Breedon said. “An industry change would benefit a handful of early adopters, but if we can change society then we are all better as a business sector and as an industry.”
If vibrators are the gateway drug of sex toys, motor-less works of art are the slow-burning stuff of dreams you won’t discover until you’ve run the gamut of batteries.
“Customers often buy something cheaper first, hate it, and come back and buy what they wanted in the first place,” Martin said. “Have you ever had that moment when you were just where you wanted to be, right on the edge, and your batteries ran out? That will never happen to you again with a non-vibrating product!”