When it comes to diversity and inclusivity, the sexual wellness world is forging a path for other businesses to follow. Now a mainstream category, sexual wellness has opened up conversations around these topics — and as cultural attitudes toward sexuality, race, gender and relationship dynamics change, the sexual wellness market is responding accordingly.
Just as the sex toy industry has seen growth in online sales, the same is true in the publishing world. The romance genre is dominating, and has witnessed the most significant growth in all areas of publishing throughout 2022. As people continue to embrace pleasure, they are embracing romance literature too, and these consumers’ calls for greater inclusivity and diversity have the publishing sector playing catch-up. While the sexual wellness world is becoming ever more inclusive, the romance publishing world is only just starting on its journey away from traditionally cisgendered narratives.
So, how can the sexual wellness world help the romance publishing world to become more diverse? How can these two worlds work together to bring about true inclusivity?
Don’t get me wrong, romance publishing has definitely witnessed some positive shifts. Change is slow, and perhaps more incremental than we might like. Nevertheless, things are moving in the right direction. The romance genre is no longer exclusively centered around straight, cis, white heroes and heroines without disabilities or chronic illnesses swooping in and saving one another. Authors from different backgrounds, communities and viewpoints are becoming more prevalent and popular.
This is something to which the sexual wellness world can relate. Pleasure products are no longer just created for and marketed to straight couples. Instead, brands are branching out and establishing themselves as more body-positive, gender-neutral and accepting spaces. This lets consumers know that no matter what their preference, sexuality or identity may be, there is something for them.
Learning From Each Other
It is also important to note that, in this day and age, consumers are increasingly interested in sexual wellness. They are keen to learn, experiment and be as open as possible. With this in mind, the role of sex experts and sex educators is becoming even more crucial. Providing a safe and affirming voice for these “seekers,” sex experts — many affiliated with sexual wellness brands — are keen to equip the masses with the right information. After all, knowledge is power.
By following the lead of these sex experts, the romance literary world can go further toward ensuring that complete and accurate information is being shared. Authors who have historically been underrepresented in romance literature, but who are now finding more acceptance and more readers, are naturally keen to bring representation into their work. However, they are also eager to model and promote, through their novels, things like correct pronoun use, gender inclusivity, queer sex and racial diversity — many of the same concerns driving sexual wellness brands and voices.
Just as people should be able to find sexual wellness products that cater to their needs and desires, they also deserve to see themselves represented in books of all genres. True inclusivity takes diversity a step further: It not only invites minorities and underrepresented identities to the table, but also fosters a true culture and environment of belonging. That is something we must aim for together, in both industries.
Melissa Saavedra is the founder of Steamy Lit, an inclusive romance subscription service that pairs sexual wellness products with featured novels. Companies interested in having their products included in Steamy Lit boxes should contact Melissa@steamylit.com.