What Is Sex Tech?

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As someone who writes about sexual wellness and adult entertainment, I’m often asked what is sex tech.

My short answer is usually to say that sex tech is an industry term used to describe technologies designed for erotic or sexual purposes and the businesses that create them. In its current use, “sextech” was coined by MakeLoveNotPorn CEO Cindy Gallop and popularized by the media in 2016.

But, of course, there is more to the story to unpack, especially since people have been buying and selling sex-related technologies long before the twenty-first century.

In this post, which I plan to update with new information as it becomes available, I will explore what is sex tech and how the term has been used to carve out space for sex-positive businesses and underrepresented groups.

What is sextech?

Coined by Cindy Gallop in 2016, the term “sex tech” has helped put positive conversations on women’s sexuality, sexual health, and entrepreneurship in the spotlight. 

Gallop defines what is sextech in an article for Hot Topics: What is sextech and why is everyone ignoring it?”:

“Sextech is technology, and technology-driven ventures, designed to enhance, innovate and disrupt in every area of human sexuality and human sexual experience.”

Gallop has also been open about her approach to disrupting the old ways of doing business.

As a SexTechConnect event speaker in February 2023, she said she created the sextech category after she couldn’t get funding for her adult entertainment and social media network MakeLoveNotPorn.

Then she began peaking at tech conferences letting the world know that the next big thing in tech was going to be sextech.

Gallop added that the terms “sextech” and “femtech” overlap and are often interchangeable. This comment sheds light on how the origins of the term sextech stem from the desire to highlight the value and untapped potential in markets of women’s sexual health and pleasure.

Related Read: Canadian Sex Tech Conferences and Adult Expos

Women of Sex Tech

The industry term “sex tech” gained further media traction with the founding of Women of Sex Tech (WOST) in 2017, for which Gallop serves as an advisor along with Bryony Cole of Sextech School.

Founded by Lidia Bonilla and Polly Rodriguez, WOST provides a platform for networking, sharing resources, and amplifying the voices of women and femme-identifying individuals.

In 2017, members also banded together to organize against censorship of advertising on social media platforms like Facebook and on public transit in New York City.

New York City protests drew attention to the bias and double standards in the tech industry regarding the acceptance and visibility of sexual health and pleasure-related products and innovations.

Sextech trends and limitations

Although Gallop is responsible for creating and defining sex tech as it is spoken about today, the word had been on people’s minds well before. For example, Google Trends shows interest in the term “sextech” peaked in 2004, and has not risen back even close to such highs despite supposedly increased media coverage.

The term sextech itself is ambitious, admits Gallop. It is meant to be aspirational and to help normalize sex for squeamish investors, but it also has its limits.

“Sextech” doesn’t necessarily imply intimacy, love, or other benefits people may seek related to sex that is not sex itself. Also, when projecting financial growth for the global sexual wellness industry, sextech is often considered a subcategory of a much larger market.

In the bigger picture, I consider sextech a third or fourth-wave capitalist feminist term created to put attention on underrepresented groups in sexual health, pleasure, and adult entertainment sectors.

What is sex tech to you? 

Author: Jenna Owsianik
Jenna Owsianik is a Canadian sexual health journalist and sextech business advisor. She is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Sex For Every Body®, an adult sex ed publication that celebrate sexual and body diversity. From 2014 to 2022, she was Editor-in-Chief of FutureofSex.net, the world’s leading publication on how technology is changing human sexuality, today and tomorrow. A trained journalist with a Masters of Journalism from The University of British Columbia, Jenna’s reporting has appeared on Futurism.com, Al Jazeera English, CTV British Columbia online, CBS Sunday Morning, CBS 60 Minutes, Global News, and CKNW Radio in Canada and the United States.

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