Sephora’s new range of items from US start-ups Maude and Dame includes bath products, massage candles and oils, vibrators, lubricants and serums.
“Sephora’s intimate care brands will encompass sexual wellness, feminine hygiene, hormonal care and more, and they were selected with inclusivity and accessibility as our top priority,” said a statement from the brand.
Normalising sexual wellness has been a hot topic recently, with many experts raising awareness of the importance of sexual wellness physically and mentally. There are now more women-led businesses like Maude and Dame emerging in this sector, catering to an underserved audience and breaking stereotypes around adult products.
Maude was launched in 2018 by former Everlane employee Eva Goicochea in the US. The brand has a focus on quality, simplicity and inclusivity and offers accessibly-priced, body-safe products for before during and after sex. Maude has raised more than $10 million in four rounds of funding and has launched in 33 countries across the UK, EU, Canada and Australia.
“Sexual wellness has long been the last frontier in personal care, but the customer expects better,” Maude founder Éva Goicochea said. “Like in beauty, we believe in taking an integrated and holistic approach, not a compartmentalised view of sex. At our core, we’re an evergreen brand thoughtfully built for every stage of your adult life. Sephora’s launch of intimate care sets the stage for the next chapter of sexual health.”
Meanwhile, sexologist Alexandra Fine and MIT engineer Janet Lieberman launched Dame in 2014. The founders have seen exponential growth along with leading a sexual wellness revolution which has impacted 10 million lives to date. Their products and advocacy are underpinned by Dame Labs, people-centred research around sex and pleasure. Dame Labs members are part of product ideation, prototype testing and they provide valuable feedback discussing intimacy and pleasure in a safe and inclusive environment.
Breaking taboos and smashing the stereotypes
The stigma around sexual wellness is diminishing and as a result, businesses and consumers are able to freely celebrate sexual wellness. These forward-thinking brands are developing products which are elegant and designed with all people in mind.
There is now greater access to options better suited to people’s needs and a rise in more accessible online stores are serving as an alternative to the typical adult entertainment store located in almost every suburb. Open ‘til late or all night, you can spot them a mile away with their discreet entrances illuminated by neon signs and interesting window displays, usually decorated with exotic outfits and leather accessories. But today, it’s more about our health and wellbeing than it is entertainment.
We’re also seeing an increase in established retailers supporting this emerging product category. In Australia, retailers such as Adore Beauty, Flora & Fauna, Priceline, The Iconic and David Jones sell a diverse range of sexual wellness and intimate care products. Leading the way locally are brands such as Normal, Rosewell, Vush and Par Femme, which are huge advocates in promoting sexual health and wellness. Overseas, retail giants like Tesco and Walmart have also started stocking the products.
This industry has always been big business and according to the Sexual Wellness Market Forecast report, the global market is expected to reach $US45.05 billion by 2026. Surprisingly, the APAC region accounts for a significant portion of its growth since many sex toys and associated products are manufacturerd in China. Plus, people located in these countries are some of the most active dating app users in the world.
With the sexual wellness category growing and supported by educational content, it’s proving beneficial to have diverse conversations that include everyone.
Openness and accessibility
After recently watching the UK comedy drama series Sex Education, I felt it was a show we all need to see. Under the witty surface of teenage sex jokes and trivial relationships, there is a course guide to sex education for everyone, not just hormonal adolescents.
The series is refreshing, insightful and most of all, incredibly thoughtful and relevant. At a family dinner last year, my teenage nephew and I discussed the show extensively, from character development through to diversity and inclusivity. The conversation caught the attention of other family members and in that moment, we were all part of a grown-up discussion about a show called Sex Education.
It takes unexpected conversations like this with friends and family to incrementally break down sexual taboos and ignite a different search online or in store, one that is led by our wellbeing over hypersexualisation portrayed in the media. We’re seeing inclusive terms such as ‘sex-positive’ and ‘body-positive’ supported by diverse imagery to represent a more authentic reality.
Certified Australian sex coach Georgia Grace and Normal’s in-house sex coach developed The Modern Guide to Sex, the sex-ed you wish you had in school. It’s an inclusive 15-part online course which contains a plethora of techniques and practical exercises to build confidence and explore better sex alone or with a partner. Traditionally, sex education has been aimed at heterosexual people with little regard for other sexualities and genders.The Modern Guide to Sex aims to change that.
“In this space, you’re not just doing a retail transaction with a customer, you’re making up for all the gaps in the sex-education system and you’re talking to the whole person and their whole experience of sexuality,” Normal founder Lucy Wark observed. “We wanted to build education into everything we do and make a lot of deliberate decisions that help normalise [adult toys] and make it approachable for people.”
Transparency and inclusivity is essential and part of this process is ensuring there are products for people of all abilities. Bump’n is the world’s first disability-driven sex toy brand, founded by disability consultant and activist Andrew Gurza and innovation strategist Heather Morrison. The duo has also partnered with global sexual wellness brand Lovehoney and created a product that will help millions of people who experience hand limitations.
“The World Health Organisation defines sexual pleasure as a human right, but it’s out of reach for hundreds of millions of people. As you can imagine, people are frustrated and want innovation and conversation on the topic,” Morrison said.
“[Bump ‘n] is on a mission to put sexual pleasure within reach for everyone.. starting with the disabled community.”
Meanwhile online sex toy store Xes Products offers premium, accessible products and resources for everyone. The Xes blog is a well needed space covering in-depth sex-positive information which explores important topics such as the stigmatisation of people with disabilities expressing sexual desire and caters to all pleasure seekers. The retailer is currently also developing a brand specifically for people with disabilities and different health conditions from cerebral palsy and arthritis to endometriosis.
Our health and wellbeing is not all the same. We can access useful and trustworthy information to help guide us on our own personal journeys. As more retailers champion this cause, it provides a safe and inclusive environment for everyone. Bringing to the forefront what should be normal and not cause shame for wanting to explore these important parts of our sexual health and wellbeing. It is our human right after all.