Image credit: Aylee Rhodes
As a sexual wellness brand that never sells in sex shops, we know first-hand how broaching the topic of female sexuality can be met with shock, awe, discomfort and confusion.
It can take a while for some people to process why sexual wellness is important and this can look different from person to person, culture to culture, country to country.
While different cultures adjust to this huge trend, the numbers suggest that it is an industry that is here to stay. In fact the sexual wellness industry is estimated to be worth $39 billion by 2024 [ref.1], this is because consumers are now embracing sexual wellness as an important part of their health, beauty and wellness routine.
Sexual wellness is becoming mainstream the world over. Let us take you around the world and see all the ways in which things are changing.
Beauty retailers and influencers are leading the way
In the UK, women can now learn about female sexuality while getting their beauty fix! Brands such as Cult Beauty and Feel Unique have launched their sexual wellness categories with education in mind.
According to YouGov.com almost half of women in the UK are unable to locate the vagina on an anatomy diagram which is telling of the lack of quality sex-ed in the UK. To echo that fact, CultBeauty launched it sexual wellness category with a very visible and unapologetic Vulvalution campaign.
Moreover, British influencers such as Oloni have also helped break the taboo around female sexuality and gained popularity by acting as peer educators via social media for the last decade. Influencers on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram have normalised important issues relating to sex and this is inspiring big brands such as Boots who now have a dedicated online space for sexual wellness.
Sexual wellness for the empowerment of women
This is the attitude given on the topic in Taiwan where 86% of women say they feel that they know their body well sexually.
Sexual exploration has been highlighted as a means of empowerment by popular Instagram influencers such as @byleway who wrote in one sex-positive post
“Let us try to break the right Sexual stereotypes…hope that women can bravely explore themselves and encourage society to look at sex with a healthier attitude.
Let’s enjoy the wonderful SEX”
In 2014, only 24% of women surveyed in Tawain admitted to have used a vibrator, while this number rose to 60% in 2018. Inspired by the mission of women empowerment, influencers have given momentum to this trend.
“I think that as a woman, everyone has the right to make themselves happy.
Even if not there is another half, we can still make our sex life very happy.”
This particular post shared by Chun Yu, remarked how sex education was lacking for her growing up and that learning about pleasure for her is a now a right and most women agree. In fact, 93% of women in Taiwan say they believe that sexual health and satisfaction is important to their overall health. Organisations such as Breast Cancer Alliance support this understanding by organising pleasure-positive workshops for breast cancer survivors on the topic of reclaim their sexuality.
Pleasure is centre stage and political
The conversation about sexual wellness has been on the minds of activists for years in the USA, who consider the country to be in a public health crisis. This is because, traditionally, in an important numbers of states, abstinence-based programs were the prevalent type of sex education taught in schools and they failed to deliver; so much so that women lack a basic understating of their anatomy. In fact, 1 in 3 college aged women American does not know where their clitoris is.
Not only have abstinence-based programs been disproven to help reduce teen pregnancy and STI transmission as promised; it is denying young people basic health knowledge. Advocates For Youth found that eleven out of thirteen of these programs used in all 52 states were found to be “non-factual”.
Shockingly, the US federal government has spent over two billion dollars on these abstinence-based programs in the last twenty years. A more comprehensive approach is being introduced by independent bodies who are using the stages of TEDx to share about their movement.
But things are changing in the US as well. Vibrators have not only made their way to beauty and fashion stores, they’re also on national live TV. Recently, an interview with goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow took a surprising turn on popular late night show, Jimmy Kimmel Live. As Jimmy presented Gwyneth with products from her notoriously popular wellness store; the Tennis Coach vibrator made a debut. The audience shared a few laughs at the product name as Gwyneth proudly went on to rightfully share that “We (goop) believe in sexual health and fulfilment for women”. Right on GP!
Broadening the (sex) talk
A metropolitan country of business, innovation and diversity, Singaporeans are still hesitant when it comes to discussing sex out in open.
Worryingly less than half of the people surveyed in Singapore agree that sexual wellness is important to their overall wellbeing but this could be for lack of knowledge, more than lack of interest.
A study conducted by AWARE found that 60% of young people of the 800 surveyed took no precautions to protect themselves against pregnancy or STI’s.
At SPARK Fest, Asia’s first sexual wellness festival, market place vendors shared that “after speaking to them [festival goers], I realise how deprived most women are in talking about this taboo topic, even among their friends.”
Indeed, only 46% of women surveyed in Singapore said they openly talked about sex with their partner and only 26% with their friends.
In the interest of growing the population (Singaporean has the fourth lowest birth rate in the world) its government’s approach to sexual wellness has been very family-centric.
But government-funded charities like Action For AIDS Singapore for example, who originally were mostly focused on educating people on STDs and unwanted pregnancies, are now promoting a more comprehensive approach to sexual wellness. Taking their conversation further by inviting experts in to talk about the topic of pleasure, toys and fantasies.
Viva La Vulva!
Often a step ahead when it comes to freedom of speech and liberation, France has helped to normalise sexual wellness. Over the past ten years the country has seen more and more, elegant, female-focused sex shops appear in the most trendy of neighbourhoods. It was then an organic next step when department store such as Monoprix, with over 600 stores across the country, began to stock our vibrators.
As for education, the Instagram collective @gangduclito created the movement #itsnotabretzel to educate the French public of the true anatomical identity of the clitoris. While many people would not be blamed for thinking that the clitoris is merely a small external nub on the vulva; in a very French manner, Gang du Clito have taken to the streets with posters to show the full clitoris structure.
There’s such a thing as conservative pleasure-positivity
While a notoriously conservative country, Malaysia has proven a welcoming country for the topic of women’s pain relief and pleasure during sex. Indeed, institutes such as International Islamic University have organised workshops on such topics, broached in the context of matrimony. The leading family planning clinics federation in Malaysia have worked with us to educate their nurses on common myths about female sexuality and the benefits of orgasms for a women’s overall health.
Though these topics are not discussed so much out-in-the-open with only 19% of Malaysian women discussing sex with their friends, 91% said they would view a woman owning a vibrator neutrally to positively.
Fortunately sexual wellness has a place in the typical Malaysian bedroom, with almost 70% of women surveyed revealing that they talk about sex with their partners.
The design community welcomes pleasure products
Italians are known to love design and high quality products! But this isn’t reserved for the likes of Gucci and Prada. Having a tight budget doesn’t mean compromising on quality when it comes to your sexual wellness and loving design and this is being demonstrated in Bologna.
Voila le Velo, an independent atelier space dedicated to hand made ‘slow fashion’ lingerie have recently brought sex toys to the Bologna Design Week! With award-winning vibrators starting at 19.95 Euros, design conscious consumers can enjoy quality sexual wellness products without the premium price tag!
How have you seen the conversation about sexual wellness change in your country and what / who do you think helped to cause this?
Let us know in the comments !