Sexual Wellness: The Market That’s Approaching Second Base
The very existence of the wellness industry shows the value we place on feeling happy and healthy. And rightly so. When people feel happy and fulfilled in their lives, they are more productive members of society. For many, part of feeling happy and fulfilled is to have good sexual health and an enjoyable sex life. Whilst we regularly see mental and emotional health discussed in the news, one underserved and emerging topic is sexual health and wellness. According to Arizton, by 2025 the sexual wellness market is expected to be worth $40 billion. Primarily driven by a female audience, this digital marketplace offers space to convey the message that sexual wellness is acceptable (as are products that promote sexual wellness).
The Empowered Market for Sexual Wellness
For decades we have known that sex sells, but this isn’t what selling sexual wellness is all about. With women being the core market for the sexual wellness industry, they’re seeking honesty and relatable brands, not pornographic clichés. And this came into sharp focus at the end of 2017 when women called ‘Time’s Up’ on systemic sexual abuse across the globe. Following the #MeToo movement, women felt angry yet empowered; as more women began to feel their voices were being heard, discussions around consent went viral. The up-and-coming media platform of podcasts started to flood with sex-positive talks and interviews, the Femtech (technology focused on women’s health) industry garnered more coverage and the sexual wellness industry boomed from this moment on as a new wave of feminism ensued in the face of patriarchal wrongdoings.
So Who’s Doing It?
Founded in 2008, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand Goop has been in the press a lot. Although Paltrow’s company is frequently accused of dolling out unsubstantiated scientific advice, Goop exemplifies how sexual wellness is a mainstay in the wellness industry. At the time of writing, the second product on Goop’s Wellness section is a vibrator, trumped by weighted wrist bangles and followed by calming oil (at a whopping £83 for 30ml). Clearly marketed towards a wealthier customer, Goop might not be the first place a Millennial or Gen Z would go for their sex tech, but Paltrow is certainly spearheading the sexual wellness movement. Other sexual-wellness brands have exploited younger generations’ environmentally-conscious attitudes toward purchasing and living. The Natural Love Company (founded in 2019) ‘curates… design-conscious’ sex toys at prices to suit varying budgets. Similarly, sustainable and ethical sexual-pleasure companies are cropping up, promoting their products made from wood or glass, or that are solar-powered or have low air miles. Eco-friendly and rechargeable sex toys are becoming increasingly popular as people avoid the guilt of throwing away AAA after AAA.
Foria aligns sexual wellness with CBD and their best-selling product is ‘Awaken Arousal Oil’ (100% plant-based CBD oil for intimate pleasure) - bringing eco-conscious, earth-loving attitudes into our bedrooms. Plastic ending up in the oceans has been in the news for a long time and intimacy- and feminine-hygiene-brands are listening. Tampons, sanitary products and condoms are washed up on coastlines across the world and Dame have made the first reusable tampon applicator - ideal for women who remain nervous about the much-promoted Mooncup. There are even enough companies creating eco-friendly condoms that an article has highlighted the top 10.
In the absence of excellent sex-ed (the UK only updated statutory sex-education guidance in 2019 after 20 years of no reform) and as an antidote to porn, apps are picking up the pieces. Apps such as Emjoy and Dipsea offer free trials and subscriptions to help women (and men) become more in-tune with their bodies and awaken their sexual confidence or, as Emjoy pride themselves on, they ‘help women achieve sexual wellness’. Aiming to inform, educate and empower, audio-erotica stories provide the excitement of a sexy story, realistic expectations and believable narratives without the shame or guilt (self-inflicted or otherwise) of watching pornography.
As attitudes towards health, wellbeing and fitness continue to evolve, the sexual wellness market is opportune for disruption. Opportunities include identifying different generations and understanding the different needs of consumers. However, most importantly, education and communication need addressing. Conversations based on accessibility, transparency, and honesty will be key. It is our duty to ensure this becomes the blueprint for the industry moving forward.