Text and illustration: Blog between the legs
The sex toy review genre is in a deep crisis. The industry for adults is releasing everything and releasing new items fr om year to year, but looking at the presentation and analysis of these things becomes more and more boring. And this despite the fact that the volume of sales in the market is growing. Why is that? What is the paradox?
The genre of gadgets reviews for sex toys itself is an adaptation of a genre that emerged in tech blogging. By the same canons as the reviewers of new smartphones and laptops unpack and meticulously analyze new digital technology, sex bloggers once began to work. It would seem logical – there is a technical novelty, there is an understandable and convenient presentation format. What is wrong with this logic?
Consumer hierarchy: “And I have a new model!”
First, digital gadgets have long been inscribed in the consumer culture. That is, the telephone is not only and not so much a universal means of digital survival. A phone is a thing that testifies to the status of its owner, to his positioning himself in an artificially created confrontation between Apple and non-Apple (which is why in any review you consciously or unconsciously follow how this or that new brand is trying to bypass the favorite at the turn). This is “consumption of consumption”, a game of simulacra, a culture of abundance. But sex toys are not and, God forbid, they will never become simulacra. It is impossible today to imagine a situation wh ere the owner of a brand new vibrator model contemptuously looks at her friend, who still has the previous model. In the sex toy market, things are much more ethical. Do you have a vibrator that suits you completely? Good. Are you not afraid to openly say in a public field that you have it, to declare the very fact of its presence in the nightstand? Fine. This is where the hierarchies and statuses end. Even in spite of the fact that formally there are expensive brands and economic ones on the market. But this differentiation within product groups does not become a social hierarchy. And bloggers, those whose shelves are bursting with all kinds of sex gadgets, who receive their “product libraries” not just for free, but with a substantial surcharge in pursuit, have been removed fr om the consumer hierarchy. Because the principle of envy has been destroyed. I can envy a blogger who gets a new computer every week and plays the newest games on it with a pre-access. But envy a person who, having long found for himself one or two sex toys that are optimal for his sensitivity and anatomy? And just because the sex shop has been waiting for a detailed and, preferably, selling review fr om him for a month already? Rather, it evokes sympathy.
Secondly, a new smartphone – with a new camera, a new principle of color rendering – will really improve your daily life with each of these innovations. The content on your social networks will become more attractive, there will be more space for storing new applications and an archive of photos and videos. Each innovation will enhance your everyday comfort. But the fact that the new vibrator has not ten modes, but fifteen – your personal orgasm (provided that you already have a well-chosen toy), most likely, will not change! In the best case, you will try some new sensation, play with it for a couple of days, and then return to the regime that you have already found for yourself. Perhaps, instead of 15 minutes of masturbation, you can finish in ten (do you really need it?).
Why is a sex blogger interested in a manufacturer?
So what do we get? There is a target audience – people without toys. At some point, in unprecedented ways of the Internet, they first subscribe to their first sex blogger. They admit that having a vibrator in your nightstand is not a shame, but you can study your sensitivity. They look at all the reviews released by the blogger at the moment, perhaps even pay for a personal consultation, make a purchase. They remember the name of a convenient online store and a good promotional code. This is in case the device breaks. And that's all. Then they flip through the reviews like a forced advertisement, focusing on posts about relationships, lovers and recipes for a photogenic breakfast. Thus, the blogger is of interest to the manufacturer not by the absolute numbers of the audience, but only by the growth delta. Only steadily growing bloggers are of interest, and this is provided that the growth occurs not through an audience exchange with the same thematic blogger, but from an external contour. That is, a blogger with a faithful hundred thousand readers is not interesting if this hundred is really true. At the same time, access to the external circuit for the "harvest of neophytes" is more and more difficult every year due to the tightening censorship protecting minors. And not many people want to constantly participate in public scandals and freaky shows, wh ere the blogger will be poured with mud. And in another place, neophytes who still do not know anything about good devices are difficult to find.
Reviews of consumables and reviews through practices save the situation a little. Do you already have a good vibrator? Have you tried straponing your partner? Here, by the way, a new strap-free strap-on came out. Do you end up only with a vacuum cleaner? Try the bridge technique. By the way, she will have to get a rabbit vibrator. Abstaining during your period? We've got new menstrual cups for sex here. Increase sales by stimulating curiosity and experimentation. Such reviews – through practitioners presenting a toy as a means, as a key to a new experience – are more interesting to read than comparing characteristics a la tech blogger. But this is a rather narrow funnel. Yes, and there are not so many practices strictly tied to a specific key-object, with all the diversity. Divide this by the consensus coefficient, because not every partner will happily lie under a strap-on. We get the impossibility to make this type of review the main selling tool.
Will sex bloggers find a new approach? What can help?
For the past few years, we have lived in a magical bubble of ethical and relatively steadily growing sex blogging. But the toy market is growing and sex blogging is stagnating. And no design can save this situation. Neither the new technical micro-nuances of the toys themselves, nor the original presentation content. It’s scary to imagine wh ere everything can go, obeying the logic of the market. Will the moment come when society will be able to instill this toxic system of status in the new model, and we will not notice how we will measure ourselves with vibrators? Are sex bloggers only as interesting as they participate in public scandals, preferably with bloody consequences? Or will they be forced to push the audience to the obligatory push of the partner to a new experience that he does not want? If a fundamentally new principle, a genre that has not been copied in the wide market of gadgets and simulacra, is not found, which has grown out of the peculiarities of this particular sphere, then yes, all this new tenderness that has been growing for several years, still fragile, will collapse like the Dow Jones index on “Black Monday".
How will this problem be solved? Through the expansion of geography beyond large cities? But this is the same dangerous activism fraught with public condemnation and problems with the new Russian censorship at the same time. Perhaps one of the sex bloggers will feel the sufficient strength and strength of their armor and will be able to take an activist position, similar to the one that Tatyana Nikonova took, taking all the blows from the outer contour? So far, contrary to the expression that a holy place is never empty, no one dares or is able to take the place of a holy martyr, attacked from all sides and from all weapons.
Through younger or principally older bloggers? After all, all the relatively ethical sex blogging in Russia (we do not take into account sperm shame) is a little frozen today in one age group. I will not describe the difficulties of this strategy in order not to fall into ageism. I will only say that this – the most established age group – is also not going to give up its leading positions for nothing.
Through a deeper sociological analysis of the potential target audience? It doesn't really work when you need a real breakthrough, innovation. Because the audience cannot know what kind of breakthrough they want, what kind of surprise to surprise them, what kind of new genre or new social mechanics to open for them. That's what innovation is for. That's what a breakthrough is for.
I'm tired of reading monotonous reviews, and something tells me that the people who do them are tired too. This is speculation, projection, hypothesis. But, if this is indeed the case, then for this to change, in order for a breakthrough to occur, whatever it may be in the end, two prerequisites are required:
– a certain number of experts with a fairly large audience should consciously and boldly start experimenting within the genre;
– at least one major sponsor should take the risk of investing in this kind of sex review laboratory, understanding the risks of experimental searches.