Brian Sloan does not seem like your typical sex toy salesperson. In fact, he could not be further removed from the type of person you would imagine in such an industry – basically Ron Jeremy.
No, Sloan is not your everyday purveyor of blowjob machines and masturbatory aids – he insists he’s never tried out one of his machines for one thing – but instead he’s a sharp business mind.
A law school graduate, Sloan rejected law to start as an antiques trader. When Sloan focused his efforts on selling online he made a startling discovery.
“None of the major sex toy brands knew how to sell online,” he recalls. “It was then that the space for me to operate in became clear.”
Having once dabbled in importing leather fetish wear, Sloan also became aware that 95% of all sex toys are made in China.
Already a regular visitor due to his antiques trading, Sloan became a full-time resident in Beijing and hasn’t looked back since…
Loaded: One of your biggest sellers is the Autoblow 2. How did that come about?
Sloan: I found a factory in China selling an early version of a male masturbation machine in 2007. I saw it and visualised a blowjob machine I should call the Autoblow.
The niche of oral sex machines didn’t exist at that time, but I knew instinctively that if I created the niche, men would buy and enjoy the product. Refining it from that early battery powered version to the plug-in kitchen-appliance quality masturbator of the Autoblow 2+ took over three years of research and development, culminating with a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.
Loaded: Do you think more couples could benefit from using sex toys on a regular basis?
Sloan: As we know, reaching orgasm is much simpler for men in most cases. Men expect to have an orgasm during every sexual encounter, while women sometimes never orgasm or settle on one orgasm per x number of sexual events.
Toys have the ability to equalize orgasms between the male and female partner. The more orgasms a couple share together, the closer they become physically. Physical closeness has overall relationship benefits – that’s basically indisputable.
Loaded: What are the latest sex toy innovations?
Sloan: There are some innovations happening now regarding internet connectivity of sex toys, and Bluetooth control of sex toys which I avoid on purpose. They add complexity and cost and the mass market does not demand them. I’ve heard consumers saying they want these additional technical features, but experience tells me that what sex toy users want and what they’re willing to pay for are two different things.
One of the main innovations is actually the reduction of cost. When there were few manufacturers of sex toys, the prices were high. Now there are well over 100 Chinese factories who can make pretty decent stuff and prices have dropped. That’s opened the market and allowed people who never tried toys to more easily give one a try.
Loaded: Why do women use sex toys more than men?
Sloan: The market is about 65%-35% in favour of women’s products. The reason is simple: men have orgasms easily, while many women find they need toys in order to climax or that toys provide a significantly different orgasmic experience compared with their hands.
The male market is currently growing, because of products like mine that take male masturbation out of the shadows and allow men to experience the same variety of sensation women have been enjoying for years. Using myself in my ads sends a powerful message to men that masturbation is nothing they need to hide or to be embarrassed about. I want to help equalise sales between the genders.
Loaded: So are attitudes towards sex toys changing?
Sloan: Two things are happening: attitudes are changing and the mainstream media’s interest in covering sex toys has changed. Some old-school characters were responsible for manufacturing and retailing sex toys in the 70’s and 80’s…they’re of a far different character than the sex toy entrepreneurs who have risen up in the past decade.
The industry has come out of the shadows with the help of some sex toy brand owners, who promote sexual health as an important aspect of the human experience. The public identifies with that idea. The extra media attention is in tandem with existing public attitudes about sex toys and masturbation in general being a normal and healthy phenomenon.
Loaded: You’re an advocate of crowdfunding – how are online fundraising platforms making it easier for sex toys to hit the market?
Sloan: I’ve successfully crowdfunded the Autoblow 2, Slaphappy, and 3Fap. But the vast majority of crowdfunded sex toy projects have not been successful. Funding is one area where sex toys haven’t caught up to mainstream businesses. No banks and few investors will invest in a company doing anything remotely “adult”, so crowdfunding does come in handy if funds are needed.
But the barrier to receiving funds from the public are very high – they want to see a successful team with relevant industry experience and the right manufacturing contacts to bring their products to life.
Loaded: If you were stuck on a desert island with only one sex toy for company, what would it be?
Sloan: I suppose it would be a giant bottle of lubricant, if that counts. I am not much for hand operated sex toys, and a desert island wouldn’t have an outlet to plug in the Autoblow 2.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.