Myth vs Fact

The Features of the Most Popular Sex Toys Might Surprise You

March 1, 2023 by Emily Mendelson

The size of the sex toy market is predicted to reach $62.3 billion by 2030. In light of this, it’s surprising that so little research has explored what might be driving consumer preferences when it comes to making these purchases. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Sex Research offers some intriguing insight, with researchers from the University of Kent taking an anthropological approach to the question. Let’s take a closer look at their study and what the results tell us about people’s sex toy buying habits. 

The popular media and world of pornography often uphold the idea that “bigger is better” when it comes to penis size. This has fed into a pervasive myth that women prefer massive penises and, by extension, oversized dildos. Subsequently, one of the purposes of this study was to determine whether women have a distinct size preference for insertable toys.

Which Features Predict Sex Toy Popularity?

Focusing solely on products labeled “dildo” on the Lovehoney UK website, the researchers looked at whether individuals are purchasing toys that are reflective of typical human anatomy, or are perhaps looking at toys that might fulfill a sexual fantasy instead.

In total, 265 products were analyzed. Analyses consisted of the researchers utilizing information on the Lovehoney website such as the customer star rating, for example, to determine the overall popularity of an item. Then, the overall popularity was compared to the features of the dildos, such as circumference, insertable length, color, and additional qualities of the toy. 

Let’s look first at toy length and “girth” (i.e., circumference). With regard to length, you might be surprised to learn that length was not a statistically significant predictor of a toy’s popularity. In other words, there was no evidence that longer toys are preferred to those that are shorter.

In terms of girth, this dimension did predict toy popularity, but in the opposite direction you might be expecting. Specifically, toys that were more popular had smaller circumferences. The researchers found that the top five most popular toys had an average circumference of under 5 inches, which is similar to the circumference of the average erect penis in humans.

Do People Prefer Dildos With Realistic Features?

In terms of realistic qualities of the toy, for the most part, anatomical accuracy did not predict toy popularity. For example, the most popular toys were not necessarily any more likely to be made of realistic materials, to have a flesh color, or to have all of the parts you’d normally see on a human penis (e.g., a glans/head, scrotum, etc.). The one exception to this is that toys with a veiny texture tended to be more popular.

With all of that said, the price of an item also appears to play a considerable role in purchasing preference. Price was actually the single biggest factor related to item popularity, with less expensive toys being more popular. It’s worth noting that longer toy length was associated with a higher price point. So it is possible that part of the reason why a preference for longer toys wasn’t observed here may be because those toys are less affordable. 


At least for folks who make their sex toy purchases through Lovehoney, it does not seem that consumers have a distinct preference for oversized dildos. In fact, if anything, the trend actually appears to be in the opposite direction. Furthermore, it appears that consumers are not looking for dildos that are direct proxies of a human penis.

Overall, this study provides important foundational work about the considerations individuals make when buying sex toys. Make sure to read the article for yourself because there are a lot of avenues for further research if you’re looking for study ideas!

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Image Credits: Gwen Mamanoleas on Unsplash

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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