How Has “Fifty Shades of Grey” Impacted the Sex Toy Industry?

'Fifty Shades of Grey'-themed sex toys (Crushable)

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’-themed sex toys (Crushable)

With the recent “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie coming out last month (along with the requisite storm of thinkpieces), the sex toy industry is seeing an impact on the bottom line.

Different sex toy retailers are feeling an impact. “Variety” reports that Manhattan-based The Pleasure Chest was offering “Fifty Shades”-themed classes every night leading up to the movie’s premiere (though it doesn’t say for many weeks this went on).

Online retailer Adam & Eve, which holds the largest market share at 4%, has also gained a boost in sales. They’re also selling their own toy line “Scarlet Couture” pegged to the movie, in addition to the official “Fifty Shades”-inspired line.

“The Hollywood Reporter” has a piece which came out before the movie opened giving us some hard numbers. The U.K. sex toy brand Lovehoney made the line of “Fifty Shades”-inspired toys, which includes blindfolds, riding crops and feather ticklers. Demand for the “Inner Goddess” Ben Wa balls (or vaginal balls) sold out Europe in pre-orders. (Full disclosure: I was actually given a box of these when I attended a sexual health conference in January.)

THR reports that Lovehoney’s profits “tripled from $1.1 million the year before to $3.39 million by January 2014.” The “Fifty Shades” line has already sold 1.2M units worldwide, and is estimated to boost sales by 40% once the movie debuts.

If you’re looking for lingerie, Bluebella has you covered. The lingerie line has three “Fifty Shades”-inspired collections, and they anticipate a spike in sales not only from the movie, but also from Valentine’s Day.

“Inc.” also had a comprehensive article on this cultural phenomenon, and puts it in the larger context of a sea change. Market research firm IBISWorld found the following:

Between 2008 and 2013, sex toy sales in the U.S. increased by approximately 12.5 percent annually, raking in $610 million in 2013 overall.

The article notes that it’s more the smaller companies seeing a boon to their bottom line. But there’s also been a shift in who the sex toy industry’s customers are:

In 2013, women made up approximately 67 percent of U.S. industry patronage, which was a 12 percent increase from 2008.

It’ll be interesting to see if this is just a one-time sales spike, specifically in BDSM gear, or if this trend will continue, eventually making the practice almost, dare I say, vanilla.






Sweet Peach’s Vaginal Probiotics: Could They Work?

Sexy Peach

Sexy Peach

Last week, probiotic supplement Sweet Peach was introduced at the DEMO Conference in San Jose, California. Unveiled by Cambrian Genomics founders (and men) Austen Heinz and Gilad Gome, the supplement was initially pitched as an artificial fragrance (like, say, a peach) for the vagina, replacing the organ’s natural scent.

Understandably, people were outraged. But this turned out to be incorrect. Audrey Hutchinson, the actual founder of Sweet Peach Probiotics (and a woman), described how Sweet Peach would work thusly:

“A user will take a sample of her vaginal microbiome and send it in for analysis. After determining the makeup of her microbiome–in effect, taking a census of the microorganisms that reside in her vagina–the company will supply a personalized regimen of probiotic supplements designed to promote optimal health.”

The ultimate goal is that using Sweet Peach would help women avoid health issues caused by microorganisms, such as yeast infections.

Sweet Peach’s goals parallels recent news and studies done about replacing “bad” gut with “good” bacteria in the digestive tract to ease gastrointestinal issues.

But could it work for the vagina as well?

It’s too early to tell. Right now, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Oral Probiotics page says that probiotics have mainly been used for oral and the aforementioned gastrointestinal issues. These probiotics are mostly taken in the form of oral pills or live cultures (such as yogurt).

The NCCAM notes that some probiotics studied have the potential to aid in healing, as a 2013 UCLA study shows. The study found that women who ingested probiotics through yogurt had more beneficial brain function during rest states and emotion-recognition tests.

But this study worked off the previously established gut-mind connection, which can responsible for stress and fight-or-flight responses.

As of now, there’s no known gut-vagina connection.

A recent op-ed by microbe expert Ed Yong in “The New York Times” recently alluded to the difficulty using microbes to boost vaginal health:

“The results would be hard to interpret and might be outdated by the time they arrived.”

In short, the NCCAM reminds us that we’re still pretty far from answering certain existing questions:

“The rapid growth in marketing and consumer interest and use has outpaced scientific research on the safety and efficacy of probiotics for specific health applications.”