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The Oprah Effect On Sex Toys

Dr. Lisa Lawless

Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert

Graphic, flowers, Oprah & Sex Toys

When people ask me about sex toys, they often inquire if there is a perfect sex toy for everyone—basically, a sure thing. The short answer is no; there is no such thing as a one size fits all sex toy.

We all have various preferences, sensitivities, and physical considerations to take into account. For example, some people have mobility issues; some have sexual dysfunction challenges, while others have specific sensitivities or sexual goals. There are simply too many variables to market something as the ideal sex toy for everyone.

That is why a company that sells adult toys should not hype them up to unrealistic expectations. Instead, they should do what we do; provide factual information about each product to help you determine what is right for you based on your preferences and what you want to experience. Above all else, the information provided about sex toys should provide you with realistic expectations, in addition to being body-safe and non-toxic.

The Oprah Effect On Sex Toys

Oprah has had an incredible effect on product sales when she has promoted them. The following story occurred in 2009 when Oprah promoted a sex toy on her television show and is a perfect example of what happens when people believe in the hype around sex toys.

It began with Dr. Laura Berman, a sexuality expert, who was taken under the wing of Oprah. She was groomed to have her own television show called "In The Bedroom" on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) in 2013. Let me just say that Laura is great, and I have had the pleasure of being on her radio show years ago as a featured sex expert myself. We enjoyed talking about women's sexual functioning, female ejaculation and saw eye to eye about many important issues regarding sexuality.

Because of her Oprah connection, Dr. Berman later partnered with California Exotics to have a private-labeled line of sex toys called the Berman line. Most of the sex toys were solid products, but one, in particular, was not a great performer and did not sell well for that reason. It was called the Aphrodite and was a body massager.

The First Sex Toy Oprah Promoted

It was an average Friday, and we at Holistic Wisdom were getting things ready to wrap up for the weekend on January 9, 2009, but something very unusual was starting to happen. At about 2:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, we began to get many orders for the same product. This was a product that we typically didn't often sell, the Aphrodite vibrator.

We were so caught off guard by this incredible rush of sales that we thought it was some weird credit card fraud attempt at first, but after tenuously looking at the individual orders, we realized they were all checking out. Not only that, but we were getting several orders for them every minute that passed.

We contacted one of the customers who had requested a rush delivery and asked her the date that she needed it by and inquired how she had heard about us and the product. She chuckled and said, "Well, it was on the Oprah show today." Stunned, we realized we were about to get slammed with orders.

By 3:30 p.m., Oprah had already ended on the East coast, was now midway through the show on Central Time, and was about to start in our time zone. We scrambled to the television to watch, while our Director of Operations was frantically trying to secure every Aphrodite through the manufacturer and every wholesale distributor out there for our orders, which were still flying in.

Because I had worked with Dr. Laura Berman, I followed what she was up to and had known she was doing a few Oprah episodes but had no idea she would be featuring her products that day. In fact, no one in the adult novelty industry did. It turns out that Laura was only given two weeks' notice to let the manufacturer know, so it was impossible for them to prepare for the avalanche of sales that occurred from Oprah's power.

The Sure Thing

Oprah held up the Aphrodite and said with great conviction to her audience, "This... is the sure thing." Within moments women lost their minds in a feeding frenzy to get one on the internet. After all, Oprah had spoken.

Berman Aphrodite

There were two serious problems with this. No one had many in stock, and anyone who was in the sex toy industry could have told you that this poor performing vibrator was not something that anyone should hold up and promote as impressive. It was a below average vibrator and a major distributor told us that they sold under a twenty a year.

When we called the manufacturer to ask when they would have more, they said that it would be at least three months, which later turned into six because they could not make them fast enough. We began feeling somewhat overwhelmed as one order after another for them came flying in, not to mention that we knew that the Aphrodite had had negative reviews in the past. It was not, by any means, our best vibrator; in fact, it was one we were planning on pulling so, we were confused as to why it was the one being held up as the "sure thing."

Frankly, we were concerned that women across the United States were eagerly anticipating the sex toy that Oprah endorsed and who were under the impression that it would be amazing. This was going to represent the best of sex toys and it was far from it. So the question was how to handle telling people that while we also loved the Oprah show and that while she may know many things, sex toys are not one of them.

We guessed that she promoted it because it was the tamest sex toy to promote on television as it is a general body massager. We had heard that Oprah had some trepidation about having any sex toy on her show, so it made sense.

We began trying to educate customers about the pros and cons of the Aphrodite and warn them that some of the problems with it were not representative of many superior vibrators that we carried. We tried to encourage them to get better performing body massagers and upgrade them for free, but most couldn't have cared less; many of them said, well, if Oprah says it is great, then I want that. Sadly, the majority wanted what Oprah said was the "sure thing."

Many customers who ordered the Aphrodite from us later said they wished they had listened to us and had gotten the free upgrade we had offered. Typically customers told us what we already knew and had indicated on our website: it was not powerful, it did not hold a charge very long, and they could not use it while charging. That meant that when many frustrated women were using it and got close to having an orgasm, the power died out, and it would need to be recharged. Because it could not be used while being charged, it meant playtime was over before it was finished.

After all of our orders were filled, the hype died down, and the Aphrophite was discontinued by the manufacturer. This was really no surprise to us considering the advancements in technology and how many superior vibrators there are now.

Is Any Sex Toy A Sure Thing?

As indicated, no sex toys is a sure thing. There are all kinds of reasons why one vibrator may not be as effective as another for someone. This is why we provide in-depth sex toy guides and encourage you to contact us if you have questions to help you find the perfect sex toy for you. At the end of the day we promote substance over hype and encourage you to seek out the real thing, which is a sex toy customized for your needs. See our guide on How To Choose A Vibrator.

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