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Lily Allen has one. Cara Delevigne has one. Dakota Johnson is an investor and co-creative director of one. Even Gwyneth Paltrow is releasing one, being marketed as the “smarter” option on the market (naturally). But these A Listers are not putting their name to new music, books or films.
It’s official – we’re in the age of the celebrity sex toy, with small-time influencers to big names offering their fans new devices to admire, experiment with, stimulate and pleasure themselves.
Seeing celebrities, who have historically been so guarded about their own love lives, put sexual pleasure at the front and centre of their brand seems like a sudden and unexpected U-turn.
But as masturbation has become increasingly mainstream (a survey by empowerment brand Womanizer has found on average, women masturbate 53 times a year – around once a week) sex toys are no longer secret objects we keep hidden in our nightstands: we’re putting our pleasure out there for everyone to see.
Celebrity endorsements aren’t anything new, with companies cottoning on back in the 1900s that using the image of widely admired athletes and film stars increased sales. Famous faces are usually happy to help flog goods for a few extra quid, and have even turned brands into billion dollar businesses: Britney Spears’ perfume range saw a bottle sold every 15 seconds in its heyday, while Kylie Jenner’s lip kits made the youngest Kardashian-Jenner the youngest ‘self-made’ billionaire and a make-up mogul.
Sex toys are simply a new means for celebrities to connect with and promote themselves to fans, according to Emilie Lavinia, Marketing/PR expert and Co-Founder CEO of EKHO wellbeing.
“I think whereas in years gone by, celebrities were encouraged to market a permissible idea of their own sexuality, these days we’re seeing more authentic presentations of a person’s sexuality,” she said. “Because of this, there’s less shame in discussing real pleasure and sexual agency. And then, of course, there’s the fact that the sex tech industry is worth billions.”
She added that, in a world that is so built on artifice, filters and fakery, celebrities want to build more genuine connections with people – and honesty about their sex lives helps with that.
“More and more, celebrities are seeking ways to connect with their fans and audiences in more authentic ways,” Emilie continued. “It’s easy to speak to millions of people via Instagram or OnlyFans but it’s much more intimate than a press release. I think on the one hand, celebrities enjoy that intimacy with the public, but on the other, it’s do or die for some. There’s a pressure to be relevant, to show up online and to be sex positive and unashamed now.
“Social media combined with sexuality positivity has caused a culture shift. We now celebrate sexuality and sex education in a way that hasn’t been seen before due to huge platforms like OnlyFans and Instagram.
“In some ways it allows those that really feel comfortable speaking out to reach their communities and to make a positive impact, it allows more female capital to reach women working hard and it encourages more people to endorse sex positivity, healthy pleasure and sex education.”
Jo O'Reilly, Digital PR at US Adult Retailer Romantix, calls celebrities endorsing sex toys part of the “Gwyneth Paltrow” effect.
“Her company Goop has been relentless in their push for opening the conversation around sexual wellness, and the odd headline baiting PR stunt - who can forget that candle? - hasn't harmed the trend,” she told Tyla.
“The endorsement of sex toys is nothing new, historically however it was well-known personalities who already worked in the adult industry so adult film stars, that would endorse them.
“As sex toys have become mainstream, we've moved away from lifelike replicas of Porn Star orifices to a more holistic, sex-positive celebrity endorsement approach.”
Lockdown has also helped making vibrators mainstream, with many having to rely on battery-operated devices to get their kicks during Covid-19.
According to a report published by Allied Market Research, sex toys accounted for around two-fifths of the global market last year, and the sexual wellness market itself is projected to be worth $108.32 billion (around £80.23 billion) by 2027.
So celebrities who are putting their names on sex toys are not only encouraging women to embrace their own sexuality and preferences – they’re also hugely business savvy, and likely to make bank from their endorsements, similarly to Britney Spears’ billion dollar perfume business.
“I suppose you can say that sex toys are the new celebrity perfume,” Jo says. “I think we might be a long way off from seeing them advertised on TV before the watershed!”
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