What 1 Million Sex Toy Purchases Say About Us

VIbes_01_Sydney_Hass copy 2Illustrated By Sydney Hass.
Big data journalist Jon Millward has directed his keen powers of analysis at everything from the last words of death row inmates to the science of constructing the perfect compliment. His latest investigative project is one of his most ambitious — and sexiest — endeavors yet. Earlier this year, Britain's No. 1 sex toy retailer Lovehoney granted Millward access to their Google Analytics account, and with it, anonymized data on the purchase of a million sex toys by 300,000 people from all over the U.K. and the world, as well as their opinions on their buys in the form of 45,000 reviews. When he began, Millward had no idea what sifting through this abundance of information on people's most intimate activities would yield. Last week, in his post-research recap "Down The Rabbit Hole," he revealed the answers. It's clear that we're passionate about our sex toys; it gets really fascinating when we consider who likes which ones, and why.
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Sex_toys_ResizedImage: Courtesy of Jon Millward.
Millward kicks off his analysis with some amusing stats on just how popular Lovehoney's products (of which there are 5,508) really are. "Lovehoney has dispatched about 120,000 cock rings in the last 12 months," he writes. "If these were combined into one Godzilla-sized cock ring, it could (with the necessary permit) encircle the Empire State Building 20 times." What's more, Lovehoney sells "enough lubricant in a year...to provide a single continuous 52-hour-long lube power shower," and enough batteries to power a Jessica Rabbit 2.0, Lovehoney's top-selling Rabbit vibrator, for 28 years straight. If, for argument's sake, we assume that the average woman takes five minutes to orgasm while using one, that's enough power for three million orgasms, Millward points out. (Cue the Amélie orgasm montage.)
So, we adore our pleasure products. But, which do we love best? Millward found that 22% of the Lovehoney items purchased are essentials, such as lube and condoms; 18% are vibrators (in fact, half of the women and a third of the men who order from Lovehoney buy a vibe); 12% of purchases are lingerie; 7% are anal sex toys; 6% are cock rings; 5% are male sex toys such as the Fleshlight; and 4% are kegel/Ben Wa balls/beads (the Brits call 'em "jiggle balls"). Restraints, dildos, and gifts (such as the "Husband Voodoo Doll" and "Fetish IOU Cards") account for 3% of sales each.
Sex_toys_Resized_2Image: Courtesy of Jon Millward.
While the sales data was anonymized before it reached Millward, first names were preserved, so he could determine sex toy preference by gender (with a certain margin of error due to gender-non-specific names, and the possibility that some purchasers used names that didn't match their gender identifications). He also took the time to sort every one of the 815 penetrative toys — vibrators, dildos, butt plugs, and beads — in the Lovehoney catalogue by color and show them to scale in an oddly mesmerizing whorl, above. Lovehoney's customer base is almost exactly evenly split between men and women — but, buying patterns unsurprisingly vary according to gender, as well as to relationship status and sexual orientation. Intuitively enough, single men are more likely to buy male sex toys than men in relationships, while single woman are more inclined to purchase vibrators than their shacked-up counterparts. Men and women with significant others order lingerie with the same frequency as one another, while single men purchase it relatively rarely (it'd be a little awkward to spring a bustier on a lady friend on the third date, after all).
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Men buy 71% of the wigs Lovehoney sells; it's impossible to tell how many are for their partners, how many are for personal use, or, hey, how many are for partners to share. Guys also buy 71% of the condoms sold on the site — though 90% of the purchasers of small-size condoms are dudes. Meanwhile, 23% of female Lovehoney purchasers buy anal toys, regardless of whether they're committed or free agents, but men display a marked difference in anal-toy ordering depending on relationship status: 29% of attached male purchasers buy anal toys, compared to 35% of single male purchasers. What's more, single guys buy dildos more often than single ladies, attached men, or attached women. It's possible that heterosexual men feel more comfortable exploring non-heteronormative sexual desires on their own than with partners, while unattached bisexual and homosexual men are more likely to look for me-time accessories than attached men of those orientations. Navigate over to Millward's website — and follow him on Twitter — for more on what our bedroom accessories say about us. You just might get an idea for your next online purchase — discreetly packed and shipped, of course.
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