We’re 20 Years Old!
When we opened on May 31, 1997 it was a different world in the realm of sex than it is today in 2017. Attitudes, laws, education and norms around sex have changed a lot. Here’s a little on what the industry looked like back then and how far we have come.
In 1997 products and knowledge were very limited. The selection of vibrators and other toys was narrow. Vibrators were typically dollar-store quality, penis-shaped and usually beige with veins, made of latex or its variation “jelly”. Bigger was considered better. Packaging mostly consisted of scantily clad women in order to seduce the mainly men who were the purchasers of toys, especially in heterosexual relationships. There was little knowledge about safety in toys and eco-friendly was more of a fringe idea when it came to the “dirty” industry of sex. The only non-battery-operated toys were the Hitachi Magic Wand (still a classic and a favourite of many) and the Wahl.
Dildos were either the same veiny, latex and beige variety for the heterosexual crowd, or silicone and dolphin/ goddess shaped for the lesbian customer. Lubricants were a little more varied, but generally contained parabens, glycerin and tasted terrible, even (and especially) the flavoured ones.
Videos (yes, DVDs were not born yet!) were again generally in the domain of male producers and male customers, with pioneers Candida Royalle, Nina Hartley and Annie Sprinkle daring to include heterosexual women’s desires and tastes, Nan Kinney and Fatale Media catering to the lesbian viewer. The technology, expense and distribution (the internet was still in its infancy) of video production were financially risky and generally prohibitive for newcomers to enter the market.
In the last 20 years all of these industries have expanded, matured and innovated. Customers are better educated, demanding and diverse. The market has responded with a shift to more respectful, eco-friendly, body safe and durable quality products.
- Brands who care about quality have become integral to the market with better-made toys with warranties for a year or more, aesthetic designs and sizes, made of body-friendly silicone.
- Rechargeable is the new norm for vibrating toys.
- Packaging has become more elegant to reflect the reality that sex has come out of the closet and into the mainstream.
- Penis toys have evolved from the blow-up doll realism to silicone and body-safe variations that prioritize fabulous sensations and function over realism.
- As shampoos and other body products have expanded to include more body-safe, organic products free of parabens and glycerin, so have lubricants. Even the big lubricant companies are coming out with “natural” options.
- Video has turned to DVD and now to internet porn. While internet porn is no shy newcomer since it essentially built the World Wide Web, it has now all but killed the DVD. Since anyone can now make films, amateurs as well as professionals are creating porn. And people with a diversity of genders, sexes, orientations, ethnicities, sizes, abilities, kinks and fantasies are creating films that they want to see. Directors and performers can more easily reach and sell to their markets, no matter how “niche” through their home computers. The Good for Her Feminist Porn Awards were born in 2006 as a way to acknowledge, celebrate and endorse films and filmmakers that are creating movies with feminist values of choice, respect, diversity and of course that are hot too. In 2017 it was rebranded as the Toronto International Porn Festival.
- As for written erotica, it has exploded beyond the romance genre into many different categories. It now offers selections to very specific tastes from Lesbian Bondage Erotica to Tales of Exhibitionists, to Curvy Girls. And of course although kink erotica has always existed (The Story of O being one well-known example) the famous Fifty Shades of Grey has brought kink and women’s fantasies from the romance novel into the mainstream, and they toys and supplies to complement those fantasies.
- The workshops we offer have expanded to reflect the desire for many folks to value and enhance their erotic lives. We still offer the ever-popular oral sex and orgasm workshops and also have workshops on specific aspects of kink, open relationships, body pride and flirtation skills.
- Many taboos have become more mainstream such as anal pleasure, kink and non-monogamy. And then many people are still just trying to learn how to orgasm or how to communicate with their partner about their desires.
- There is much more inclusion of trans people in mainstream media and the idea of older folks, fat people, folks with disabilities having and wanting great sex is no longer as radical an idea as it was 20 years ago. Consensual sex is also a much more common phrase that is used in schools and educational settings, the media and in bedrooms and beyond.
We are excited to have seen a great shift in the industry to increased diversity, quality, eco-friendly and body-safe priorities. And we are glad to be a part of that revolution, proud of providing workshops and informal chats with customers who want to learn more about their bodies and how to have (even) better sex. May the trends continue and may we see another successful and ever- maturing 20 years to come!