It may or not surprise you to know that the international market of sex toys is woefully unregulated.
It may not surprise you since, as BaDoink has pointed out time and again, the mainstream and its authorities are hilariously unprepared and unwilling to discuss notions of sex, much less engineer the economy and the intricate web of international trade to accommodate them.
It may surprise you since the lack of regulation of a market for products that are placed at varying strengths and speeds into any number of orifices is not only dangerous, but recklessly stupid and indicative of a further lack of insight from those who are supposed to lead and protect us.
If this is all news to you, then it’s for the best that you stick around because we’re giving you the lowdown on Sex Siopa, the Republic of Ireland’s very first health and design focused sex shop. It’ll be more than Irish eyes smiling when Sex Siopa are around!
Sex Siopa provide visitors and would-be customers with an in-depth collation of facts and other learning resources designed for you to make the most informed and safest choice possible. Be thankful Sex Siopa and their contemporaries are; things could be very different otherwise.
In 2008, George W. Bush (remember him?!) signed into effect the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. In essence, it outlawed children’s toys containing more than 0.1% of Phthalates (a chemical used in the process of plastic softening). The chemical in question is linked to various cancers, and the Act’s introduction offered to look out for children who may be likely to put dangerous toys in their mouth. The regulation, with a sad inevitability, did not include sex toys. As always, it’s one rule for them, and one for the rest of us.
Seattle-born Shawna Scott, the brains behind Sex Siopa, is astounded that governments across the world have failed to close this smallest of loopholes, leaving generations of people at risk solely because they choose to purchase and use sex toys that have not been regulated correctly. HUH?!
“I’m not the first person to highlight this issue” states Shawna when talking to BaDoink. “There’s a good handful of shops in the States and manufacturers like Tantus, Lelo and BS Atelier who have made this part of their mission. Tantus has been talking about this since 1997!
“I don’t know why governments all over the world have ignored this problem. This shouldn’t be a ‘sex toy issue’. This is a consumer product issue. If they feel that chemicals like phthalates are toxic enough that they would ban them in children’s toys, why not just ban them in all consumer products? It makes no sense to me.
“In the meantime we’re seeing paper after paper after paper being published about the serious negative health problems associated with long-term exposure to phthalates. I don’t know why they’ve refused to act thus far, but they really need to do something. If they want me to help write the legislation, I’m here for them!”
Although Shawna may have not been 100% serious when offering legislators her help (although they really could do with it… then again, Shawna is too smart for politics!), it’s another indicator of how a strong head for business, an eye for an idea and reserves of strength and endurance has taken Sex Siopa to the position of prominence they enjoy today. In a little under four years, Sex Siopa has aided and abetted an industry mired in governmental mistrust and industrial negligence.
“I’ve always had an interest in sexual health. I was always the one explaining different birth control options and giving sex and relationship advice to friends. The idea for Sex Siopa came in 2011. I was in the market for a new vibrator, but I wanted something that was well designed and made from bodysafe materials. This was so important to me, because after doing a bit of research, I discovered the whole industry was largely unregulated.
“So I went to Babeland, our famous, female-owned sex shop the next time I was back home in Seattle. I was blown away by the shop and their amazing customer service. When I got back I knew I wanted to bring something similar to Ireland and found there were no other shops even remotely close to that here, so it felt like it was meant to be.”
This twist of fate has allowed Shawna and Sex Siopa to stock only the most reputable and safe sex toys and aids that the market has to offer. From 2011 onwards, Shawna and Sex Siopa have built more bridges within the industry than any amount of government sabotage could even dream of burning. Like Lenny Bruce said, fuck the government. Sex Siopa’s most popular products are those that have stood both the test of time and the fickle demands of consumers.
“Vibrators are definitely my most popular products. The Lelo Mona 2 and the Tenga Iroha Mini are my top sellers. The Iroha is great because it’s compact, affordable, and adorable! The Mona 2 is a huge favorite amongst sex blogger community. It’s probably one of the best g-spot vibrators on the market. It’s definitely an investment piece, but totally worth every penny.
“I also sell a lot of Tenga 3Ds. They’re a range of masturbation toys for men, but they look really sleek and geometric. You’d honestly never know it was something to stick your penis in ’till I told you. They were one of the first adult toys to ever win Red Dot Design Award for product design.”
“I launched a couple new products in the last month, the Fun Factory Pearly which is a fantastic mid-range vibrator, and a set of gorgeous leather handcuffs from the BS Atelier studio in Madrid. I’m always on the lookout for new great toys, but I also have terribly high standards when it comes to what I stock in the shop. That said, I’m looking to launch a few more toys in the next month, and have my own branded bodysafe products out in the next year.”
We’ve long highlighted the problems that sex and SexTech start-ups face. Faploid were lucky enough to meet industry insiders and workers at the ground floor. Jen McEwen and others like her have had to throw a few more elbows than others in the fight for recognition, fairness and dignity as an adult biz competitor.
Shawna and Sex Siopa have traversed a mix of the two scenarios. Haughty, po-faced rejection from one corner, but community spirit and tolerance from the other.
“I was lucky that I had saved up enough money that I didn’t need a loan. But when it came to merchant services, I was flat out refused by the first bank I went to. Social media sites Twitter and Facebook won’t let me advertise with them despite the fact that Facebook allows highly questionable businesses like scam diets and psychic mediums to advertise.
“Most recently I went to a design fair to buy in a few mainstream romantic products and got a few condescending rejections from companies who were very precious about where their products were being sold and didn’t want them being associated with a sex shop. Their loss I guess.
“To be honest if after 2 years, I’ve only gotten a handful of rejections from people, I think I’m doing pretty well. I’ve been able to use them in my favor. Ireland loves its small businesses and if we get word that someone is being treated unfairly, we tend to rally around and help each other. It might be a small market, but it’s a very supportive one.”
Ireland is a nation that has, for better or worse, long conducted its business in the shadow of institutional religious conservatism. Not exactly perfect conditions for a sex toy start-up with an eye at making big waves down the line admittedly, but despite this potential clash of heads and ideologies, Shawna never felt the fear others may when it comes to tackling long-held societal and religious beliefs. It’s quite the powder keg, in fact. But Ireland is changing – so too are her people – and it is companies like Sex Siopa that will be at the forefront of any revolution.
“I had a gut instinct that this was something that could do really well in Ireland. We’re at a stage in this country where we’re much more open about sex than we have been, but that’s not to say we were prudes either. I often say in my talks that Ireland is a lot more liberal than we give ourselves credit for.
“Now that we’d started to talk about sex more openly, we needed a much more open, health and design-focused type of shop to reflect that. And if something doesn’t currently exist, you’re best off doing it yourself instead of waiting around for it to happen. So that’s where Sex Siopa came in.”
It is Ireland that has been “a wonderfully supportive place” throughout, and perhaps there’s a reason for that. Ireland was the whipping boy of the European banks several years ago as their economy sank into the mire. The sex business has always been a whipping boy (and not the good whipping either!). These two entities are helping each other.
”Manufacturing is next on my to-do list. I really want to have a small range of Sex Siopa products out in the next year. And to take a holiday. It’s been so long since I’ve been anywhere without a phone or laptop, but I doubt that’s in the cards for me.”
Shawna’s progress as an individual and entrepreneur, and representative of the sex toy biz, is charted on Sex Siopa’s blog. The rise has been somewhat meteoric.
“I’ve been featured on some of our top radio programs, spoken at music and economics festivals, and won business awards including one that was presented to me by a government minister. Last month I quadrupled my sales on January 2014. I’ve been so fortunate to do things I never thought I’d be able to do in the first 2 years of business. I’m really excited about keeping the momentum going in 2015.”
Sex toys are all about momentum. Smooth rhythm. Ease of passage. Shawna, Sex Siopa, Ireland and the rest of the biz look like perfect bedfellows. It’s safety in numbers for the company that plays it safe by nature.