Etsy bans sex-toy sales — and sellers are hot and bothered by it: ‘Huge crushing disappointment’

Etsy bans sex-toy sales — and sellers are hot and bothered by it: 'Huge crushing disappointment'

Sex sells — but not on Etsy.

The e-commerce platform will no longer allow adult toys and sexual accessories to be sold on its website, the company announced in a recent memo that has been met with frustration and anger by its loyal vendors.

Starting July 29, Etsy will remove listings that advertise sex toys — such as dildos, vibrators and similar products — as well as items that depict sexual acts and genitalia or display sexually charged slogans relating to familial relationships, like “daddy” or “mommy.”

According to Alice Wu, who leads the company’s trust and safety team, the policy was amended to “keep our users safe,” per the memo, but vendors have called the solution “lazy” and a “crushing disappointment.”

“The ban will essentially close the doors of many handmade makers in the adult toy realm like ourselves,” Etsy vendor Preston Stevenson told The Guardian.

“For small shops like ours who have spent the majority of their time on the Etsy platform, 30 days’ notice is simply not enough time to pivot either to a new shop home with the same amount of traffic or exposure or ramp up in-person sales.”

Ohio-based Stevenson, who has been selling handmade sex toys with co-creator Laura Norden since 2018, said 30 days’ notice is “not enough time to pivot” to a new platform that offers the same exposure that Etsy does, fearing their site traffic will not recover.

“Bans like this one also further the idea that sexual health and pleasure is somehow taboo or something to be ashamed of,” Stevenson added. “It has broader impacts on society as a whole.”

Etsy logo on cell phone
“Imagine if you have been trading on Etsy for the last 10 years,” Houston said. “It’s like having your house burnt down.” SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Alexandra Houston, the founder of the UK-based fetish apparel platform Charmskool, criticized Etsy for pandering “to the mass market” instead of remaining loyal to its users.

“Etsy wants anything creative as long as it is beige and middle of the road. It doesn’t want anything risqué anymore,” Houston, who has seen an uptick of former Etsy vendors migrate to Charmskool, told The Guardian.

“The huge crushing disappointment is that a previous ally [Etsy] is turning its back on this community without so much as an apology.”

The Post has reached out to Etsy for comment.

Simply Elegant Glass — which has been selling sex toys on Etsy and satisfying their some 5,000 followers for nearly a decade — penned an open letter to the platform on X, slamming the company for its “lazy solution” under the guise of community safety.

“Protecting children from adult content is a noble interest and we agree that it should be pursued – no question whatsoever. That’s not an honest framing of what you’re doing here, though, is it?” the vendor wrote, in part, per The Guardian.

“A blanket ban is a lazy solution to the problems of non-compliance and non-enforcement that you [Etsy] … created in the first place,” they continued. “It’s a solution that targets buyer retention and that appeases investors and advertisers. It’s a bad solution – even when framed around ‘safety.’”

Sex toys
Adult toy and accessory vendors have expressed disappointment after the announcement of Etsy’s new policies, arguing that it will hurt their small businesses and only further the idea that sex is taboo. Getty Images/iStockphoto

The business owners claimed that transitioning to other platforms or means of reaching customers will prove difficult since many payment processors “have prurient clauses and won’t work” with vendors who advertise adult toys.

The founder of Simply Elegant Glass, who goes only by her first name Anna, told the BBC that she feels “betrayed” by the updated policies.

“As creators who have helped make Etsy what it is and who have remained loyal to their platform for years, we feel betrayed,” she said, advocating instead for explicit labeling of sexual products instead of banning them altogether.

According to Anna, a large portion of their profits came from sales on Etsy, and setting up shop on a new e-commerce site would be like starting from scratch.

Other vendors, who requested to remain anonymous, echoed her sentiments, telling BBC that website traffic to a new platform or personal website may not generate enough income for retailers.

“Imagine if you have been trading on Etsy for the last 10 years,” Houston said. “It’s like having your house burnt down.”

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