Sex industry

4 Things You May Not Know About Working in the Sex Toy Industry

Published: AUGUST 19, 2021
Spreading pleasure for a paycheck. It sounds cool - and it is! See what industry insiders have to say about working in the business.

The pleasure products industry (aka sex toys) is in a major growth phase. The global sex toy market experienced a 26% growth rate from 2019 to 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and is expected to continue to grow at a compounded rate of 8% per year through 2026; it was valued at $33.64 billion in 2020.

Just as in any industry, the industry around sex toys requires human labor - people who can invent, design, market and sell these products to consumers. But for many people, this labor market is a bit of a hidden one. If you aren’t involved in the industry or know someone who is, you’ll be hard pressed to learn about it. And, even if you know someone who works in the industry, you may not be aware of it - persistent taboos around sexual topics mean many people still keep their careers quiet.

As part of our visit to the July ANME/XBIZ show, a trade show for adult novelty manufacturers and others in the pleasure products industry, we conducted a survey of those at the show to learn more about how they got into the industry. Here’s what we learned.

Read: 4 Things You Learn When You Attend a Sex Toy Conference

Many people “fall into” the industry- for others it's the family biz

Even for those who were lucky enough to grow up in sex positive spaces, most don’t consider pleasure products as a career (at least not yet!) Almost all the respondents in our survey told us they fell into the business through a friend or other contact.


“Someone on my roller derby team informed me of an opening at XBIZ. I was in the music industry and decided to take the leap. I never looked back!”

“I was born into the Industry. My great aunt on my mom’s side started in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s selling products out of her home by doing home parties. In the early ‘90s she sold her company to her sales reps and opened the store. She just retired last year at the age of 81. I went into nursing. After 12 years, I was burnt out from the medical field and went to go work for my aunt at the store as she was having medical concerns. I ended up taking over as her health declined until she retired and now I own the business.”

“I’m third generation!”


The Industry Is Full of Great People

When asked what people like best about working in the sexual wellness/pleasure products space, more than half said “the people.” We can vouch for that one! As an industry that still requires a little courage to jump into, people working in the space tend to be genuine, open-minded and fun to be around.

“I love the people I work with, the people I meet at events, the people I meet in the industry, attending expos and cons, and teaching people about pleasure and various ways to experience high levels of pleasure. I believe I am helping to save the world one orgasm at a time. And, of course, I love trying out the products!”

Another common theme? People loved being able to help other people enjoy more fulfilling sex lives.
“[I love] talking with my customers, who come from all walks of life! I love getting to know them and learning about who they are. I love to learn about all the upcoming products and services the industry provides then getting to share that knowledge with my customers.”

“My favorite thing is helping people live more fulfilled lives. As an adult, sex is a big part of our lives and helping people make that better is such a powerful thing. It is something I am very proud of.”


This Industry Has Unique Challenges

While the sexual health/pleasure products industry has made great strides in recent years, the industry - and the people in it - still face challenges as a result of remaining taboos around sexuality and sexual pleasure. Those challenges can be personal, coming in the form of judgment and uncomfortable silences when people learn about their careers; or professional, coming in the form of additional barriers when it comes to working with other professional and financial organizations.

Check out our content about femtech, where many founders discussed these barriers in depth.

“People who find out that you're in the industry automatically assume that you have no standards or run some seedy business. It's hard sometimes to tell people what I do for a living because my children and family get judged by other parents.”


“My jobs and roles in the sexual wellness/pleasure products industry are often viewed as sex work/inappropriate/embarrassing/negative, by people uncomfortable with my experiences in the industry. I am proud of my work in the industry and grateful that I landed in this community.”

“There are a lot of restrictions to how businesses operate, from zoning to advertising, to financing. From a purely business perspective, it’s forced everyone to get creative and adapt as we go.”

Another challenge many respondents called out was the size of the companies they work for - and what that means in terms of work loads and the potential for job growth.


“Oftentimes, I have been the only person in the marketing department, which I love because I can wear many hats and get as creative as I want. By the same token, the sky isn't always the limit when it comes to job growth with small companies; your department may only consist of one or two people and the position above you is the owner.”

Most Can’t Imagine Being Somewhere Else

Most of our survey respondents have worked in the industry for at least four years; half have been at it for more than 13 years! That’s probably because despite the challenges, the sexual health/pleasure products industry can be a lot of fun. It means bringing something positive to the world, while also pushing boundaries toward positive change.

“If these walls could talk … ;-) I’m just grateful to be here.”

Kinkly Staff

Sex is a bit like a secret society; everyone's doing it, it's just that no one talks about it. Kinkly's mission is to start that conversation, answer your questions and help you discover new and exciting things about sex, love and your body. We guarantee it'll be illuminating, enlightening, fun ... and a little kinky. And that's OK with us.No innuendos, no judgments and no apologies, just fearless, straight-up talk about sex.

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