Research Programme

Women Sex and Shopping Research Programme

The Women Sex and Shopping (WSS) research for 2016-17 is based around the fundamental areas that have been considered by Hewson since 2009.  These are female sexual behaviours and retail consumer attitudes that are linked to sexually associated goods that might include sex toys, lubricants, lingerie and erotica. However, in 2016 the main focus of the research will be on the subject of personal lubricant – including use and effect – but also to seek answers to retail questions about which brands should be involved and where lubricant should be sold. Hewson consider lubricant a product that is extremely important in its own right but which also has a wider significance when considering how the whole range of sexually related goods are branded, retailed and understood by the commercial world.

The complexity and depth of the Indiana University research in 2009 together with its affirmative conclusions about lubricant effect suggests that detailed follow up research is both important and necessary.  Hewson feel that many issues require extended investigation but experience with Women Sex and Shopping points to a need to develop innovatory mechanisms to obtain the best and most insightful data – and this particularly includes accessing the opinions of the harder-to-reach older women groups.

Although the main focus of the 2016-17 Research Plan is personal lubricant Hewson will take advantage of the resulting (large) research base to gain further information on other topics such as sex toys, accessories, erotica and lingerie.

The Lubricant Pilot Study

A Pilot Study has already been carried out by Hewson amongst over 140 known female users of ‘for purpose’ lubricants.  The pilot established an Index that measured effect on a 0-9 scale and considered both pleasure enhancement and psychological support or confidence.  The results were remarkable beyond expectations and average scores across age ranges were consistently above 7 for both pleasure enhancement and psychological confidence.  The pilot was undoubtedly indicative but lacked sufficient respondent numbers and any inclusion of ‘non-users’.   The pilot made no attempt to look at contextual factors and outcomes (sexually) nor did it, effectively, attempt to gather opinion on the important issues of brand, retail and circumstances of use.

The Main Study

Research Target Respondents

All Women 18-70+ but with a particular emphasis on the 45-70 cohort. Possibly an extension into a male research base to ascertain men’s opinion of topical effects and views on retail.

Research Mechanisms

Hewson is using 3 mechanisms for gathering research data.

  1. Women Sex and Shopping developed and deployed a ‘handwritten’ response methodology in 2009-13. Well over 1200 detailed questionnaires were received back with discursive answers to a range of sexual behaviour and sexual goods questions.  Hewson have developed a lubricant focussed questionnaire along the same principles and this is being used in the UK and then internationally.  The aim would be to receive over 2000 responses by March 2017.
  1. Face to face interviews:  These will be recorded and will last around five minutes with multiple questions and intuitive answers.  The plan is to make at least some of these available to clients (with respondent permission) and to give, thereby, some direct consumer feel.
  1. Email submissions:  We receive via email views on many relevant issues and these will increase as the (lubricant) research gathers momentum.

Where will the Research be obtained?

It is felt that based on the experience of Women Sex and Shopping, obtaining directly honest and expansive feedback from women of all ages is not in itself a challenge.  Women have consistently demonstrated a willingness to contribute to Hewson Group research, seeing it as important and likely to ‘make a difference’ in terms of product, retail or cultural outcomes.  The problem in obtaining a large volume of response is ‘reach’ – which includes a sufficiently diverse and random representation to be sure of a definitive view.  Hewson propose the following possible sources:

Via direct or Intermediate Contact

  1. University Campuses (eg. Cambridge and others)
  1. Women’s Groups containing older age representation – which may include Womens Institute (WI) and female based business clubs
  1. Sex Shop/Boutique et al customer events
  1. Conference or Lifestyle Events that have a significant female theme.
  1. Direct contact with volunteer informants
  1. Health sector associated groups

Indirect Contact via Media

A key part of the ‘Influence/gamechanger’ campaign in this research project will be a promotion or discussion of the subject matter in the media whether Lifestyle or Business.  Hewson have historic connections with a number of significant publications including:  Financial Times, Huffington Post, Daily Mail, Sydney Morning Herald, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, BBC, Ch4, and much continental media.  A derived outcome of this exposure might be feedback via social media or online survey connected to that publication – or an increased propensity to contribute by any of the other mechanisms outlined above.

What do we want to know?

Usage pathologies. What lubricants are used now including substitutes. Applicator and container importance. Variance by user age. Reasons for non-adoption. Effects on enjoyment. Psychological impacts on confidence.  Influence on sexual activities including frequency of intercourse, masturbation and willingness to participate in relationships, sexual adventurism. Extension of sexual activity into later years. Effects on health, mental well-being and sense of femininity.  Opinions on lack of absence of brands that consumers use in other personal care areas. Opinions on retail and appropriate emotional environments.

Media Coverage

Women Sex and Shopping has always had considerable media coverage in relation to sex toys et al.  The extant articles have not always had the depth of analysis that Hewson would want – mainly due to the sensationalist take on the subject.  There are early signs that personal lubricant will be an entirely different matter with the subject raising many legitimate questions regarding female well-being. Hewson intend to use the likely international coverage to encourage input to the research.