Adult toys are hardly a traditional holiday gift.
But as America becomes more open about sexual matters and the adult novelty industry branches into new directions beyond the well-known classic form factor for these devices, some intimate gifts have gone from potentially creepy to classy.
The products, which previously were only sold in adult specialty stores, are now available in places such as Nordstrom, Sephora, Sharper Image and Fred Segal. And the industry's sales top $15 billion per year.
A 2013 study by Indiana University's Center for Sexual Health Promotion found that half of Americans have used a vibrator. And a common opinion among those in both the retail and novelty industries is that, like lingerie in the 70s, sex toys are on the verge of going fully mainstream.
So if you are thinking about a very personal gift for that special someone in your life, what's a tasteful, discrete choice? Here's what sophisticated consenting adults will be buying this holiday season.
—By Chris Morris, special to CNBC
Posted 28 Nov. 2014
While most sex toys focus squarely on below the belt regions, this wearable device from JimmyJane (which was bought by a portfolio company of New York's Brookstone Partners in February) puts the power at your fingertips—literally. Two small, but powerful, fingertip motors give you the freedom to spotlight any body part. If Jon Ive were to design an adult novelty, this is the sort of thing he might well have come up with.
Described as a "couples vibrator," this product has won several "best product" awards at industry trade shows. This latest model is also app compatible, letting couples add a long-distance element to their intimacy, with one partner controlling the vibrations from their phone, wherever they might be.
App-compatible toys are hot this year. BlueMotion is a wearable personal massager for women whose intensity and patterns can be controlled via smartphone. Designed for those couples who can spend an hour or more together in the same room, both engrossed with their phones, the device was an IndieGogo hit earlier this year, exceeding its funding goal by 88 percent.
Swedish sex toy company Lelo describes this product as "exclusively for bankers"—and ships it with a pair of silver cufflinks and a money clip. It's a redesigned version of the company's successful couples ring, providing external stimulation for women. (You're on your own, though, if someone from work recognizes the cufflinks.)
Better known by its original name—the Hitachi Magic Wand—this is the device that, more than any other, helped sex toys begin to move into the mainstream world.
Designed as simply a massage device, word quickly spread of its other, um, talents. Hitachi, a rather conservative company, squirmed with this association for years, finally removing its corporate name from the device last year, rebranding it Vibratex. And, outside of the bedroom, it can relax your neck muscles better than any device on this list.
Discretely shaped and tiny, this device comes with a pair of remarkably powerful motors. It's quiet, waterproof, and can easily be hidden in a purse in its leather traveling case. Say goodbye to charging cords, as well, since the detachable base plugs into a USB slot to power up. It can even be personalized with an engraved statement at the base.
With its docking station and seamless design, this adult toy could easily be mistaken for a WiFi signal extender. In reality, it's one of the most powerful adult novelties on the market, with two motors, five power levels and four modes.
Design was once again key to JimmyJane, though, which brought on board Yves Béhar (designer of the Jawbone bluetooth headset and the Slingbox) when creating the product.
If you want to give an adult novelty that's truly discrete, how about in the form of jewelry?
Crave's Droplet necklace is a 43-inch stainless steel chain with two pendants, each equipped with small motors that can be turned on or off with a twist. It's an adult toy that can be worn over the clothes during the day without anybody knowing what it's really for.
The only adult toy to win a Cannes Lions Award, the Ora 2 is designed to reproduce oral functions. It uses a swirling nub that moves in 10 different patterns—but does so in a subtle, stylish form factor.
The original Ora underwhelmed some users, so Lelo quickly addressed the complaints and released this version within a year to a much more positive response.
Most adult toys are designed specifically for one gender. The Transformer, though, was built for anyone and everyone. Its flexible design and dual vibrating heads let it recreate many of the most popular sex toys on the market. It can go from vanilla to spicy with just a few bends—and its shape is so generic that it doesn't hint at its true purpose.