Sex toys, wine, and cupid.
It’s Valentine’s Day. But instead of cramping into an overpriced restaurant, I am at London’s trendy Libreria bookstore, where a bar and DJ booth have been set up, and sex toys are on display.
The sex toys have been selected by the School of Digital Age (Soda), to launch the company’s move into the sex tech space.
Soda was founded in September 2017 by Grace Gould. It curates and sells tech products. Having worked in consumer electronics manufacturing, Apple retail and start up venture capital, Gould saw a gap in the market in the way technology is marketed to women.
“When women shop for anything else we get an amazing online offer, retail experience and assortment of products,” she says.
“Except in consumer electronics where you either have Apple stores, which are nice but sell you about two things, or Dixons Carphone dodgy carpet experience. You can’t sell sex toys in either of those.”
She adds 83% of purchasing decisions are made by women, which if attributed to the $2.7 trillion technology industry, would be significant. “Male investors ask if women shopping tech is a big enough market, um yea those numbers are pretty big actually.”
Big name brands making an appearance
Soda launched online at sodasays.co.uk and offline at Selfridges, and now has around 70% female customer base. So the company teamed up with blogger Natalie Lee to curate a sex tech collection for women.
It includes Smile Maker’s The Tennis Coach (£39 on Soda), a 100% phthalate-free G-spot vibrator with four speeds and two pulsation modes; and The Fireman (£39), a silent clitoral stimulator with a flame-shaped head that is raised at the tip for greater pressure. This also has four speeds and two pulses.
There is also Unbound’s The Bean (£29), an egg-shaped clitoral stimulator with six vibration settings; Lelo’s Ora 2 (£145), a ring-shaped clitoral stimulator with SenseTouch technology;
MysteryVibe’s 12-setting moldable, music-syncing Crescendo (£129); and Dame Products’ Fin (£70), a small three-speed vibrator, the first Kickstarter let on its platform.
“We had a conversation with Natalie about sex tech and how she wants to be much more open about female pleasure and masturbation, especially with her kids,” Gould said.
“Teenage girls have all this shame around masturbating and female pleasure, and it’s socially constructed. You don’t get STIs, you don’t get put in experiences with men you might not feel comfortable with at a young age, it’s just a really great thing to have a conversation with.”
Soda sent Lee a ‘hamper basket full of vibrators’ to test and the selection was born. “Valentines’ Day was a good time to launch it, so you can focus on yourself rather than getting some uncomfortable underwear you’re never going to wear,” Gould said.
The bookstore is packed all evening with people testing out, and a large majority Instagramming, the toys. Soda does appear to be playing its part in bringing sex tech to the mainstream.
“We made the decision to put sex tech on the front page of our website,” Gould said.
“There’s no ‘are you over 18?, we’re not saying ‘Soda After Dark’, and our whole mailing list receives our sex tech newsletter.”
In Selfridges, Soda sells The Bean in the technology section, rather than in the store’s more discrete Body Studio.
“The majority of customers in the technology section are men but we appeal to a new customer base within that section,” Gould said.
“I know we would not get sign off on a big phallic-shaped dildo in that section but pushing boundaries is hard and change is not going to happen overnight.”
Image sources: SODA and LELO