Who Knew There Is a Market for a $15,000 Vibrator?
The 25-karat gold, celebrity-endorsed sex toy tells us a great deal about evolving values and consumer markets.
Yes, you read right.
It's a vibrator mostly (but not entirely) used by women for all the reasons you think it's used - and it costs $15,000. But, it's not just a vibrator. It's a "smart" vibrator and, according to this report in the New York Post, it's made by a Swedish start-up called LELO. The company says its vibrator is the "Apple of sex toys - ergonomically and beautifully designed" with "high performance" technology, "sophisticated" materials and “elegant” colors. Their products are endorsed by Gwyneth Paltrow and their top of the line offering, the INEZ, comes in a solid, 25-karat gold version.
This is no joke. In fact, vibrators represent an annual $2.5 billion industry and it's growing fast. Some are predicting that the sex toy market will be as much as $50 billion by 2020. Sixty million sex toys are sold every year, about a third to U.S. customers and the rest from Europe and Asia. California-based Doc Johnson, who bill themselves as the "Procter & Gamble of sex toys" makes 330,000 vibrators a month and rings up $75 million in sales every year.
Sure, sales have been...well...stimulated by the recent success of the Fifty Shades of Grey movies, new technologies and more user-friendly designs. Smart entrepreneurs are taking notice and innovating. Lioness, a crowdfunded product, tracks orgasms like a Fitbit and reports back to you how intense and long the experience was, compared to prior orgasms. An app called OMG Yes has step–by-step instructions for achieving the perfect orgasm. More than 40,000 fee-paying members have signed up, including actress Emma Watson who admitted she wished “it had been around longer" during a recent interview.
Stop blushing, Dumbledore. Things have certainly changed. This kind of stuff was taboo even when I was a kid. But society has evolved. People have become more accepting. Gwyneth Paltrow and Emma Watson are talking about vibrators for God’s sake! Meanwhile, many entrepreneurs are capitalizing on these new opportunities.
Wendy Strgar's company, Good Clean Love, makes organic sexual lubricants. Strgar (who's also my cousin!) struggled for years to persuade large retailers that her products serve millions of people who need lubricants for sex but suffered with the itching, burning and discomfort of many of the manufactured brands. It was an uphill battle but today, her products can be found in CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart and Target. She told the Eugene, Ore, Register-Guard that the industry around all things sex has grown much more competitive.
“I don’t think I could do what I’m doing if I started now because the market has changed that much,” Strgar said. ”When I was coming in in the early 2000s it hadn’t quite flipped yet, and no one was touching the sexual health space.”
Now, like chic vibrators, it's no big deal. Strgar’s company has expanded.
Marijuana. Sex toys. Lubricants. Guns. Strip clubs. Escort services. Don't be fooled. These are legitimate businesses, mostly run by honest profit-minded business people (like my cousin) who are providing products and services to customers who desire them. As long as you're operating within the law, don't let anyone tell you how you make your livelihood is any better or worse than anyone else. As society continues to relax and these industries grow, there will be many more opportunities for smart business people to make money.
I'm not going to buy a $15,000 vibrator, but I'll always admire someone who can figure out a way to sell it.