How Much is Sex Really Worth?

My background is in business reporting, so naturally, I like to keep a running tally on ways that we can quantify the value of sex in society. Below, I share some numbers that are directly or indirectly related to sex and sexuality, which you may find interesting. This list will grow, and become more organized, over time.

Note: Quantifying the value of sex is a difficult task, because there aren’t consistent data sources we can rely on like for other parts of the economy. We can fairly easily track, quarter-by-quarter, how much consumers spend on cars and clothing, and how much venture capital firms are investing in tech startups. It’s more challenging to figure out growth rates of revenue in the adult entertainment industry, or funding for sexual health research.

That’s just the obvious stuff. There are also many difficult-to-quantify ways in which sex and sexuality impact various industries. And if you look at TSR’s resource guide on scientific data about sex, it is similarly difficult to get reliable data on sexual behavior that may have implications for the economy.

The information I look at for my own research is more detailed than what’s posted here. I look out for data that can be cross-referenced with country-level benchmarks. I try to find relationships between trends trends in sexual behavior, production or consumption, and certain industries or the overall economy. If you spot anything that may be useful, or know of someone who has similar research interests, please don’t hesitate to send me a message at loretta [at]!


(In no particular order)

Global sexual wellness market (sex toys, contraceptives, personal lubricants) is set to generate $57.57 billion by 2020 (Source: Technavio)

Match Group Inc., owner of Tinder and OKCupid, market value at IPO in November 2015: $2.9 billion. Market cap as of August 2017: $4.9 billion.

Global Sex Toy market: $15 billion as of 2016, projected to reach $50 billion by 2020 (Source: Adult Novelty Manufacturers Expo, via Forbes)

SexTech industry value estimated at $30.6 billion, including online dating, sex-based apps and service, and porn. (Source: Tristan Pollock, of 500 Startups–UNVERIFIED)

The average amount that unmarried Americans spent on dating in 2016: $1,596 (Source: Match)

In sex-negative societies, chastity holds an inflated value. To understand how much, look at virgin auctions, though most of the highly-publicized cases were hoaxes, didn’t pan our, or are unconfirmed. Still, one website,, claims that their auctions have raised as much as $1.6 million and $3.2 million.

Global STD Diagnostics market: $100+ billion as of 2014 (Source: Grand View Research)

Study shows sexual intercourse is “significantly correlated” with job satisfaction and engagement. Raises the question: does sex have an impact on workforce productivity? (Source: Keith Leavitt, Oregon State University)

Did you know: in the adult film industry, lighter-skinned performers earn extra money for booking their first interracial scene, but Black performers do not, because working with white performers is just considered part of the job? (Source: Minnie Scarlet)

U.S. Wedding industry: $72 billion as of 2016 (Source: IBISWorld) (Marriage rates, however, are on the decline.)

 Divorce rate patterns prompt researchers to question how, and why, the economy impacts marriages (Source: Researchers via the LA Times)

Global condom market to reach $9.6 billion by 2021 (Source: Beige Market Intelligence)

Globally porn market size: $97 billion  (Source: Kassia Wosick, of New Mexico State University, via CNBC)

Case study on the value of LGBT-friendly business: Subaru launched ad campaign targeting lesbians in 1996 that now looked back on as revolutionary. The company allocated tens of millions of dollars to media spend that year, and up until today continues to be known as the preferred cars of lesbians. (Source: Competitive Media Reporting via AdAge)

Amount Americans were predicted to spend on Valentine’s Day in 2017, including an evening out, gifts and cards: $18.2 billion, or an average of $136.57 per person.(Source: National Retail Federation)

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