This TikTok-sensationalized sex toy is not exactly new in concept or design, and yet, according to retailers across the country, the ‘Rose’ has become 2023’s number one sought-after toy on the adult market.
“Surely you’ve heard of it by now?” one store owner said to me.
“Everybody’s asking for it,” another informed me.
The number one adult toy retailers are rushing to stock right now? The Rose, a sucking toy — or is it a licking toy? — for clitorises — or can it be used on the other parts of the body? And whose product is it? Is it just one product? Where did the idea come from? And how did this toy concept become spontaneously so ubiquitous?
The first time I heard of the Rose was in an interview with Joan Jones, the owner of a small adult store in Pensacola, Florida, LovinMood.
“Right now, the most popular product is the Rose,” Jones told me back in March.
I asked her why she thought that was, and she replied candidly: “Someone in China paid a whole bunch of people to go online and scream about its wonders. Lots of people saw it, and they started coming into my store, asking for ‘the Rose,’ by name.”
Trends, by their nature, come and go. As one fades away, another buzzes in, seemingly randomly, like a fly in the room. The unconscious impact of pop culture on the minds of the masses, and thus, the markets, affects sex toy fads, too. But how random was the Rose? Was its influence really planted, as Jones suggests?
“In the ‘90s, it was the highly coveted rabbit vibrator after its cameo appearance on Sex And The City, which led to it selling out in stores,” Black Love writes in Everything You Need to Know About the Rose Toy. “In the TikTok era, it’s the rose bud suction toy, which has been omnipresent on the video sharing app for the better part of a year now — the hashtags #RoseToy and #RoseToyReview have 45.9 million views and 13.1 million views respectively — and despite not having everyone sold on the toy, it’s now an Amazon bestseller.”
“At the moment, [the best-selling product we have is] obviously the Rose or any variation of air pulsation, because it’s still so new and being talked about,” Loretta Goodling, the Buyer for a Pennsylvania chain of adult superstores called ‘Excitement,’ tells me.
Supposedly, what makes the rose a must-have is its effectiveness: according to a sex educator, Samia Burton, the toy’s air-pulse technology “practically guarantees a satisfying grand finale,” writes Black Love.
But air pulse technology has been around for almost a decade now, and not every ‘Rose’ has this feature. So what’s really giving this toy so much star power?
The sex appeal of roses
The link between flowers and sex has long been established.
According to Elite Daily, “Roses appear in popular culture all the time…Even the biggest of cynics cannot argue with symbolism, history, and usage of red roses within many civilizations, past and present.”
“Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow,” John Lennon sang, and he’s not the only one.
“In floriography, or the language of flowers, red roses have symbolized romance, dating all the way back to the Victorian Era,” shares Elite Daily. “It’s believed the garden cultivation of roses started around 5,000 years ago and is largely traced to China, according to the University of Illinois. But roses have been around for longer than that (35 million years, to be exact), and have popped up as an object of affection throughout history. According to Desert Sun, wealthy Romans would fill their bedroom chambers with rose petals before sex to create a soft, fragrant bed.”
BBC adds that, “in the classical age, women (especially virgins) were compared to flowers, whether in Virgil’s agricultural Georgics or else in Sappho – who, in one fragment, makes an analogy between a woman, perhaps married, and “a hyacinth in the mountains that the shepherds trample with their feet.” Shakespeare often resorted to botanical metaphors for females, above all in Hamlet, in which Ophelia strews flowers all over Elsinore. You need only think of the names Rose, Lily, Daisy, Violet… Women’s names, all of them…In the 19th Century, floral metaphors for women’s genitals started to blossom.”
But the symbol of a flower is historically complex, BBC presses, and not always lascivious; the lily has been associated with purity, as the Virgin Mary, for instance.
BBC offers this brief history in the sexualization of the flower:
When things start getting really sexy is the 18th Century, when the botanist Carl Linneaus classified the world’s organisms according, in part, to their means of reproduction. Linneaus’s Species Plantarum of 1753 did not just pin down all the known world’s vegetation with Latin names. It established that plants reproduced sexually – and offered a scientific, rational basis for the analogy of humans (usually women) to flowers.
In the 19th Century, both in England and in France, floral metaphors for women’s genitals started to, well, blossom. In Manet’s Olympia, one of the signal paintings of the nineteenth century, the titular prostitute covers her genitals with her left hand. But she has a pink camellia in her hair – a stand-in for her covered sex – and indeed her servant comes in from the side of the composition bearing a bouquet of flowers.
The bouquet is a gift from a client, in one sense, but not only that: the flowers indicate that this woman is on the market. (The analogy is a wide one: in Japan geishas worked in hanamachi, or ‘flower towns’, while in China brothels were euphemistically referred to as the ‘flower market’.)
Whether you’re depressed, sick, or just low in libido, rose hips, the fruit of roses, have been said (not proven) to function medicinally, as an antidepressant, aphrodisiac or an antibacterial solution, among others.
“According to Bayer Garden, the essence of rose is also really popular, so much so that, currently, almost all female perfumes contain it,” shares Elite Daily. “And we all know smelling good can lead to major attraction.”
Maybe this is all a testament to the staying power of flower symbolism, or maybe it shows how powerful TikTok has become in utilizing a well-established correlation for a marketing gain.
Men like flowers, too
“Let’s just say there are some sex positive queens (and kings) out there sharing some real authentic reviews,” shares Women’s Health, reminding us that — in spite of its visual similarity to the labia — the Rose is actually revered across all genders. “Shiny-faced and looking mighty pleased with themselves, users are flocking to TikTok to describe their experiences with the rose toy.”
“And flowers [historically and culturally] could signal sexual availability not only for women but for men,” adds BBC, which then references an interwar British painting as evidence of this, but I’m more inclined to recall an image of The Bachelor.
And although the rose toy, in its many different versions, is primarily designed for clitorises, it does have features which are applicable to any part of any body. And the sentiment is almost unanimously the same: the Rose is being raved over.
According to Black Love: “The rose [toy] is pretty simple to use, generally it’s held in your hand or you could try using your thighs to hold it in place for a hands-free experience.” It’s also multi-functional: “You can use it as a part of solo play or during partnered sex while being penetrated from behind, in doggy style position. Even though it’s designed for the clitoris, it can be used on other areas as well. ‘If you don’t love it as a clit toy, it’s still an awesome nipple toy.’”
“Our most popular product right now is the rose,” Gail at Gail’s Lingerie, in Albany, Georgia, told me. “But, because everybody is stuck on what it can do with a woman, I try to teach them is that it can also be used on a man: it can be used on a nipple. Plus, there are several different kinds of ‘roses,’ some with the bullets, some without the bullet, then you got one with a bullet that goes up and down, then you have the one with the tongue, so what I try to teach them is to be creative. If you’re licking on his nipples or sucking, that’s the same as the Rose would do. And it’s saving you less work to do.”
Catching on to the marketing high of the rose, a few of our distributors (listed at the end of this story) have begun offering a ‘male Rose,’ designed explicitly for penis havers.
“All the new male roses that are out for penis owners seems to be selling like crazy. There’s so much buzz around that,” says Loretta Goodling at Excitement.
The reviews have it
In their review of the Rose, Women’s Health cites its TikTok fame:
In one video with 3.9 million views, the slightly shell-shocked uploader claims she came in 30 seconds with the rose, hilariously branding it ‘disrespectful,’ as she didn’t have time to find herself a good video to enjoy alongside it. Meanwhile the comments below are filled with users claiming the rose works so fast it’s ‘stealing’ their orgasms from them, and warnings to put a towel down, should you choose to indulge yourself.
One user with 1.2 million views claims she came five times in five minutes (go gurl), while another warns not to be fooled by the toy’s rosy exterior – because, as this user attests, it will have you ‘squealing like a pig.’
You’ll also find a number of how-to guides: many users suggest not going in cold – give yourself a warm-up first, particularly if you’re sensitive down there – and taking a few breaks during use if it all gets a bit much (spoiler: it probably will).
However, some users who’ve purchased rogue roses have complained of faulty charging and pneumatic drill levels of noise, so make sure you buy a legit product. Want to see for yourself? Search #TheRoseToy or #TheRoseReview – TikTok filters out any direct mention of sex.
According to Black Love’s review of one of the roses: “If you’re curious and now want to purchase here’s what you should know. The rose is a great beginner toy and a great alternative for those who aren’t used to a lot of direct clitoris stimulation. It’s designed to fit around the head of the clitoris to provide indirect stimulation through air pulsations, which makes it a great option for newbies, according to Burton. It has three intensity levels, and seven suction patterns that mimic oral sex.”
Is this really a testament to just how good the rose is? Or is there something else at play on the minds of the remarkable market for the rose toy?
I can buy myself flowers
According to Forbes, Miley Cyrus’s hit single “Flowers” is No. 1 on the Billboard Global 200 chart, which ranks the most-consumed songs in the world. In her song, which is probably playing in at least one of every public space imaginable right now, Cyrus sings:
I can buy myself flowers
Write my name in the sand
Talk to myself for hours
Say things you don’t understand
I can take myself dancing
And I can hold my own hand
Yeah, I can love me better than you can
Can love me better, I can love me better, baby
Can love me better, I can love me better, baby
Paint my nails cherry-red
Match the roses that you left
This pop culture moment, coupled with the Barbie movie phenomenon, in which women are leaving their men by the masses (Daily Mail reports, that yes, this is another TikTok trend, with TikTok influencers urging their female viewers to ditch any man who doesn’t understand the film’s feminist messages with videos that say, “Take your bf to Barbie. If he doesn’t understand the movie…dump him”) had me thinking that more women, under the Internet’s influence, have probably come to the well-established fact that “research shows that while the majority of women can masturbate to orgasm, up to 50 percent of heterosexual women do not orgasm during vaginal sex, even with additional stimulation,” as determined by a study titled “Determinants of female sexual orgasms” from the National Library of Medicine.