The Future Of Sex Tech, And Why It Turns Us On

By Mollie Edwards

If technology wasn’t already a massive part of our daily lives, Covid-19 has undeniably caused more of us to embrace it. With online shopping, Netflix binging, catching up with friends, or making new ones, the online world has never been so busy. And while many say technology causes harm, there are equally just as many benefits to it.

When it comes to self-love, pleasure, and sexual wellness, technology is your best friend. Because, let’s face it, who still enjoys using their fingers? With a global estimated value of $30 billion, the SexTech industry has skyrocketed, proving that new and advanced toys are a way of the future.

So what trends can we expect for the sex tech market in five to ten years? Will app-controlled toys surpass battery-operated toys? Will online sex activity increase? And will the humble pillow be a mere thing of the past? 

Toy Story 

Advancements within the sex tech market have truly reshaped how we live and relate to ourselves and our partners. The industry is beginning to see a shift in more accessible options, with toys designed for older users, those who experience pain or discomfort during sex, or those with sexual health concerns like erectile dysfunction. 

These groups are often known as the ‘invisible demographic’.  

Sexologist and founder of the Future of Sex Bryony Cole says thisgroup are the people we tend to think don’t have sex, due to cultural conversations and the way that the media has portrayed a particular sexy image. 

“Looking forward, we need to be considering those with mobility issues, people outside of the 20-35 year old demographic and people with disabilities,” she says. 

Bryony Cole

Sex Educator Emma Hewitt says there have been many innovations in recent years, especially during the pandemic, that have made the sex toy market more inclusive.

“We’re seeing more products designed for penises with an open-wing design, meaning they don’t require an erection to use,” says Hewitt. “We’re also seeing more powerful vibrating toys for penises, which help create an erection, yet also feel great with a flaccid penis.”

“For those that experience pain or discomfort during penetrative sex, bumpers are another great advance in sex tech. These go around the shaft of the penis, vibrator, or dildo and create a cushion so that they don’t penetrate as deep,” she says.

Hewitt says thrusting toys are also a relatively new sex-tech innovation that has seen an increase in popularity. The thrust toys are like mini sex machines and are especially useful for those that need a hands-free way to masturbate.

They allow users to sync up so that they can both experience patterns and sensations simultaneously.

The Romance Renaissance

Sex toys have always been popular. The world’s oldest sex toy, a prehistoric dildo with rounded, polished end and carved rings, is guessed to be around 30,000 years old.

As for vibrators, these were widely popular among Victorian and Edwardian gentlewomen in the 1800s. 

We women will truly use anything to satisfy ourselves.

Since then, sex toys have undergone something of a renaissance and, with many of us spending an excessive amount of time at home, have become more popular than ever before.

Owner of Adulttoymegastore, Nicola Relph, says the most recent Lockdown in New Zealand caused sales of masturbators to increase significantly. This included more high-tech products that have all sorts of functions, from vibrations to heating.

Nicola Relph

“Sales of app-controlled sex toys increased by 200 percent in one week, which we believe was due to couples living in different bubbles wanting a way of staying intimate, even at a distance,” says Relph.

“Vibrators have always been popular, and as sex-tech becomes more commonplace and affordable, it’s only natural that people are purchasing more technologically advanced products instead of a regular vibrating or non-vibrating toy,” she says. 

Over the years, sex toys have gradually become more mainstream and a core part of our overall sense of wellness. Hewitt says innovations in the industry are helping more people to enjoy their bodies and explore pleasure with partners.

“Also importantly, today’s toys help with easing pain and allowing better accessibility to pleasure.”

Nowadays  sexual pleasure and sexual wellness are mainstreaming the conversation around sex, which is typically targeted towards the white heterosexual demographic. 

Deep Trust Cushion,
App-Based Couples Vibrator, OhNut Buffer Ring.

However, Cole believes there are plenty of opportunities and potential outside this, with different populations that have needs, are sexual and want to be served. 

“We need to be thinking ‘how do we innovate around each demographic’s sexual experience?’ and how is the older category going to utilise technology for sex,” notes Cole.

A New, Sexier Normal

Fortunately, we are slowly but surely moving past the stigma that surrounds adult toys. Many Kiwis are now recognising the positive impact masturbation can have on their sexual health and overall wellbeing.

According to Relph, sex toy sales at Adulttoymegastore have been on a consistent growth path over the past six to twelve months, explaining each time there has been a Lockdown, sales at least double before returning to what the company now considers to be the new normal.

“What we’ve seen since Covid is an increased demand for adult products in New Zealand in general, and we believe this is because more people are talking more openly and positively about sex and self-pleasure.

“Sex and masturbation are now recognised as important pillars of wellbeing, and sex toys have very much gone mainstream as a result,” she says. 

Emma Hewitt

As for online love, sex has always had a presence on the internet, and the shift to app-based toy control is a natural progression. There’s always a risk with any sort of online sex activity, but for many, the pros outweigh the cons.

“The internet has become a huge part of many people’s lives, and there is now an app for almost anything you can think of,” says Emma Hewitt.

“You can connect with friends, track a bike ride, learn a new language, and even enjoy a guided masturbation session with a sex toy all with the help of an app.”

The Future of Foreplay 

As technology continues to move forward, so will sex-tech, and so will people’s expectations. 

If the sex toy industry wants to keep up with the times and continue to grow, it needs to continue to invest in sex-tech research and development to be able to bring out new and exciting products.

Relph says it is incredible to see how far sex toys have come since opening Adulttoymegastore back in 2012, and she can only imagine what the industry will be like in another 10 years.

“App-controlled sex toys will become the norm due to their convenience, and robotics and intuitive products will become more accessible and advanced. Yet every time I think I’ve seen it all, a ground-breaking new product hits the market to give it a shake-up,” she says. 

Cole says the most important part of innovation in the sex-toy industry, and the reason she runs a sex tech school, is to invite people in that have different experiences to create their own products and services. 

“Will there be more advanced sex toys in the future? Of course. But it’s how people innovate to solve pain issues or provide a different kind of pleasure, and to include all demographics and categories. I think that’s what’s most important.”