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April 03, 2017

Netflix’s ‘Grace and Frankie’ Tackles Issues of Sex Toys for the Elderly

LOS ANGELES—Grace and Frankie, one series in the slate of original programming for Netflix, is making a name for itself on many levels: it stars two women, it stars two women over the age of 75 and, particularly this season, it focuses on issues faced by older women. Season 3 of the show, which is available now, takes on the issues of sexual health and sexuality when the title characters Grace and Frankie (portrayed by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, respectively) try to start their own sex toy company.  Their fictional company Vybrant’s first product is the Ménage à Moi, a purple massager that looks to be a wand-style massager. The duo plug the idea to bankers, business incubators, focus groups and more as a sex toy specifically designed to address the sexuality of older women, including arthritis, sensitive vaginal tissue, poor eyesight and more. “As you may know, Baby Boomers are not of the most underserved consumer demographics,” Grace says in one episode. “And it’s a demo made up of, by far, more single women than single men. Single women in their 60s and 70s are the fastest growing segment of the adult population. And while their bodies may have changed, their desire has not. We at Vybrant intend to make the very first vibrator designed specifically for the 60-plus woman’s body.” The show is receiving praise from sex educators and the general public for bringing to the screen real-life issues that previously have not been portrayed on television, but they still have some reservations. “I absolutely adore the show for it's pure entertainment factor and am also thrilled that they highlight the romantic desires of mature women,” said Beth Liebling, owner of Darling Way Boutique in Houston. “But it's TV … they make it all look easy and we know it's brutally hard to be taken seriously when talking about sex and especially when trying to grow a business related to sexual pleasure. It's a lot of wishful thinking—but I like optimism, love and friendship so it still gets an A from me.” Shellie Martin, owner of Crystal Delights—a manufacturing company known for its unique and creative anal plugs—said, “I am all for getting sex and aging out in the mainstream! If this is a start, let’s go! And I have to say with the work we are trying to do I have people calling and coming in saying they want help! YAY we are moving forward!” “In starting a business, you want to reach your target market,” said Nenna Joiner, owner of Feelmore 510 in Oakland, Calif. “They are older women, no careers other than being mothers; husbands divorced them; and they have nothing of their own. The adult industry for them is ‘More Than Just Sex.' I get it!  I truly understand wanting to have a space where POC can feel comfortable. “However … it’s Hollywood, so they will reach their target market without fail and then some!” YourTango.com, an online magazine dedicated to love and relationships, has published two blog posts on the realistic pitfalls associated with the fictional company and product. In “Why Netflix’s Grace and Frankie’s Sex Toy Business Would Fail,” Lisa S. Lawless notes the toy would likely fail in real life for a number of reasons, including the fact there are already several ergonomically designed virbators on the market “that are light-weight, powerful, have adjustable motors and far surpass the features that were mentioned with the Ménage à Moi.” In another post, “Grace and Frankie’s Sex Toy Biz is Fun and Empowering (But Not Fully Accurate!),” Lawless talks about how the TV show doesn’t address the pitfalls of starting a new business at all, let alone one in the world of sex toys. “As for their business idea, sex toy manufacturing and sales is a highly competitive business and requires an understanding of patents, technological trends, sexual health needs, and how to navigate marketing an adult product in the world of mainstream media,” she writes. For more, watch the show on Netflix.com.

 
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