Okay, so there’s a viral pandemic and you’re stranded inside your house for an indefinite and terrifying amount of time. Think for a second — what do you need to survive? For most people, a can of beans (or 60) will do. Maybe some desperation ramen, a Netflix password or a couple jars of Prego. That’s all fine and well, but what about a fuckable inanimate object you can rail ecstatically while the world crumbles outside your window in a sickly miasma of pain?
For many people, it’s the latter item that really matters right now. In the past week, sex-toy companies and retailers around the world have been reporting increased sales as people scramble to stockpile the basic necessities they’ll need to survive quarantine. And for many, like 32-year-old Michael, “basic necessities” also means “things to fuck.”
Michael lives with two roommates in New York City where he’s currently under a stay-at-home order, meaning he cannot leave his apartment except for essential trips to the grocery store or pharmacy. Knowing that neither of those options provide much in the way of romantic or penile stimulation, he bought two brand spankin’ new Fleshlights on the sex toy website Adam and Eve to keep him company. One is shaped like a vulva; the other is a fuckable cyberskin ass. “These are my girlfriends now,” he says, adding that he’s stopped caring if his roommates hear the three of them making love.
Many people have been making similar purchases says Zoe Ligon, owner and founder of Spectrum Boutique, an education-focused online sex toy shop. “I’m definitely seeing more people asking about masturbation sleeves than usual,” she says, citing the Fleshlight Quickshot Vantage as last week’s most popular penis toy. (As of now, it’s still in stock.) Elsewhere, Womanizer, a horrifically named company that makes clit-sucking toys, reported a 50 percent bump in sales compared to this time last year, and Katy Zvolerin, Director of Public Relations for Adam and Eve, says they’ve seen up to a 30 percent increase in purchases the past seven days alone.
Most of the items people are panic-buying are to be expected — everyone’s stocking up on essentials like lube and condoms — but there have also been a handful of coronavirus-specific purchasing trends that have emerged as life under quarantine begins.
At The Pleasure Chest, an L.A. sex shop mainstay that’s been in operation for nearly 50 years and has never once shut down until now, latex and nitrile gloves that would ordinarily be used for fisting and silky-smooth hand jobs are being bought up and repurposed as prophylactics against the virus. Every model of Magic Wand has also been flying off the shelves, something the store’s marketing director Michele Craig (a pseudonym — she’s not out about her workplace to her family) attributes to the sudden desire for hardy, tried-and-true toys that won’t break or need to be replaced. Wands aren’t bulletproof by any means, but Craig guesses people are stockpiling them because they offer “powerful self-pleasure” and they “know [they’re] really built to last.” Pretty clutch for when you’re stuck inside your house for the foreseeable future and the friendly neighborhood vibrator repairman is considered a non-essential business, no?
The trends get zestier, though — Craig says that nipple suckers, of all things, were also a big coronavirus hit before the store was forced to close its in-person location and online fulfillment department. No one seems to know why, but she guesses “tough times call for… tough tittties?”
But it’s the anal toys that are the big hit during corona-times — according to Zvolerin, people are really stocking up on all types off butt things to survive the plague with. The rationale here is similarly mysterious, but she suspects it might have something to do with the amount of time and solitude people are starting to have. For some, butt stuff is a low-and-slow game that can take a while to get used to — anal “training” is a thing — so the quaint, quiet lifestyle of a seemingly endless quarantine might be the best time to, as Zvolerin says, “explore some backdoor curiosities.” Maybe that’s the silver lining of all this: a more flexible, accommodating anal spincter.
Few sex-toy companies collect demographic data on their customers — or at least admit to doing so; thus, it’s unclear if any particular group is Y2K stockpiling sex toys more than another. But from the way that couples’ toys have been liquidated in the past week, retailers suspect that it’s couples, hookup buddies or other miscellaneous sex friends who seem eager to add sex toys to their quarantine reserves.
Every sex shop I spoke with reported a sharp uptick in sales of these couples’ toys — especially the ones you can use over Bluetooth or with a Wi-Fi-controllable app. “We anticipate couples’ toys will be popular, as many couples find themselves isolated in close quarters together for the foreseeable future,” Zvolerin explains.
App-controllable toys are in particularly high demand as couples who don’t live together scramble to find ways to fuck each other from afar during quarantine. Britney, a 30-year-old Long Beach resident, says she recently panic-invested in a toy called the WeVibe Sync — a U-shaped vibrator one person can wear while the other controls it by app — so that she and her boyfriend could get each other off without getting each other sick. He lives in San Diego, and she’s not sure when she’ll be able to see him again, so the vibrator is their way of “staying in fuck touch.” It is, she says, one of the only things that’s keeping her morale up during this “trying-ass time.”
Interestingly, the countries that have been hit the hardest are also buying the most sex toys, which makes sense — the stricter the lockdown and the more severe the problem, the lower the opportunity to meet up for much-needed crisis boning. According to the Irish Examiner, Italy’s sex-toy purchases are 60 percent above forecast, France bumped up their buying by 40 percent and the U.S. is grabbing up 75 percent more sex toys from the “global pleasure industry” than they were this time last year. Meanwhile, Canada, for some reason, has upped their fuckable toy consumption by a whopping 135 percent, making them the country with the biggest thirst for quarantine masturbation items.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, no one’s really buying lingerie or bondage items right now. That makes sense, too — in quarantine, the only person wearing a lace push-up bra and getting beat with a flogger is you, by yourself (which honestly sounds more like the plot of the The DaVinci Code than a good time).
That, though, hasn’t stopped Britney from donning what lingerie she still has and sending her boyfriend a video of her using their new toy. “I’m trying to keep the mood up,” she says. “Right now, all we have to go off of is fantasy, nudes and sexting, so I’m trying to keep us both sane by making our sex life a priority.”
And really, isn’t that the beauty of sex toys in a time like this? While global lockdowns make it next to impossible to have sex (unless you’re this throuple), it’s become overwhelmingly clear that our libidos remain strong, and Wi-Fi-operated toys like the ones WeVibe or Lovense makes offer a light at the end of the tunnel for people who are struggling with involuntary quarantine celibacy. “It’s interesting to note that while self-pleasuring is healthy, soothing and can definitely be helpful in these uncertain times, couples are also jumping on the bandwagon and finding comfort in one another,” says Zvolerin.
Whether the trends will continue as coronavirus continues to mutilate and mangle our everyday realities remains to be seen, though. “I’m seeing more jokes and online discussions to the effect of ‘I don’t need a partner, just a sex toy,’” says Ligon. “While sex toys are in no way a replacement for humans or intimacy with another person, it’s actually important to limit intimate contact with new people for the sake of reducing transmission of corona right now. Orgasms are very healthy for all of us in a time like this, and whether you’re alone or with someone, sex toys are tools that make orgasm a bit more accessible to many of us.”