January 29th, 2009

I love high-quality sex toys just as much as the next girl, but I’ve always been a bit suspicious of their even higher price tags. $159 dollars for a vibrator? $60 for a butt plug? $130 for a small silicone cone? Don’t get me wrong: I have a lot of loyalty to stores like Babeland and Good Vibrations, so I don’t mean to imply they’re fleecing us. A lot of work goes into designing hip, approachable items. Still, the top-end materials that get used in these toys appear in other, non-sexy products for a heck of a lot less. So why should we have to spend so much for our pleasure?

During a visit to the Good Vibes headquarters here in San Francisco’s SOMA district last week, I put that question to the legendary Carol Queen and her staff. The answer I got was a bit spotty, but it came down to two factors.

1) Sex toys use small, delicate motors, the technology for which is constantly evolving and expensive. While I believe the tech behind certain, “intelligent” toys must be pricey, it’s hard to swallow that the motor that makes my Laya buzz like the back massagers of yore could really be that complicated.

2) The economy of scale. Essentially, because so many fewer sex toys are produced at one time — as compared to other products that use the same materials — the price of those toys goes through the roof. Whereas William and Sonoma can be millions of silicone spatulas, thus reducing their individual costs, a company that only makes a few thousand vibrators doesn’t have the advantage of working in bulk.

I can’t help but think that explanation only scratches the surface of the economic factors behind sex toys. I’d love to know, for example, how many copies a manufacturer normally makes of each toy model. I’d love to know the price of the raw materials involved, and of the assembly process. I’d love to know how much a store like Good Vibes marks up its products in exchange for repackaging them in a friendly, aesthetically pleasing way. And I’d love to know where such toys are produced, whether we’re purchasing the work of factory laborers making a pittance, or whether we’re funding dildo-fashioning fat cats.

The truth, I suspect, is somewhere in the middle. Still, as soon as I can find a venue that’s willing to run a full expose on the financial side of producing sex toys, I’m piecing this baby together step by step. That way at least I’ll feel like I understand why the heck I’m shelling out $100+ to make my genitals buzz.

Tags: sex toys

2 Responses to “Why sex toys cost so damn much”

  1. lala Says:

    I would just like to say that any price you pay for the Delight (the product you pictured as an example of an overpriced toy) is worth it. While I’m the first to admit that sex toys are often overpriced (and while I think that economies of scale is a good reason, fetishisation of buying things is probably an even bigger reason), if you are a person who likes that sort of thing, that toy is worth it’s weight in gold.

  2. Sex Toys, Adam & Eve Says:

    The cost of sex toys is certainly a curious topic to explore. At least people find their sexual adventures worth investing in ;)

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