8 Sex Trends for 2021: Is this the Year of Polyamory?
What a ride that was. 2020 was a difficult year for sex and frankly, we’re glad to see the back of it. If 2017 was the beginning of a tectonic shift in the landscape of sexuality, then in 2018 it became a landslide, with a slew of new and increasingly devastating sexual assault allegations and the uprising of the #MeToo movement. If there’s anything positive that can come from 2018, it’s that discussion of harassment and equal rights is now more open than ever before, even if it’s a LONG way from being ‘fixed.’
Will this trend continue through 2021? Is there anything to look forward to in next 12 months? Will our spring of eternal hope keep on…erm, springing?
Spoiler alert: yes! We are confident that it’s going to be an exciting year for pleasure-seekers, and that’s there’s plenty coming for you to look forward to, so to speak.
Open and Polyam Relationships
Sex and relationships involving multiple partners have been around for all recorded history, and beyond. But only now is there increasing acceptance of ‘alternative’ relationship dynamics. BDSM and kink were thrust into the public consciousness, in the wake of 50 Shades. Now, the mainstream is being aware that more complex, and potentially more satisfying relationship styles are out there.
The polyam community is long established, and there are plenty of really good advocates for it. 2021 will likely see these communities and dynamics explored in more understanding detail by the mainstream. It’s by no means a revolution, but it’s a step towards mainstream recognition (if not approval… yet).
Singledom & Gifting
Counter to the previous trend, one of the biggest trends we’re going to see in 2021 is an increase in women remaining happily single later into their lives. This continues a trend that’s been going on for decades: the average age for marriage in 1971 was 22.4 years old, in 2018 it was 31.
What’s new though, according to LELO’s 2018 website data, was the exponential growth in women buying sex toys for other women. Around Valentine’s Day 2019, LELO saw 14% of all orders being placed by women and sent to other women’s addresses – up from 8% the previous year.
Obviously, not all those women were just ‘gal pals’ (wink, wink) but our customer service team saw a notable uptick in women asking for advice for what vibrator friend might like. The pattern becomes clear: women are more and more comfortable ordering intimate pleasure products for their friends – and we believe everyone should be so lucky to have a friend like that!
We expect to see another dramatic jump this year, and long may it continue. Sending someone a sex toy as a gift is the best way to truly say, ‘I value your happiness.’
Sex dolls have been around for decades, usually of the shocked-looking inflatable kind with silly names like ‘Roger More’ and ‘Anita Blowjob’ – one of our staff famously won such an item with ‘erotically glow-in-the-dark chest hair’ at a college bingo game. But 2021 might well see them take us all by surprise. No longer haunting the dusty shelves of your local dingey sex shop, sex dolls are coming of age, with full silicone construction, (sometimes creepily) lifelike features, and fully articulating internal skeletons that offer a natural range of motion. And naturally, there are male and female dolls already available.
Sex dolls have come a long way. Watch out, they’re climbing up and out the other side of that uncanny valley, and they’re coming for you.
Related to, but separate from, the sex dolls above, 2021 will see the beginnings of an artificial intelligence revolution in sex. This is going to manifest itself in a number of interesting ways. The wheels are already in motion, but based on the creeping success of devices like Amazon’s Alexa, sexual devices of all manner will soon be able to learn the patterns and idiosyncrasies of your pleasure and tailor themselves to you personally – though, we hope you aren’t currently having sex with Alexa in the room, because really, she’s just trying to give your recipes for baba ganoush and play Jimmy Buffet for you.
On the serious side of things, why couldn’t an AI sex doll use biometric data (heart rate, breathing etc.), to learn what you love and respond accordingly? If a vibrator learns that you like it when it talks dirty to you, its algorithms will over time adjust its performance to find out exactly what it should say before you know it yourself. And this leads into the next upcoming trend…
App Integration/VR/The Internet Of Everything
Sex toy apps have been around for a while and none have really been successful. In fact, they’ve been boring, use-once-for-novelty affairs with no repeat play value. There’s a reason for that: no one really knows what they want from a sex toy app. It’s one of those things that, since 2014, sex toy manufacturers have just assumed they should have one, without understanding why.
That changes in 2021. In fact, LELO has launched a prototype male pleasure product, the LELO F1S, that includes an app developer’s kit which allows savvy customers to essentially create their own app, to do whatever it is they want it to do. The F1S has a number of sensors and motors on board that send feedback to a smartphone, and can be manipulated however the user wants. The most useful of these apps will then be made available to the public. It’s kind of like crowdsourcing the perfect sex toy app. We think this is the only way a sex toy app can rise above the rest and really succeed, because it’s based on what the customer wants, instead of what the manufacturer thinks they should do.
Related to the above, male sex toys will see another resurgence in 2021. The market is already excited about the launch of LELO’s F1S (there are two variants); they’ve been clamouring for us to make one for years. Little did they know we’d been working on one that whole time. Two years ago, LELO kickstarted renewed (or new) interest in prostate massage when we launched the HUGO, BRUNO and LOKI massagers. The same looks set to happen again in the coming year, as the entire industry begins to treat male sex toys with the same reverence that we’ve been treating female-focussed sex toys for years.
Look out for a raft of new, higher quality male pleasure products in 2021.
Angrier Sexual Discussion
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, we should also brace ourselves for a year of turmoil and upheaval in 2021. The wave of anti-misogynistic, pro-feminist, pro-equality sentiment is far from broken. In fact, it will be some time before that wave reaches its high-water mark and begins to roll back – many long, hard years of sacrifice lay ahead.
From the ashes of 2018, we can expect to see conversations about sex, consent, sexual equality and human rights become increasingly fraught and heated in 2021. What we’re seeing is the old order of sexuality being rocked to its foundation, and when it’s cornered, it lashes out. Traditional sexual values are, necessarily, under threat, and those that seek to preserve and defend them are more vocal than ever. That’s a positive sign, it means those with more progressive attitudes are winning. This fight won’t be settled in 2021, but the debate around it will be more polarising and acerbic than ever in history. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Sonic Tech/New Sensations
When it comes to sex toy design, one of the inherently limiting factors is our anatomy. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find new ways to stimulate the same nerve endings, so most sex toy companies design to a distinct theme: bigger, smaller, more powerful, more colourful, and so on. But nothing fundamentally changes.
Until SONA came along. The LELO SONA was released in 2018, and it did away with conventional vibrations in favour of a completely unique system that relies on sonic waves to stimulate the clitoris.
This offers an entirely new kind of sensation that delivers the pleasure much deeper into the body. It was an industry-defining moment – in fact, LELO’s new F1S pleasure products feature the same technology. So in 2021, look out for an influx of sex toys that no longer rely on traditional vibrations, but on ‘contactless’ sonic technology.
Donna is a Volonté contributor and freelancer who lives in San Francisco with her understanding husband and not-so-understanding teenage sons. Her work has been published in The Journal of Sexology and she is currently writing a book on love languages.