Social media platforms don’t like promoting sex toys. Most social media platforms have a pretty backward notion of sexuality, constantly censoring sex toys that promote sexual wellness while giving free rein to male-centric accounts that objectify the female body.
YouTube places sex toys in the same category as pornography, banning them from promoting “sexual gratification.” Facebook’s policies on adult products and services read, “Adverts must not promote the sale or use of adult products or services, unless they promote family planning and contraception. Adverts for contraceptives must focus on the contraceptive features of the product and not on sexual pleasure or sexual enhancement.”
With these outdated notions of sexuality in place, it’s almost impossible for creators of sexual wellness products to grow their business. In recent years, sexual wellness brands have been challenging social medial platforms’ ad restrictions by exposing the double standards in advertisements they allow or disallow.
If you depend on social media platforms to promote your sexual wellness products, you may wonder how you can get around these restrictions. Below, we provide 10 actionable tips on how you can overcome or bypass sexual wellness advertising restrictions.
Pass it off as something else, like a lamp or a massager.
The first thing you can do is change your messaging. Instead of actively promoting it as a vibrator or sex toy, pass it off as something else — a lamp, a decorative item, a massager, etc. For example, Biird’s Obii is a clitoral suction sex toy that looks like a pastel-colored bird and includes an inbuilt light source. That allows us to pass it off as a lamp instead of a sex toy. In the past, vibrators were frequently advertised as back massagers to get past the censorships.
Naturally, using this method for advertisement has its limitations. If the sex toy clearly looks like a sex toy or is phallic shaped, it may be hard to convince censorship moderators that it’s simply a hand massager. If the sex toy doesn’t have a traditional design, passing it off as something else may prevent you from attracting the customers you actually want. Modern-day censorship moderators are a lot warier of products being marketed as “massagers,” so there’s a strong chance they may see through that ruse.
Even so, it’s worth a shot!
Avoid using graphic language or visuals. Instead, use innuendoes or humor.
When promoting your sex toy, try to avoid graphic language or visuals. And by graphic, we’re talking about even anatomical terms like “vagina.” Most social media platforms leave it up to individual moderators to determine if a post is or isn’t sexually explicit. And because of our existing cultural biases, social media posts that reference the “vagina” or anything related to the female anatomy are instantly censored. In fact, it was recently found that Facebook even blocked ads for menopause treatments under the “adult products” categorization, and the term “menopause” itself was deemed inappropriate.
The same goes for images. While promoting your sex toy, you’ll have to strip it of anything that can be deemed even remotely suggestive. The same standards don’t apply to male-centric brands. A Durex ad for extra-large condoms displayed a bruised and injured woman with bandaids around her mouth, with the tagline “Poor woman…(or maybe lucky one)?” The ad was allowed to run on Facebook, even though Durex took it down amidst controversies. While male-centric products are allowed to run advertisements that clearly meet Facebook’s “sexually suggestive” condition, female sexual wellness products are penalized for tags like “you come first.”
The system isn’t fair. But we can find ways around it.
Play on the medical angle.
Facebook has two rules for adult products that you can play with. First, it only allows adult products that promote family planning and contraceptives. Second, it only allows those products if they only focus on non-sexual messages. For example, “free condoms at your local student health centre” is allowed, but “condoms to enhance your pleasure” isn’t allowed. If you’re selling a lubricant, you can call it a vaginal dryness medication for menopausal women — you may still get censored, but at least you’ll stand a better chance.
Find innovative ways to indirectly promote the brand.
Lioness is a smart vibrator brand that had a pretty successful campaign on Instagram and Facebook, the strictest social media platforms for sexual wellness products. Lioness shot videos of women reading positive customer feedback while staring at the camera. That’s it — that’s the video. There’s no sexual content or implication, just women reading from their customers. While it’s not ideal, you can find other innovative means of getting the word out without censorship.
Promote the brand on social media via other crowdfunding platforms.
Comingle was another sex toy startup that managed to get its advertisements on Facebook. Instead of promoting their products on Facebook (which would have been impossible), they raised money for it through a crowdfunding platform called Indiegogo. Since Indiegogo isn’t officially a sex toy or adult platform, they can promote whatever they want on their Facebook pages — that’s how Comingle found a foothold in Facebook indirectly.
Get your customers to promote it.
The best way to promote any brand, even a sex toy brand, is to get your customers to love it. Ask your customers to discuss it, share its information over social media, and share those posts on your accounts. If a customer loves a product, social media platforms can’t censor them because they’re protected by free speech. Of course, to get those customers, you’ll need to advertise on social media platform — so that’s a whole catch-22 you’ll have to figure out.
Draft a petition and get signatories.
Finally, you can draft a petition and get enough signatures to force social media platforms to revisit their policy guidelines. Petitions for change work — a great example is The SCAR Project, a series of post-mastectomy photographs of young breast cancer survivors. The SCAR Project was banned on Facebook, even though the images were far from “sexually suggestive,” aiming to highlight the physical and emotional toll of breast cancer. After their online petition got over 20,000 supporters, Facebook finally relented and let them back into the platform.
Biird is doing something similar in regards to sexual wellness products. We’ve launched a change.org petition highlighting how the current policies around adult content are inconsistent, damaging, and biased against women and other marginalized communities. If you’re ready to challenge social media platforms and their discriminatory policies, please sign our petition.