Don’t roll your eyes, but “Sex and the City” and “Fifty Shades” are still influencing people’s sex lives. In fact, these pop-culture phenomena allowed many to finally pull the sheets back and open up about sex, from using accoutrements like vibrators and male sleeves to preferences in and out of the bedroom and kinks.
“'Fifty Shades of Grey’ ... did do a lot of things that were good about sex — it made sex ‘in’ again,” sexpert Tracey Cox told Metro. “It was very fashionable to not like sex, and suddenly it came along and introduced a very naughty element, which was very un-PC, which was that women like to be dominated in bed and all that stuff. It reawakened the primitive side of sex, and it normalized kink in a lot of ways.”
And kink is definitely very “in,” from a four-story sex club in Brooklyn to the results of a recent sexual happiness survey from Lovehoney, a British company that sells erotic products from sex toys to lingerie.
The survey of more than 4,500 respondents found that more than 60 percent wished to be more sexually adventurous, while the same percentage had tried BDSM or bondage. The No. 1 bedroom practice is spanking, with nearly 65 percent getting their cheeks reddened on the regular, while nipple play ranked second for nearly 60 percent of respondents.
“It wasn’t surprising, having developed three different ranges for ‘Fifty Shades,’” Lovehoney Product Director Bonny Hall said. “Nipple play has continued through all of that and is massively popular and something like spanking, you don’t even need a product for — people could just experiment with hand spanking. It’s an easy way in to trying something different.”
We asked Hall, who had been with Lovehoney since its inception 14 years ago, and Cox to take us deeper (and deeper) into the industry that has found itself more mainstream than ever.
How did you find yourself in this industry?
Bonny Hall: It’s just a great industry to be in. It is a very family feeling, even with your competitors, we’re all after the same thing, which is bringing the industry mainstream and increasing sexual happiness around the word. It’s a positive message at the end of the day — what we’re selling are products to make people happier.
Tracey Cox: My older sister used to work for Family Planning in Australia, so kids at school used to come up and go, “Can you go home and ask your sister this?”
Going to and fro the whole time, I ended up knowing a lot about it anyway, and I think that’s what made me have a pretty unembarrassed view about sex.
What was your first sex toy?
Hall: The Rabbit, which in hindsight was probably scary.
Cox: I was staying at my sister’s and being a nosy old sneak, I found an ancient vibrator that plugged into the wall and thought, “What the hell was that?” I tried it out and got the shock of my life.
What do you look for in a sex toy tester?
Cox: I want to get people who’ve never used a vibrator to get what they think. I’ll try to specify the person for the products. I gave the sleeve, which looks ridiculous, to five different male friends of mine, and they were like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Within a couple of hours, they were like, “Oh, my God.” It was interesting because they’ve never even thought about something like that.
Hall: We have an internal panel of testers in our company, over 240 members of staff, and a customer forum of 154,000 active members who review products that they already use, and we then hand-select testers all around the world. We send out tester-review products every single day of the year.
How does testing work? I kind of picture it taking place in an room with a two-way mirror.
Hall: (laughs) It’s private. Some people are quite open and will just talk to me in the kitchen as I’m pouring a cup of tea and say, “Last night I tested that for you” and I’m like, “OK.”
They’ll take them home, and we want feedback like if they’re using it solo or with their partner. We might have one product sent out for three different types of testing so that we can find out different feedback from different users. It’s quite discreet.
We've evolved from stone dildos and large appliances to sleek designs we see today. What trends do you see coming for the industry?
Hall: I was in China recently and saw dolls, now with full-sized heads and bodies and moving eyes and talking. There’s some interesting virtual reality things, such as remote interaction for partners living apart, the Womanizer uses suction instead of vibration — it’s great there are innovations, and it’s not all been done.
Cox: They’re trying to go into electro-stimulators, I’m seeing simulated sex where a toy is hooked up to a porn film … I think there is this whole new range that’s getting more and more high tech, but if you feel the urge, you just want to be satisfied, you don’t want to have to hook yourself up.
And finally, with a name like Tracey Cox in the world of sex, you've surely heard a joke or 10 about your name. Does one stand out?
Cox: (laughs) When I was at school, my nickname used to be Sucks. What makes me laugh is that every person in the beginning would be like, “What’s your real name?” I would’ve come up with something a little more original!