Even the Worst Year Ever Was No Match for the Sexual Wellness Industry


During a pandemic that has severely impacted our access to — and relationship with — intimacy, the sexual wellness industry has become (excuse the pun) buzzy. “Sex toys are often recession-proof,” says Alexandra Fine, CEO and cofounder of Dame Products, which makes sex toys and accessories. They offer something that’s especially relevant right now: “a mix of at-home entertainment and at-home wellness.”

The mental health benefits of sex are not a hard sell. Orgasms boost dopamine and the release of oxytocin, though it’s worth noting that reaching orgasm is not necessary to enjoy sexual activity. “Of all the things that are going on with our world, [sex] is one thing that is pleasure-based and pleasure-centered,” says Shavon Gaddy-Dalrymple, a psychotherapist in New York City.

For many people, investing in sexual wellness at a time like this is a way to “put themselves in focus and drive forward,” says Guido Campello, the creative director and co-CEO of lingerie retailer and brand Journelle. Gaddy-Dalrymple explains that unexpected isolation has allowed some the opportunity to reconnect with their bodies without the burden of typical life distractions. Perhaps that exploration is why this global industry is expected to reach $40 billion in revenue by 2025, according to market research firm Arizton.

As our dating and sex lives have changed, so have our needs. More couple’s products and condoms are being sold at Overkink now, whereas prior to the pandemic the bulk of their orders were personal toys, says Jaycee Chester, founder of the online sex toy and lingerie shop. And when customers do buy toys, their selections have changed as well: Chester has seen a rise in sales of toys with Bluetooth compatibility (hey, we are on the phone a lot more these days) and in male masturbators. “I just think people have a little more time to explore,” she says.

There’s also been a change in the lingerie styles flying off virtual shelves at Journelle. In particular, searches for ouvert bottoms (“open” in French) have been skyrocketing. “It’s a really flirty and fun [style],” says Campello, who has observed that customers are buying them in multiple units, which suggests they’re not wearing them just for date nights or anniversaries.

The uptick in sales may imply that libidos are up across the board, but Gaddy-Dalrymple says that in her practice the issue of sex during the pandemic has been a bit polarizing. For every person who is more turned on than ever, there’s another who can’t imagine being in the mood right now. She suggests opening up a dialogue, with yourself or with your partner, about what’s going on, what you like, what you don’t like, what you want to try. The good news? You’ve probably got a lot more time on your hands to figure it out. 

Below, find five products our experts recommend — some have seen a rise in popularity during the pandemic, while others are long-time customer favorites. Enjoy. 

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