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Sex toy market booms amid recession

Published time: June 25, 2012 14:11
Edited time: June 25, 2012 18:18

Vibrators for sale are on display (AFP Photo/John Macdougall)

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Sex toys have been around for more than a century, and it turns out that the industry is impenetrable in the times of economic downtown.

For many industries across the United States, the economic downtown has resulted in many companies making fewer profits and devoting far fewer resources to innovation and development. One industry that’s not the case for is the sex toy industry.

“There’s three areas of the economy that tend to do okay in a recession: alcohol, make-up and sex toys,” said Jacq Jones, owner of Sugar Sex Toy Store in Baltimore, Maryland. Jones said her store has been open for five years and 2012 has been her best year ever, in terms of sales.

For some specific items, like Luna Balls, sales are through the roof.

“I used to sell one or two a month,” Jones said. “Now I’m selling ten a week.”

She and other sex toy store owners say they can’t keep Luna Balls on the shelves because of The New York Times best seller, 50 Shades of Grey.

But most are experiencing an overall boom on just about everything, and it’s a trend that’s happening all around the world; not just in brick and mortar stores, but online as well.

According to The Daily Mail, sex toys have become a $7 billion a year industry worldwide and are on track to bring in $52 billion in annual business by 2020.

At jimmyjane.com, another thriving business, you can get the newest high tech, simple to use products which are sold not only at sex toy stores, but at The Sharper Image as well.

JimmyJane Chairman and Founder Ethan Imboden has a background in electrical engineering and industrial design and is hoping to be the Steve Jobs of the sex toy industry.

“Products that are really designed for external stimulation or clitoral stimulation are very popular,” he said.

JimmyJane’s toys have been given simple (non-animal) names, like “Form 6” or “Form 2.” They’re designed and packaged in a sleek manner and sales have been booming.

Some believe the recession has actually benefitted the sex toy industry.

“As the economy plunged, more people are staying home and it’s sort of an investment, something to do at home,” said Maria Vashakidze, an employee at Sugar.

It’s something people have been doing at home for more than a century, as the first vibrator was designed in the late 1800s and was the fifth electric device to receive a US patent.

It was originally used to treat women who were thought to have a disorder called “hysteria,” and doctors got tired of getting cramps in their hands from manually pleasing those hysterical patients.

It’s the subject of the new movie Hysteria.

Vibrators were advertised freely in places like the Sears & Roebuck Catalog until about the 1920s, after which time all sex toys became more taboo. Just recently they have started to be advertised on US cable stations and can be found in drug stores.

Still they’re often under the name “massager,” like Trojan’s new “Triphoria Vibrating Massager.”

Now, in 2012, it’s undeniable – the sex toy industry is now producing gratifying profits as well as pleasure.