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Friday, April 14, 2006

Lingerie market remains upbeat in tight economic picture

With France's clothing market suffering a drawback in demand as much as other sectors, it is surprising to see one clothing line standing out with quite consistent sales returns year in and year out.

The French lingerie market has seen items such as bras, corsetry, panties and nightwear fly off the racks and shelves in a remarkably robust fashion, with annual overall sales hitting a respectable Euros 2.5 billion (US$3 billion) in flat growth in 2003.

The dynamic end of the lingerie market is the young women's segment, where volume sales have risen about 10% in aggregate over two years.

The most in-demand items for the younger shopper are push up bras and strings, as well as renewable items.

Lingerie, in fact, represents almost 20% of women's clothing spending, with about a quarter of those sales down to promotions and discounts.

Given the realities of the overall market, domestic producers are under pressure from lower-priced Chinese, North African and Eastern European suppliers. Some products, mainly from Morocco and Tunisia, are often sub-contracted from French and other EU producers, with these locations acting as assembly stations for pre-cut goods.

Inevitably, mass distribution, discounting and own-labels are the watchwords in this fast-turnaround business, with hypermarkets and specialized chains dominating the distribution chain.

Among the 25.8 million female population of France, the 35-to-44 age group account for 17.4% of sales, but this group is only marginally ahead of the 25-to-34 age group and just two percent above the 15-to-24 age group, which is growing up fast.

From 2002 to the present it seems that younger women spend far more than their older sisters, with 15-to-24-year-olds paying Euros 152.5 (US$186) per head for lingerie a year, compared to the average across all age groups of Euros 98.7 (US$120.4).

Bras comprise the largest sales market, representing 45% of the entire sector, with some 60 million units sold annually.

Imports have indeed been on the increase, with Tunisia providing 21% of the market, and China ranking second with 13%.

Briefs and panties, representing 30% of the lingerie sector, see about 122 million units sold annually, with the market sustained by a strong increase in string undies in recent years.

Sex Toy Report Tops Whitney’s Really Bad Week


If getting sued for nonpayment of rent weren’t bad enough for a one-time superstar then how about pictures of your crack den bathroom (complete with empty beer bottles, pipes, rolling papers, and powder-covered spoons) running in a national tabloid? However for Houston it gets worse, much worse.

Her sister-in-law Tina Brown sold her sister out to the National Enquirer with stories how Whitney spends much of her time pleasuring herself with sex toys in her bedroom and abusing drugs. Ouch!

And now Fox News is reporting that Houston is basically broke. Unlike other superstars of her era, Houston did not tour much nor did she write any of her own songs. She has basically lived off album sales and once that those have taken a nose dive she had nothing to offset her enormous expenses.

Update: Some joker reports that this is Whitney’s rebuttal and they were nice enough to point us to Gawker that had these nice bathroom photos. Martha Stewart she is not.

The Future of Gay Adult E-commerce

A few years ago, we were all promised that the Internet would change our lives forever, making everything easier and faster. Although that Utopia remains to be seen, the Internet has forever changed the way we get our porn - but it's important to remember that the Web is still in its infancy.

The next decade will bring sweeping advances in adult e-commerce, and the gay sector will be no exception. With the gradual integration of computers and digital televisions, and more people getting high-speed connections, videos-on-demand will become so commonplace that your local video store will seem like an ancient relic. Services like these however, will only be one aspect of gay adult sites, and no one knows for sure which emerging trends will stick and which ones will flop.

So while we're all waiting around for the perfect Internet we've been promised, how do we keep our gay adult sites on the cutting edge? "I think the primary ingredients for success in the gay site market in the days to come will be innovative concepts and themes, quality content, and good customer service," says Quentin Boyer, Director of Public Relations for TopBucks.com and Cyberheat, Inc. (www.topbucks.com). "Reality sites are hot right now, in large part due to the novelty of the site concepts. I think reality sites will continue to sell well as long as people continue to come up with fresh ideas for site themes and provide end users with a compelling product in terms of the quality of the content itself."

So what types of content will sell best? "Video content, especially content that is exclusive to the site in question, is rapidly becoming the primary selling point in this market," says Boyer. "Any marketing technique that emphasizes the unique and/or unusual nature of the site and its content is going to be the strongest technique. Hitting people with big numbers on your site with hyped up text and graphics - like buttons that say "1 Million XXX Pics!" - is dead; focus on your site's quality and the aspects that separate your site from the pack. Anybody can offer a ton of cheap content," Boyer continues, "so focus your appeal on what makes your site different - and if there's nothing that makes your site different, don't be too surprised if it does not succeed."

Innovation will certainly be a key factor in setting your site apart from the ever-growing pack. "Gay surfers may simply be looking for more originality," says Andy Fair, President of DickMag.com and DirtyBoyVideo.com (www.DickMag.com). "They certainly demand original content once they have joined a site! I don't think they are as susceptible to joining the first site they see with a naked body on it - they want to know their membership fee has value. The site needs to give the surfer both what they expect - live feeds, plug-in 'zines, and the like - while also providing original stuff they can't get anywhere else. Look at the really successful gay sites - their domain name is branded, not their affiliate program. They have very distinct personalities and styles, both in the types of models they offer and in the look of their marketing."

It's the entire package that counts here, and branding is the buzzword. The days of generic gay sites are numbered, if not entirely finished. "Right now, a lot of Sponsor Program companies are dumping gay traffic on cookie-cutter pages and can't figure out why it doesn't work," says Fair. "A company boasting '200 new sites a week!' may have been successful with straight sites, but with gay surfers it's different. It amazes me that a lot of webmasters will send their valuable traffic to a big affiliate program without any idea what the gay domain names are. I have actually heard a straight webmaster who did just that, and then turn around and say, 'there's no money in gay'."

We all know that's not true, but amazingly enough there are still webmasters who feel that way, because they just don't understand their target audience. "The truth is, there's no money in generic gay front-door pages," explains Fair. "The money is in sending traffic to sites where surfers join because they like the site's content. The money is in sending traffic to sites where members stay month after month because they get what they expect, what they were promised, and what they can't get anywhere else." This brings us to the next, and perhaps most important, aspect of the future of gay adult e-commerce - customer service.

If you're rolling your eyes right now, you should be worried about your future in this industry. It's true, we've heard it all before, and you may think you've already stepped up in the customer service arena - but surfers are going to be looking for even more individualized treatment in the years to come. "Customer service is crucial," says Boyer, "because customers are very wary of scams and tired of receiving shoddy service. While people appreciate the anonymity of the Net, they still want to be treated with the sort of courtesy and respect they would expect to receive if they were standing right in front of you." If surfers can't even figure out how to contact someone at your company with a question, you can bet they're not going to join (or renew with) your site.

The same goes for shady billing practices and unclear membership terms. "As far as any adult sites go," says Fair; "any tricks and techniques that jerk the surfer around are on the way out. They never worked very well with gay traffic anyway. I'm speaking about cross-sells on join pages, misleading free trial offers and the like. This process has only served to punish and abuse surfers that actually want to be our customers. Even worse are all these sponsor programs promising payouts of $30 or more per free sign-up. Yeah, right. They shave, and everyone knows it. So now, not only are they abusing the customer you sent them, they are also abusing you."

Abuse is certainly not something that adult webmasters will put up with, so why would your customers? "The result of these practices is a marketplace where surfers don't trust making online purchases, webmasters don't trust sponsor programs, and Visa and MasterCard don't trust anything or anyone in the industry. This has made business more expensive and just plain hard for everyone; especially sites actually trying to provide legitimate services. A webmaster wants to work with a company that provides customers a good product, not just trick them into giving out their credit card number."

With so many excellent gay adult Web companies exceeding expectations in the area of service, no one needs to bother with questionable business practices anymore; they will simply take their gay dollars elsewhere. The future of gay e-commerce is not just about the new bells and whistles coming down the pike - in fact, waiting for those new technologies to save the day is like waiting for Godot - an exercise in futility. Focus on innovation and creative content, redouble your customer service efforts, stay aware and flexible in the changing marketplace, and suddenly you will find yourself right there - in the future.

alentine's Day Sexy Lingerie Gifts

Lingerie is a great Valentine's Day gift - actually, it is the gift that truly keeps on giving.

Not every woman feels comfortable with baring her bottom in a sexy thong.

When picking lingerie as a Valentine's Day gift, put some thought into what body parts your girlfriend feels most comfortable with.

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If she has great legs, something short like a baby doll or short chemise would be perfect. If she has good cleavage, buy her a halter or bustier style bra for Valentine's Day. Toned arms are best displayed with a camisole.

Black, red and white (or off-white) look good on almost everyone and make a perfect Valentine's Day gift. Blondes look great in pastels, and brunettes can carry off stronger colors like purple and emerald green. Redheads do best with greens, blues and earthy tones, say About.com experts.

If you like touching the garment, she'll like wearing it. Velvet, silk and satin have lots of tactile appeal and are great as Valentine's Day lingerie gift.

The best way to find the correct size is to ask. Or you can snoop around the lingerie drawer to find the sizes of stuff she already owns.

Don't forget to wrap your Valentine's Day gift (or have it professionally wrapped) with beautiful paper and a lots of lush tissue paper. You can get creative and make bags or baskets with related items, like a book of poetry, a bottle of champagne or great-smelling body products and candle.

Hot Valentine Lingerie Trends

As Love's national holiday approaches, Frederick's of Hollywood, the expert on romance and lingerie, weighs in on what's hot (and what's not) this season.

Frederick's of Hollywood celebrates Valentines Day 2005 with style. As Love's national holiday approaches, Frederick's of Hollywood, the expert on romance and lingerie, weighs in on what's hot (and what's not) this season. Direct from Hollywood, the birthplace of American glamour, the specialty lingerie purveyor offers trend advice on choosing a gift that will make her fall in love all over again.

Beautiful Details:
With high fashion all around her - from magazines to red carpet couture - every woman in America is fashion savvy and these days, nothing gets by her. It's all in the details - glamorous prints, contrasting stitching and intricate lace. Frederick's of Hollywood stylist, Nicole Craig, notes that to make a gift go from "nice to have" to a fashion "must have", choose items that show extra attention to the details, such as a silk chemise with fine lace and beading.

Luxury:
Valentine's Day is certainly the time when extravagance is in high demand, and as luxury items continue on their meteoric rise, it's a sure bet for a well-received Valentine's gift. Says Craig, "The great thing about luxury is that you can find it in the most surprising and affordable ways. A touch of satin or jeweled detail speaks volumes without making a serious impact on your wallet. Lingerie is a wonderfully affordable indulgence."

Lighten Up:
Valentine's Day is a harbinger of spring, so lighten up! Your palette for the day can swing from passionate red to a light, flirty pink. If corsets or silk slips don't suit her personality, go for a flirty infusion of fun with boyshorts, camisole tops that go from the bedroom to the bagel shop, and sweet pastel-hued flyaway babydolls.

Glamour:
Hollywood glamour to be exact. These days it's all about the stars and what they are wearing. The biggest trend in Hollywood? Innerwear as outerwear: corsets with cargo pants, beautiful bras peeking out from beneath jackets and tops, and lingerie cami tops over jeans. It's the perfect opportunity get a Valentine's gift she'll love, and love to wear all the time.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

British bars home to sex-toy vending machines

London - Bars and night clubs in London and other British cities have begun using vending machines that sell sex toys such as small vibrators.

The pink Tabooboo machines had previously been used in public toilets in Britain under the assumption that such settings gave buyers some privacy.

But Geoff Todd, manager of the Alphabet Bar in London's West End, said the Tabooboo machine it installed in the middle of the bar was used daily.

"Some people use it just because it's in the bar. Some make a special journey, maybe because they are to embarrassed to go into a sex shop," Todd was quoted as saying by Monday's The Guardian newspaper.
It's been a great success
"Some buy the toys because they are a novelty, some for a laugh, some as presents. It's been a great success."

In addition to bars and night clubs in London, Manchester and Newcastle, the vending machines also have begun to show up in hairdressing salons, health clubs and retail stores, Tabooboo managing director Alan Lucas said.

The company also has exported about 20 machines to Italy and 10 to the US.

"The younger generation isn't fazed by sex toys. They don't believe they equal pornography. Vending machines allow them to buy such products anonymously and without having to go to a sex shop," Lucas said.

The 11 different toys in the vending machines sell for an average £5 (about R54) each, Lucas said. - Sapa-AP

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Shopping for Plus Size Erotic Lingerie Online

Being overweight no longer excludes you from wearing sexy lingerie and thanks to the internet shopping for plus size erotic lingerie has never been easier.

Often it is difficult to find larger sizes in brick and mortar stores and when you do it is a petite woman with a "perfect" figure is staffing the lingerie boutique - something that can make a Rubenesque woman feel self-conscious shopping for plus size sexy lingerie. There is no lack of exotic sexy plus size lingerie on the Internet. You can find a plus size teddy or garter set or a sexy plus size costume with just a few clicks of your mouse.

Wearing sexy lingerie can be a boost to your self-confidence and put a spark in your relationship. Knowing that you are wearing such sexy clothing under your regular clothes puts you in control of your body and your sexuality and if you drop hints to your mate in the morning about what you are wearing he will be eager to see you in (or out of) full regalia by evening.

When you shop online, you will easily find erotic sexy plus size lingerie to fit every size. Most regular stores do not have the space to carry a very wide selection of plus size clothing, but online retailers are better able to satisfy the needs of everyone because they can work with different manufacturers and drop shippers to find sizes and styles for every body type.

The lingerie size charts on most sites make it easy to understand the size you need. For example, when you want to order a plus size bra, the sites will often give detailed instructions on how to take your measurements to ensure you get the perfect fit.

The best thing about shopping for your plus size erotic lingerie online is that many times you will not have to pay extra for the larger size like you do in retail brick and mortar stores.

There has been tremendous growth in recent years in the plus size lingerie industry in both quantity and quality. Not too long ago there were very few choices for big beautiful women for looking sexy and now there are whole stores dedicated to large size sexy costumes and garters and more. Plus size women can now enjoy feeling feminine and pretty underneath their everday clothing too.

How Sexy Lingerie Works – Going Undercover

How does sexy lingerie work? Well, maybe you need to talk to the man who’s looking at it for that answer. After all, he’s the one it’s designed for, isn’t it? The answer to that question is – well, yes…and no. Throughout the ages, lingerie has been designed to make women look sexy. Of course, it has practical value, too. So let’s look at both sides and see what we come up with.

The goal of the lingerie industry
The lingerie industry is a massive industry these days. Its original goal was to create underwear that looks sexy, while still remaining practical. For years, they couldn’t seem to put the two together. For the most part, lingerie accentuated the parts of the woman’s body that it was intended to accentuate. However, it was also extremely painful. In fact, it was downright dangerous. Women had to go through torturous trussing of their tightly-laced torsos to make themselves look sexy. So they had control, but no comfort.

You see, the lingerie industry wasn’t really an industry per se in those days. But then, they didn’t really achieve their goal, either. They only got halfway. But they were dictated to by the fashion “experts”. And if they wanted to make money, they had to create what women wanted. So that’s what they did.

How things have changed for the lingerie industry today. They’ve come a long way since whale-boned corsets. The lingerie they make today is definitely sexy, and it’s definitely comfortable. And it’s definitely successful. Check out these figures (pun intended!).

In 2003, according to the NPD Group, a marketing information company, Americans spent $4.4 billion on bras. The NPD Group also found that lingerie sales in general were up 5% in 2003, which is quite surprising, seeing as how the overall clothing industry was down 4%. But women are feeling more freedom and expressing themselves accordingly.

Lingerie is showing up everywhere
Sexy lingerie can be seen all over the place, at small specialty shops, at large department stores, in mail-order catalogs, online – there’s no shortage of choices when it comes to sexy underwear. You can buy sexy bras, sexy panties, sexy nylon stockings – whole outfits exuding an “I’m beautiful and attractive” call from the wearer.

And through all this, the lingerie industry continues to give people what they want – no matter what it is. There are three kinds of lingerie, catering to different markets. They are:

Sensible lingerie: This kind is more practical than sexy, and is bought for exactly that purpose. Women who buy this kind aren’t necessarily not sexy – they just believe that there’s a time and a place for everything, and when they wear sensible lingerie, you can be sure that it isn’t the time or the place.

Sexy lingerie: This kind is worn by women who want the practicality of everyday underwear, but also like the idea that they’re wearing something sexy that nobody else knows about. It gives them a sense that they have a sexy side waiting to emerge, even though they have to act practical throughout the day. For many women, it’s a great confidence-builder.

Naughty lingerie: The last kind of lingerie is to be worn on special occasions only. Unless, of course, you’re an exotic dancer, in which case you wear it at work every day. Naughty lingerie is usually reserved for those special occasions with a loved one, where you want to step outside the boundaries for one night, and just let go and have some harmless fun.

Another popular place for lingerie is at a wedding shower. It’s so much fun to present the bride-to-be with some sexy bridal lingerie, and watch her face go red with embarrassment. Not to mention her mother’s look of shock.

But no matter where they buy it, or what they buy it for, sexy lingerie is definitely a big marketplace. And speaking of big, there’s a market for plus size sexy lingerie, too. Just because a woman might be a little bigger than other women, that doesn’t mean that she’s any less beautiful when she wears sexy lingerie. She can put on a plus size bra, or any other plus size lingerie, and her man will come a-runnin’.

Lingerie around the world
The lingerie business is exploding all over the world. There are new lines constantly being created in Europe, as well as some very hot items from the “hot” capital of the world, Brazil. But as hot and sexy as this lingerie is, it’s also practical. Again, the industry achieves it’s goal.

It’s no surprise that Paris, France, the place of romance, is also the lingerie capital of the world. It’s interesting to note that 88% of French women buy lingerie as a treat, while 87% buy it as a necessary part of their wardrobe. It’s obvious that, again, the lingerie industry has achieved it’s goal of dual-purpose underwear.

And here’s another sign of France being a leader in the lingerie industry. Galeries Lafayette, a department store in Paris, has just added an 8500 square foot lingerie section in its main store. It sports 80 different brands of sexy underwear. Women can buy sexy nylon stockings, panty hose, bikini thongs, sexy panties, sexy bras – the list goes on and on. This department not only has a fascinating array of sexy lingerie, it also has a nail bar and a Chanel beauty center. It even has two male sales associates to help the red-faced man shopping for something hot for his sweetheart.

Lingerie – the anywhere underwear
Sexy lingerie is everywhere these days. In a way, it’s getting harder to find because it’s getting so small! Lingerie has come a long way, but it goes such a short way. Just look at thong underwear for example. And it doesn’t stop there. How about thong swimwear? The daring have taken to the beaches.

Lingerie is quite a general term. It could mean just plain jockey underwear. And that doesn’t mean men’s underwear – jockey makes women’s underwear, too. Everybody’s getting in on the act. And why not? The act is obviously part of a very successful play – a play that’s running not just on Broadway, but all over the world. And the audience is crying “Encore! Encore!”

So that’s it in brief! Lingerie – underwear that’s comfortable and practical – and very sexy!

About The Author
Gareth Marples is a successful freelance writer providing valuable tips and advice for consumers purchasing plus size lingerie, bras and panties, sexy thong panties and thong bikinis. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.

Hot Lingerie Trends

Just like other areas of the fashion industry, there is always something new and exciting on the horizon for lingerie. From the beautiful to the weird, here are a few of the newest highlights in lingerie fashion.



One of the more popular moves with lingerie is to take it out of the bedroom. Wearing camisoles and corsets around in public is deemed Clubwear lingerie, and seems to be taking a hold of many areas. Just make sure all the appropriate bits are covered - you don't want to get arrested!



Another way to show your lingerie is through the use of bows and tassels on pieces. Low rider jeans help with this, and a there are a growing number of thongs, panties, and bustier that have parts mean to be shown. These types of lingerie also seem to run for a higher price, so you would have even more incentive to show it all off!



One big trend is accessories and accents. You can't get away with just plain old lingerie - crystals, sequence, straps, fur, fine lace, and almost anything you can imagine is thrown onto lingerie. This makes for an infinity creative design and gives you plenty of options for choosing the perfect piece!



Baby dolls, boy shorts, and camisoles are in high demand. This goes hand in hand with the trend of wearing your lingerie around. Lighter colors and more playful designs are in vogue, with pastels taking a clear lead over other colors.



Thongs have been big for quite awhile, and with an even large variety of styles and fashions being designed, it just keeps on going. More and more women are discovering that thongs really aren't that uncomfortable (for the most part) and are wearing thongs for everyday activities as well.



Corsets corsets corsets! The demand for corsets is greater than ever, and with the hybrid camisole corset you don't have to worry about a pinching tight fit.



The last big trend for this year is the full ensemble. This seems to be brought about by women on the go that don't want to waste time picking out each and every last accessory for their lingerie.
This includes robe and lingerie sets, baby dolls, chemises, and gowns.



This year is an exciting one for lingerie trends, and it will definately help you spark some excitement in the bedroom!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Customers of Adult Store Intimidated

Organizer and Abilene citizen Phillip Cosby initially recruited 80 other men to join him in a 100-day campaign of picketing near the Lion's Den entrance just off Interstate 70. Today, the group has swelled to over 140 local men and women committed to one- and two-hour shifts near the store location. Cosby says the goal is a simple one: Encourage potential customers to reconsider pulling into the parking lot. CFSCV members hold large signs proclaiming to motorists, "Think Again or We Will Report." The sign warns truckers and corporate travelers that their companies and bosses will be contacted about employee activities at the porn store.

Cosby claims that they are successful, reducing customer traffic by 30% so far. I wonder how he can know that? I also wonder to what degree such attempted intimidation is or even should be "protected speech." It's one thing to say "you shouldn't go here because of..." and offer reasons. It's another, I think, to say "if you go here I'll report you to others who might take action against you." Personally, if I saw that happening, I'd go to the store and buy something just to help them out - even if I agreed that people shouldn't patronize the store.

Owner of adult shop promises improvement

KITTERY, Maine - Capital Video Group, the parent company of the Route 236 adult video store Amazing.net, said it will double its efforts to patrol the area surrounding the shop.
In a letter sent to Town Manager Jon Carter on Jan. 13, Lesley S. Rich, the company抯 general counsel, stated that Capital Video Corp. "is very sensitive to the needs of the communities in which we do business."

"It is a strict policy that our employees consistently police the property surrounding (Amazing.net), and we will double our efforts to (ensure) that this is done on a routine basis," the letter reads. It goes on to say that store employees will also expand the area they monitor for "inappropriate trash."

Amazing.net has been under scrutiny since last year when residents complained to town officials that they had been finding used condoms and other sex-related items on the side of the road. Neighbors also complained of cars being parked near their homes at various hours of the day and reported witnessing people acting suspiciously and urinating and masturbating in public.

These complaints prompted the Town Council to take action at its last meeting, agreeing to hold a public hearing on Jan. 23 on whether to restrict parking in the area.

The letter from Capital Video Corp. also stated that the company had not heard of these complaints before Carter contacted it earlier this month.

"Certainly, (the abutters) could have come to us directly for resolution to these issues," the letter stated.

Town officials are also considering an ordinance that would prohibit curtains or doors in front of video viewing areas in adult stores like Amazing.net. Police believe that eliminating closed-door viewing rooms would put a stop to some of the recent complaints.

The letter sent by Capital Video Corp. made no mention of curtained areas in the store or the proposed ordinance.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Sex Toys Only a Geek Could Love

When I got my electric sex toy kit from Blowfish.com, I turned into the porn version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, becoming my own depraved experimental subject.
After a spending a few psychotic days at DefCon, the hacker convention in Las Vegas, I returned to my office to find a hefty package waiting for me from Blowfish (www.blowfish.com). Inside, I discovered a low-amperage, high-voltage generator, one large, unipolar electrode, and one small, bipolar "shield." Various Y connectors had been tossed in for good measure. Were these components for some kind of robot? Did I need an oscilloscope? What's the point of a low-amp generator anyway?

To truly comprehend the meaning of my special delivery, however, I had to do something no self-respecting techno-geek would ever do: read the instruction booklet that lay nestled beneath the generator in its bed of Styrofoam peanuts. The cover of the thick pamphlet read, "Guide to Electric Sex."

This was a collection of electronic components that only a geek could love -- quite literally. Created by Folsom Electric Company for the devious mad scientists at Blowfish, these electric sex toys are an underground fetish phenomenon that appeals to the sorts of people whose first sex fantasies were inspired by science fiction. I'll confess I'm one of those people. I mean, who wouldn't get hot watching Barbarella stuck inside a machine that rips off her clothes and gives her seemingly hundreds of orgasms? Or watching Julie Christie being molested by an A.I. in Demon Seed (a.k.a. Proteus Generation)? And what about that part in the book Brain, by Robin Cook, where the mad doctors "condition" their victims using shocks delivered via electrodes buried in the pleasure centers of their brains? And don't even get me started on all the robot sex in anime videos.

Let's face it: there's something sexy about the idea of dosing people with pleasure using machines. We live in a culture that adores technology, that sucks up alternating current as if it were a drug. And given our total dependence on electricity, it makes sense that eventually somebody would start associating electricity with the kind of raging, brutal, uncontrollable vulnerability that we call erotic desire.

Needing something intensely -- the way we need electricity -- produces a fear of losing it that is akin to arousal. We fear blackouts the way we fear being abandoned by a lover, and that fear creates the same kind of frantic, helpless lust. What if we had a blackout at the office on deadline, resulting in chaos and economic doom? The thought inspires a tiny tingle of terror not unlike the feeling you get when the object of your desire is lost, then returns with a shocking kiss.

Alright, enough philosophizing. Looking at that generator made me want to electrocute the hell out of myself. I wanted to be like the porn version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, becoming my own depraved experimental subject.

Setting the thing up was as satisfying as building my own computer, except a lot easier. There was no CPU to install, no exposed motherboard to pore over, no concern that the various devices involved would mess one another up. I used my primitive knowledge of electrical engineering -- how to make a circuit, for example -- to figure out how to make my muscles tense up using the unipolar electrode with the bipolar shield. Actually, I could use the shield on its own, since it created its own circuit.

I ran the flat shield over my arms and hands, changing the intensity and frequency of the current on the generator so that the sensations ranged from throbbing to biting, burning to seething. Using the electrode with the shield, I created circuits that ran through my thighs, my lower arm, my belly. (You have to keep the current below your waist, because if it runs through your chest it can cause a heart attack.)

For obvious reasons, it was titillating to have a device that combined two of my passions: sexual and scientific experimentation. And the sensations it produced were certainly unlike anything I'd ever inflicted on myself before. But it wasn't technically sexual. I found the device inflamed my imagination far more than my body. I liked the idea that I could use it to make somebody's muscles move against their will. And I was very keen to play electrodes and dials with another hapless victim in my lab.

Later that night my dreams were full of bodies penetrated by wires, and skin that burned my tongue with electrical current when I licked it. Back in the 19th century, our pal Freud wrote that everybody harbors the unconscious desire to have sex with their parents, mostly because they are our earliest sources of pleasure and physical comfort. But more than 100 years after Freud, I think it's obvious that our unconscious desires have mutated. These days, machines power our fantasies. And electricity has become a sex toy.

Getting (Too) Dirty in Bed

Many of our favorite sex toys are made with decidedly unhealthy chemicals. Is it time to kick the toxins out of the sack?
So you're an Enlightened Green Consumer. You buy organic food and carry it home from the local market in string bags. Your coffee is shade-grown and fair-trade, your water's solar-heated, and your car is a hybrid. But what about the playthings you're using for grown-up fun between those organic cotton sheets -- how healthy and environmentally sensitive are they?

Few eco-conscious shoppers consider the chemicals used to create their intimate devices. Yes, those things -- from vibrators resembling long-eared bunny rabbits to sleeves and rings in shapes ranging from faux female to flower power. If these seem like unmentionables, that's part of the problem: while some are made with unsafe materials, it's tough to talk about that like, well, adults.

But it's necessary. Unlike other plastic items that humans put to biologically intimate use -- like medical devices or chew-friendly children's toys -- sex toys go largely unregulated and untested. And some in the industry say it's time for that to change.

Love Stinks

Many popular erotic toys are made of polyvinyl chlorides (PVC) -- plastics long decried by eco-activists for the toxins released during their manufacture and disposal -- and softened with phthalates, a controversial family of chemicals. These include invitingly soft "jelly" or "cyberskin" items, which have grown popular in the last decade or so, says Carol Queen, Ph.D., "staff sexologist" for the San Francisco-based adult toy boutique Good Vibrations. "It's actually difficult for a store today to carry plenty of items and yet avoid PVC," Queen says. "Its use has gotten pretty ubiquitous among the large purveyors, because it's cheap and easy to work with."

In recent years, testing has revealed the potentially serious health impacts of phthalates. Studies on rats and mice suggest that exposure could cause cancer and damage the reproductive system. Minute levels of some phthalates have been linked to sperm damage in men, and this year, two published studies linked phthalate exposure in the womb and through breast milk to male reproductive issues.

A study in 2000 by German chemist Hans Ulrich Krieg found that 10 dangerous chemicals gassed out of some sex toys available in Europe, including diethylhexyl phthalates. Some had phthalate concentrations as high as 243,000 parts per million -- a number characterized as "off the charts" by Davis Baltz of the health advocacy group Commonweal. "We were really shocked," Krieg told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Marketplace in a 2001 report on the sex-toy industry. "I have been doing this analysis of consumer goods for more than 10 years, and I've never seen such high results."

The danger, says Baltz, is that heat, agitation, and extended shelf life can accelerate the leaching of phthalates. "In addition, [phthalates are] lipophilic, meaning they are drawn to fat," he says. "If they come into contact with solutions or substances that have lipid content, the fat could actually help draw the phthalates out of the plastic." Janice Cripe, a former buyer for Blowfish -- a Bay Area-based online company whose motto is "Good Products for Great Sex" -- confirms the instability of jelly toys: "They would leak," she says. "They'd leach this sort of oily stuff. They would turn milky" and had a "kind of plasticky, rubbery odor." She stopped ordering many jelly toys during her time at Blowfish, even though their lower prices made them popular.

So what's being done to protect consumers? Well, nothing. While the U.S., Japan, Canada, and the European Union have undertaken various restrictions regarding phthalates in children's toys, no such rules exist for adult toys. In order to be regulated in the U.S. under current law, sex toys would have to present what the federal government's Consumer Product Safety Commission calls a "substantial product hazard" -- essentially, a danger from materials or design that, in the course of using the product as it's made to be used, could cause major injury or death. But if you look at the packaging of your average mock penis or ersatz vagina, it's probably been labeled as a "novelty," a gag gift not intended for actual use. That's an important semantic dodge that allows less scrupulous manufacturers to elude responsibility for potentially harmful materials, and to evade government regulation. If you stick it somewhere it wasn't meant to go, well -- caveat emptor, baby!

It's a striking lack of oversight for a major globalized industry. The Guardian recently estimated that 70 percent of the world's sex toys are manufactured in China, and the CBC's 2001 report suggested the North American market might be worth $400 million to $500 million.

More detailed figures can be hard to come by. "In the U.S., all of the companies that manufacture adult novelties, whether they're mom-and-pop or large corporations, are privately held," explains Philip Pearl, publisher and editor in chief of AVN Adult Novelty Business, a trade magazine. "None are required to publish financial information, and none do."

Queen thinks the lack of agreed-upon standards is a major problem. She and the staff at Good Vibrations have often had to fall back on marginally relevant regulations. "I remember trying in the early '90s to track down information on an oil used on beautiful hand-carved wooden dildos -- was it safe to put into the body?" she says. "The closest comparison we could find was the regulation governing wooden salad utensils!"

Taking Things Into Their Own Hands

Metis Black, president of U.S.-based erotic-toy manufacturer Tantus Silicone, has written on the health risks of materials for Adult Novelty Business. "Self-regulation -- eventually we've got to do it," says Black, who adds that creating safe toys is what got her into the business about seven years ago. "Just like children's teething toys, we're going to have to start doing the dialogue" within the industry, Black says, to "discuss what's in toys and how it affects customers." Otherwise, she feels, government regulators will step in.

While the industry wrestles with such issues, some manufacturers and suppliers aren't waiting for regulations. Tony Levine, founder of Big Teaze Toys, says he's made his products -- including the cutely discreet, soft-plastic vibrator I Rub My Duckie -- phthalate-free from the start. "While working at Mattel as a toy designer, I was made very aware of the concerns of using only safe materials for children's products," he says. "This training has stuck with me ... We take great pride in using only the materials which meet strict toxicity safety standards for both the U.S. and the E.U."

Meanwhile, if customers select jelly playthings at Babeland, a retailer with stores in Los Angeles, New York City, and Seattle, the staff gives them a tip sheet on phthalates, and recommends using a condom with the toy. "Our goal is to help people make an educated choice, and give out as much information as we can find -- without alarming people," says Abby Weintraub, an associate manager at the company's Soho store.

Babeland staff also steer willing customers toward phthalate-free alternatives, such as hard plastic, or the silicone substitute VixSkin. Some manufacturers are also using thermoplastic elastomers instead of PVC. Vibratex recently reformulated the popular Rabbit Habit dual-action vibrator -- made famous on Sex and the City -- with this material. Vibratex co-owner Daniel Martin says the company has always used "superior grade," stable PVC formulations, and still considers the products safe, but acknowledges that customers are eager for phthalate-free tools. While alternative materials can be more expensive, Weintraub says when people have the option of choosing them, many do.

The owners of the Smitten Kitten, a Minneapolis-based retailer, opted not to carry jellies, cyberskins, or other potentially toxic toys at all when they opened about two years ago. "They're dangerous to human health, to the environment," says co-owner Jennifer Pritchett. "It's part of our philosophy to put good things in the world, and it's counter to that to sell things that are toxic."

No Sex Please, We're Skittish

So what are the other alternatives for eco-conscious pleasure-seekers? The most ecologically correct choices may be metal or hardened glass dildos -- which, with their elegant, streamlined shapes (and sometimes hefty price tags) can double as modernist sculptures if you grow weary of their sensual charms. "The glass is going to be more lasting, possibly safer, and less toxic than something that's plastic," confirms Babeland marketing manager Rebecca Suzanne.

And the eco-choices don't stop there. If you want to do your part for conservation while getting a buzz, go for the Solar Vibe, a bullet vibrator that comes wired to a small solar panel. Some vibrators come with rechargeable power packs, says Suzanne, "which is a little bit better alternative to the typical battery-run toy, where you just toss the batteries ... into the landfill."

What about accessories? The Smitten Kitten takes pride in its "animal-friendly" inventory of bondage and fetish gear. "We have some floggers that are made of nylon rope ... natural rope, and rubber," says Pritchett. "The same with the paddles, collars, cuffs, and whatnot. Totally leather-free, animal-product-free."

A few manufacturers are bringing green values directly to the adult-toy market via products that might not be out of place in the cosmetics aisle of a natural-foods mega-retailer. Offerings include Body Wax's candles made from soy and essential oils, and Sensua Organic's fruit-flavored or unflavored lubes -- one of a few lubricant lines touting either organic or all-natural formulations. "People enjoy having the option," says Weintraub. "It's like, 'I use organic face wash. Maybe I want to use organic lube, too.'"

Pritchett feels health and eco-conscious retailers are a shopper's best ally for staying safe and healthy. "So many of us are used to shopping for organic food, or ecologically safe building products, or cosmetics," she says. When people realize it's possible to shop for sex toys the same way, "you can see a light bulb go off -- they realize it's a consumer relationship and they can and should demand better products."

Choosing the most eco-correct erotic toy can seem fraught with compromises -- more akin to picking the most fuel-efficient automobile than buying a bunch of organic kale. With no government assessment or regulation on the immediate horizon, it's up to you, the consumer, to shop carefully and select a tool that's health-safe, fits your budget, and gets your rocks off. Meanwhile, pack up that old mystery-material toy and send it back to the manufacturer with a note that they can stick it where the sun don't shine.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

From Gangstas to Glass: The Making of a Sex Toy CEO


In 1985, Rick Plank left home in pursuit of a music career in southern California. Years later, Plank emerged from Interscope Records disillusioned—and a bit dazed—after working with legends like Tupac, Dr. Dre, Metallica and Primus. Returning to his roots, he reset his gaze and quickly became a legend in his own right, though not in the field he may have imagined while eyeing the western horizon as a young man.

As CEO of Phallix Glass, the world's largest manufacturer of "functional erotic glass art," Rick now spends his time breaking open new markets to the sex toy industry, revolutionizing the artistic use of borosilicate glass, and hanging out at photo shoots with Playboy models. Naturally, we had to track him down at his office in Sun Valley, California, deep in the vale above North Hollywood and beneath a cloudless, sunny sky, to let him know how jealous we are.

**********************

SexHerald: Let's start out with a little about you. Tell us about yourself.

Rick Plank: I'm 40 years old, born and raised in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, which was very much like Pleasantville. I had a very sturdy upbringing. I moved out to southern California when I was 19, became a recording engineer at A&M Records, worked on everything from Springsteen to Metallica and went on to scout talent at Interscope where I worked with Tupac and Primus.

I became disillusioned with that particular world. I was kind of blowing in the wind and went and helped a friend out at one of their [glass pipe] shops. Borosilicate glass was being ushered forward in this world of the Grateful Dead with all these exotic hand pipes being made and distributed throughout smoking shops.

When Jerry Garcia died (in 1995), the artists just didn't know what to do with themselves. I gathered them together and did a pipe company. For years, we were the front runners, evolving these artists from just crazy hippies to what I would call artists. At the peak, I had commissioned $15,000 pieces that were pure sculptures from just one artist named Marcel, the guru of the borosilicate world.

I started to look around and see what other avenues we could put these artists into. A company was doing glass adult toys; very, very, basic. I turned my artists loose and we laid out a batch of prototypes and went to the AVN show to debut. We got an incredible reaction from the photographers at Penthouse, the directors from Vivid, Wicked and Playboy TV. We laid the foundations of the relationships that we now enjoy. We went in, we made a splash, and really from there we never let up.

SH: Can you tell us more about the artists?

Plank:About six to eight years ago, in Eugene, Oregon, was the borosilicate renaissance. These artists grew up together and they all ended up becoming the premier borosilicate artists in the world. At a young age, a lot of them started blowing glass and it took on throughout the entire community. There was this crazy concentration of talent at marketing their artistry on a large scale. It just kind of blossomed.

SH: Borosilicate is also commonly referred to as Pyrex™, and that's a brand, isn't it?

Plank:Yes, Pyrex™ is a brand name of borosilicate glass. The glass that we use, as opposed to Pyrex™, is German Schott glass, a medical grade of borosilicate which is even more pristine than Pyrex™.

SH: What about you? Are you available? Are you part of the open market?

Plank: (chuckling) Yes, I'm currently available.

SH: That makes you a 40-year-old, ex-music man who's partied with Tupac and Bruce, and runs a glass toy company. I would think that's every girl's dream; they'd certainly never be bored.

Plank:(laughing) No.

SH: When you mentioned Springsteen and Tupac, were you a recruiter? Were you actually the one who brought Tupac into the music world?

Plank:No, I would love to take credit for that. But, I was a utility man at Interscope. I would oversee everything from budgets to mastering sessions to scouting talent; we were a small company at that time, just getting started. We had just signed Nine Inch Nails, Tupac had barely taken off, Dre's Chronic was just coming out at the time; it was an exciting time to be there.

SH: Do you miss your days of music?

Plank:Not in that capacity. If I put together a small independent label, I would love it more than anything in the whole world, but working in the corporate music environment is something that I would not go back to.

SH: Is that something that you plan on doing: putting a label together?

Plank:I refuse to put the same sort of constraints and pressures on music as I have to in any other business venture. I'd like to do it just for fun—if something grew out of that, that would make me proud, but I don't want to mix money and music any longer. I love it too much.

SH: I hear you. What's your favorite part of the day?

Plank:I don’t get to do as much sales, and really this company was built on the back of my sales, and I genuinely enjoy doing sales and taking care of our customers. That's really kind of a core thing for me. I absolutely enjoy the development of the products and the creative process with the artists. Then, where we coordinate whatever models we're working with. We've got Christie Shake, a Playboy Playmate, as our representative now. You know it's never a hard day when I have to go down to a photo shoot with Christie Shake.

SH: (laughing) I'd guess not.

Plank:Then actually getting that into the artwork of the catalogue and the packaging and viewing of a finished product: the packaging, the beautiful piece of glass, and the picture of Christie all coordinated into something attractive that speaks to the public and helps them purchase it.

SH: Tell us a little about the growth of Phallix. How has it come, in terms of revenues, to where it is now?

Plank:We're five years old. We've doubled every year, which is a pretty big statement. Every eight weeks, we develop probably 12 new pieces just because of the hundreds of artists we have. There's a certain amount of in-house competition, which always results in something beautiful, new and exciting.

SH: You doubled the amount of revenue every year? How big a market do you have now?

Plank:We have a huge market, actually. We've been working closely with our European distributor, PhallixEurope.com. We have a warehouse in Amsterdam, and in the Canary Islands, an entire sales staff that really canvasses all of Europe. They've only been with us for a year, and they did incredible numbers. They will double their numbers this year. Europe is really mimicking the same growth that we've seen in the past five years here. We've got similar distributor-ships in Australia as well as Canada. On a worldwide market, I couldn't even begin to say where the ceiling is at.

SH: What's the oddest request for an individual piece you've ever received?

Plank:Just at this last AVN show, some gay gentlemen were asking for long glass pieces that they would place in their penises. And, I denied that request only because safety is always my ultimate concern. That was a very odd request.

SH: Sounds painful. Are more heterosexual people buying your product or folks that tend toward same sex?

Plank:Probably about 85-90% heterosexual market. We've really just made the most of the opportunities in front of us. I've spoken to many gay directors and actors and we've supplied products to a lot of gay films. We did all the props for Queer as Folk, so we've definitely had wonderful reactions from the gay section. We're finishing up some beautiful cock-rings and anal beads, and I would like to emphasize our butt plug line and the fact that we should have then in onyx colors as well as some in cobalt blue and so forth.

SH: We know you have relationships with Vivid Video. Who else?

Plank:Every six months, we come out with a half-dozen pieces represented by the Vivid girls. A year ago, we had a deal with Playboy and everything is now on the table again. I'd love to get back into that particular relationship. We've been lucky enough to become friends with a lot of the most talented people, in my opinion.

SH: Where do you see the industry going in the next five years?

Plank:One of the things apparent at the last AVN show was the conscious effort to package in a way that the mainstream would be more accepting of as a whole. Christie Shake, in the new photo shoot we did, has lace on, there are white roses, pearls in the picture; she's beautiful, she's elegant. A lot of us are trying our best to make ourselves presentable to middle America. They're a little more accepting of us every year. I looked up the new Wicked pictures of Stormy [Daniels] and their cast, and it looked like something that Herb Ritts might've photographed. I really look forward to not being anybody's dirty little secret.

SH: The industry is definitely going that way. If you could market to middle America, what would you tell them about glass toys and products?

Plank:The simplest things are the most intriguing. The glass will take hot or cold temperatures, and when you heat something your muscles will actually relax, which is a wonderful sensation even if you just have the glass in your hand. Or, if you cool it, it makes your muscles contract. And these two sensations are really fantastic, and it's nothing that you can experience with plastic or latex toys. Then you've got the artistic value as well. These are hands down the most beautiful erotic toys that have ever been made—I know that’s a very bold statement, but it's true. I've studied a lot of the products over a very long period of time, and these are works of art. In 100 years, if it is properly taken care of, your Phallix piece will look exactly the same; and, I don't think there's any other adult toy that can say that.

SH: Aren't glass toys expensive?

Plank:Like automobiles, we have your basic, inexpensive line, just a curved, double-headed piece which will retail for about $39.99; which, I don't think would be considered expensive. Then $100 to $300 will integrate anything from dichroic, a beautiful high refraction, glittery material used on the space-shuttle windshields, to latta chino, which is this beautiful woven-colored glass that looks almost like DNA, which is a fantastic effect. That's kind of the versatility and fun of glass: that I can lay out something very basic and simple, or something that you would almost want to display as a piece of art in your china cabinet.

SH: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Plank:I would like to present borosilicate glass, in all of its artful states, in many different venues. We're making these beautiful Venetian-like chandeliers, like something you might walk into the MTV studios and look up and see. We have a beautiful line of glass body jewelry: we've got these wicked Borneo claws for people with larger earrings, an elegant belly-button ring with this gorgeous reflective etched dichroic deed on the end, with a beautiful flower inside it. I get excited when I get to introduce this medium of glass art to everyone. I just enjoy watching people's reaction to the glass.

SH: So, you're really just a glass aficianado.

Plank: (laughing) I'm definitely a glass enthusiast.

Desperate Housewives Star and Her Sex Toy-Stuffed Garage

Sultry Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria recently revealed she keeps boxes full of sex toys in her garage to give out to friends as gifts.

The outspoken actress believes it’s imperative for women to be in touch with their sexuality. She used to receive sex toys as gifts and she’s returning the favor in kind by distributing them to other women.

“They're the best present because a lot of women won’t go and buy one,” says Longoria.

Adult Industry Guesstimated to be Worth $12.6 Billion, Various Sources Say

The adult industry—though ambiguous in the past—was estimated to be worth $12.6 billion this year, says Adult Video News, or AVN. The sources named for industry revenue are AVN, Kagan Research, Juniper Research, New York Times, Forbes and the Free Speech Coalition.

Paul Fishbein, President of AVN, noted the importance in acquiring relatively accurate figures of the adult entertainment industry. “We have created a snapshot of the industry that encompasses video sales and rental, magazines, cable and pay-per-view, the Internet, exotic dance clubs, hotel in-room video on demand, mobile and novelties,” said Fishbein.

“Adult Health Retailers” Thriving in China: A New Age of Sex Toys

09/17/05
By SexHerald Staff


China currently produces approximately 70 percent of the world’s adult toys—mostly export—but, increasingly shared with the Chinese market as 2,000 sex stores have sprung up since the cultural revolution during Mao Zedong’s era.

A study by the Family Planning Agency revealed that about 70 percent of the Chinese population declared to be non-virgins when married compared to 16 percent in the late 1980s. Prostitution, illegal in a majority of the US, is increasingly becoming accepted in China, especially in cities like Shenzen, where “adult health retailers,” or sex stores, have become a popular attraction. Even gay and lesbian bars attract the masses on weekends as they become packed in places like Shanghai.

Sociologists, psychologists, health experts and sexologists alike feel the growing trend towards a more “liberal” view on sexuality partly has to do with emulating Western ideals of love, romance and sex through pirated DVDs and adult sites on the Internet. Health educators mention in less urbanized areas of China, the people still adhere to traditional ways of courtship and beliefs on sex. Sex education and knowledge is still rudimentary at best, as a 2004 study reported in The People’s Daily, 21 percent of Chinese men did not know where the clitoris was located.

Chinese gender/sex roles have altered. Chinese women who usually took the passive role in sex are becoming more active and aggressive as they view sex as more than a means for reproduction; they now see it as a source of pleasure as well.

Monday, February 27, 2006

sex in the marketplace

It's girls' night out: a welcome event in every woman's daytimer. Take a neighbourhood bar, add a few cocktails and chances are the conversation might turn to sex.

Marketplace invited Lisa, Carol and Nancy to get together for some frank talk.

Lisa's a marketing co-ordinator, Nancy's a dental professional and Carol is a computer programmer.

"I've used vibrators and that takes the pressure off my husband because it lasts a lot longer than he can," Carol offered.

"I would love to have multiple orgasms and to be able to achieve orgasm a little bit easier," said Lisa.

The quest for an orgasm. The big O. But the odds aren't great. Studies show that only one in four women ever achieve an orgasm during intercourse. Many don't know what one would feel like or if they've even had one.

We spoke with Karen Kaffko, a psychologist who specializes in female sexuality to describe the sensation. (Read excerpts from the interview.)

"An orgasm is often likened to a sneeze where there is a build up like 'ah, ah, ah CHOO!' Then there is this release of the orgasm. And with that release, for a man there is ejaculation. For a woman there is a kind of pulsating experience around the clitoris," she explained.

In late October, 2001, "The Everything to do With Sex Show" opened in Toronto. It's a trade show for buyers and sellers of sex products. And it's a sign how mainstream the subject of sex has become. No longer a private affair, something kept in the bedroom.

Ever since Viagra, that little blue pill, hit the market in 1998, it's been nothing but male celebrities talking about erectile dysfunction. But what about women?

A little dab'll do ya?

"For those who have orgasms frequently [Viacrème] helps make them more pleasurable. For those who have infrequent orgasms it helps them get them more quicker," says a Viacrème distributor.

A little tube sells for about $25 per tube. Then there's O Cream, $39.95 for 40 to 50 applications.
Hoping for a "bigger bang." Marketplace tester, Nancy

Back at the bar, we asked our three guests if they'd be willing to do a little homework. All three eagerly agreed to give it a try.

"Mine is not to have a bigger success story. Mine is to have a bigger bang so to speak. That's what I'm hoping these creams will do," Nancy said.

Marketplace had some questions about orgasm creams, so we went to the launch party for O Cream.

"Women were saying that they were too embarrassed to buy products in sex shops because they are pretty seedy looking and they don't even like to go into stores and the packaging is awful and they are embarrassed to have it. So we thought that maybe we could change that and make something more appealing to women," Rebecca Powley, one of the women behind O Cream told us.

The product is mainly sold through Web sites — and sales are reported to be quite brisk — although it is available in a few specialty shops.
"You really need a very small…amount." Lynda DiMarco, head Viacrème distributor in Canada

Lynda DiMarco is the head distributor for Viacrème in Canada. We asked her how the product works.

"You really need a very small size amount, a pea-size, a kernel of corn. And you apply that to your clitoris and within seconds you will feel it," she explained. "I don't know how to explain it. It poofs up the area and it…makes it incredibly sensitive to touch."

Viacrème is owned by an American company, Lexxus. The company uses its Web site to not only promote Viacrème, but also to entice potential distributors.

Health Canada takes note

Viacrème has also attraced the attention of Health Canada. It's taking the products claims seriously.

According to Health Canada: "The product is classified as a drug based on its total representation to the public…Even the name of the product 'Viacrème,' there's a reference to Viagra in an indirect kind of a way. The product was being promoted as a sexual enhancer."

In Health Canada-speak, Viacrème is making therapeutic claims that it modifies an organic function. It's been assessed as a drug, so it can't be sold in Canada until a drug submission is approved.

But Lexxus does not see its product as a drug, so it immediately backed off on the "Viagra for women"claims. They shut down some of their Web sites and others have changed.

Lexxus' chief financial officer says: "We make no claims. This is strictly a quality of life product for us to 'enhance relationships.'"

Health Canada says it has not received any complaints of adverse reactions to the product and for now it can't say that the company does not meet its claims because no drug submissions have been made.

What's in it?

We decided to go to the University of Toronto to find out what's in Viacrème. We met with Dr. Philip Marsden. (Read excerpts from the interview.) He says what makes Viagra work is nitric oxide, a by-product of L-arginine. It's also one of the main ingredients in Viacrème.
L-arginine is one of the main ingredients in Viacrème

"The product is a lubricant and contains arginine and menthol. It's called l-arginine on the product. It's the same product you find over the counter as an oral drug in the vitamin section of the drug store," Marsden explained.

The other main ingredient is menthol.

"I'd be hesitant to rub toothpaste on the genitals and I think menthol falls into that same category," Marsden said.

We took that medical opinion back to Karen Kaffko, for her take on Viacrème's claims.

"Well, the problem with those claims is that there's no testing, there's no proof that, in fact, any of that happens. There's no proof that increased sexual response occurs," Kaffko said.

Lexxus says since Viacrème is not a drug, research has been anecdotal.

"They don't say take this cream and everything will…be good, but they do send the message: take this cream and you'll have improved libido and you'll have increased sexual response," Kaffko notes.

Kaffko says that could be a problem.

"I think the major thing is that it…defocuses from the real issue of women's sexuality that women do struggle with all sorts of sexual problems. A lot of them have to do with relationship and partner education. If we only focus on a cream that is specific to the clitoris, then that I think cheats women of what they really enjoy about sexual contact."

Back at the bar, two weeks later, the results were mixed.

"I was hugely disappointed," said Lisa.

"I felt I wanted to use the cream to see if there could be a heightened sensation. And I must agree with Lisa that it was a disapointment," said Nancy.

Carol disagreed. Her experience was that, "The O Cream was easy to use. And it actually lasted for a long time."

Carol also said she preferred O Cream.

"I actually preferred the Viacrème," said Lisa. "I found that it was more enjoyable and that the sensation lasted longer."

We asked what both of the products did physically for the women.

Nancy said, "It was like what a breath mint would do for your mouth. That…nice cool menthol. That's what it felt like. It was very nice. But it didn't last long in terms of the tingling."

So would these women recommend either O Cream or Viacrème?

"I think so. I think that even though it didn't work for me like I wanted it to, the fact that there is even interest in getting a product on the market for women I think is great," said Nancy.

All three women felt that at least it will get women talking about their sexuality.
"I was hugely disappointed," Marketplace tester, Lisa

In the end, our testers bonded like long lost friends.

And, if you're looking, Viacrème is still being sold. So is O Cream. They dodged the controversy by avoiding any comparison to Viagra.

The women agreed that whether the creams worked or not — it got them talking about orgasms.

And that's O-K.

Shopping for Sex Toys

My Wife Wants Me to Buy Her Some Sex Toys. What Should I Get? By Louanne Cole Weston, PhD



July 9, 2001 -- It's interesting that your wife asked you to do the shopping for her. Either she is extremely anxious about making such purchases, has no idea what she wants, or wants to learn more about your erotic interests and is going about it somewhat indirectly.


Aside from the issue of her motivation in asking you to do the shopping, I can outline the basic categories of sex toys that a woman can easily use by herself.

Items for Massage: Contact with the skin is an important part of sexual arousal and physical pleasure, particularly for women. Many find that gentle caressing of the skin is an enjoyable way to start off a self-pleasuring session. So consider feathers, furry mitts, lotions, powders, and oils.


Things That Vibrate: Many women enjoy using vibration in their genital areas. Some like it on their breasts and anal areas, too. In light of all these possibilities, there are several types of vibrators from which to select.


She could try an egg-shaped vibrator on a long cord, which is primarily designed to stimulate the clitoris. Because it is small and relatively unobtrusive, some women who are reluctant to add toys to their sexuality may prefer this type.

For more powerful vibration of the clitoris, your wife could use a wand-type vibrator tipped with either a vibrating foam ball or a padded "flying-saucer" disc. Both tend to have a selection of speeds, a feature that many women like, but they can be pretty noisy.


Phallicly shaped vibrators are made in many different materials, including off-white plastic, a "jelly" material in many colors, firm foam, and latex, to name the most common. These can be safely inserted vaginally or used externally on the clitoris and surrounding area. These generally have adjustable speeds, are inexpensive, and often don't have the longevity that pricier ones do.


Another type of vibrator is the "wearable." These usually are attached to elastic bands that follow the outline of women's underwear -- and nestle up to the clitoral area, if the woman's anatomy matches up well with the cut of the elastic bands. They often look like a butterfly or a shell, and some have a vaginal inserter attached as well. These often have adjustable speeds.


A very reliable type (which is often very quiet as well) is a vibrator that is sold as a "massager" and looks like a cross between a small mixmaster and a blow dryer, with several attachments that are designed for the scalp, feet, face, and so on. Some women will use one of the attachments directly on their genitals. You can usually buy additional attachments to make this type insertable.


The last two are relative newcomers to the vibration world. One is a battery-powered tongue made of firm latex, designed to simulate oral sex when a lubricant is used. These often have several speeds.


And finally, there is a group of vibrators shaped something like a curled-up hand with the thumb and index finger extended. Usually, the "index finger" circles around when inserted into the vagina and the "thumb" vibrates the clitoral area. These often are decorated with portrayals of whimsical characters, ranging from geishas to rabbits and beavers.


Lubrication: A bottle of vaginally safe lubricant can be a "handy" item to give your wife even if she lubricates adequately, as additional slipperiness can be very stimulating during self-pleasuring. For many women, a little lubrication can help start things off. Many good lubricants are clear, made from very few ingredients (to avoid upsetting the balance of the vagina), and "revive" from a less slippery consistency when a few drops of water are added. They're also taste- and scent-free.


Inserters: Many women enjoy inserting something into their vaginas, for the sensation of fullness or to correspond with a fantasy they're having. That's where dildos (the most common name for this type of toy) come in. Generally, dildos don't vibrate; those that do are considered vibrators. Some are penis replicas and others are more fanciful items that just happen to be longer than they are wide. Some women love their dildos and others have no interest in them during self-pleasuring, despite their enjoyment of intercourse.


Anal Toys: These items come in a variety of sizes and shapes. To be a bona fide anal toy, it should have either a crosspiece that forms a "T" or a flange at the base, both of which are designed to prevent slippage up and into the anus (which can require a trip to the hospital for removal). Sometimes these items vibrate; sometimes they don't. They should definitely be used with lots of lubrication.

Beyond the Categories: Page through a sex toy catalog or web site and you will spot items that don't fit into the categories I've mentioned. These can include suction devices that are placed over the clitoris and labia, nipple stimulators, blindfolds, audio and videocassettes, erotic stories, BenWa Balls, and erotic clothing for her enjoyment of herself.


You can use this request from your wife as an opportunity to learn more about her erotic preferences. It can also be a time when you reveal parts of your imagination to her. Enjoy your shopping, and use it as anticipation builder for your return home.

Sex Toys More Common in Women in Relationships

Oct. 7, 2004 - Nearly half of adult women currently use sex toys or have tried them in the past, research shows. And women in relationships are even more likely to use them.

The report comes from Chicago's Berman Center. Directed by sex therapist Laura Berman, LCSW, PhD, the center focuses on women's sexual health and menopause.

The online study, funded by an unrestricted educational grant from drugstore.com, was conducted by Knowledge Networks for the Berman Center. The results were presented at the Women's Sexual Health State-of the-Art Series conference in Chicago.

A random sample of almost 2,600 women aged 18 to 60 were invited to participate in the survey. About 1,600 agreed to complete the survey, answering questions about their relationship status and use of sex toys.

According to the survey:


Forty-four percent said they currently use a sex toy or had done so in the past. The most commonly used sex toy was a vibrator.
Young women aged 25-34 were the most likely to have ever used a sex toy, with 51% of participants in that age group reporting current or past sex toy use.
Women aged 55-60 were just as likely to have tried a sex toy at some point in their lives. However, they were half as likely as younger women to currently use sex toys.

Most current or past sex toy users were in relationships and said they did not view the devices as a substitute for a partner.


Of unmarried women living with their partners, 43% said they currently used sex toys, and 17% said they had used them in the past.
Among women in relationships who were not living with their partners, 35% said they currently used sex toys, and 21% said they had done so in the past.

Sex Toys Less Common Among Singles

Sex toy use was less common among women not in relationships. Twenty-two percent of single women said they were current sex toy users; 12% said they had used sex toys in the past.

The use of sex toys was most popular among white women and women with some college education.


Thirty-four percent of white women said they currently used sex toys, compared with 22% of black participants, 19% of Hispanics, and 8% of "other" races.
Thirty-seven percent of women with some college education (but not a degree) were current sex toy users, compared with 26% of women with a college degree and 29% of high school graduates with no college education.

Sex Toys no Substitute for Real Thing

Overall, women had a "neutral-to-positive" outlook on sex toy use.

After controlling for demographic variables, "current sex toy users, whether or not in a steady healthy relationship, were significantly more likely to report a higher level of desire and interest for sex and less pain during and following intercourse," says the report.

"However, current and former users who were not in steady healthy relationships were still less satisfied with their overall sexual life than their counterparts."

Most sex toy users (about 90%) said they were open about it with their partners. Almost two-thirds of women said their partners were supportive of their sex toy use.

The main reason cited for current or past sex toy use: curiosity.

UK drug chain eyes sex toy sales

LONDON, England -- One of Britain's leading pharmacy chains is in talks with a condom maker to sell sex toys in some of its 1,400 stores.

Boots said Friday it has been discussing the possibility of selling Durex vibrators, massage oils and other sex toys for about a year.

If plans are approved, the products are "likely" to hit the shelves next year and will be sold on a "store-by-store basis," Boots spokesman Donal McCabe said.

"There is a market for them. Other people have brought them on to the high street. We are a modern retailer, we respond to modern demands and trends.

"People are much more comfortable discussing their sexuality and sexual problems. It's considered much more acceptable to seek help or to buy things to improve our sex life," UK's Press Association quoted McCabe as saying.

"Boots was set up in the 1850s (but) things change and progress. We were one of the first stores to put condoms on open sale and that caused a fuss at the time."

Once a market leader, Boots has fallen behind rivals in recent years.

Under new chief executive Richard Baker, the retail group has embarked on a major restructuring as it looks to revive the performance of its core business and fend off competition from supermarket rivals.

Eighteen months ago it pulled the plug on its brief foray into services such as manicures and massages.

And last month it announced plans to close its laser hair removal, chiropody, laser eye correction and dental businesses.

Sex-toy store's pitch on buses creates bad vibe

Santa Clara County has the cleanest public transportation in the Bay Area -- at least judging by the ads it allows on its buses.
Sex-toy store Good Vibrations found that out the hard way, when the Valley Transportation Authority yanked the company's ads off buses after some riders complained. No such complaints about the promotions have arisen in Alameda, Contra Costa or San Francisco counties -- which, through Valentine's Day, are displaying ads even racier than the ones the VTA couldn't tolerate.
``We certainly haven't gotten any complaints,'' said Clarence Johnson, spokesman for the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District. ``I'm not sure if it's because we're more in the den of iniquity than you guys or what, but so far, nothing.''
It all started around the holiday season, when Good Vibrations -- the Bay Area company whose sex gadgets would make many an American embarrassed or just extremely confused -- took its campaign to the streets for the first time.
By plastering its ads on buses, the sensuality seller was trying to draw in more of a mainstream clientele for its erotic lotions, toys and whatnots.
They settled on a two-part campaign to promote their Web site and three Bay Area stores.
The first ad shows a conservatively dressed woman next to the slogan: ``Shop Good Vibrations, because good things come in our packages.''
Too risque for the VTA.
It pulled that ad, so imagine what it would have done if its ad contractor, Viacom, had put up the second, more provocative one, which has been running in the other counties without causing a single gripe.
It says: ``Love Lab, the Science of Pleasure,'' accompanied by a picture of a vial of oil and a disassembled vibrator, the Hitachi Magic Wand Massager.
Kevin Kurimoto, a spokesman for VTA, said the first ad ran inside 70 buses and on the backs of 57.
And within a week, the complaints came rolling in, some from the drivers and some from the public.
``The ad itself was G-rated,'' Kurimoto acknowledged, but he felt the company was directing people to its Web site, ``and some of the products they sell would be considered pornographic.''
Kurimoto also said Viacom didn't hold up its part of the contract.
The company is ``supposed to run any ads that may be controversial past us,'' he said. ``In this case, they did not.''
VTA ordered the ads off the buses; all were gone by the end of the year. And the second set of ads, set to run on VTA buses through Valentine's day, were not installed.
Steve Shinn, spokesman for Viacom -- which became CBS Outdoor this month -- said his company found nothing off-color in the ads, so it didn't think to seek approval from VTA. ``We felt they were not obscene or against community standards,'' he said.
Shinn noted that VTA also ordered down the bus ads for the 2004 movie comedy ``White Chicks,'' while no such problems came up in other counties.
Kurimoto won't exactly say that this region is more prudish than its neighbors, just that ``we represent the county. We do take any concerns or complaints from the public on these types of issues seriously.''
Maggie Lynch, spokeswoman for San Francisco's Muni, says her agency sees it more as a matter of free speech -- unless the ads are deeply offensive, and she thinks Good Vibrations' are not.
``We haven't had any complaints,'' she said. ``Have you seen them? They're fairly benign.''
A random sampling of riders waiting for a bus in downtown San Jose this week felt pretty much the same way.
``Naah, it's not offensive,'' said Todd Lucero, 39, of San Jose, as he was counting his change for the bus. ``She's fully dressed.''
Pat Simmons, 59, said the ad that VTA pulled was tame and fine for buses. ``I don't think it belongs in schools or in church bulletins,'' but if someone doesn't like the business ``you don't need to go into the store.''
``We do not have an accurate pulse as to whether Santa Clara County is more or less conservative than other areas in general,'' Karin Tobiason, spokeswoman for the store, wrote in an e-mail. But after the complaints from VTA, we've ``opted to re-approach the community'' in a different way.
So here's a warning:
Good Vibrations ads will be coming soon from a radio near you.

The mainstreaming of sex toys

From backstreet to high street... but is women's increasing interest in risque bedroom products more to do with marketing than sexual liberation? Although better known as the nation's favourite chemist, Boots is currently considering stocking sex toys in a bid to restore flagging sales and attract more of its main customer base of women into the stores. Sex sells. This is no big revelation. The difference now is that it sells as well to women as it does to men. The creation of a slew of stores, from industry pioneer Ann Summers (set up 20 years ago) to high-class sophisticates Myla and Coco de Mer, is a testament to the cash millions out there to be harvested. On Friday, Hustler Hollywood opened in Birmingham. It's target customer? Sixty percent female. Theresa Flynt, daughter of Larry Flynt and director of the UK Hustler stores, is pitching the shop as a "date destination". But have sex products really become so mainstream that we'll be able to walk into our local Boots and pick them up with our toothpaste? Spokesman Donald McCabe points out that as yet the discussions on the stocking of the Durex Play range are still in their "early stages" though the store does already sell the Vielle stimulator. "These things [sex toys]," he says, "are much more prevalent on the high street than they used to be and they're much more part of modern life. Our history is of being a modern retailer adapting to social change. So why would we not look at it?" (SUNDAY HERALD, UK)

Sex Toys Are Us

From backstreet to high street … but is women’s increasing interest in risqué bedroom products more to do with marketing than sexual liberation?
By Vicky Allan



ALTHOUGH better known as the nation’s favourite chemist, Boots is currently considering stocking sex toys in a bid to restore flagging sales and attract more of its main customer base of women into the stores. Sex sells. This is no big revelation. The difference now is that it sells as well to women as it does to men. The creation of a slew of stores, from industry pioneer Ann Summers (set up 20 years ago) to high-class sophisticates Myla and Coco de Mer, is a testament to the cash millions out there to be harvested. On Friday, Hustler Hollywood opened in Birmingham. It’s target customer? Sixty percent female. Theresa Flynt, daughter of Larry Flynt and director of the UK Hustler stores, is pitching the shop as a “date destination”. But have sex products really become so mainstream that we’ll be able to walk into our local Boots and pick them up with our toothpaste? Spokesman Donald McCabe points out that as yet the discussions on the stocking of the Durex Play range are still in their “early stages” though the store does already sell the Vielle stimulator. “These things [sex toys],” he says, “are much more prevalent on the high street than they used to be and they’re much more part of modern life. Our history is of being a modern retailer adapting to social change. So why would we not look at it?”
Why not, indeed. Last year, Ann Summers boasted a turnover of £110 million, selling more than two million vibrators alone. According to surveys, between 40% and 56% of women now possess at least one toy. Women, it seems, have earnings and are ready to spend on products designed for sexual gratification.

Boots is not the only company hoping to cash in . Earlier this month new magazine Scarlet was launched, in an attempt to do what For Women, Viva and Playgirl foundered at, and create a publication with explicit content that appeals to women.

This is a tricky remit. Editor Emily Dubberly describes it a “sex magazine for women”. “I wouldn’t use the word porn,” she jokes, “because apart from anything else it’s technically inaccurate because it means the writing of prostitutes – and none of us is a prostitute.” It also differs from past publications in that most of them have been “filled with pictures of Chippendales waving their meat and two veg around. And that just ain’t sexy.” Instead Scarlet contains a few black-and-white shots of bare-chested “boytoys”, humorous articles on topics , she says, “you might discuss with your friends after a few cocktails” (Do Ugly Men Try Harder?, Ban The Brazilian) and some gentle erotic fiction.

As ex-editor of a website publishing women’s erotic fantasies and stories, Dubberly can claim to be an authority on what women find compelling. When she was in charge, the site had more than 100,000 female visitors a month and she studied which readers’ stories got the most hits. One of the biggest fantasies for women, she says, is sex with a stranger – hence a brief encounter on a train in Scarlet. Yet, in general, what Dubberly considers to be sexy is emotion-led fiction. “It’s very easy to trivialise sex and pretend that it’s about rubbing body parts together, but that’s so not what Scarlet is about.”

Without a doubt there is a market for female targeted publications. Around 15% of people who use porn on the internet are female and there has long been a strong tradition of erotic narrative. Black Lace, the most successful publisher in women’s erotica, has sold five million books . According to the London-based female sex shop Sh!, women are buying increasing amounts of erotica – one of its most popular publications is the classic collection of women’s fantasies, Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden.

Meanwhile, in mainstream literature, there is an increasing emphasis on true female sexual experience. Scottish broadcaster and columnist Anvar Khan’s new book Pretty Wild declares itself, “The most honest diary about men, women and sex you’ll ever read”. In it we follow Khan as she goes on a merry-go-round of casual sex, detailing morning breath , orgasm faking, let-downs and betrayals.

Central to this revolution, in recent years at least, has been the vibrator. Used by straight couples, gay couples, singletons, in casual sex and marital sex, it has worked its way to the centre of the bed. But the vibrator is more than just a toy. In its own quiet way, it has become the ultimate symbol of women’s independence from men. “How could I miss you baby,” Missy Elliott raps to her man in the track Toyz, “I didn’t even know you was gone/ It’s obvious you aren’t needed in the bedroom any more.”

Are these changes about anything more than fashion? Is there any difference between wanting a Rampant Rabbit because Charlotte has it, and coveting her Sex And The City cohort Carrie’s Manolo Blahniks? In the toy market certainly, vibrators have been reinvented as trendy and alluring objects of desire – like an exquisite handbag or sculpture. Coco de Mer, run by Sam Roddick (daughter of former Body Shop boss Anita) aspires to provide “sophisticated and beautiful objects of desire to trigger arousal and inspire intimacy”; its range includes fox masks, dildos and crystal whips. Meanwhile, at Myla, where they sell the abstract but phallic Bone for £199, director Charlotte Semler declares that they are “really about luxury goods.” And at Sh! it’s still the Rabbit that outsells all other items.

Of all the topics related to sex women seem most at ease talking about toys. They will far more happily discuss their merits with female friends than masturbation which still has a smutty ring to it. Buying your first vibrator is like a rite of passage, an initiation into contemporary womanhood and all its freedoms, joys and pamperings. The Good Vibrations sex shop in San Francisco has reported mothers coming into the shop with their daughters to buy vibrators for them, and, undoubtedly, we will soon be catching up.




O n one level this is good. It is a sign that women’s curiosity is encouraged, that we are allowed to explore our bodies. But, as sex psychologist Petra Boynton says of the sex shop boom: “My concern is that all these changes are about getting people to part with money. They’re top-down , rather than from the bottom up. We see all these new sex stores and openness as sexual freedom, but our whole culture for women is very prescriptive. Name one overtly sexual female role model who isn’t constantly pilloried. Think about how they treat Jordan. The idea of a Peter Stringfellow character for women couldn’t exist.”

For Dubberly, however, the mainstream provision of explicit fiction and sex toys for women represents a significant step in our embracing of our sexuality. “With feminism in the past,” she says, “being sexual as a woman was seen as quite demeaning. Now we’re getting closer to pay parity, women are getting decent jobs, and it’s less threatening to us as women to admit that we’re sexual.”

There’s no avoiding it. The demand for sex products is there, as is the supply. And, even if in the end it is all style, the right shoes, the right bag, the right Rabbit, it’s our money and no-one is stopping us.




Pretty Wild by Anvar Khan, Black And White, £9.99. Scarlet magazine is available in high street stores, £3.50

Eva's Crates Of Sex Toys

If you're a friend of Eva Longoria, act surprised when she gives you a gift.

The Desperate Housewife has crate-loads of sex toys stashed in her garage, and dishes them out as pressies to her mates.
"I mentioned that I thought it was important for women to be in touch with their sexuality," she told the Daily Mirror, "and that sex toys were a 21st century thing - and people started sending them to me.
"They're the best present because a lot of women won't go and buy one."
Stunning Eva also revealed she was considered an ugly duckling as a child. She said: "I look like no one in the family... People would tell my mother, 'Your daughters are beautiful, but who's this?'"
Eva with boyfriend Tony Parker
"It forced me to develop other skills and taught me never to rely on my looks or anything superficial. But then I started to blossom and I won pageants."

Despite emerging into a swan, Eva's insisted that Gabrielle's bathtime scenes in DH series 2 are reduced in number and not v glamorous.
She said: "I have to be naked and they fill the bath up with bubbles and put body make-up on me, so I'm looking beautifully tanned and with flawless skin.
"And then it comes off, so I'm left sitting in brown water all day."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

More Than Half Of All Brits Own Sex Toys

Saturday, 4th February 2006, 11:23


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
LIFE STYLE EXTRA (UK) - Sex mad Brits have blown their supposedly prudish image with two-thirds watching porn with their partners while over half own sex toys, according to a new poll.

The sexy survey revealed that the majority of couples today indulge their fantasies and enjoy the pleasures of the adult entertainment industry.

Researchers found that 69 per cent of adults are willing to give approval to the porn industry with 58 per cent actually owning sex toys, erotic films or magazines.

Although lusty lovers are reluctant to shout about their bedroom preferences outside of our relationships, 85 per cent no longer bother to hide their treasure troves of porn from their partner preferring to get permission first before indulging.

Erotic movies are the biggest favourite with 64 per cent of people admitting they watch them with their partner and more than 40 per cent use them to tease themselves into foreplay.

One-in-four of the 1,200 people who took part in the survey to mark the UK launch of leading American adult film company Wicked Pictures, said they were thinking about surprising their partner with a porn flick as a Valentine gift.

Karl Wainwright, the UK distributor for Wicked Pictures, said: "It seems that whilst we are happy to keep our bedroom secrets secret and present an impression of being quite prudish, the truth is that many of us are making good use of the adult entertainment industry."

Whilst both sexes, women (70 per cent) and men (83 per cent), say that watching hardcore action turns them on, only one-in-five females believe they find them more stimulating than men, while 43 per cent of men believe they find them more stimulating than women.

The survey also found that two-thirds of adults say that they would happily purchase more porn if it was not for the embarrassment factor.

Surprisingly more than 22 per cent of people surveyed calculated that they have spent more than £100 on porn material.

Monogamy is not high on the fantasy wish list of most as the survey also reports that the UK ’s top three sexual fantasies are threesomes, sex with a stranger and the tricky task of getting it on while skydiving

our website http://lowpricetrade.en.ecplaza.net

Sex toy chain overturns job adverts ban

ANN Summers, the sex toys and lingerie chain, today won its High Court bid to overturn a ban on its adverts for staff in Government job centres.

At a recent hearing, lawyers for the highly successful company protested at the unfairness of being singled out while competitors such as Selfridges and Liberty had sex toys "selling like hot cakes", with no suggestion that their advertisements should be banned.

Company lawyers argued that the ban was "unlawful, unfair and illogical" as the company was engaged in a legitimate business in high streets and shopping centres up and down the country.

Mr Justice Newman was told there were now 82 retail outlets stocking lingerie, sex toys and novelties, as well as a mail order business and a gross sales forecast for this year of £110 million.

Justice Newman also quashed the wider policy under which the ban was imposed on the grounds it was "unlawful and irrational".

Edinburgh's sex industry

A dinner for two with sex on the menu
Liam Rudden

STEPPING from her taxi in an elegant black trouser suit, Claire is confidently relaxed. The epitome of the modern businesswoman, in fact. Polite, friendly and strikingly good-looking, the old saying "First impressions count" has never been more appropriate.

But first impressions can be deceptive. Although Claire is indeed a professional woman, she is in fact a member of the oldest profession in the world.

Claire is an escort, and in Edinburgh’s booming sex trade industry that makes her one of an elite group who can expect to earn up to £160 an hour.

"Hi, I’m Claire" she says, shaking my hand and immediately asking to call me by my first name as it’s "much friendlier", before we descend into Haldanes - one of the Capital’s most exclusive restaurants - for dinner.

But booking Claire for the evening wasn’t as easy at you might imagine, even though there are 13 escort agencies listed in the Edinburgh Yellow Pages - 12 if you exclude Edinburgh Gay Escorts.

The numbers drop when you start phoning around. Two of the lines are "temporarily out of order", while the number for another is "not recognised".

Despite that, agency bosses say that business is "jumping", and competition is fierce with about 150 girls currently working as escorts in the city - and many of those, unlike Claire as I later discover, are also working in the sauna business.

Of course, not all escorts offer sex, and Claire admits that there are many times when if she does not click with a client, company is all they get.

Whether sex is involved or not, the escort game is a lucrative business in Edinburgh. Claire works three days a week, and although she won’t say exactly how much she earns, she later reveals: "Business is okay, but it can be slow sometimes. I might have four clients in the one day and then nothing for two days, or I might have one each day. It just depends."

Claire charges £160 an hour, and after calling round a number of agencies, this seems to be the going rate.

She is from the last agency on my list. I find myself speaking to the 29-year-old, who describes herself as 5ft 10ins tall with a B-size bust and long blonde hair.

Having agreed her fee, she asked for my name and telephone number. Within seconds she had called me back to confirm my identity. Half an hour later she called again to ask how I wanted her to dress. "I can wear knee-high boots, a mini-skirt and long coat . . ."

Something more discreet, more businesslike perhaps, would be more appropriate I suggest. "No problem," she replies.

Then, half an hour before we’re due to meet, I receive a text message: "How many people will be dining?" I reply: "Just you and I."

A further message arrives: "Okay sweetie. See you at six . . . Claire."

Which is why I was standing on the corner of Albany Street and York Lane on a cold October evening armed with an envelope stuffed with £160 in crisp fresh notes, waiting nervously to discover just what you get when you hire an escort.

I’m pleasantly surprised when she arrives in a taxi, and inside, as we enjoy an aperitif and look at the menu, she takes her suit jacket off to reveal a high-necked burnished gold top. There’s no flesh on show at all.

I admit to being nervous. "I’ve never done this before," I explain - a line I’m sure she has heard a million times before. "So, do I pay you now?"

She just smiles: "Calm down. Just relax. We have plenty of time." Obviously relaxed, Claire is very attentive. Listening intently to my small talk, nodding and smiling as she keeps eye contact. When I ask what she would like to eat, she says: "I eat anything. I’ll have what you have."

That sets the pattern for the evening, as Claire appears to go out of her way to make me feel that I am in control.

As we talk about holidays, the weather and the marvellous food, I’m only too aware that time is ticking away. She mistakes this concern for apprehension.

"Don’t worry. I’m not going to bite . . . unless you want me to," she laughs knowingly, which gives me my cue to ask her what happens after the meal.

"Well, we just see how we get on. If we like each other we can go on somewhere else." Her meaning is obvious and I ask her if everyone automatically expects that as part of the deal.

Her answer surprises me. "I get angry and upset when people think that I am just a high-class prostitute. What I offer initially is company, but if I like a person and we get on, then we can do more," she says.

I later find out that does indeed include everything up to full sex and even domination - all for the fixed price of £160 an hour. Which is perhaps why she keeps insisting that there’s no hurry. After all, the meter’s running.

Her clients, she tells me, span the generations. Most book her for dinner or to accompany them to business or family events. "The people I meet tend to be very nice. Most are married and prefer me to be smartly dressed. Not a lot of them ask for sex outright. That is something that happens naturally if we get on," she says.

Asked if that happens often, she says: "Yes. But it’s my decision. If they want to and I don’t, I tell them I don’t do it."

This is also what she tells her boyfriend. He knows she is an escort but doesn’t realise that she still offers sex as part of her escorting duties.

"It’s just a job, nothing else," she says simply. "I have my boyfriend and everything else in my life. But I want to have a child, so this is just a job that allows me to save up to buy a house that I can leave them when I die."

And she confides: "My boyfriend found it difficult when he first discovered what I did, but now he thinks that when I go out on a job it’s like this . . . dinner. He doesn’t know that sometimes I have sex with the client. If he did, we would be finished."

The owner of one of Edinburgh’s more discreet agencies, which has 30 female escorts (and a similar number of male escorts), agrees: "Some escorts do both, but there are a lot who will only do escorting.

"I’d actually say that the escort trade in Edinburgh is jumping at the moment. I can easily expect to provide up to 50 escorts a week, but it’s a very upper-class business. You tend not to get your average Tom, Dick or Harry using escorts."

Around 20 per cent of his clients are local. They’re also usually married, but some are just lonely old men who want to sit and talk. Of course, they don’t all want to do just that.

He says: "My escorts charge £120 per hour, but that price is negotiable. If a client wants two hours, they might agree to £200. The price remains the same whatever you want to do."

And he adds that to be a good escort you often need to be a psychiatrist and marriage guidance councillor all rolled into one.

Claire knows all about that. Often she’s paid just to listen to someone’s troubles - but there have been odder occasions, she admits.

"Once I went to the room of an elderly businessman in a really expensive hotel. When he answered the door, all he was wearing was a pair of stilettos and fishnet tights. He had a dog collar around his neck and asked me to lead him around the room on a leash. I had to keep looking away from him so that he wouldn’t see me laughing."

With ten minutes to go before our hour is up, I reveal that I am a journalist and tell her she’s free to go, or to stay to finish the meal. If she decides on the latter, she won’t be paid for any additional time. Unfazed, she says: "Don’t worry. I’m enjoying your company."

When I ask how safe she feels escorting in Edinburgh, her reply is immediate. "I always carry a screamer with me, a personal alarm, but I’m not afraid. I do a bit of kickboxing, which is why you’ll never see me in high heels. I wear high platform boots, but never high heels. That way I can do everything I need to do to defend myself."

Which is just as well, as she works on her own. "I don’t need anyone else. If you do, you end up paying out more and more of what you earn. Your driver or minder in effect becomes your pimp, and I don’t like pimps.

"I’ve been in the sex business 12 years in all but I like this job best. It’s more exclusive and I only do what I want to do. That makes me feel much better within myself."

And, perhaps to help justify her premium price tag, Claire argues that it is people like her who make Edinburgh a safer place.

She says: "Nobody will ever understand why I do this job, and most people look down at me when they find out that I am an escort. But they don’t understand that if it wasn’t for people like me, and the girls who work in the saunas and the lap-dancing bars, there would be a lot more rapes, attacks, even deaths, because when there are no escorts or prostitutes providing a service, men will turn elsewhere to satisfy their sexual urges."

Mixing business with pleasure

VINCENT Delicato is not a happy man. The neon sign in the window of his new shop is - to give it the technical term - on the blink, when it ought to be flashing in brazen blue that the shop is "open".

He should relax. The sign seems surplus to requirements when the window display - featuring a selection of sheer nightwear, a nurse’s uniform in red and white PVC, and a set of furry handcuffs - easily catch the eye.

His shop has certainly been noticed by the residents of Gorgie. This summer, almost 400 of them felt moved to object to Delicato’s application to open his third branch of Leather and Lace at 368-370 Gorgie Road. Hundreds of other people signed a petition in support of his plans for the shop.

Despite running sex shops in Drummond Street and Easter Road, his application for a licensed sex shop was turned down by the city council. In reality, however, apart from a few restrictions on the type of product he can sell, the shop is now open for business.

He confesses trade has been quiet so far, although few people can walk past the shop without shooting a furtive glance at the window. Delicato argues that his window display is no more offensive than that of a lingerie store.

Those who do dare to venture inside have to buzz to gain access. This is a voluntary precaution, he says, to keep out those who are under 18. Once inside, there’s a spacious and brightly lit store, complete with a polished wood floor.

At first glance it even seems like an underwear shop inside - apart from the PVC French maid’s outfit. The sparse shelves are lined with products that could be found in many high-street stores for stocking fillers at Christmas - chocolate body paint, whisky-flavoured condoms and an inflatable wife (she doesn’t moan or spend your money, says the box - and "she floats").

A small magazine rack catering for fetishes includes titles such as Footsie and Leg Man. But as your eyes adjust, other less mundane products pop into view - a range of gimp masks, an array of paddles, tawses, whips, collars, nipple clamps, "pleasure pearls" and vibrators.

Now on his third shop in the chain, Delicato is clearly becoming a little blase about the protests and objections.

"Basically, because it’s called a ‘sex shop’, people dig their heels in. When I handed in the petition to the council committee, Scottish Women Against Pornography said ‘the views of 300 drunk men in a pub don’t count’."

Whatever the objections, Delicato has clearly found a market in the city, or he wouldn’t have expanded his business. He says new rules on R-18 adult videos, which can only be sold in licensed sex shops, are encouraging more people to "jump on the bandwagon".

In the meantime, he is appealing the council’s decision on the Gorgie licence application - not least because a rival businessman is trying to open a sex shop down the road in Dalry.

Asked what some of his customers’ most outlandish requests have been, Delicato replies: "Cages . . . crosses . . . I have even been asked for a dentist’s chair.

"There is a furniture market as well, but to stock it you would need the room. But they can be ordered. If one wants to buy a bed that has the capacity for strapping you to it, then who are we to say no?"

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