November 26, 2020
Sex toys, sex dolls, sex robots: Our under-researched bed-fellows

Sex toys, sex dolls, sex robots: Our under-researched bed-fellows

In the 21st century, sexual products such as sex toys, sex dolls and sex robots are openly marketed on the Internet. The online retailer Amazon alone provides literally thousands of sexual wellness products. The Internet has done with sexual products what it has already achieved with pornography: it has expanded and diversified the market, made sexual products more accessible and affordable, and thus normalized their use. Research, though, is lagging behind: in comparison to the large body of pornography studies, research on sexual products, their users, uses, and outcomes are scarce. The present paper, therefore, reviews both the state of technological development and the state of research regarding sex toys, sex dolls, and sex robots marketed on the Internet. For each of these three groups of sexual products, we first present the range of products available and then provide data on their users and use. Finally, outcomes of sexual product use are discussed based on theoretical assumptions, available data, and selected user experiences. Operating within a Positive Sexuality Framework (Williams et al., 2015) and a Positive Technology Framework (Riva et al., 2012), both rooted in the Positive Psychology Approach (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), the paper argues that sexual products have the potential to improve sexual well-being in various populations. Health professionals working in the field of sexuality need to be well-informed about the ever-evolving market of more and more technologically advanced sexual products. It is their call to foster both, the health-related use of existing sexual products and health-related development of future sexual products.

In recent years, the number of smartphone users has exploded around the world, and downloads of smartphone applications have increased considerably, with smartphone usage reaching 73% among American teens since 2013. The main purpose of this article is to present a literature review focused on the use of smartphone applications to improve sexual health. Using a smartphone app to provide information about sexual health, especially to younger populations, could help increase awareness of risky sexual behavior before sex begins. Provide accurate sexual health education materials, comprehensive and up-to-date through smartphones and websites could improve sexual health outcomes. However, there are a few smartphone apps related to sexual and reproductive health available to users. Research has shown that 80% of Internet users in the United States conduct online searches for health information and that young people are increasingly collecting health information, including sexual information. However, while new technologies, including smartphone apps, are used to make it easier to find health information, health-related apps are rarely downloaded and rarely used. This suggests that to promote sexual health through smartphone applications, researchers could partner with application developers to integrate sexual health promotion interventions into popular sex or dating applications. However, it is clear that these applications offer new possibilities for engaging at-risk populations in sexual health interventions. Several studies have suggested that young adults look favorably on promoting sexual health through apps. Future research should focus on evaluating these efforts, in particular on reducing negative consequences on sexual health such as the reduction of STDs and unwanted pregnancies, as well as the possibility of putting patients in contact with health services. Our results could help clinicians by providing information on the potential use of smartphone apps to improve sexual health.