From Dakota Johnson to Cardi B, here's why experts say celebrities endorsing sex toys is so important

·4-min read

For years, celebrities have used their star power to promote everything from makeup to migraine medication. Now, however, a new trend has emerged: Stars are using their massive platforms to promote sex toys, a move that experts say can have a positive impact on how women view their sexuality.

Dakota Johnson is now a co-creative director and investor for Maude, a sexual wellness company that sells sleek, chic vibrators and other sexual products. Cara Delevingne — once photographed with her then-girlfriend Ashley Benson bringing a “sex bench” into their home — is also getting into the business of pleasure. She was named the co-owner and creative advisor of sex toy company Lora DiCarlo in 2020.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 01: Dakota Johnson attends the LA Special Screening of Roadside Attractions'
Dakota Johnson is working to break down the stigma surrounding women's sexual pleasure. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

“When I first connected with the Lora DiCarlo team, it became even more apparent to me that the topic of sexual wellness needed to be normalized,” the Carnival Row actress explained to Teen Vogue. “I believe that it’s important for women or people who identify as women to feel comfortable in their own sexual power. I hope through my voice and platform I can amplify and encourage everyone to take pleasure into their own hands." 

Other stars are just proud customers. Cardi B has previously promoted Bellesa Boutique, with the “WAP” rapper even gifting the brand’s products to guests at her birthday party. Gwyneth Paltrow proudly purchased herself a vibrator for Christmas in 2019. Her company, Goop, launched its very own vibrator in 2021, which sold out immediately, after previously promoting a 24-karat gold one from the company Lelo in 2016.

Of the decision to sell vibrators, Paltrow told The New York Times, "I think as opposed to 'Why a vibrator now?' it’s sort of, 'How can we make a vibrator that helps continue to diminish stigma around that stuff?'"

All of these endorsements are helping women, famous or not, see sex toys as a normal part of sexual wellness — something that wasn’t always the case.

“The use of sex toys definitely comes with a stigma attached to it,” explains Rachel Needle, a licensed psychologist in West Palm Beach, Fla. and the co-director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes. “There is a lot of shame due to misinformation and misunderstanding about sexual pleasure and the use of sex toys and accessories. But sex toys can be used for exploring one’s own body and for self-pleasure, to enhance sexual pleasure by those who have sexual difficulties, and with a partner or partners.”

Kate Balestrieri, a licensed psychologist, certified sex and sex addiction therapist and host of the Modern Intimacy podcast, tells Yahoo Life that “when female celebrities use their platform to talk about sexual wellness and pleasure, the whole world listens.”

“Even in 2021, women can experience tremendous amounts of shame, disapproval, deference and isolation in their quest to understand, learn more, own or enjoy their sexuality,” she adds. “Many are given the message that their sexuality is a gift for their partner, or for procreation only. Sexual messaging such as this fosters a disconnect for women in the experience of their own bodies and pleasure.”

Balestrieri stresses that these women are pioneers, not just because they are talking about sexual wellness, but because they break down the stigma of who should be thinking about how to bring more sexual pleasure into their lives.

“When female celebrities step into the space of sexual health and wellness, other women take notice and the conversation about women’s sexual pleasure begins to shift,” she explains. “Suddenly, women see these women who are role models, professionals and in some cases mothers, embracing sexuality, sexual pleasure and sexual conversation. Permission to think about sex differently, and through the female gaze, becomes ever so slowly more and more permissible.”

She adds that while these stars may be opening themselves up to criticism and even “slut shaming” for being outspoken about their sexuality, “their navigation on a public stage always implicitly tells women that they do not need to react, respond or crumble to the sex-negativity of others.”

“Sex therapists and educators work diligently to help people create a healthy relationship with sex but can only reach so many people,” she continues. “When female celebrities join in that conversation, the reach of the message is incredible.”

Perhaps that message is working: Last year, sex toys unexpectedly boomed. While many credited social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic as a reason behind the skyrocketing sales, it may also be the shifting tide in how women think about their own sexual pleasure that encouraged people to add these buzzy items to their online carts.

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