Despite the dismal economic climate, the sex toy industry is booming.
Erotic products for women alone boast an estimated global retail value of £1.3m, with peaks around Christmas and Valentine’s day, according to market analyst company The Hewson Group.
So far, so liberated. But do products such as Rampant Rabbits (for women) and porn star vaginas replicas (for men) necessarily indicate the growth of a more liberated, progressive sexual culture?
According to Cindy Gallop, founder of MakeLoveNotPorn, the underlying messages of many sex toy descriptions can be incredibly problematic for modern men and women.
She told HuffPost UK Lifestyle: "The language of sex toys and pornography splits and divides the sexes."
Take a quick look at almost any sex toy website, and you'll see a marked contrast in how products are marketed to men and women.
While it's clear the marketplace is changing, with modern websites such as Lovehoney.co.uk redefining how we describe sex toys, the fact remains that many sites promote retrograde notions of how men and women should behave in the bedroom.
In the most extreme cases, products for men sound like they’ve come straight out of a tacky porn film, while those aimed at women appear to have been manufactured by Care Bears.
According to sex toy website Bondara, the best selling products for women are from the ‘rabbit’ range -- vibrators shrouded in cute furry animal imagery that are likely to come in pink or purple. With glitter.
The products encourage women to live out their fantasies to reach "higher heights than a butterfly!”
For men, however, the product range is rather different. Disturbingly, guys are encouraged to use a “hot pussy” or “tight ass” with “no commitment, no bullshit and no worries about knocking her up”.
Here is a selection of some typical sex toys
Fleshlight Girls Tori Black Swallow
If you've ever fancied a blow job from award winning porn star Tori Black, now is your chance! Tori has had her lips moulded by Fleshlight to create this super realistic masturbator. Kept inside a discreet pearlescent case you'll find her slightly parted lips which lead you to a tight entrance, a sensational stimulation chamber and tight finish, all made from Fleshlight's famous realistic Superskin. Run it under warm water to reach body temprature and add lashings of water based lube. Delve inside and enjoy a better than real oral sex experience you'll love! <a href="http://www.bondara.co.uk/fleshlight-girls-tori-black-swallow">Available at sextoys.co.uk</a>
Rampant Vibrating Cock Ring - Blue
Release the wild side in you with this rampant vibrating cock ring that provides powerful stimulation and amazing sensations for both of you. The stretchy silicone cock ring is instantly performance enhancing, resulting in prolonged erections and pleasure of the most orgasmic type. The powerful clit stimulator sits on top of the stretchy cock ring giving great clitoral stimulation and makes for truly satisfying pleasure all night long! Includes a one-use battery and comes straight out of the packet - ready for use just when you want it. <a href="http://www.bondara.co.uk/rampant-vibrating-cock-ring-blue">Available at Bondara.co.uk</a>
Loving Joy Bathtime Buddies Diving Dolphin
The Diving Dolphin is a flippin good vibe! Dive right into splashtime fun with the Diving Dolphin, with its convenient hang tie for easy storage and drying. It's curved shape is great for G Spot exploration and its tail works as a great clitoral probe. Simply rock him backwards and forwards to reap the benefits of his nose and tail. Simple twist base makes control easy. <a href="http://www.sextoys.co.uk/bathtime-fun/loving-joy-bathtime-buddies-diving-dolphin.asp">Available at SexToys.co.uk</a>
A superbly formed and solid jelly rabbit vibrator delivering impeccable all-round satisfaction. The bulbous shaft and realistic head ensure a perfect internal massage while the powerful rabbit shaped stimulator takes care of your clitoral needs. Features easy to use multi-speed controls at the base so that you can concentrate on other things. We think this is the most sensibly priced rabbit vibrator available on the market. Includes free batteries and a whole loada orgasms! <a href="http://www.bondara.co.uk/jessica-rabbit">Available at Bondara.co.uk</a>
F*ck Me Silly 3 Mega Masturbator
You've always dreamt of fucking a long-legged beauty like this, so what are you waiting for? Take your fuck slut out of the box, get out the free lube, and pound that bitch 'til you Fuck Her Silly! This mega masturbator is the most realistic and lifelike lower half of a woman ever developed! You'll swear it's just like fucking the real thing --only better! She's warm, tight, super-soft, and always ready for action! Lay her on the bed and watch her cute little size 6 1/2 toes dangle over the bed! Every curve, every attention to detail is carefully molded after a super-cute, super-leggy model with the tightest little pussy we could find. Get on top of her, spread her cheeks, choose which hole you want to give it to her in and fuck her silly! Leg lover's rejoice, we've got your fix! This luscious set of lengthy legs is perfect for leg worshippers, calf-cravers, and foot fanatics. She's everything you want from a woman, without all the bullshit, with no strings attached--literally! Dress her up in your favorite stockings or lingerie, hide her under the covers in bed, or just fuck her silly from behind all night long--she never says no! With over 20 lbs of super-soft Fanta-flesh engulfing and massaging your cock, this is the only woman you'll ever need. Slap her big round ass and listen to the whack--it sounds and feels just like a real ass! Squeeze her little footsies together, put your cock in between them, and experience the most realistic footjob ever! When you're done, blow a load deep inside her ass or pussy --cleanup is a snap (either way) with Pipedream Toy Cleaner and warm water. No commitments, no bullshit, and no worries about knocking her up. It's an all access, any time mega masturbator made for your cock! <a href="http://www.amazon.com/PDX-Fuck-Silly-Mega-Masturbator/dp/B004RVNCBC">Available at Amazon.co.uk</a>
Loving Joy Bathtime Buddies G-Spot Explorer
The G Spot Explorer has been designed specially to enable you to find the ever elusive G Spot! The shaft is curved and thin ending with a smooth bulbous end for earth shattering G Spot massage. It has five amazing stimulation functions so you're sure to find the one perfect for you. All are controlled by the easy use one touch controller at the base of the shaft. Part of the Bathtime Buddies range it is at home under water and has a special hang tie so it can hang out to dry after use. <a href="http://www.sextoys.co.uk/g-spot-vibrators/loving-joy-bathtime-buddies-g-spot-explorer.asp">Available at SexToys.co.uk</a>
Butterfly Dreams G-spot mini-vibe
Get all in a flutter with the Butterfly Dreams G-spot mini-vibe. The perfect size for beginners and advanced toy-lovers alike, the soft, flexible shaft is amazing at probing your G-spot while the butterfly base sits neatly within your folds and against your clitoris for simultaneous pleasure! The removable bullet offers 3 orgasm-enducing speeds which are guaranteed to have you reaching higher heights than a butterfly! <a href="http://www.sextoys.co.uk/g-spot-vibrators/butterfly-dreams-.asp">Available at SexToys.co.uk</a>
According to Cindy Gallop, the language of many male products derives directly from the porn industry: an environment that's not only geared towards men, but can form the basis of their sexual expectations.
The "mildly euphemistic" language of female products, Cindy adds, stems from social convention. Women are often still embarrassed or ashamed to admit to masturbation.
Sex toy retailer Bondara told HuffPost UK Lifestyle that their decision to use such divergent descriptions is deliberate because products "do not translate the same way with men and women".
However, this approach does not find favour with modern feminists, such as Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism project. She believes gendered advertising is “outdated” and “harmful”.
Equally, Scott Lukas, a professor of anthropology & sociology at Lake Tahoe Community College, and the brains behind the US-based academic resource GenderAds.com, agrees that the commodification of sex is not straighforward.
“The sex toys are not the problem; the problem is the meanings that corporate marketing firms and the sex industry attributes to them and whether or not we let the storytellers of consumerism come to bed with us.”
According to Cindy Gallop, neither sex gets off easy, as current product branding can be off-putting to both sexes.
"The language and the way sex dolls are marketed currently, means that if I was dating a guy and I found out he had a sex doll, I would cringe. It would make me feel differently about the guy and put me off. But if the product was described in a way that showed his appreciation of women, I would be more likely to understand."
She adds that hyper-sexual language on the packaging can make sex toys seem intimidating to both parties.
“Men often feel threatened if a woman whips out a vibrator during sex. But if the product showed how it would benefit women sexually, a man would understand and want to use the product with his partner.
"Perhaps, if products explained how you could feel, rather than what role you should play in a relationship, this would help everyone in society have better sex."