If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we must take our pleasures where we can find them. This is nowhere truer than with sex.
In fact, sexual pleasure is now defined, straight up, as a basic human right. On September 11, 2021, the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) ratified a Declaration on Sexual Pleasure in its General Assembly. This bold declaration urged societies throughout the world to recognize the important role of sexual pleasure as a key component of sexual health and sexual rights. The working definition of sexual pleasure, created by the Global Advisory Board for Sexual Health and Wellbeing, “is the physical and/or psychological satisfaction and enjoyment derived from solitary or shared erotic experiences, including thoughts, dreams, and autoeroticism.”
As sexual wellness finds newfound respectability, these genderbending, destigmatizing, inclusive-friendly, open-minded sex trends are on the rise.
Sex Trend No. 1: Erotic ASMR and audio porn
Sometimes porn visuals can be a tad intrusive, limiting your imagination instead of setting it free. Erotic ASMR (a.k.a. the autonomous sensory meridian response, or the “tingles” triggered by certain sounds like whispers or fingernails scratching) takes traditional ASMR and ups the ante.
The whisper may start talking dirty, the tapping may morph into a bout of friendly spanking. Since both ASMR and sex pertain to the realm of intimate, it seems inevitable a subgenre would emerge that makes that overlap explicit.
Erotic ASMR also shares much with audio porn, another new rapidly growing trend that allows listeners to be turned on by the sounds of sex, not the optics. Both audio porn and erotic ASMR emphasize a more nuanced, imaginative aspect of sexuality: the longing, the buildup, the aural soundscape of bodies expressing pleasure through signs, groans, moans, heavy breathing, and the golden contentment of the afterglow.
DIY: Whisper your fantasies to each other in bed, making sure to add graphic, concrete detail. To heat things up when you are apart, try sending recordings of you whispering your fantasies, creating a sense of impending culmination.
Sex Trend No. 2: Menstrubation
Masturbation can take the edge off pain, especially period pain—hence the portmanteau menstrubation. A recent study conducted by sexual wellness company Womanizer and menstrual cup brand Lunette, who partnered together to conduct a small study on menstrubation, found that 42 percent of 341 study participants said solo sex addressed period pain best. Overall, more than 90 percent of participants recommended masturbation for relief of period pain.
How does it work? Feel-good hormones including dopamine, oxytocin, and noradrenaline are released during and after orgasm. These hormones induce feelings of bliss that prompt pain to take a back seat, an effect that may last for as long as an hour after you climax. Masturbation also increases blood flow to the uterus, which helps relieve the pain that comes along with uterine contractions during your period.
DIY: Experiment with different positions for self-pleasure and maybe even other parts of your body. If lying on your back makes period cramps more pronounced, shift to poses that alleviate any abdominal pressure. A pelvic tilt, similar to bridge pose in yoga, may feel more relaxing; being on all fours or in child’s pose may also help. Likewise, if you prefer to stay clear of the vaginal canal, try loving on other parts of your body, such as your clitoris, vulva, anus or nipples. For a nipple massage toy—amongst other proclivities—try Lovense’s Hyphy, a dual end vibrator that has a high frequency tip that comes with a nipple attachment.
Sex Trend No. 3: Sustainable sex toys
Biodegradable, solar powered, and fully recyclable sex toys are now options for the eco-minded consumer. It took a while for sex toy manufacturers to catch up with the growing climate crisis zeitgeist, but huge strides in sustainability have made their impact on the sex toy market. These days, you’ll find toys made from recycled materials and powered by recyclable batteries. There’s a company that sells a carbon neutral rabbit by planting a tree with every purchase, and another with a solar-powered vibrator—all part of the new, “make love not plastic” ethos.
DIY: Try the world’s first biodegradable sex toy, Premium Eco. Made of biolene, a biodegradable bioplastic, the Eco also comes with a fully replaceable and rechargeable battery. A product design that encourages an extendable lifespan, the Eco is built for pleasure, constructed to last, and engineered to leave no trace.
Sex Trend No. 4: Men’s pleasure gets queer eyed
Traditionally seen as taboo, male sex toys are finally having a moment. As outdated notions of toxic masculinity are left by the wayside, men are more motivated to explore self-pleasure techniques such as prostate massage, edging, and frenulum-based orgasm.
Part of the societal shift prompting more men to invest in sexual wellness has trickled over from gay culture, says Dimitry Yakoushkin, San Francisco-based Sex and Relationship Coach. “I think gay and queer culture has been leading the way in terms of what is fun for men to use,” he says. “Gay men have been using butt plugs and anal toys for decades, and that has spilled back to straight culture.” Armed with more overall body awareness and better communication skills, penis owners are discovering new realms of exquisite sensation.
DIY: One of the best toys for frenulum stimulation is the Arcwave Ion. Using the same pleasure air technology of the Womanizer’s Eco, the Ion slowly edges men to an orgasm that closely resembles the delicate, earth-shattering pleasure that people with vulvas experience. For the prostate-curious, the Aneros Helix Syn, with precise anatomically correct contours, offers a contraction-responsive design that can help produce mind-blowing orgasms for men.
Sex Trend No. 5: Sexy is self-determined
Increasingly expansive definitions of gender, identity, and the erotic have broadened definitions of pleasure and who’s entitled to receive it. “With the rise of body positivity, I’m seeing a lot of people reaching out asking how they can see themselves as sexy in the body they have,” says Melissa Fritchle, a Santa Cruz, California-based holistic psychotherapist and sex therapist. “As a somatic practitioner, I work with people to experience their body from the inside out versus the outside in. This gives the body a lot more range to feel their own sexual energy and excitement and desire from the inside of them.” With this approach, the body has permission to be an ally—not a harsh critic. “When I work with non-binary clients or clients who are transitioning, we discuss learning to use whatever genitals they currently hold in ways that feel more genuine,” Fritchle says.
DIY: Many independent sex toy companies have started to focus on non-binary people’s needs, as well as encourage cisgender folk to become less rigid about gender. Wildflower has created a line of sex toys that work for all bodies—the adult equivalent of Walldorf kids toys—and are simple and open ended. Their flagship product, the Enby 2, is a dynamic rechargeable vibrator for all forms of pleasure. Unlike most vibrators, you can hump it, grind on it, and even tuck it in a harness or put it between two bodies.
Sex Trend No. 6: Adaptive sex toys designed by and for the disabled
Although 15 percent of the global population lives with some form of disability, their sexual needs are still considered taboo and clouded with stigma. “There are so many prejudices people have regarding disability, autonomy, and sex,” says Robin Wilson-Beattie, a San Francisco-based disability and sexuality educator. “In the last six years there has been more discussion of making sex—and sex toys—more accessible.”
Now, there are toys created for those with hand limitations, and many positioning toys that make hands-free masturbation a welcome reality. “Sex is not considered a priority for the disabled,” adds Wilson-Beattie. “People act like it’s a bonus, the least of your problems, rather than an essential human right.”
DIY: Sex toy company Bump’n aims to dispel such taboos and make pleasure more accessible with the first line of sex toys specifically designed for those with hand limitations. “Hands are the biggest barrier to sex toys on the market and to an unaided wank,” reads the copy on their website. They make a joystick that can accommodate/position a variety a gender expressions as well as a variety of toys.
Sex Trend No. 7: Sonic tech and bio mimicry
Sex toys are reaching new levels of precision, pleasure, and customizable play, all aimed at one goal: bigger, more forceful, fuller-bodied orgasms. Sonic tech, which adapts fancy toothbrush technology to sex toys, is a big buzzword in the latest crop of pleasure products.
Instead of standard vibrations, sonic-based toys emit powerful sonic waves that stimulate broader expanses of genitalia than simply tickling the nerve endings on either the penile or vulva head. Sonic toys can revolutionize your orgasm, pulling the orgasm out of you from deep inside, creating a prolonged climax after a delicate sensual build-up, and leaving you luxuriously tingly for what feels like exuberant minutes après. Biomimicry is also becoming more common, used in some high-end sex toys, to replicate the sensation of the mouth and tongue or the come-hither movement of a finger.
DIY: Lelo’s Sila was one of the first to embrace sonic waves in service of a transformative orgasm. The Osé 2, created by Lora DiCarlo, is a sophisticated hands-free vibrator that uses microrobotics and biomimicry to generate a dual orgasm—a clitoral and vaginal orgasm that happens at the same time.
Sex Trend No. 8: Long-distance sex products
Remote-controlled sex toys have been around since the 90s, but sales spiked during 2020’s pandemic times. These kinds of toys were a game changer for couples separated by lockdowns or quarantines who sought ways to maintain an active sex life while apart. These toys allow for interactive pleasure from a distance as well as IRL synchronized sexual experiences. Although “remote controlled” and “intimacy” seem like an oxymoron, the virtual aspect has its own kind of clandestine seduction.
Mostly, long-distance toys add a physical aspect to an otherwise virtual sexual experience. Long distance play can also include elements of exhibitionism, surprise, and even dominance/submission with remote sex partners. Sometimes, users may never even have met the person who is controlling the app in real life.
DIY: The We-Vibe Chorus sets a new standard in remote controlled sex toys. The chorus is meant to curve to the wearer’s shape, providing hands-free pleasure both internally and externally. Waterproof and rechargeable, it offers three speeds, seven vibration patterns, and a high tech “squeeze remote” that matches the vibration intensity to your grip. It pairs with a phone app, called we vibe connect, that makes digital intimacy frictionless. Your partner can play with you from wherever they are, but it’s also designed to be used during intercourse to stimulate both partners and create conditions for a simultaneous orgasm.
Sex Trend No. 9: Kink goes mainstream
Since 2010, the American Psychiatric Association has declared fetishism and BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance and submission) to no longer be a pathology. Thankfully, the old, patriarchal paradigms of how sex works no longer feels relevant. In fact, for many, normative sex feels restrictive—and not in a good way. As binaries get bent, kink is emerging from its (often) self-imposed dungeon. Ask someone who identifies as vanilla (plain, regular sexual proclivities) what kink is, and they will describe it (prudishly) as unorthodox sexual practices, concepts, or fantasies, primarily in the BDSM continuum. But for the kinky or the kink-curious, kink represents much more than subversive sex. It’s a modality willing to confront and act out questions of power, agency, and identity. It offers its enthusiasts the potential to discover, within its protocols, kink as a vehicle for anticipation, communication, presence, intimacy, release, and even liberation.
DIY: Have a brave conversation with your partner in which you share and express your sexual values and biggest desires. Esther Perel has a great list of sexual conversation starters. Consider asking each other questions like these: Is there something sexual you long for? When you are bored sexually, what do you do to change that? Then, do a little online exploration for communities and dating apps that might help you explore some of your kink fantasies, like FetLife or the alternative dating app Feeld.