First, there’s air pollution, then there’s fat, gluten and sugar, never mind parabens, phthalates and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – we’re increasingly aware of, and concerned with, what we’re putting in and on our bodies.
Stepping up to the task of making our sex lives more eco- and health-conscious are a growing selection of environmentally friendly and natural intimate products. From rechargeable phthalate-free vibrators to glass and ceramic butt plugs, and parabens-free lubricants to all-natural aromatherapy sensual massage oils, sex is being well and truly cleaned up.
Sex toys can also be an “investment”: Stockholm-based luxury sex toy company Lelo makes the Inez, a 24-carat-gold-plated dildo that sells for £10,000 (HK$95,000).
“Twenty years ago, sex toy brands prioritised low prices and high volumes, and assumed that was the only way to be successful,” says Steve Thomson, CMO of Lelo. “Because of that, a lot of cheap, unsafe materials went into intimate products, which is dangerous. Customers became used to cheapness. That was all that was available to them.”
Sex toys are even recyclable: US-based Earth Erotics, which runs its website using wind power, makes, among other products, whips of recycled rubber, while the website Sex Toy Recycling sterilises unloved toys and remoulds them into new ones – coated with a new layer of silicon for safety.
Sliquid is a US-based company that makes vegan-friendly, all-natural women’s lubricants. The Sliquid Organics range, endorsed by Goop, the online lifestyle publication “curated by” American actress Gwyneth Paltrow, is infused with organic extracts including hibiscus, green tea, flax and aloe.
“People are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of what they put in their bodies, be it food, cosmetics, or intimate products,” says Colin Roy, senior vice-president at Sliquid.
“We are as health-conscious, body-safe, and as natural as humanly possible in our development, manufacturing and distribution processes.”
Lelo launched its first luxury sex toy, the Lily massager, more than a decade ago, and the company has gone from strength to strength. Thomson says that Lelo sales in Hong Kong have increased by more than 30 per cent in the past five years.
“It’s clear that people are becoming more comfortable with sex toys,” he says.
He points to the internet as the main driving force behind this trend. “The internet is an incredible tool. Social media makes discussion of sex, sex toys and pleasure more open than ever before. In China alone there are more smartphone users than the entire population of America and Britain combined. That’s just smartphones. Asia is incredibly connected, shopping online is so easy … it’s no wonder the sex toy industry is booming.”
So what does the future of sex look like? Hi-tech, says Thomson.
“The aim is to develop new technologies, especially mobile technologies, to help customers explore new sensations. Virtual reality also opens up an entire universe of possibilities: imagine being able to fully interact with a partner and use toys while you’re on different sides of the planet.”