How to Choose a Female Sex Toy: A Complete Guide to Dildos, Vibrators, and Everything Beyond Them

Due to modern society's sexual liberation, selling sex toys is becoming less taboo. With the removal of illicitness, selling sex toys has become a more mainstream and profitable business. In fact, the global sex toy market is predicted to grow by nine percent between 2019 and 2026, from being valued at 28 million dollars to 52 million dollars. If you are interested in starting a sex toy business because of the market growth or for any other reason, below is a comprehensive overview of how to sell these intimate products.

Selling Sex Toys: A Recession-Proof Industry

When people have more money, they tend to spend it on sex toys. When they don't have the money to socialize, they often stay at home and use their sex toys. While monetization in some aspects of the adult industry, such as porn, has started to decline, businesses selling sex toys have seen steady growth. This trend is due to increased commercialization, changing perceptions, and the availability to purchase items both in-store and online.

Looking at statistics per state in the U.S., Vermont has the highest number of bedroom items purchased online, 77.3 percent over the national average. Interestingly enough, the type of items purchased varies according to location as well. In the U.S., the most common item purchased is a dildo; whereas in other top-ranking countries, such as the U.K., Germany, and Australia, vibrators are the most commonly purchased item. Differentiating itself from other countries, the U.S. has penis sleeves and strap-ons as some of its most popular items.

Compared to other adult items, toys and novelty items make up at least 36 percent of purchases, behind lingerie with 37 percent and ahead of essentials such as lubricants and condoms, which take up 10 percent. Niche-oriented products are becoming more popular and are carving out a place of their own. Products that cater to non-cisgender and non-binary individuals are also becoming more common. Growing acceptance of gender and lifestyle differences in everyday life has allowed this advancement in the bedroom as well.

With all of this growth, people expect certain standards to be met, such as better prices, higher quality, and more convenience.

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Selling Adult Toys Online

There is no need for a physical storefront; you can begin selling adult toys online. By eliminating rent for a commercial space, you significantly reduce startup costs. Additionally, online stores cater to customers who may feel too shy to shop for these products in-person.

Selling adult toys online also circumvents issues that could arise if your storefront is deemed unavailable to customers because of inclement weather, events such as parades or rallies, or health emergencies. Adam and Eve, one of the most well-known and established retailers of sex toys, saw a 30 percent increase in their online sales in March and April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Is it legal to sell sex toys online?

In general, it is legal to sell sex toys online. Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s formally legalized sex shops. While the federal government cannot regulate the sale of sex toys, state and local governments may regulate and even ban the sale of these products. For example, Alabama passed the Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1998, which criminalized the sale of sex toys and required conviction to register as a sex offender. However, these products are often sold in the state under the guise of being a novelty or educational item. Other states, including Texas and Georgia, have various laws prohibiting the sale of "obscene" devices. Therefore, it's best to be familiar with the state and local laws that apply to your business.

Compliance with legal regulations when selling adult toys

Product packaging

The packaging of an adult toy includes components such as the visibility of the product, accompanying imagery, and descriptive wording. Even in states with no laws against the sale of adult products, there may be regulations regarding their public display. It is essential to use proper packaging that complies with the said regulations.

When selling sex toys online, it's common practice for the shipping packaging to be discreet and inconspicuous. Many people prefer shopping for their sex toys online for privacy, and if the shipping packaging draws attention to its contents, such as to delivery workers or neighbors, it may fail to provide the expected level of privacy, which may result in losing repeat customers.


Some states prohibit marketing sex toys through email or internet media. It's best to familiarize yourself with the state and local regulations that apply to your business. Regulations governing email marketing may restrict the age of the receipt, options for opt-out, and other elements such as the header and/or images used.

Images and Videos

Before using images and videos for marketing your sex toy business, it's important to familiarize yourself with the laws related to them. To use a stock image, you must obtain proper authorization, while creating images and/or videos may require following guidelines for businesses in the adult industry, such as pornography or phone sex. These guidelines may require you to get government-issued photo identification to verify the age of anyone employed in the adult industry, keep a record of their verification, and produce it should there be an audit by law enforcement. To learn more about understanding 2257 compliance, check out our guide.

Product Naming

The name of a product could potentially endanger its legality. Therefore, merchants may name vibrator products "massagers" instead of "vibrators" to sell them in areas where their sale is prohibited. If you plan on naming a product like a vibrator a "massager," it's best to consult with a legal expert on how to comply with legal guidelines. It's also essential to provide clear descriptions of products to customers, manipulating product names and/or descriptions, even with legal restrictions in mind, may not go over well with customers.

Design and Materials

All adult toys must meet regulatory standards for materials and design. Given that these products are intended for close proximity or penetration of the body, following safety standards is of utmost importance. Disregarding these standards may put customers at great risk of exposure to potentially harmful materials.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recently introduced safety standards for sex toys. ISO 3533 outlines standards for "products in direct contact with the genitalia, the anus, or both." This represents a shift as sex toys were previously largely unregulated. The move towards regulation reflects the growing popularity, booming market, and diminishing stigma of sex toys.

This cursory overview of the laws surrounding product packaging, marketing, images and videos, product naming, and design and materials is only intended for informational purposes. If you're interested in selling sex toys in a manner that complies with laws, it's best to consult a legal expert.

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Starting a Sex Toy Business

The Popularity of Sex Toys The Fifty Shades trilogy was responsible for a 400 percent increase in sales of sex toys mentioned in the books. In the following decade, these products have continued to gain popularity, and a recent survey found that 65 percent of female consumers own one. This trend is set to continue, given the growing interest in sexual wellness and the rise of sextech start-ups.

Starting Your Own Sex Toy Business To succeed in launching your own sex toy business, it is essential to consider certain basic elements. Below is a guide that provides an overview of these elements. For more detailed information on launching a business, check out our guide.

Building a Brand

Branding an adult toy business is not a one-size-fits-all situation. The market caters to customers shopping for products intended for both solo enjoyment and partner use. Even "solo" shoppers can fall into different categories, such as those seeking pleasure, those exploring their physical limits, and those healing from traumatic experiences. Therefore, your branding can target many different potential customer profiles.

Current conversations about sexuality tend to focus on sexual wellness and self-care. Discussions on sexuality from an equality standpoint also have a feminist thread. For example, the term "orgasm gap" highlights the disparity between the sexes in the number of orgasms experienced. These trends can inspire you while brainstorming your business branding. However, branding options will inevitably continue to change as generations redefine what sex means to them. With the rise of sextech start-ups, conversations may shift to focus on forward-thinking, tech-savvy solutions to pleasure.

Types of Sex Toys to Sell Online

The sex toys that sell online can typically be categorized into one of two types:

Pleasure Point Stimulation – This category includes vibrators, pulsators, dildos, butt plugs, anal beads, penis rings, various massagers, and other products designed for genital stimulation and/or penetration.
 Experience Enhancement – This category includes costumes, clamps, gags, handcuffs, paddles, ticklers, and other products that do not directly stimulate the body.
 In addition to sex toys, a wide range of accompanying accessories can be sold online. This includes lubricants, massage oils, condoms, and toy cleaners.

Product Sourcing

Today, businesses that sell goods to their customers have many options for product sourcing, including manufacturing, outsourced manufacturing, dropshipping, and resale. This text explores the benefits and drawbacks of these options in regards to the sex toy market.


Modern manufacturing can be either hands-on or outsourced.

For the hands-on approach to manufacturing, you or your employees create the goods in a facility. In recent years, manufacturing sex toys hands-on has become an even more viable option due to 3D printing. This approach gives you maximum quality control, but it also demands much time and effort.

Outsourcing manufacturing involves working with manufacturers who bring your creation to life. A drawback is that you have less control over the quality of each product than you’d have with a hands-on approach to manufacturing. That said, it’s important to verify that your manufacturer is following safety standards and regulations.

Whatever mode of manufacturing you choose has the upside of providing you with unique products that no other merchant sells. Creating and manufacturing your own sex toys also gives you the opportunity to further establish your brand through design. However, it is a costly production sourcing option that, on top of the manufacturing demands, requires storage.


Dropshipping is a business method in which you don’t stock products yourself, thus alleviating you from the burden of inventory space. Instead, your dropshipping supplier ships the product directly to the consumer. Starting a dropshipping business is especially beneficial to those looking to begin selling unique sex toys online with low startup costs. Additionally, you won’t have to spend time or other resources on the manufacturing, packaging, or shipping of the product. However, dropshipping offers you much less quality control than manufacturing does because it'll be your supplier who'll be handling the product throughout the transaction with the customer. Another risk of running a dropshipping business is that it’s considered high-risk by banks, which may result in higher fees and/or difficulty obtaining a merchant account.


Reselling is a method in which you don’t create your own product, but rather you source and resell existing products. If you’re considering resale, you can buy sex toys wholesale, which you then sell to your consumers. You can also utilize a manufacturer's white label or private label.

Resale is the most hands-off approach to manufacturing. You don’t even have to create products. Instead, you sell pre-existing products that you’ve sourced. The major drawback to this method is that you aren’t entering the market with a good that consumers cannot get elsewhere. 

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 How to Build a Website for Your Adult Sex Toy Business

Sell Sex Toys Online: Build Your Own Website

Today, you can build a website and sell sex toys from the comfort of your home. However, there are a few real-world tasks you must check off alongside the launch of your website. You’ll need to register your business with the proper federal, state, and local entities, as well as register for state taxes. You'll also need to complete a long list of applications, including those for an EIN, business license, and necessary permits.

When it comes to launching the website, the first step is registering a domain name. You might want to consider doing this at the same time as some of the tasks listed above to ensure that your domain name and official business name match.

After registering a domain name, it's time to design the website. The website’s design should aim to optimize conversion rates, with the ultimate goal of generating sales. If you’re unfamiliar with website design, you can outsource this step.

Finally, to execute online sales, you will need an adult merchant account.

How to Market Your Sex Toy Business

Marketing Options for the Adult Toy Market

Selling sex toys can be challenging because it’s difficult to market them. Below are some marketing options for the adult toy market, exploring the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Social Media

Today, many businesses prefer to market through social media. Social media is popular because it’s a tool through which businesses can market while simultaneously building a community. However, every social media platform has its own policies that you must follow. If you fail to adhere to a platform’s policies, your post can be taken down, your account suspended or you can be banned from the platform. Social media platforms are a fantastic means of community building. Therefore, it's important to collect followers' email addresses so that you’ll have a means of communication outside of social media platforms. This ensures that communication can continue even in the case of a deplatforming.

There are also workarounds to social media guidelines. Some adult businesses opt to share links to media such as interviews, articles, or podcasts, the material of which may violate social media guidelines, but linking to them does not.

Influencer Marketing

In the world of social media marketing, many businesses have embraced influencer marketing. In this form of marketing, you enter a contract with an influencer. This contact dictates that the influencer markets your product to their following in exchange for monetary compensation. Factors that determine an influencer’s compensation include their follower count, whether the post is permanent or disappears within a specific timeframe, and the number of posts.

This extremely targeted marketing helps you reach a very specific potential customer while also defining your brand through its relation to the influencer’s brand. For this reason, it's crucial to properly vet influencers before entering a business relationship with them, as their previous or future tarnished reputation can reflect poorly on your business.

Email Marketing

While social media platforms have guidelines that you must follow lest you face deplatforming, email marketing is more flexible, private, and direct. However, because of the private and direct nature of email marketing, it's best to avoid spamming inboxes. Instead, use email marketing for when there are updates on the company, new products, sales, or discounts for subscribers. You can also utilize email marketing in a way that's more akin to newsletters. In this case, focusing on sex education, sex toy tips, or wellness guides can help to establish your brand, market to customers, and build community.


Pay-per-click (PPC) is a popular marketing method in which you only pay an advertiser when someone clicks the advertisement. This method is most commonly executed on search engines, like Google or Bing. Like social media platforms, search engines have their own content policies. However, search engines tend to be more lenient than social media platforms when it comes to sex toys. If you're considering this as a viable marketing route, it's essential to read through the policies for whatever search engine you plan to use. For example, Bing specifically cites violent or torture-related content as being in violation of their policies, meaning marketing BDSM toys may violate Bing’s policies. For more information on how to market with PPC, check out our guide.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is an excellent option for marketing and branding. In employing affiliate marketing, you partner with another entity, be it an influencer, organization, or business. That entity then advertises your product with a link recording any successful sale occurring as a direct result of the entity’s promotion. You would then compensate the entity a predetermined rate for each sale. By using this marketing route, you can further establish your brand through its relationship with other brands.


Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the process of improving your website’s organic rankings and click-through rate. The ultimate goal is to achieve a high ranking in search engine results. However, it's essential to note that using general keywords such as "sex toys" can be highly competitive since well-established brands tend to dominate them. Therefore, targeting specific keywords that are unique to your brand and products can potentially improve your search engine rankings.


Studies indicate that 92 percent of people trust recommendations from their friends and family more than any other form of advertising. As such, referral marketing is an effective marketing strategy for any business.

Referral advertising is organic as it relies on a customer's experience with your brand or products, prompting them to recommend your business to friends and family. Moreover, businesses can encourage customers to refer their social circles to their sex toy business through rewards such as discounts or merchandise for each referral.

Media Buys on Adult Forums

Media buy refers to the purchase of advertising space from media companies like newspapers, magazines, blogs, websites, or television networks. Although purchasing a Super Bowl commercial can cost up to one million dollars for only five seconds, smaller, targeted media buys can be more cost-effective while still reaching your ideal audience. Adult forums, in particular, can be an excellent place to make media buys.

Privacy and Safety for Customers

Some customers prefer to buy sex toys online for added privacy. For this reason, most online sex toy retailers ship their products in traditional, nondescript boxes to protect their customers’ privacy. Some retailers even ensure their brand name doesn't appear on the shipping box or credit card statements at all.

To safeguard customer privacy and back-end operations, it's crucial to create a comprehensive privacy policy that discloses if and how you share customer data with third parties. Additionally, it's becoming common practice among sex toy merchants to grant customer requests to delete their data.

It's essential to ensure safe online shopping for current and potential customers, especially since the products involve intimate use. Thus, it's necessary to observe safety regulations during the production phase and provide proper instructions for the safe use of your products. Additionally, including disclaimers, FAQs, and instructional videos on your website can educate customers on the effective and safe use of your products.

Secure a High-Risk Adult Merchant Account

Due to the adult industry's susceptibility to fraud and chargebacks, banks and payment processing companies consider it high-risk. This can make it challenging for adult businesses to obtain merchant services, leading to unnecessary fees and denial of service. To receive proper compensation for your sex toy products, you'll need a payment processor that supports selling adult products and services, which can process credit cards and online transactions.


The New York Times: "Sellers of Sex Toys Capitalized on All That Alone Time"
 Statista: "Size of the Sex Toy Market Worldwide from 2019 to 2026"
 Thrive Global: "How Millennials are Becoming Millionaires by Starting a Sex Toy Business"
 ISO: "ISO 3533:2021"
 Daily Mail: "Fifty Shades Effect Explodes as Sales of Sex Toys Used in EL James' Racy Trilogy Soar by 400%"
 Nielsen: "Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages"
 The Atlantic: "The Hidden Economics of Porn"
 Jon Millward: "What One Million Sex Toy Sales Reveal About Our Erotic Tastes, Kinks, and Desires"