What makes sex technology so complicated?

The sex technology industry faces more unique opportunities and challenges than most other industries. There is enormous demand for sex technology products, with the industry projected to grow from US$28.6 billion in 2019 to US$52.7 billion by 2016. The sex technology industry has enormous capacity for what tech innovators call ‘unicorns’: which is when a privately-held start-up or company with a market value over more than $1 billion. Unicorns don’t come along too often, and investors clamour when there are whispers of what the next one may be.

But while there is an eye-watering amount of profit to be made in the sex technology industry, it’s important to understand that it goes beyond sex toys and orgasms. When speaking to Dynamic Business, Bryony Coles – who is the world’s leading authority on sex technology – explained how the industry also addresses pressing themes and issues such as healthy relationships, supporting reproductive and sexual health, assault reporting, and education. While talk of sexual pleasure – and especially technology’s role in that – may make people feel uncomfortable, the sex technology industry tackles needs in wellness and pleasure that very few individuals or businesses in the market are currently addressing.

However, unsurprisingly, the industry also grapples with unique barriers to success. Despite the profit and growth potential, and the societal demand, innovations in sex technology must navigate complex dynamics of online censorship. The adult content policies of social media giants such as Facebook, Instagram, and even LinkedIn make it almost impossible for sex technology businesses to market their products: advertisements for any type of adult products are prohibited, under most circumstances. Google’s restrictions are similarly strict, with businesses unable to display arousing or illegal themes. Furthermore, payment platforms such as PayPal are known to ban sex technology companies from using them as a payment processor.

World-renowned tech entrepreneur Cindy Gallop highlighted that the struggles faced by the sex technology industry are disruptive business opportunities themselves. For example, if a clever individual was to deliver a solution or tool to address these challenges, they would become an indispensable part of this multi-billion dollar industry that is projected for continued, extreme growth in the coming years. Comparisons have been drawn between sex technology and the cannabis industry, where they jointly navigate impediments to promoting and selling their products.

So, the sex technology industry is ready for even more disruption: not only do the products within the industry themselves have huge potential, but the industry’s challenges are primed for innovation and radical change.