Some Thoughts On: Innovation and Cynicism (Have We Become too Jaded?)

I’ve reviewed some truly fantastic products recently and some of them have left me, to quote myself, ‘pleasantly surprised’. But why was this the case? The Sola was the most recent toy to catch me off guard, primarily because it was an indie product, it was crowdfunded and it was different. But why should the effectiveness of this product surprise me at all?

As an industry there has been a strong drive towards innovation recently; common sex toy products are seen as cliché, uninspired or simply lacking if effort and engagement with the consumer. Yet, at the same time, we’re incredibly skeptical whenever something new comes along, perhaps to the point of being jaded.

The most recent example comes from Lelo.

Lelo have recently sent out teasers hinting at a striking new product. The product in question? The simple condom.

Providing very vague hints on March 28th, Lelo pitched their new product (the Lelo Hex) with the slogan ‘Our world has changed. The condom hasn’t. Until now.’ Acting as a promise to provide an option beyond the conventional condom.


Unfortunately March 28th is very close to April 1st. The result? The Lelo Hex was widely labelled and April Fools and Lelo gained more than 200 emails asking if the Lelo Hex was real or not.

Lelo has since emphasized that the Lelo Hex in, in fact, real and is coming in this summer, but the whole experience certainly got them (and myself) thinking. ‘Customers simply don’t believe a better condom is possible now, as the April Fools comments showed’ said Steven Thomson, Chief Marketing Officer at Lelo:

There have been too many false dawns, and the big condom brands seem content to maintain the status quo, or maybe they’ve lost hope as well.  The fact is the condom industry drastically needs a shake up – and the only way to do that is through genuine innovation – to convince consumers the condom has changed for good!

Perhaps when it comes to condoms there is a specific issue. In general the condom hasn’t changed much in over 70 years so it might be hard to believe that a change is wanted or perhaps even needed. Dr. Zhana Vrangalova, PhD, certainly seems to believe so:

We’ve had something that works reasonably well enough, so brands weren’t pushing to completely reinvent it, just improve on the existing models…

Our attitudes about sex and our habits and desires about sex have all shifted in a positive way since the condom was invented. There are countless innovations in the world of sexual pleasure, sex education, and sexual health, but the condom has remained basically the same.

Cindy Gallop, an amazing feminist activist and creator of Make Love, Not Porn, agrees:

Our society and business culture does not encourage people to innovate and disrupt in the area of sex. Society and business throw up huge obstacles for anyone trying to innovate…The major global condom manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure a virtual monopoly.

But is this an issue that is exclusive to condoms or is it something that companies struggle with in general? And is it really just society and businesses that hold this view?

Innovation is fantastic but, if I’m being completely honest, I do feel a little bit skeptical about entirely different products. I put up my guard. I don’t always expect success. Yes—I get excited when I see innovative products—but I also become wary and wonder if it really will change the way we see sex toys or if it’s just another ‘novelty’ item instead of a truly innovative product.

Novelty vs. innovation is certainly a big concern in the sex blogging community. Usually a lot of new stand-out products cost a fair amount of money and none of us want to see people spend a large sum of money on something that turns out to be a gimmick. As such 99% of sex blogger cynicism usually comes from a place of genuine passion and compassion for their readers.

But if innovators in the sex toy industry gain resistance from society, businesses and the sex toy and adult blogging community then will they continue to feel the need to innovate? How can we expect positive moves towards new and exciting products (from both small independent businesses and big established companies) if we shoot them down before they’ve even had a chance to launch?

I don’t have all the answers (and I’m certainly not saying that questions and productive criticism are the enemy) but perhaps we’ve got to a point where the shortcomings of the past are actively hindering the progress of the future.

Steven Thomson hit the nail on the head when he said that there have been too many false dawns. We’ve been promised changes before, we’ve been disappointed by products that seemed exciting. I’ve personally experience it, as I’m sure many bloggers and consumers have before. If not with condoms then with sex toys, or movies, or anything really. Any industry can build up a sense of false hype only for the final product to end up as a huge disappointment. But does that mean that we should give up on fostering innovation and actually giving new products a chance to be tested before they’re judged? I personally don’t think so but I would love to hear your thoughts.

Until the next review,