Comfort during the pandemic has come in many forms. Some folks bake, others binge-watch Netflix, and some of us exercise. Comfort can also be found in orgasms, and, based on a 30% to 100% increase in sex toy sales, it seems like a lot of folks are masturbating to get there. Social distancing may not allow us to reach out and touch someone, but it doesn’t prevent us from reaching down and touching ourselves. Masturbation is fun, releases stress, and allows us to be our safest sex partner, according to the New York Health Department. And for some of us, it is our only option. Folks are horny and uncomfortable, and the sex-toy industry and teledildonics market are benefiting.
Psychologist Laurie Mintz, a professor at the University of Florida and author of Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters — And How To Get It, is not surprised. In the Los Angeles Times, she says, “Orgasms have long been known to flood your body with good chemicals that help you sleep and decrease anxiety. There are a lot of people who have been using sex toys for a long time, but I think quarantine at home has really allowed [sex toys] to become more mainstream.”
Sex toy site Adam & Eve says sales were up 30% each day for the first week of social distancing began compared to 2019 numbers. Dame Products also reported a 30% sales increase since February. Dame isn’t just helping folks at home find sexual comfort, but they are also donating 1% of its sales to the Food Bank of New York. In early March, Emojibator, sold out of the original Eggplant Emojibator and their dual clitoral-suction vibrator The Chickie while their overall online sales increased sales by 345%.
Smaller sex shops are also seeing an increase in sales and requests for information about masturbation toys. Searah Deysach owns a feminist sex shop called Early to Bed and has benefited from the stay-at-home orders. She says, “So a lot of people are — for stress relief and sexual pleasure and all the other reasons why anyone would masturbate — are finding themselves doing it more on their own, and looking for creative ways to make it a little more fun, more interesting, and take a little strain off our hands and wrists as well.”
Lest you think this is just an American trend, sex toy revenue in Italy, Spain, and France beat goals by 124%, 300%, and 94%, respectively, according to Rolling Stone.
Humans need to feel connected, and for many of us our sexuality also includes the desire to touch and be touched by another person. Touch is one of our most primitive senses. It reduces cortisol levels, improves cognitive function, lifts our mood, and releases oxytocin—also known as the cuddle hormone. We receive many of these benefits during consensual sex with a partner or alone. For those of us in long-distance relationships, or who have been forced to become long-distance because of COVID-19, or have had to stop engaging with the usual dating/hook-up apps, masturbation is necessary to find sexual intimacy with our partners. The teledildonic field has become very appealing for many couples during the pandemic because of this.
Teledildonics is a fancy word to describe internet-connected and interactive sex toys. These products allow you to simulate your partner even when miles apart. WeVibe is one of the more popular sex toy companies that sells app-ready products. Anal plugs, penis rings with perineum stimulation, clitoral stimulators, and G-spot vibrators allow couples to turn up the heat and vibrations while apart. Some products are wearable so you and your partner could play all day long if you want—or until the batteries die. Distance makes the heart grow fonder and the crotch literally throb with app-enabled sex toys.
KIIROO in a Dutch sex toy company, which is known for its interactive toys, sells the Onyx+ that can be used with their Pearl 2 to create two-way interactive sex. Onyx+ is a “male” masturbator and the Pearl 2 is a vibrating dildo. Set them at the same mode and ready-set-go! The company doesn’t guarantee couples will finish at the same time, but their sales have seen a “substantial uptick in sales over the past two months.” They also sell the Fleshlight Launch Interactive Stroker, a faux vagina for a person to put their penis into for masturbation; it can be synced to virtual reality porn and is currently sold out.
These interactive products aren’t cheap, but for some folks who aren’t traveling to see partners or going out on dates, the expense of the toys seems to be justified. I’m not saying sexting or good old fashioned video sex is for chumps, but teledildonics takes virtual sex to a whole new level.
In other not-surprising news, as the sex-toy industry is currently making money hand over fist, porn consumption has increased too. As of April 28th, Pornhub reported its worldwide viewership was up 15.4% and U.S. traffic was up 12.8% compared to an average day. Millions of people have searched for coronavirus-, Covid-, and quarantine-themed porn; seek and you shall find because thousands of pandemic themed videos are available. Hazmat suits should be required during some sex anyway.
I understand having more time on your hands and the desire to masturbate, but how does coronavirus porn help people escape or feel better from the stress of coronavirus? Justin J. Lehmiller Ph.D. for Psychology Today says it’s because it “reflects our constant need for sexual novelty and humans’ ability to fetishize virtually everything.” Dr. Lehmiller also suggests that it could be people eroticizing fear. We are all currently in a high-arousal, fight-or-flight state and that can increase our sexual arousal and attraction. Some folks are too anxious for sex, but others are taking that edge and turning news reports into sexualized coronavirus imagery.
Personally, I am sticking with my usual porn searches and the attachments I was born with to get the job done. But it seems that we can all agree that finding pleasure in self-love is good medicine and good for business.
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