Today I want to talk about something awkward but necessary: sexual wellbeing. Sexual wellbeing is an extremely important but taboo and under-discussed aspect of physical and psychological health. If you know me in real life, you may want to stop reading around here and detour to the safer waters of sunscreen quantities or exfoliating or hair protectants instead. Or not, since we’re talking about breaking taboos in the name of health here! (It’s OK, I promise there are no photos of me using the things, and no in-depth descriptions of my relationship with my junk.)
Priceline Pharmacy, the more health-focused arm of Australia’s popular female-oriented health and beauty chain, has just started stocking the Swedish brand Smile Makers. Smile Makers makes personal massagers and lubricants that have been in Asian and European pharmacies since 2013. It was created to counteract a big problem worldwide, which you can see through these stats from a survey performed on Australian women*:
- 75% of feel that sexual satisfaction is important to their overall wellbeing
- 4 in 10 are not sexually satisfied
- 47 percent have used a vibrator before
- More than half (55%) of those who have not used a vibrator before are interested in trying one
- 23 percent did not feel comfortable in a sex/adult shop whether in person or online
*Ramblin’ Brands claim based on research conducted by Nielsen (25th August – 2nd September 2016, 1,002 sample size, out of 5,329,000 Australian women aged 18-50 population estimation)
Sexual health research backs up a lot of these claims, as well as the fact that vibrator use is associated with positive sexual function and is rarely related to side effects. Lower sexual satisfaction is correlated with poorer physical health (heart disease, diabetes) and mental health (depression, anxiety). In other words, there are a lot of women out there who could benefit from owning a vibrator, but aren’t comfortable purchasing them, due to where they’re stocked. Less than a quarter of the surveyed women, but still – that’s a decent chunk.
Smile Makers aims to solve this problem for those women by introducing accessible products outside of the “adult” world – in Australia’s case, in the female-friendly environment of Priceline Pharmacy, alongside other health essentials like vitamins and Panadol and makeup (a frequent mental health necessity!).
The Smile Makers range in Priceline includes five personal massagers (The Millionaire, The Tennis Coach, The Fireman, The Surfer and The Frenchman) and two premium lubricants (Little Light Liquid and Generous Gel). The waterproof vibrators use easy-to-clean phthalate-free silicone, run for about 4 hours on a AAA battery and are pretty darn quiet. There’s a single button that cycles through 4 speeds and a pulsation mode. The prices are also pretty reasonable ($24.99 for the Surfer, $49.99 for the rest).
The big question: should vibrators be sold in a pharmacy, where people of all ages can potentially see them? I have to admit, when I first saw Smile Makers between cellulite cream and flea tablets in a department store in Switzerland, I found it confronting and did a double take. And I made sure there was no one else in the aisle before I took a closer look (and a surreptitious photo). The sleek design is as inoffensive as you can get (elegant, abstract designs have been partially credited for the widespread acceptance of vibrators in pop culture). While I know greater access and normalisation of sexual wellbeing a fantastic idea and I’m pretty darn socially progressive, on a gut level I’m still a bit uncomfortable.
Which is why I think it’s a very brave move from Priceline – if it makes some young(ish) feminists a tad uncomfortable, how will the rest of the population respond? There have been backlashes in the past when mainstream retailers have tried to stock these sorts of products: Woolworths stopped stocking the Durex Bullet Vibrator after a fortnight in 2013 due to pressure from “family groups”, and though there are lots of loopholes, the sale of vibrators is still outright banned in Alabama on the bizarre logic that it would “promote prostitution and incest”. However, countries you’d think would be more conservative, like Malaysia and Singapore, have embraced the brand with very little controversy.
Priceline are taking precautions to stock them on higher shelves away from children’s curious hands, and to see the listings on the Priceline website you have to go through an age check, but that might still not be enough to appease some people. (In contrast, there’s no such precaution for condoms on the site, which are used almost exclusively with a partner in acts which have an age of consent, and the packets have much more titillating imagery. The same family groups have left condoms alone as well. Certain sections of society seem to have massive hangups with females enjoying themselves.)
I think it’s fantastic that there’s a friendly place for women to purchase quality vibrators if they aren’t comfortable buying them online or in an adult store. I personally feel that it’s way less awkward purchasing online through a site like Femplay or AdultShop or LoveHoney, where I can refer to advice and reviews and have everything arrive in a discreet parcel. However, I did have friends in high school and uni whose parents opened their mail for them, so I can see the need for an unintimidating brick-and-mortar environment. There are also lots of people who aren’t comfortable shopping online or want to see products firsthand. And while there are “classy”, female-friendly adult stores like Max Black, they’re pretty rare in a sea of stores with nipple-tasseled window mannequins and sticky walls (not judging those stores, but it can be pretty intimidating for a newbie). So I’ll just have to get over my discomfort and let progress take its course.
The downside is that the Smile Makers range is very limited, with only 3 external-only and 2 internal/external vibrators, so it isn’t going to meet a lot of people’s needs. While the vibrators are nice starter products, I’d personally prefer something rechargeable for less wastage. Design-wise, as sleek as the single button is, I’d prefer a more efficient way of navigating things (yes, I use Android and PC and love having too many buttons to know what to do with). I’m hoping that Smile Makers serves as a welcoming gateway for many women, and its presence in Priceline starts some long-overdue conversations about female sexual wellbeing.
What are your thoughts on Smile Makers being stocked in Priceline? Is it a good idea, or is it too much?
These products were provided for editorial consideration, which did not affect my opinion. For more information, see Disclosure Policy.