Despite their intended purpose, sex toys aren't really that provocative anymore.
No longer are the personal pleasure devices niche items only in shady adult shops; they've evolved to become an almost mainstream appliance that can be purchased at your local drug store. The design of sex toys has shifted from grotesque to haute, taboos have loosened—if there was ever a golden era for the sex toy, it's here and now.
And this is reflected in the sales figures. In 2011, the sex toy industry raked in $15 billion worldwide. The following year, an Atlantic magazine profile of Jimmyjane—a longtime industry leader in both sales and design innovation—noted that the American sex toy market alone was worth roughly $1.3 billion a year. For context, that's more than double the value of the condom market, based on figures from Trojan.
So we know Americans are buying a lot of sex toys—but what do we know about where they're buying them?
Back in 2012, the national sex toy retailer Adam & Eve sought to answer this question and released an infographic based on internal sales data that pinpointed the biggest sex toy hubs in America. By their count, states with the lowest populations (Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota) had the highest concentration of sex toys per capita. "It must get awfully lonely there…" read the snarky commentary on the graphic.
In hopes of updating and expanding on this data, this fall, I reached out to some of the world's top sex toy manufacturers—including Jimmyjane, Pipedream, Lelo, PicoBong, Vibratex, and Doc Johnson—to see if they would share some information on where they're selling the most products today. Most companies were predictably tight-lipped—the sex toy industry is, ironically enough, pretty private—but I did get some relatively revealing data from Jimmyjane.
Jimmyjane is about as close as you can get to a household name in the sex toy business. It was the first American sex toy manufacturer to break free from the gaudy design norm that dominated the industry before the early 2000s, and, by virtue of being first, Jimmyjane is often seen as the biggest influence on the modern American sex toy industry. While the company mostly sell products for women, it also sells toys for men and couples.
But their products are on the pricier end—which is to say that Jimmyjane isn't a perfect indicator of where the most sex toys are being sold, but it's a pretty good one.
The figures provided by Jimmyjane come from online sales through the company's website, and span from Jan. 1, 2015 to Sept. 15, 2015. Unlike Adam & Eve's data, which breaks down sex toy sales per capita, I ranked Jimmyjane's top selling locales based on the percentage of total transactions in each state and city. This means the highest ranking places are the ones that are making the most transactions online. (Since the company didn't provide a breakdown of each state's sales, I wasn't able to determine a per capita ranking.)
California, where Jimmyjane is based, leads by a long shot with about 29% of the total nationwide transactions. Coming in at second place is New York, followed closely by Texas. For the record, these states are also among the most populous in the country, so their high ranking doesn't come as a huge surprise—although there is something buried in the Texas data that sparks some interest. (More on that in a second.)
Lelo and PicoBong provided me with some numbers as well, which are very similar to Jimmyjane's—big cities in California, New York, and Texas also lead their transaction rankings. Chicago, a top-selling location for Lelo, was the only outlier.
Notably, California and New York are both remarkably sex-positive states—while Texas is not. Not very long ago, Texas had a law that made owning "obscene devices"—meaning any device "designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs"—illegal. In 2003, the law was changed to make owning six or more "obscene devices" illegal, and it was finally overturned and scrapped in (wait for it) 2008!!!!
Another thing that's interesting about the Texas numbers is something that isn't reflected in the map, because it can't be. On the data sheets provided by Jimmyjane, the number five slot—with about 3% of the state's total transactions—actually goes to a location designated as "not set." A spokesperson for Jimmyjane told me that, since the data comes from GoogleAnalytics, this "not set" figure refers to data Google wasn't able to track.
There are multiple reasons for something like this happening—the most likely being that 3% of Jimmyjane's Texas sales were conducted via private browsing, which makes location-based IP addresses undetectable to GoogleAnalytics. Considering Texas's infamously restrictive views on sexuality (ILLEGAL DILDOS?!?), this could be a sign that, while Texans are happy to bring sex toys home, they don't want anyone on a shared computer knowing about it.
Oh, Texas. There's no need to be embarrassed! All your neighbors are buying them. It's not illegal anymore! In fact, as far as I'm concerned, owning a sex toy (or six) is encouraged.
Hannah Smothers is a reporter for Fusion's Sex & Life section, a Texpat, and a former homecoming princess.