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BusinessSeptember 19, 2019

The rise of the ethical sex toy industry


Covering Climate Now: Vegan lube? Faux feather strokers? Condoms made by employees paid the living wage? Emily Writes delves into the world of having ethical sex. 

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There are many upsides to being vegan, but when it comes to getting down (and by that I mean rooting), it can be quite a challenge finding 100% vegan products.

Vegetarians and vegans were estimated in 2018 to make up about 11% of the world’s population, something which many businesses – including sex toy manufacturers and retailers – have figured out. They’re adapting, and the days of having to pay a fortune for vegan condoms are gone.

Vegans aren’t just getting vegan condoms and lube, but lingerie, dildo harnesses, feather strokers and leather floggers, as well as cruelty-free (for the animals, at least) whips and chokers. The usual vegan plant-based diet, high in zinc and vitamin B, means vegans are horny as. Some vegans even claim – as stated in James Cameron’s documentary film The Game Changers – that vegan diets give you “fuller” erections that last longer.

So, they’re buying large while eating veg.

Adult Toy Megastore’s head of customer satisfaction Sophie McGrath says the online retailer has stocked vegan products for a while but demand has been growing.

“There’s a big demand for entirely vegan whips and floggers made from vinyl and leatherette. A lot of light BDSM and heavier BDSM products are usually made from leather, but we’re noticing now a trend toward animal-friendly silicone whips and floggers made from vegan materials.”

“Silicone is a great material that’s body-safe, easy to clean, and pleasurable. One of our most popular whips is a silicone whip that’s 18 inches long, with four thick strands and bulbed ends. The handle doubles as a dildo.”

What more could you ask for while saving the planet?

Flogging… but make it vegan.

Vegan lingerie is also popular: harnesses and garters, chokers and cuffs usually made of leather are now available in vegan-friendly options. Since its launch in 2016, Bijoux Indiscrets’ range of vegan accessories and lingerie, Maze, has become one of the brand’s best-selling lines. It’s 100% cruelty-free materials have been officially awarded vegan status by the animal rights organisation PETA.

Bijoux Indiscrets was founded in 2006 in Barcelona and states it “doesn’t test on animals” on its website, which is probably ideal when it comes to bondage products and sex toys, right? But it’s not just about leather. Customers are also beginning to ask for animal-friendly lubricant.

“Animal-friendly means a lot of different things for people. Many lubricants are still tested on animals, meaning they’re unable to be awarded the title of vegan-friendly. This includes many of the bigger brands. Some lubes also contain animal byproducts, similar to how many condoms contain casein. Casein is made from milk protein that is used during the manufacturing process,” McGrath explains.

Animal-friendly lubricants like Sliquid Organics are growing in popularity. They’re an aloe-based stimulating lubricant, infused with organic botanical extracts. There are also tropical vegan flavours like H2Jo, that taste like a vag or peen smoothie.

Though for some vegans new to the diet, it’s a big learning curve.

“My policy is that I will do my best to avoid things with animal products in it, but I’m not going to pay ridiculous money because of it or restrict myself 100%,” says Northland resident Jared Taylor, who’s been vegan for almost three years. “Also, there’s the fact of even knowing if a product is vegan or not, cause apart from leather, I wouldn’t have actually even thought about these products being vegan, especially if I’m not eating them.”

Few might know that condoms aren’t usually vegan. Vegan condoms like Glyde contain no animal byproducts, but that’s not where the ethical responsibility ends. Founded in 1990, Glyde is an Australian owned and operated company that got in early with socially responsible products. The natural rubber used in making Glyde condoms is sourced from Fair Trade farms and the technicians who make their condoms are paid a living wage.

Glyde, vegan condoms

While the trends might be new, investing with purpose and ethical consumerism is already becoming mainstream. That’s because younger consumers demand it, with research finding that more than six in 10 younger consumers closely consider a company’s ethical values before buying their products.

“Consumers are no longer making decisions based solely on product selection or price; they’re assessing what a brand says, what it does and what it stands for. They support companies whose brand purpose aligns with their beliefs. And they reject those that don’t.” The study of 30,000 consumers in 35 countries found.

Younger consumers, particularly Gen Z (75%), are driving this trend. And those decisions are made in the bedroom too – regardless of diet.

The longevity of toys is also being considered with some folks steering away from plastic. As a result, glass, metal, and stone dildos have become more popular. Cheap plastic is on its way out.

“I look after the longevity of my toys by treating them well,” says Nelson resident Elise Mackenzie who says she cares about the planet as well as her sex toy collection. “I try to do research on the company, how they treat their team as well as how they test their products. The info is super hard to come by but I’d love to have access to that information from the store I buy from if possible.”

Michaela Eileen, also ethical consumer, agrees. She says she always does her research before purchasing products and only uses vegan condoms as they’re not tested on animals.

“Anything that I insert into my body (bar the cellphone I put up once when drinking to see if it would get reception) I make sure is ethical. Ethical penises too,” she says.

Making sure the dick you get is ethical too might just be the next step in green sex. But in the meantime, vegan strap-ons might be the answer for now.

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