Sexual wellness is starting to lose its shock factor. Once a widely taboo topic, intimacy no longer lives behind closed doors. Of course, that’s not the case everywhere or for everyone, but sexual wellness often pops up as a casual topic of conversation these days.
While men have historically dominated sexual narratives, rising awareness of concepts like the “orgasm gap” (often likened to the gender pay gap) has thrust sexual wellness into feminist discussions. With the gradual acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community also comes an evolution of how we talk and educate each other about sex.
When a product or topic embarks on a journey of destigmatization, it becomes a hot commodity. And similar to marijuana, sexual wellness is among those hot commodities. Influencers, service providers, movements, retailers and more have caught onto the need to normalize addressing sexual wellness.
Research reports that almost a third of Americans say they’re likely to pursue sexual wellness resources, whether via therapy, workshops, treatments, contraceptives or toys. In fact, according to a report by KBV Research, the global sexual wellness market is predicted to expand to US$125.1 billion by 2026.
TMS sought out sexual wellness insight and tips from clinical sexologist and sex coach Georgia Rose and sex education site founder Tara Struyk.
Wellness as a trend
Though wellness as a market already took off pre-pandemic, COVID increased interest in the subject exponentially. We finally had a moment to take a step back and think about our holistic health.
“Sexual wellness is part of the expanding interest in ‘wellbeing,’ which is now estimated to be a US$1trillion+ market,” says clinical sexologist Georgia Rose. “Whilst wellness is not a new concept, it is now being defined in broader terms, encompassing not just regular exercise and a good diet but also overall mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.
“Our sexuality is now being treated through this same lens of wellness, and it is understood that the full development of our sexuality is essential for individual, interpersonal and societal wellbeing,” says Rose. “The desire and need for contact and intimacy, emotional expression, pleasure, tenderness [is] a basic human need.”
Sexual wellness education
Founder of sex education site Kinkly, Tara Struyk caught on a decade ago to the dire need to talk about sexual wellness. Kinkly launched in 2012, in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” era, when conversations about sex began to open up due to the popular phenomenon. The site boasts one of the most comprehensive dictionary of sex terms online. It includes diverse content from professionals in the sexual wellness field on topics like sex tips, body image and more. Kinkly also has a retail section called the Kinkly Shop, which offers quality, safe sex toys. You can also browse the Sex Blogger Directory, a huge list of online sex blogs, on Kinkly.
“[In 2012], mainstream publications tended to have very poorly researched sex ‘tips’ that were more like jokes, and they wouldn’t even touch topics like BDSM, kink and sexual practices that were still considered ‘taboo,’” says Struyk. “In the 10 years since, that has really changed. Now it’s common to see publications like Cosmo, Men’s Health and other huge media outlets addressing pleasure for LGBTQ people and sourcing expert insights on how to safely practice things like bondage, anal sex and more.
“To me, the key thing behind this change is access to information,” says Struyk. “People have been experimenting in the bedroom, well, probably forever. What’s changed is that they can now access information on how to do that more safely and pleasurably. They can also get some validation around any desires or kinks they might have and otherwise feel ashamed about. The more we can openly talk about sexuality and the wide diversity of sexual interests that exists out there, the more the culture will shift to embrace sexuality, including on the business side.
“I think education and access are still the biggest keys to better sexual wellness,” continues Struyk. “You can’t buy something if you don’t know that it exists; you can’t seek out a solution to a problem you can’t name; you can’t access a more pleasurable sex life unitl you understand it as a possibility.”
Sexual wellness product innovations for women
“There has been a big boom in the sex toy and sexual products industry,” says Rose. “This was an industry historically dominated by male entrepreneurs, phallic-shaped dildos, seedy sex shops, gaudy packaging and lots of cheesy eroticism; however, in recent years, the growing sexual wellness market has brought about new, stylish products driven by emerging female entrepreneurs who have decided to take women’s self-pleasure into their own hands.
“The rebranding of this market as sexual wellness has brought about toys and products aimed at women, made by women, who understand women’s sexuality and satisfaction,” says Rose. “Their aim is to elevate the status of women’s pleasure and to help integrate it more seamlessly into our everyday lives. Forget bright pink dildos and sticky lube, women’s sexual wellness is now imbued with style, intimacy, beautiful design, wellness and empowerment.”
Rose names the following companies as examples of industry innovation: Dipsea, an audio erotica app; Ferly, a mindful sex app for women; Daye, an organic tampon company; OMGYes.com, a masturbation education website for women; Make Love Not Porn, an alternative porn website; Maude, a company that provides gender-neutral sexual wellness tools, and Unbound, a sexual wellness company.
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