We May Finally Be Getting an Official Sex Emoji

Sex toy company LELO has filed an application with Unicode for an "official" sex emoji, but will we ever give up the eggplant?

Eggplant on blue background
The eggplant has long been our unofficially-official sex emoji. Will that ever change?

It’s been nearly a decade since the aubergine (that’s Queen’s English for eggplant) was divested of its humble role as a mere fruit and thrust into the spotlight as a sex symbol — as in, an actual symbol of sex, or, more specifically, penises. The eggplant owes this unlikely rebrand, of course, to emojis, the image-based language that entered the cultural lexicon when smartphones took over in the 2010s. Entries in the ever-expanding emoji dictionary all have their own literal meanings, but many have also taken on widely acknowledged subtexts, often horny ones. Despite some early competition from various other phallic pictograms, the eggplant was ultimately crowned the unofficially-official penis emoji, and was eventually joined by a growing team of fellow emoji that also took on more prurient subtexts — most notably the peach and the water droplets, though the internet’s capacity for horny creativity really knows no bounds.

Sex toy company LELO, however, thinks sexters deserve a more official way to express their libidinous thoughts and desires via emoji, rather than hiding behind food-based innuendo. Earlier this month, the company announced it had filed an application for the “first official sex emoji” with Unicode, the powers that be of the emoji universe. According to LELO, the lack of a Unicode-sanctioned sex emoji is a glaring omission reflective of the sex negativity and censorship that have increased online in recent years as more platforms crack down on sexual content. The introduction of a new sex emoji, LELO hopes, “will usher in a new era of communication, further break the stigma surrounding the talk of sex online and help more people be more satisfied with their sex life,” according to a press release.

While LELO is right that the internet has a censorship problem — one that only seems to be getting worse across many platforms — it’s worth wondering whether anyone really needs, wants or would actually use an “official” sex emoji when we have already established a widely understood sub-language of unofficial sex emojis. After all, part of the fun of using emojis to express sexual ideas lies in the humor and slight illicitness of taking something innocuous and making it dirty. The creation of our sex emoji vocabulary has been a testament to humanity’s innate, relentless tendency toward sexual expression, and the creativity with which we’ve always managed to pull it off, even under the most rigid forms of censorship.

Moreover, while sex emojis aren’t always intended to arouse — in fact, I’d argue they often are not — the non-explicit, frankly cute pictograms offer a non-threatening way to express sexual desire when used in an actual sexting context, something shy sexters may lean on for levity. For those who incorporate emojis into their actual sext conversations to lighten the mood a bit, a more overt sex emoji may feel too aggressive.

Which raises another important question: What might this certified sex emoji look like? Will we be forced to trade in our plump little eggplants and juicy peaches for detailed, Joy of Sex-style imagery? No actual design for the proposed emoji appears to exist yet, but a poll conducted by LELO revealed that 62 percent of respondents would prefer a sex emoji that “hints at sex” over one that “clearly portrays” it. This seems to confirm that most sex-emoji users appreciate the more abstract representation our current innuendo-based sex emojis provide, once again raising the question of whether there is actually a need for an “official” sex emoji. After all, what are the eggplant, peach and their similarly innuendoed ilk if not emojis that “hint at sex?”

Regardless of whether or not we need an official sex emoji, however, it will probably be a while before we get one — if we ever do at all. Things tend to move pretty slowly over at Unicode, so in the meantime, we will just have to continue relying on our own inexhaustible resources of horny creativity, combating online censorship one eggplant at a time.

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