I’ve lost count of the number of grumbles I’ve heard about the price of sex toys. Frequently, I recommend a toy to someone, or send them a link to one of my favourite stores only to hear them hiss “Yeeesh, but they’re just so EXPENSIVE!”. It’s true that sex toys can be something of an investment, but there are several good reasons why those little motorized lumps of silicone cost a pretty penny.
Firstly, no sex toy magically beams into existence. Every toy starts as an idea, a concept that has to be realised. And the first step to making that idea a reality is research and design. The creator has to produce initial designs for the toy. Then they need to do some research to ensure that their design will actually do what they want it to. They might need to go back to the drawing board several times until they have a design that actually works. This is especially true with toys that are innovative, that use new technology and are unique in the field. This process can be time-consuming, frustrating and very very costly.
After research and design, you have to pay for the cost of manufacturing. This will involve buying the equipment to make the toys as well as the materials that the toys are made from. Usually sex toy manufacturers will have to create many of their tools and equipment from scratch, because you can’t just pop down to the store and buy all the things you need to make pleasure products. For example, if they’re going to be making dildos, they will first have to create custom molds in the correct shape and size.
When it comes to buying the materials for creating the toys, things can get pricey. The cost of materials varies wildly. For items that are going to be coming in contact with the most intimate parts of the body, it’s vital that any materials chosen are body-safe. Many manufacturers choose medical grade materials, which are substantially more expensive than the lower quality materials. The quality of any motorised components will determine how the toy performs, as well as it’s battery life and noise level. All of these factors are important in creating a toy that consumers will love, so it’s not something you want to skimp on. And of course, the higher the quality and complexity of the components, the more they will cost.
It’s really important to make the distinction here between toys that are manufactured by larger, established companies, and those that are made by small independent retailers. Often the toys that are sold by the independent retailers are more expensive. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it’s practically impossible to get a business loan or research grant to develop sex toys. Usually, the independent creators are outlaying all the initial costs from their own pocket. They don’t have a big company with many income streams to bankroll them. Therefore, they tend to charge more to recover their out-of-pocket costs. Secondly, for smaller creators, it’s often a single person doing most of the work. One person is designing, researching, choosing materials, manufacturing, advertising and selling. If all that work is being done by just one person, or even a small team, then there is a finite limit to how many products they are able to produce and sell. Therefore the cost of each individual toy needs to be higher to cover their costs.
So as you can see, it costs a lot to design, product, test and market sex toys, and those costs are all wrapped up in the price of each toy. But there’s another sneaky reason that sex toys are so pricey. In the last fifteen years or so, sex toys went from being a taboo-brown-paper-bag-from-a-sleazy-store purchase to a luxury pleasure accessory. More and more, sex toys are being talked about, advertised and marketed. They’ve become a status symbol, with a greater value attached to the more glamorous and high-end models. As sex toys morphed from a cheeky secret kept hidden in a drawer to a must-have self-care product, the price tag on luxury toys has crept up. In a lot of cases, the price has been yanked up to keep in step with the image of the exclusive, indulgent purchase that these toys are marketed as. Stores are charging more because people will pay more for a product that they believe to be luxurious and decadent.
Sex toys can be expensive. But when you think about the costs associated with creating, testing and marketing a toy, it actually makes a lot of sense why they cost so much. This is particularly true for the bespoke or custom products created by independent toymakers. Although it can cost a fair bit to buy a toy, I truly believe that it’s much better to pay a little more for a good-quality product than to settle for something cheap and poorly-made. When it comes to sex toys, you really do get what you pay for, and in my experience the pricier items do tend to give you more bang for your buck.