Rewind | 2009 in Hindsight: Adventures in the Toy Trade

Going Green

Several companies jumped on the eco-bandwagon this year, releasing products designed to let people get their kicks without kicking Mother Nature in the rear. The Earth Angel, which uses no batteries and requires no electricity, was introduced by Irish husband-and-wife team Chris and Janice O’Connor, who dubbed the hand-cranked vibe “the world’s first ‘green’ sex toy.” Not only is the toy itself 100 percent recyclable, so is the packaging.

And men weren’t left out in the cold when it came to caring for the earth. Tenga, a Japanese company, launched the U.S. versions of its popular male masturbation items. Though the product is designed to be disposable, the outer shell is recyclable, covering a biodegradable interior coated with a water-based silica gel.

And Sliquid LLC, which already went green with its Organics line of lubricants, took its eco-friendly ways a step further with its packaging material. Using 75 percent post-consumer cardboard, the new pillow packets for the Organics line are completely recyclable, said company President Dean Elliot.֫

Luxurious Lovin’

Sagging global economy? You would never notice it if you went solely by some of the high-end luxury pleasure items introduced this year. Sweden-based LELO led the way, with the introduction of its LUXE line. At a suggested retail price of $10,500, LELO’s Inez vibrator isn’t for everyone—but it isn’t intended to be. Inez is intended as the ultimate intimate gift, aimed at the highest of high-end adult novelty buyers. Handcrafted with a seductive exterior of either 18K gold plate or stainless steel ($7,900), Inez is one of the most exclusive vibrators ever made.

Not to be outdone, Je Joue officials went so far as to bring out the bubbly, popping open a few champagne bottles when they unveiled the G-Ki during the AVN Novelty Expo in July. After seeing tremendous success with the SaSi earlier this year, Je Joue is poised for another major hit with the G-Ki. Billed as the first exploring G-spot pleasure item, the G-Ki features an adjustable head that can be positioned to find the G-spot on most any woman, while a button on the side can fold the handle in half so it converts from a plaything for couples to an item a woman can use for solo play.

And Canadian company X4 Labs was commissioned earlier this year by a Saudi businessman to create one of the world’s most expensive sex toys: a solid 18-carat gold penis enlarger encrusted with diamonds and rubies. The custom order was expected to run about $47,000.

Stay Home, Have Fun

Even those who were affected by the economy, however, were not about to let it affect their love lives. After the terrorist strikes of Sept. 11, 2001, shocked the world, retailers of adult products reported an upswing in sales of “bedroom aids.” That didn’t surprise marriage and family therapists, sexuality counselors or sex workers, who believe that in hard times people naturally gravitate toward intimate pleasure as a coping mechanism. Now, with the economy taking a full-fledged nose-dive, sex-toy retailers are reporting revenue increases of from 7 to 13 percent, both in the brick-and-mortar realm and online.

The trend seems to be worldwide, but it also seems to be limited to novelties. Sellers of adult videos, both online and offline, have reported sales decreases of as much as 50 percent during the past year.

Lingerie retailers also seemed to benefit from the hard times. According to a report from TNS Worldpanel Fashion, which tracks the lingerie industry, sales of underwire bras increased 10 percent in the first half of 2009, and the sales of women’s and men’s briefs have also increased in that same time period.

And while men’s underwear saw increased sales, the biggest areas of growth were in loungewear and other comfort items. Men’s pajamas increased by more than 30 percent, and jogging pants increased 15 percent, the report stated.

This article originally ran in the December 2009 issue of AVN.

See also commentary by Tom Hymes and Dan Miller on 2009, and Tony Lovett’s top 20 sex toys of 2009. And tomorrow, read about trendsetting developments at gay adult companies.