For many, their first glimpse of a dual rabbit vibrator was thanks to Sex and the City’s unabashed endorsement in the nineties.
The toys had been around for a while, but this very public reference just as anonymous online shopping was booming brought ‘bunny ears’ bang into the mainstream.
And, well, we took it and we ran with it (to the bedroom) – Ann Summers famously said it sold more than one million Rampant Rabbits in 1999 alone (though FYI fact fans, the one Charlotte got so addicted to was not actually the trademarked Rampant, but the Vibratex Rabbit Pearl).
Rabbit vibrators are no doubt still selflessly providing their fair share of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, being a lot of people's introduction to a vibrator with something more to offer than simply being penis-shaped, but the adult pleasure industry has moved with the times: welcome to the brave new world of sex toys, where sexual health, sexual pleasure, innovative technology and classy design are coming together in glorious fashion.
While porn probably still has a fair way to go, next-gen sex products are streets ahead. There are upscale events dedicated to developments in the industry, notably January’s Sexual Health Expo – an exhibition dedicated to the promotion of sexual wellness through proven sex-ed and quality products.
And consider that Crave Innovations, a company focusing on high-end design, raised $2.4 million from investors to expand its range of luxury sex toys and over $100,000 via a crowdfunding platform for its first USB-powered design.
As the technology we use every day improves constantly, why shouldn’t the Internet of Things – the connections and shared data between our smart TVs, computers, phones and beyond – extend to our sex lives too?
After struggling to be afforded the same respect as other innovations in the technology world (Crave was booted off Kickstarter in 2013, for instance), sex tech is now being taken seriously, despite the wonderful fact that the umbrella term for toys controlled remotely is actually, genuinely ‘teledildonics’.
A vibrator synced to erotic e-books won an innovation award at this year’s influential Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, while an award for digital health and fitness was given to a sex toy company for the first time – to OhMiBod for a product that not only provides pleasure, but improves pelvic floor health and tracks progress via an app (more on both products below).
OhMiBod founder and former Apple marketing manager Suki Dunham told engadget.com: “We all know that this technology, all these technologies, are becoming a part of every part of our lifestyle, whether you're listening to music or you're cooking, or whatever it is you're doing in your world, so why not have sex be part of that?”
OhMiBod and others are geared towards overall wellbeing as well as satisfaction. Nuelle, a “sexual wellness and intimate care company”, recently launched Fiera – a wearable product for women who struggle to get aroused before sex, something that could really make a difference to a lot of people.
As founder Karen Long says, “It's not just for fun, it's a part of life.” Read on for our round-up of the next-gen sex products getting us off in ever more inventive fashion.
Connected sex tech isn't just phone apps and sexting. Teledildonics has surpassed simple webcam chats with responsive, interactive products that can be used remotely. As long as you've got an internet connection, long distance is a problem no more – the sex world is your oyster. Or something like that.
Kiiroo is a virtual reality sex toy range that connects to the user's computer via Bluetooth, with a vibrator for women and a Fleshlight-style masturbator for men. Used together, sensors on the vibrator record movements, such as thrust, tightness and tempo. The information is sent to the second device, which then mimics the sensations. For instance, if the vibrator is gripped or rubbed, the men's device tightens and moves accordingly.
They're interchangeable (two of the same can be used together), and can also synchronise with porn or be used with a virtual reality headset.
Online retailer Bondara sells the Kiiroo Pearl Interactive G-Spot Vibrator (£99.99) and Kiiroo Onyx Interactive Masturbator (£164.99) separately as both can be used solo, and together as a set (£249.99). Visit bondara.co.uk.
Sexual Heath Tech
Wearable smart tech doesn't begin and end with your Fitbit: there's a new generation of activity-tracking products for sexual health. There are many toys designed to help with pelvic floor exercises (known as Kegels in the US), but they're moving from standard weighted balls or ‘eggs’ to more connected devices that are also fun to use, rather than just another workout to add to the list.
As previously mentioned, OhMiBod's Krush is new to its LoveLife range and monitors the quality of your exercises via a mobile app. Follow training programmes, hit your goals and you'll ‘unlock’ different vibrations as a reward. There's also a Go Play section on the app to promote interaction between couples. The product will be out in spring priced $129.99. As it's a US company, there's a shipping charge to the UK, but there's a 40% discount on pre-orders with the code ‘CES2016’. Visit lovelifetoys.com.
In the UK, Bondara sells a £69.99 app-controlled pelvic floor trainer which has a continuous vibration mode for use outside of the programmes (available here), while Lovehoney has an exerciser for £74.99 that can sync vibrations to music (available here).
The move toward high-end design and away from the plastic, novelty vibrators of old is evident in the success of Lelo's products.
In 2014, Lelo’s Ora was the first ever sex product to win a Cannes Lions award for product design, praised by judges for “providing a solution that makes peoples’ lives better while aiding the communication of a brand ethos”.
It's a clitoral vibrator designed to simulate oral sex with a flicking, swirling movement under the silicone skin. The company replaced it with the updated ‘intelligent’ Ora 2 last year, with sensors detecting pressure and increasing or decreasing vibrations accordingly.
The Ora 2 is priced £129 and available from lelo.com.
Brit company MysteryVibe's Crescendo is a customisable sex toy, and that doesn't mean getting it monogrammed.
It's a versatile device designed as the antithesis of the one-size-fits-all idea: it can be bent and twisted into the shape that works best for you. The flexible nature means it can be utilised exactly the way you want (G spot, clitoral stimulation etc) and its six motors can be programmed from your smart phone to vibrate exactly the way you want them to. Or from your partner's smart phone, should you be up for giving away a bit of that control.
Instead of bulky wires and remotes, the vibrator uses Bluetooth to connect and charges using an induction pad, so there's no need for a break in the smooth surface to get access to the batteries (which also makes it completely waterproof). Another initially crowdfunded innovation, it's £129 from mysteryvibe.com with a 20% discount for pre-orders ahead of official release.
On the face (head) of it, the POP dildo might seem like a novelty product – a dildo that ejaculates initially seems quite niche, right? However it has appeal across several communities, as the website points out.
It was developed by Stephanie Berman when she and her wife were trying to conceive. She recognised there was a gap in the market for a product to make the process a little less clinical for those than the old turkey baster method, and more intimate (and cost-effective) than the doctor's office.
She said: “I brought together my experience in the women’s reproductive health industry and a little creativity to invent a product which is not only highly functional, but also provides the intimacy, romance, and fun couples like us were looking for.”
The POP is also an option for men with erectile dysfunction, transgender people and of course, those who simply like the idea of coming on command. It's available in four different colors and currently retails at $139.99, plus a shipping charge for UK deliveries, at popdildo.com.
Nuelle's Fiera Arouser For Her is a sex product with a difference. It's a wearable device designed to help women get aroused before sex, and the company says it's the first wearable product actually proven to aid arousal and naturally enhance sexual desire.
Worn over the clitoris five to 15 minutes before sex, it uses suction and vibration (three patterns and intensities) to stimulate blood flow and lubrication, and is aimed at women who might be frustrated that their body doesn't respond as quickly as they'd like. It's also held in place with a soft silicone ring, so it's actually hands-free.
Unfortunately, it's not available for UK delivery yet, but check back here for shipping updates as the company expect to expand into the UK market in the next year.
Choose your own (happy) ending
These are choose-your-own-path books for the digital age. And for adults, we must stress.
French start-up B.Sensory's Little Bird toy is connected to erotic e-books that can be downloaded via an app – as users read along, they get vibrations to match. In fact, touching or even blowing on the screen as you read triggers different sequences (or it can be used separately).
As a bonus, it's also a sleek design with a quiet motor. It's available in three colours and retails for $99 at b-sensory.com.