Updated: Mar 28
The Sex and Wellness Industry’s Top 10 Trends for 2021
Last year was a big year for the sex industry — as many industries plummeted, the sex and wellness space remained steady, with some well known players seeing spikes as high as 500% sales increase. The increase in news coverage about sex tech has led investors and innovators alike to ask, “is sex tech an opportunity for me?”
Short answer? Duh.
The sex and wellness space has boundless untapped potential. In the past, sex products have been limited to kink products, personal massagers, penetrative implements, and masturbation sleeves, but in reality this is just the tip.
2020 was the most innovative year in sex tech yet, as companies moved away from traditional genital focus toward mental stimulation and creative solutions to quarantine. We saw:
A proliferation of audio-erotica platforms and adoption
A surge in searches for Bluetooth sex toys and long distance sex toys
An increased focus on adult sex education
An increase in CBD sex products
It goes without saying that the pandemic fueled these 2020 trends and will continue to drive the innovation in 2021.
Here are 10 trends you can expect to see this year:
1. Nuance in Men’s Sex Products
When it comes to sex tech and sex wellness, people with vulvas win. The industry has focused on creating couples’ toys and personal massagers aimed at cis-women’s empowerment, which has led to a menagerie of tools for for this population. On the flip side, cis-men get fake vaginas, some lubes, and maybe a cock-ring. Bor-ring.
In 2021, this will change. The conversation around toxic masculinity is evolving to include methods for fostering positive masculinity — this includes broadening the definition of male sexuality. Seeing the opportunity, companies like WOW Tech, are taking technology developed for vulvas and applying it to products for penises. We can expect more variety in men’s pleasure this year.
2. Focus on Influencer Marketing
One of the key barriers to sex tech business success is advertising censorship. Ad giants like Facebook block sex content even if it’s educational. This has forced industry players to get creative, using Influencer marketing as one solution. In 2020, we saw several companies commissioning high-end stars to promote their products: Lora Dicarlo had Cara Delevigne, WOW Tech had Lily Allen, and Maude had Dakota Johnson.
The jury is out on how effective this method is and its impact on the industry’s image, but we will see many more companies following this playbook.
3. Emphasis Queer Inclusion and Gender Neutrality
For years, the sex industry was run by white guys. The next wave of innovators was the straight cis-women who built products for people like them. In 2021, we will see yet another renaissance — products designed for queer people, by queer people.
Buck Angel, the porn star, led the way back in 2016 with his product designed for trans men. Jump forward to summer 2020: Amorelie released a gender neutral product line, SkiiMoo Tech released The VDOM, a product designed for queer women and trans men, Wild Flower and Shop ENBY focus on non-binary people’s needs. In 2021, we’ll even more diversity and inclusion in the sex tech space, not only in its founders, but also in the resulting products.
4. Embrace of Lubricants
Lubricants have historically gotten a bad rap. The common sentiment? “I don’t need lube, my body does this naturally!” However, lubes are cool now. Sex educators have been touting lube’s pleasure benefits, while companies like UberLube and Unbound have re-imagined lube packaging and perception.
Another trend within a trend is the increased popularity of CBD lube. The catalyst? Changes in CBD regulations globally.
5. Shift Toward Sensory / Sensual Products
It was sex writer and researcher Oli Lipski that highlighted the trend for me.
Because the body is one big sex organ, it can be aroused by a single touch on the spine, a scent in the air, or sound that evokes a sensual memory. One such company is WISP, a sex wearables company that creates sensual experiences that move the focus from the genitalia to the body as a whole.
In 2021, we’ll see more discussion and innovation in the sensual product space, but we may not see any real traction until the end of the year.
6. Building Sex Industry Infrastructure
Like with sex tech advertising, normal business actions can be a challenge. Infrastructure like payment gateways, web hosting, and email marketing platforms can decide on whim that they won’t support sex related businesses. While the motivation makes sense, i.e. trying to avoid sex trafficking related backlash, the result is a blanket sweep of sex education and consensual pleasure focused businesses.
In 2021, we will see the rise of sex tech friendly infrastructure. We saw social media alternatives pop up in 2020, like Lips, and we’ll see innovation in banking and web hosting alternatives as well. In fact, Tickle.Life just launched a sex positive podcast hosting service.
7. Focus on Unique Sex Product Ergonomics
Sex products have historically focused on genitals — replicating scientific depictions of phalluses and vulvas and stimulating the same cookie-cutter private parts. In doing so, the designers make several assumptions:
That creating a hand-held penis or vagina will work the same as the real organs do (and that this is desirable)
That the user is able-bodied
That the user is non-intersex
That the user’s gender and genitals are in alignment
There are other assumptions being made, but just addressing these we see a lack of user-center design and ergonomic focus. In 2021, we’ll see more attention to detail with companies like Handi designing for people with dexterity limitations and companies like Vibio creating hands-free vulva molding vibrators.
8. Sustainability and Social Responsibility Focus
Sustainability has been a point of contention for the sex and wellness space. How do you recycle a vibrator? How do we create socially responsible products? These are questions sex tech creators are grappling with.
As the industry continues to professionalize in 2021, we’ll see more companies considering supply chain transparency, sustainable material choices, and ethical production.
9. Proliferation of Virtual Sex Events
With social distancing, came virtual sex events. Sex parties moved onto Zoom. Sex tech hackathons ran online. Like in every other industry, the sex and wellness industry has gone digital.
In 2021, we’ll see these sex positive virtual spaces continue to flourish because they are experimental, experiential, and safe. One of the most innovative players to watch in the virtual sex tech space is Raspberry Dream Labs, which uses virtual reality to create sex positive experiences.
10. Focus on Long-Distance Sex Products
Continuing from 2020, and possibly inspired by the 2020 trend itself, long-distance sex products and services will continue to grow in 2021.
That said, teledildonics is not new. Teledildonics refers to internet or Bluetooth app-connected sexual hardware devices. Think of it as Internet of Things (IoT) for sex. The benefit of these technologies is that they allow for interactive pleasure from a distance and sometimes synchronized sexual experiences. Learn more here.
While the tech is not new, it saw a surge in Google searches in 2020, which we’ll continue to see at least until the end of lockdown.
The future of sex tech is bright. Are there any trends you’re seeing on the horizon? Leave us a comment!
As seen on LinkedIn