The new year often signals new opportunities and in the business of pleasure, it seems business is good.
Looking back at some of the hottest trends from last year, sexual wellness company Lovehoney has highlighted what to look out for in 2022 through its annual Sex Trends Report.
With insight from some of Australia's (and the world's) biggest names in sexual wellness, the report makes for some interesting and sexy conversation starters and thoughts as Australians enter their new year with exploration in and out of the bedroom.
"People are challenging the traditional constructs of sex and relationships (which have traditionally been based on social, cultural and/or religious narratives), and looking inward to identify what works for them as a unique individual," Lovehoney's sexual wellness expert and sex and relationship therapist Christine Rafe tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
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The 2022 report explores trends and offers insight into Ethical non-monogamy becoming a more prominent relationship model, with A.I. and space becoming key areas of sexuality exploration and also, how pain relief is rapidly becoming discovered as one important benefit of masturbation.
Also trending is why the time is now to make sexuality accessible for everyone, including those living with disability.
"With social and physical isolation spanning nearly 2-years, there has been a strong focus on mental and emotional health," Christine adds. "This focus has provided space for people to start to consider their own priorities, needs and wants on an individual level, and challenge existing narratives around how we ‘should’ be having and doing sex and relationship(s)."
Let’s take a, ahem, deeper look at each trend:
1. Ethical non-monogamy (ENM) and Fluid Relationships
Relationship models are expanding beyond traditional frontiers, which also has an effect on the types of sexual wellness options available. In the United States, a recent YouGov poll of more than 1,300 adults found that about one-third (32%) stated their ideal relationship as being non-monogamous to some degree.
Sex and relationship expert Abby Moss says Ethical non-monogamy is becoming more widely talked about.
“While alternative relationship styles aren’t for everyone, this broadening of the conversation is helping to create a better understanding of what relationships can be: and what sex can be. Heteronormative assumptions about sex, about what “counts” as sex, are being thrown out and this is giving people of all genders, whether single or in a relationship, a lot more mental freedom to explore sexually.”
2. Masturbation For Pain Relief
Could it be time to throw away that hot water bottle?
Masturbation, with its multiple health benefits including relieving stress and releasing feel-good hormones, is becoming more a part of people’s self-care routine. Orgasms can release chemicals called endorphins, which have pain killing properties.
In 2021, a clinical study by pleasure brand Womanizer looked into Menstrubation (menstruation+masturbation) and asked whether masturbation can help against period pain.
The results found that 90% of those in the study would recommend masturbation to combat period pain.
When asked whether masturbation or medication worked better for period pain, equal numbers favoured each method: 43% chose medication and 42% masturbation. Furthermore, 70% responded that regular masturbation had a long-lasting impact on achieving a lower pain intensity during periods.
3. Environmentally Friendly Sexual Wellness
It turns out people are becoming more environmentally conscious when it comes to their sexual health too, as focus has shifted to what intimate products are made of and how they impact the environment.
According to research firm Technavio, The Global Organic Feminine Care Market is expected to grow by USD 770.61 million during 2020-20243, in an upward revision of the forecast accelerated by the pandemic.
Jessica O'Reilly (Dr. Jess), sexologist & relationship expert comments: “For many, eco-conscious sex involves opting for toys that are rechargeable and made with high quality materials that last for years and even decades! Just as consumers are becoming more aware of manufacturing processes and environmental impact when shopping for clothing, so too are we looking for environmental responsibility and sustainability when it comes to our sex toys and menstrual products”.
4. Wearable Sextech
Research and Development in technology has brought about a sexual revolution designed to bring self-pleasure to the forefront. The popularity of sex toys over the last few years has shown that many have become more comfortable with opening their bedroom doors to technology. A new trend has emerged where an increasing amount of products are designed to be used on the go, when you’re out and about, having a date or during a romantic dinner, breaking the boundaries of more traditional self-pleasure environments.
Some apps, like the free We-Connect App, allows We-Vibe toy users to pair their favourite products to their smartphones. The app also allows partners to control each other’s toys, even if they are not in the same location.
Gives new meaning to the term “booty call”.
5. Accessibility In Sexual Awareness
Sexual-confidence, self-esteem and overcoming physical and emotional barriers can apply to anyone wanting an active sex life, but for people living with disability, these barriers can be even more difficult and has been a previously ignored aspect of health, education and the marketplace.
Candice Care-Unger, Royal Rehab Sexuality Service Team Leader and Psychosexual Therapist and Social Worker, says a sex-positive movement is sweeping society, and people with disability are set to benefit!
“As cultural attitudes and norms around sex change and sexuality is seen as natural and healthy for everybody, there will be greater opportunities for people living with disability to explore their sexuality - free of shame, taboo, and barriers. Demand will drive fantastic new advancements in adaptive sex tech in the coming years that will make pleasure more accessible. Not only will these changes address basic human rights, but with one in five people living with a disability, exciting product innovations make good business sense.”
6. Re-exploring Male Pleasure And Mental Health
The shift in sex toy perception towards a wellness concept has seen females rather than males as the beneficiary of the sextech revolution. The discovery of the clitoris and research into female pleasure, highly stigmatised in previous ages, has seen a boom in sexual wellness within Femtech, which also includes other innovations around the female menstruation cycle.
Male pleasure options have largely been stagnant, however, the liberalisation of society is starting to see an increasing number of men interested in issues such as mental health and sexual wellness. This is likely to become a topic that is bound to be considered serious talk as the modern man leaves behind the old toxic masculinity for a more modern and self-aware mentality when it comes to pleasure.
Cam Fraser, Australia-based male sex coach, provides more insights into how this trend evolves.
"Sex toys for men and people with a penis have historically been erection-oriented and friction-based. Few have challenged the stereotypical sexual scripts of men's sexual experiences. Thankfully, this is starting to shift. A greater awareness of the multifaceted aspect of pleasure, for people of all genders, has seen conversations about male bodies and men's expression of sexuality expand and become more nuanced. This has led to a re-evaluation of male sex toys and the introduction of some unique and innovative products for people with a penis. I anticipate that this will only continue to expand as the shame and lack of sincerity surrounding male masturbation is lifted in the conversations about men's pleasure.”
7. A.I. & Space: The Final Frontier of Sexuality
The digitalisation and commercial exploration of space is bringing about a renewed interest into the sex of the future.
With the dawn of Digisexuals, consumers are proving to be increasingly intimate with tech, not only to connect with humans but with technology, an area traditionally marginalised by space agencies.
Global pleasure brand We-Vibe recently published a paper that puts sextech and toys as the only viable option for self-pleasure in orbit, with potential to deal away with the main obstacles of sex in space: the lack of gravity, lack of privacy, and liquid disposal.
Simon Dubé, from Erobotics, comments that moving forward, space agencies and the public supporting them need to be reminded that approaching questions of human sexuality from a positive, scientific, empathetic and inclusive perspective is paramount to our health, well-being and the success of our extra-terrestrial life.
“Specifically, they need to be reminded that sexual health is health, sexual rights are human rights, sexuality means diversity, pleasure is fun and important and technology can help”.
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