Vibrator Brands Are Overcharging You.
Culture

Vibrator Brands Are Overcharging You.

Published
Mar 01, 2021
Author
maude team

The case for making an “add-on” an essential. 

$52.7 billion dollars. That’s how much the global market for vibrators and devices is predicted to be valued in just five years, according to the market and consumer data firm Statista. That’s a pretty considerable jump from where we are in 2021—around $34 billion dollars—but there’s plenty of reason for us to expect such an increase.

For one, the same firm reports that in the United States, over half (a considerable 65%) of female consumers own at least one kind of device, and a different survey published in late 2019 found that 69% (make whatever joke you will) of millennials keep one in their stash, too. Clearly, the collective interest in these purveyors of pleasure is strong and is only growing more pronounced. So why does the barrier to entry still feel so high?

It may be because the market is skewed in unnecessary ways: The economics of vibrators—according to that same report from Statista—are all messed up. And that’s why you’ll find all kinds of toe-curling, knee-quivering, back-arching devices with prices not unlike what you would pay for an overpriced salad, along with countless other contraptions that boast similar buzzing bandwidth, yet come in packages that cost upwards of $100. 

“I was looking at these cheap products that were made with plastic that cost about $20, and then others that are made with the same kind of materials as the vibe, and those were priced around $75,” Maude founder Éva Goicochea says. Here was the disconnect. 

For anything that’s priced too low, there is an unseen cost—some cheap plastics (including those in budget vibrators, dildos, and more), contain potentially harmful ingredients like phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors that can affect reproductive function, among other risks (some studies have linked them to certain cancers, though more research is needed in this regard). Sure, many phthalates are banned in children’s toys in the United States, but the same consideration isn’t made for the 18+ crowd. In the U.S., devices are largely unregulated.

This means it is up to the producer to create a safe—and fun—product, which means it will have a higher production cost than the option that might run you a mere $15 to $20. But high-quality vibrators don’t have to cost that much more—yet they almost always do. As Goicochea notes, “the margins are huge.” And that has to do more with our cultural categorization of vibrators more than anything.

The reality is, any vibrator, with any amount of innovation, does not cost so much to produce that its price should run upwards of $75—and yet so many do, because these items are seen as a luxury, a treat, and not as an essential tool in any person’s sexual wellness toolbox. 

Vibrator Brands Are Overcharging You.

“By creating products that are priced this way, it categorizes them as additives or afterthoughts instead of core basics, and it creates confusion over what materials actually cost,” Goicochea says. “I think for us, it was really about creating an ergonomic item that was easy to use. It’s a core product that you’ll have forever and use to explore your body.” (This is why you may notice, we don’t refer to The vibe as a sex toy—such language that can further push us to not consider this tool an essential.)

Ultimately, this kind of pricing is sexist, especially when you consider the orgasm gap. As Forbes reported last year, it’s not just heterosexual men who are having more orgasms than heterosexual women—one study published in 2017 showed that bisexual and lesbian women have significantly more orgasms than straight women, and a 2018 study showed that women take longer to reach orgasm with a partner than they do when masturbating. Among those who experience difficulty reaching orgasm, some even consider masturbation more satisfying than partnered sex.

While an orgasm isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of any sexual experience—with a partner and without—it does release plenty of feel-good hormones that are beneficial not just to our sexual satisfaction, but general wellbeing. Surveys have shown that up to half of women aren’t satisfied with how they reach orgasm, and between 10 to 15% have never had an orgasm at all, according to the United States National Library of Medicine. So to capitalize on a tool that can make this experience much more achievable for people who statistically struggle with it is morally questionable.

The benefits of vibrators, after all, are clear and often clinically proven. They can increase pleasure with a partnerenhance feelings of sexual satisfaction, and help improve libido after menopause. “We frequently categorize sexual wellness as ‘other’ and ‘non-essential,’ but the truth is tools and resources that help you achieve safe and satisfying sexual health, like vibrators, are anything but,” says Dr. Jennifer Conti. And let’s not forget that they can be beneficial for people of all genders, too. 

With a cost that’s accessible without compromising on quality, a vibrator can seem a lot more approachable to a lot more people. Sexual wellness is wellness—and that’s something that should not have an unreasonable barrier to entry.

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