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Toys, lube, rubber: Sex and marketing and the mainstream

The combination of media silly season and the Ashley Madison debacle means a lot of us have had the one thing none of us really like to talk openly about on the mind. Correction- on the mind more than usual.
Sex is a strange cultural nuance. The majority of us over a certain age do it. The lucky ones more than others. It’s quite literally the lifeblood of civilization, the only means by which our species can ensure it will continue past the next generation, and, frankly, the greatest thing in the world. Ever.
Even so, sex remains the source of much embarrassment. We may whisper or discuss under our breath a few intimate secrets and details. But, in Britain at least, chances are that comes after at least four drinks. And only with those we trust the most. Maybe this really is a product of the Victorians and their bizarre denial of primitive urges- when open, frank honesty about sex was a definite no-no, but behind closed doors a notoriously fetishised world existed. Maybe it’s simply because sex is a personal matter. Either way, it’s not often up for discussion.
Slowly, though, the walls surrounding that closed door appear to be coming down. Who remembers the first time they went into a supermarket and realised that, somehow, between the frozen peas and freshly baked artisan bread, they had wound up on an aisle with {lowers voice to a near-inaudible level} ‘enhancement products’? The feeling is akin to the first time you stare at the top shelf in a newsagent and realise you’re staring at the top shelf in a newsagent.
But the revolution is happening. And it’s most definitely televised, and has a marketing department.
Sex & The City has a lot to answer for, with its apparent disregard for what shouldn’t be mentioned regarding the bedroom. But it doesn’t end there. For decades we have been growing increasingly desensitised to sex. Long before 50 Shades of Grey was released as a downloadable eBook- bypassing the awkward moment you explained to a shop assistant “It’s for someone else???.  
Back in 2011, Lovehoney smashed taboos apart by buying pre-watershed TV ad time to sell its sex toys, which raised plenty of eyebrows. Now it might not even be remembered the next day. Even The Observer decided to promote its own ‘sex toy special’ with a broadcast slot last year.
None of which is a bad thing. This isn’t an argument for better censorship on the airwaves, in print and in cinemas. It’s an acknowledgement of how- from vibrators to lube, specialist condoms to things we’re still too bashful to work out what to do with- what was once a backstreet industry is now booming in the mainstream.
Necessity brought ‘protection’ to the high street in a bid to combat STDs. Demand has pulled sex toys and sensual consumables out of seedy video stores. You can walk into Sainsburys and buy pulsating rings for men. You can avoid observing eyes and simply place an order online, and have your chosen toy home delivered without worrying about the postman. Porn packaging has been replaced by sleek, sophisticated boxes that scream ‘contemporary’, rather than ‘deviant’. Even the designs look more Silicone Valley than silicone implants. Unless they’re made from eco-friendly materials…
It’s 2015, and just as it did when Ursula Andress emerged from tropical waters in Dr. No, circa 1962, sex sells in a big way. It’s just now people want to admit it.

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