As part of the adult goods market, I bet that you’re open to talking about sex toys — at least with your peers in the industry.
At every stage of the chain, from manufacturing through distribution all the way to retail, sex toy talk is our bread and butter.
But do you openly discuss sex toys with your partner? How about your wider family? What about your friends? Would you mention sex toys to the acquaintance asking about your workday?
If you’re anything like me, you probably would — as long as it feels right.
Rarely does a day go by that I don’t talk about sex toys with my mum. She helped me furnish my bondage space and my gold whip has proven to be the perfect finishing touch for her favorite little black dress.
I’ve even asked my dad to review cock rings and masturbators. (Mum passed on the feedback.)
Reading this, you’d probably assume that I had the most liberal upbringing imaginable. Truth be told, it was very conservative. Dating was out of the question, let alone sex.
So, to explain what led me to this industry is a story for another day.
For now, the point is that my openness and, let’s face it, my tendency to overshare, has had a positive impact on my relationship with my parents. If I can talk to them about sex toys, then I can talk to them about anything.
Yes, I’m lucky that they are receptive to what I have to say and always listen without judgement, but that’s not the case for everyone, whether the other party in the conversation is a parent, partner, friend or otherwise.
Why we should open up
Now imagine that it’s not you who’s talking about sex toys, but rather, the customer. That person for whom you designed, manufactured, distributed or retailed that toy wants to tell someone about it. But for whatever reason — or reasons — particular to their situation, they feel unable to.
As part of the adult goods industry, we can play a role in normalizing sex toy talk and encouraging open and honest discussion — actually, make that celebration — of the role that these products play as a healthy and acceptable part of everyday life.
When we are comfortable talking about sex toys with those who are outside of our industry, we are better placed to advise customers who want to share their experiences, either conversationally or intimately, with people in their lives.
So, here are five tips on how we can normalize sex toy talk in our own lives and help customers to do the same.
Talking about sexual activity, whether it involves toys or not, can be a delicate topic for some people. If you’re comfortable with it but others in the conversation are not, then negotiate a middle ground, which includes everyone but alienates no one.
Rather than adopting an all-or-nothing approach, meeting people in the middle and establishing ground rules for what is (and is not) okay to discuss creates a safe space that can help people to open up gradually over time.
Requesting, not demanding, that the topic be discussed and framing it as of mutual interest, not self-indulgence, can go a long way towards getting people on board.
Establishing boundaries for what can be discussed is one thing, remaining within them is another. If you can talk about sex toys in a way that will make others receptive to it, this will make them more likely to not only listen, but also contribute to the conversation.
They key is to remain respectful of their comfort level, remembering that people will not always verbalize their discomfort. So, pay attention to body language for clues as to how your sex toy talk is making others feel. In some cases, you may have to narrow the boundaries you first thought were okay, while in others you may get to expand them!
When we let people in, others often let us in. (No pun intended.) What I mean is that talking honestly about our own experiences with sex toys — and that doesn’t have to mean usage — can show a certain vulnerability that people appreciate. In return, you’d be surprised how much people begin to open up to you about themselves.
Being honest about your experiences can also be educational. Frankness about your likes and dislikes, what works and what doesn’t work for you, might be exactly what someone wanted to hear but was too afraid to ask. When your sex toy talk is reciprocated, you might even learn a thing or two.
Regardless of whether you’re talking to someone who’s new to discussing or using sex toys, or a seasoned pro at either, there are times it’s best to just listen.
While you may have your opinions about what they are saying, part of normalizing sex toy talk is not passing judgment on someone else’s experiences. Here, it’s not only your words and tone that matter, but also your body language.
Use neutral terms, a calm tone and soothing language, and if you’re going to offer advice, frame it as a suggestion, not a criticism or a command. Go for warm, positive, open gestures, and maintain eye contact without staring. Ensuring your body language matches your oral language will show that you are sincere and trustworthy.
If someone is opening up to sex toy talk, then be supportive. Whether they are discussing needs or desires they have already acted on, or are contemplating, showing that you are there for them in a respectful and non-judgmental way reinforces the view of sex toys as a healthy and acceptable part of adult life. As long as the activity is safe, consensual and pleasurable for everyone involved, knowing they have your support can only make them feel even better.
These tips can be an effective way to accelerate the normalizing of conversations around sex toys and their role as a wellness tool. I’m not saying we need to tell anyone and everyone, “I make/sell/use dildos and vibrators.” Rather, if we want to increase mainstream awareness and celebration of sex toys, then we need to be open about our experiences and open to tailoring our message to best suit our audience.