opinion

A Look at the Ever-Expanding World of Anal Toys

A Look at the Ever-Expanding World of Anal Toys

Did you know that some of the oldest pieces of art on earth depict anal sex? It’s true! While this may surprise a lot of people, for those of us in adult retail, it confirms something we already suspected: people have always been curious about putting things in their butts.

Thankfully, over the years we have gotten better at finding ways for people to do that safely. What’s more, in recent years we have seen a veritable explosion of anal stimulation options. Where once there were simply butt plugs in different sizes, possibly with a vibration feature, now there is a truly massive selection of tricked-out plugs offering everything from thrusting to rimming to tapping to swirling and much, much more.

Create cohesive displays that put everything shoppers need in one place: butt toys, lube and maybe even some enema kits for the folks who are anxious about cleanliness.

The Dawn of Anal Plugs

When did anal toys come onto the scene? Folks have been experimenting with putting objects in their butts for a long, long time with varying results. Many items are not safe for anal play, as they can become lodged in the body, requiring medical intervention to be removed. That’s why it is essential that anal toys have flared bases — and why the “dark ages” of butt play must have been a precarious time.

The first documented anal plugs as we know them, flared bases and all, were “Dr. Young’s Ideal Rectal Dilators,” which were sold as medical devices in the early 1900s. Claims that these torpedo-shaped tools could cure a range of ailments, from cold hands to mental illness, led to the FDA shutting down the manufacturer’s operations. This prompted a lawsuit that led to the dissolution of the company and the destruction of its products, though these vintage items can still be found at antique shops and oddities expos.

Over the next half-century or so, other companies tried their hands at making and selling such “medical devices,” with similar results. It wasn’t until the 1960s that butt plugs started being sold via mail order and in sex shops, with no dubious health benefit claims. From there, the butt plugs of today were born, featuring new shapes and sizes, new materials — glass, steel, wood, aluminum and the industry game changer, silicone — and of course, the introduction of features like vibration. But this was still just the beginning.

Butt Plugs Go Big

As the world embraced the use of anal plugs for pleasure, manufacturers began to think beyond straightforward penetration and vibration. One of the most notable expansions in anal plug offerings was, quite literally, expansion. Today’s butt toy marketplace is packed with products designed to please shoppers who wish to test the limits of their anal capacity. There are super-long toys, inflating toys that actually get bigger while inside the body, toys designed for spreading and gaping, and toys designed for stretching. Basically, if consumers want to go big, there’s probably an anal plug for them. Plus, shoppers who want a little heft to their toys can avail themselves of options such as weighted anal and prostate plugs in sizes small through XL.

Anal Toys Get Advanced

While big, heavy, vibrating plugs are fun, the sex toy industry is an innovative, fast-paced, tech-savvy space where new ideas are regularly unveiled and cutting-edge designs are always on the horizon. Some of the next-level products available today might offer your shoppers stimulation they didn’t even know was possible.

For folks who have prostates — typically anyone born with a penis — it’s a great time to be shopping for pleasure products. That’s because one of the biggest areas of growth in the last decade has been prostate-specific anal toys. Though not everyone loves prostate stimulation, the prostate is often touted as a go-to pleasure zone, and prostate toys are ideal for targeting it. If shoppers want to add even more sensation, steer them toward something with a tapping function. If they are still hungry for more, crank it up to 11 with an inflatable stimulator, which combines prostate stimulation, inflation and tapping for a whirlwind of sensation.

The sheer range of sensations available from today’s anal toys is simply astounding. There are toys that replicate the sensations of partnered play, and toys designed to replicate the unique sensation of a rimjob. The upshot here is that when it comes to butt plugs, we’ve come a long way from Dr. Young.

Helping Shoppers Navigate the Options

When helping shoppers look for anal toys, remember that you can never really tell what level of experience — or shame or fear — each person is coming in with. You’ll be talking to everyone, from experienced players ready for the biggest, most feature-packed plug you can throw at them, to curious beginners who have never put anything in their butts and may be quite nervous and maybe even a little embarrassed. Many folks have also been exposed to toxic messaging that incorrectly assumes that playing with butts somehow defines their sexual orientation or gender identity. When it comes to learning about and experimenting with anal, people have to deal with a lot of crap. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Stock a wide variety of plugs in a range of shapes and sizes, from the pinky-finger sizes to the sizes that seem too niche to stock. Pro tip: they’re not!
  • Create cohesive displays that put everything shoppers need in one place: butt toys, lube and maybe even some enema kits for the folks who are anxious about cleanliness.
  • Be ready to answer shoppers’ questions about what each product does and, in some cases, why it could feel good.
  • Practice a positive-neutral tone of voice and facial expression so that when you engage with shoppers’ various questions, you’re able to show them the kind of respectful, friendly objectivity that they deserve but may never have encountered before.
  • Avoid unnecessarily gendered language. The butt is the great equalizer — everyone of every gender has one! — but only folks who were born with penises have prostates. These products are about butts and experiences, not genders or sexual orientations.

Anal toys are constantly evolving. That should be no surprise, since all across the industry we see products that even 10 years ago would have sounded like the stuff of fantasy. As products continue to become more advanced, helping your shoppers understand these innovations can help them find the toys they love, which will help you make sales today and turn them into repeat customers tomorrow.

Rebecca Weinberg is an award-winning industry leader with more than 20 years of experience in the adult industry. She is the president of multi-award-winning pleasure product manufacturer XR Brands.

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