How One Brand Is Single-Handedly Changing the Sex Toy Industry

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SmileMakers

We've noticed a major shift in the way the media shows (and talks about) women's bodies. We're happy to see more diversity in the imagery we're presented with (although there's still a long way to go), and we're also glad to that in a general sense, women's sexual pleasure is no longer a taboo or uncomfortable topic.

Still, on a personal level, many women feel uneasy talking about sexual pleasure. Olivia, 29, says she's not surprised, given the way sex was discussed back in her school sex-ed classes. "[The lessons] weren't geared toward female pleasure in the slightest," she says. "We talked about male masturbation, but there was no mention of girls' self-pleasure." (This is a common thread when we talk to women about masturbation, a topic many feel embarrassed to discuss, even with friends.)

Doctors continue to be fascinated by the science behind the female orgasm and the many ways in which people experience them. There are many studies (past and present) about the "big O" and how women can achieve an orgasm more easily. It's also thought that self-exploration with toys could help some women who haven't previously been able to climax.

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SmileMakers

The truth is that we look after our hair, skin and our body's fitness and health, so why are we shunning our sexual well-being? A recent study showed heterosexual women orgasm less than any other demographic when having sex. Female masturbation is a great way to explore what you enjoy sexually. It's healthy, liberating, fun and ultimately leads to a better sex life (alone or with a partner). So when we came across SmileMakers, a company aiming to put a body-positive spin on sex toys, we knew we needed to find out more.

What is SmileMakers?

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Smile Makers

The company's co-founders, Mattias Hulting and Peder Wikstrom, founded the company in 2013 with the aim of creating products that didn't yet exist—namely, practical yet stylish products designed specifically for women. And they also aimed to take their products to regular stores rather than relegating them to the back wall of sex shops.

"We're living in a time with increased sexual empowerment, encouraging women especially, to take control," says sexologist and relationship expert Nikki Goldstein. "Isn't it now about time we gave the everyday woman that control in how they can purchase their sexual well being products?"

How is the brand different?

For a long time, sex shops were the only option for women wanting to explore their own sexual pleasure. "I'd say I'm liberal, open-minded and positive about my own sexuality," says Alice, 28. "But even I found the whole sex toy–buying experience was shrouded in secrecy and embarrassment. They're tucked away on a back shelf in a dimly lit shop, which makes it feel seedy rather than healthy and normal (which it is)."

Emily, 29, agrees: "I, for one, felt I had to sneak into a shop praying no one saw me. Often I found the staff overly keen to offer other products to buy; I wanted to say 'This experience has been embarrassing enough; I'd rather not talk to anyone right now.'"

Many women we spoke to talked of hiding the fact they were buying toys. "I would only buy vibrators online, all the time praying the packaging was discreet enough that the postman wouldn't know what it was," explains Jess, 24.

This brand feels different—Smile Makers is available to buy in chic fashion and lifestyle stores like Free People in the UK, and in Urban Outfitters and Goop in the U.S. "They aren't garish, the packaging looks and feels luxe and strangely, though I never thought I'd say this about a vibrator—they feel stylish," says Katie, 30. "Their toys are more 'me' than others I've tried."

The brand is also committed to giving back; it works with organizations like the United Nations to help provide easy access to sexual education. It recently visited Borneo's Sabah Family Planning Association Clinic, which promotes family planning, sexual health and sexual education.