Whatever you do, do not call them “toys.” At least this is what Dakota Johnson is requiring when speaking of things such as vibrators, floggers, Ben Wa balls, and even spreader bars. These “tools”, formally known as “sex toys”, are something that Johnson has become intimately familiar with since her appearances in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and she is here now to explain why “toys” should no longer be used to describe the…uh…toys.
According to the well-versed Dakota Johnson, these items are by far from a toy and her job now is to “destigmatize” these items throughout society. She is doing this by becoming an investor and offering creative input for Maude, a new company that has a keen eye for designing inclusive products for couples (or individuals) of all genders and ethnicities. What seems to be the number one priority for Maude and Johnson is making sure their intended audience knows that “toy” should no longer be part of the sexual instrument lexicon. No longer should they be called “sex toys” but rather intimacy “tools.”
Since their launch three years ago, Maude has gone about ridding the sexual “tool” industry of its outdated and gendered approach. Instead, they have been flipping the script and designing a line-up of vibrators and gender-neutral sex devices that appear chic and minimalistic. This new approach caught Dakota Johnson’s eye, convincing her to join the start-up. “For too long sexual health has been poorly marketed, hyper-aggressive, and highly gendered,” she said to InStyle. “Maude is a company based on universal design making modern, body-safe, high-quality essentials for before, during, and after sex, with yourself or with another lovely human. The caliber and aesthetic of these products is excellent and elevated.”
Now, they are taking things one step further by trying to rid the sex “tool” industry of that stigma. “With our This Is Not A Toy campaign, we aim to activate hearts and minds in an effort to destigmatize sexual and intimate tools. Often the use of language surrounding sexual products is antiquated, gender-specific, and belittling,” Dakota Johnson says. The brand, as well as Johnson, are quick to point out that nearly a third of vulva-owners do not have the ability to reach orgasm without the assistance of a dildo, vibrator, or a wand, so they feel now is the time to remove the language which minimalizes their importance or in turn, stigmatizes a vaginal orgasm.
Maude CEO and founder Éva Goicochea echoed Dakota Johnson’s sentiments. “For so long, vibrators and devices have been called ‘toys’, a connotation that trivializes their basic benefit: to provide stimulation that improves sexual wellness and feelings of well-being. By reducing them to juvenile novelties, people’s needs and satisfaction are often being unmet and overlooked. Moreover, stigmas are being perpetuated. A vibe is not a toy — it is an essential.”
It did take some time for Dakota Johnson to appreciate a world in which she knew little to nothing about. In fact, when first discussing all she learned from being in the trilogy, the daughter of actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith couldn’t help but using the dreaded “T” word. “Oh some of that stuff is just so beautiful!” she said in the February 2017 issue of Glamour UK. “I soon found out [while filming Fifty Shades that] there are all these different tiers. There are some things out there that are really grimy and nasty, and then there are really beautiful, intricate and chic toys.” She then added, “Actually, whole aspects of the BDSM world are truly beautiful.”
Dakota Johnson became a household name when she took on the daring and racy role of Anastasia Steele in the movie versions of the popular and steamy series of novels written by erotic romance novelist E.L. James. Johnson starred in all three movies, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed along with co-star Jamie Dornan, who played Christian Grey and who convinces Anastasia to begin a sadomasochist relationship.
Given the storyline, the eroticism, and the amount of nudity required, this was a leap for Dakota Johnson. In fact, she wasn’t the first actress to be considered for the role. There was a shortlist that included some big names such as Alicia Vikander, Imogen Poots, Elizabeth Olsen, Shailene Woodley, and Felicity Jones. Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke was actually offered the role but turned it down because of the amount of nudity.
For now, Dakota Johnson seems to have her mind (and body) set on removing “toy” from the sexual “tool” industry. It remains to be seen if her team-up with Maude can make this happen, but they are well on their way with their offerings. Three years removed from her erotic movie adventures, Johnson still finds herself in front of the camera, though most times with her clothes on. Her latest adventure came in the 2020 film The High Note and up next for the sex tool advocate is The Lost Daughter and Am I Ok?