While we take our vitamins, meditate regularly and practice yoga to calm our minds, how many of us will admit masturbating to our mental health? This is a great way to self-care. 78% of people (that’s 4 in 5 people) say they feel happier and less stressed after having an orgasm. These positive side effects are what we want now more than ever. Online retailers have seen a rise in searches for “sexual wellbeing” – this term saw a 850% increase on Cult Beauty’s website in March, when the UK lockdown was implemented. Since February, Smile Makers has seen a double in daily revenue and a 50% increase in traffic to its website.

There is a greater amount of time at home and less interaction with others. This means that we need to make time for ourselves and focus on our bodies. While in the past, the social discourse about sex was focused on its dangers and virtues when it came to women. Today, however, female sexual expression can be enjoyed, celebrated, and even shouted at.

“Smile Makers was founded after our founders went into a sex shop. They found the entire shopping experience, branding, packaging, and pricing to be very vulgar and disrespectful to women,” says Cecile gasnault, the marketing director of the brand, and creator of Vulva Talks. “Even today, the first thing you think about when you think vibrator is the large, phallic shape.” The Smile Makers team was conscious of the huge market for vibrators in the UK. More women than dishwashers have vibrators. They set out to create a brand that would encourage discussion around female sexuality and make it more fun.

Gasnault says that Gasnault’s goal was to establish a brand that could be sold in mainstream retail. The brand would focus on beauty and health shops, in order to convey the message that sexual pleasure is important for overall well-being. This has been scientifically proven in studies. Self-pleasure has many benefits. It can boost mood, reduce cortisol levels and even improve sleep quality. Only you need to know your body. Gasnault says that women who feel comfortable with their bodies enough to use a vibrator or masturbate are more likely to be able to perform breast and vulva check-ups and have a better chance of being healthy. Studies have also shown a positive correlation between self-pleasure, improved immunity and happiness.

It is obvious that it is powerful to take the time to get in touch with our bodies, what we like, and what we don’t like. Adding little pleasures to our days – via a vibrator or crafting project – is always a good idea, especially during difficult times. Gasnault also says that masturbation or orgasm can be compared to a moment in meditation. “When you feel sexual pleasure, it makes you really present in the moment. It brings you back to your true self.”

The Sexy Toy Chest toys aren’t as scummy as many of their predecessors. There are no exaggerated forms or veins. They’re simple and sculptural, with pleasing-to-the eye shades. There is a toy for everyone with names like The Surfer (a gentle, foreplay-friendly massager), The Fireman (flame-shaped for stimulation), and The Frenchman (“tongue-shaped”)

There are also other brands that cater to females in this space. Dame offers a range of products that “close the pleasure gap”, are discreet enough to be used with a partner as well as yourself. Unbound’s Bean, a small, all-bases-covered, palm-sized toy, uses targeted pressure, while Lelo offers a variety of toys with different pleasure-making settings. Naked Grapefruit and other brands approach sex in an accessible, fun way. Jenna Anderson (buyer at Cult Beauty) says that the vast majority of our sextech brands were created by women to address needs that have been largely ignored in a male-dominated sector for a long time. The fashion-forward trend for vibrators has been reflected in Christopher Kane’s 12-speed bullet vibrator, “More Joy”, which was launched shortly after launch.

Cult Beauty is one of many e-tailers that has dedicated a section of their platform to sexual wellness. Boots, Feelunique, and Look Fantastic all offer sections for sexual pleasure and well-being. There are also mood-enhancing candles and intimate cleansers, lubes, and softening formulas to help pubic hair. This Works, a wellness brand, has launched products to make you feel more sexual. The Love Sleep Pillow Spray is one example. It contains ingredients such as patchouli and ylang-ylang to stimulate feelings of sensuality. Gasnault says that female empowerment and sex are on everyone’s minds. This is a shift Gasnault believes has only been realized in the last few years. She says that the Me Too movement was a major factor in bringing about the open discussion. “Retailers were more open to discussing female sexuality and wanted to work alongside brands that were relevant.” Viva la sexual revolution.

By Manali