Female sex toys are gaining popularity among Chinese women

By Huang Lanlan Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/4 18:43:40

Her pleasure

A Shanghainese woman F (alias) and her boyfriend entered an adult store along the city's Julu Road, and they later left with a newly purchased vibrator.

It was August 8, 2018, F's 26th birthday. That day she got her first sex toy. "My boyfriend bought it for me, and I tried it that night," F, a Shanghai-based company project manager, recalled.

F said she didn't feel shy or embarrassed at that time. "I believe that a sex toy is something you will experience sooner or later in life," she told the Global Times.

Some young Chinese women including F, unlike their relatively conservative elders, are more open-minded toward sex, and are more willing to try different ways to achieve better sexual experiences. For these females, sex toys, such as dildos and various types of vibrators, are no longer taboos, but are considered as somewhat "cute gadgets."

The market is growing. Statistics showed that the sex toy industry has reached an annual market value of 100 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) in China, youth.cn reported in November 2016. Of all the consumers, 44.9 percent were reportedly females.


Internet company staffer Vess (alias), 24, owns five sex toys. 

"I like these things," Vess said. "It makes me quite happy when I open my drawer and see a row of my 'boyfriends' lying there."

Vess tried an adult toy for the first time at the age of 18, which unfortunately didn't bring her any sexual pleasure. "It was a terrible vibrating egg that made my body awkwardly shake," she recalled. "I felt like…being tortured by a poor-quality weight-loss machine. (It was) very weird and uncomfortable."

But that experience didn't wane Vess's enthusiasm for sex toys. She later asked her then partner to buy her another one. "I haven't bought myself any toys so far," she said. "All of my toys were gifts from my current and ex-boyfriends."

She even encourages Chinese men to send their wives or girlfriends sex toys as presents. "A toy is more meaningful than a luxury bag," she told the Global Times. She said that three merits of sex toys are privacy, affordability and pleasure.

"Also, sending a luxury bag seems materialistic, which may lead to keeping up with the Joneses," said Vess. "But (sending) a toy is quite different. You never see a woman show off her vibrator to her friends, saying 'mine is more expensive than the one your boyfriend bought for you.'"

Openly buying or talking about sex toys in real life is indeed uncommon in China. Instead, most users turn to the internet. According to a research report released by iiMedia Research Institute last year, China's expanding adult toy e-commerce market is expected to reach 31.35 billion yuan, industry website yesky.com reported in May 2018.

On Taobao, China's largest online shopping platform, there are lots of adult stores with robust sales.

A Global Times reporter visited one of the most popular Taobao shops with 1.19 million members. It offers several types of male and female toys, with its bestseller being a 60-yuan vibrating spear that was purchased 15, 240 times in 30 days.

Some sellers promote their products on social media as well. On China's twitter-like Weibo, they send netizens their toys for free and ask them for their comments in return.

"It's so comfortable and enjoyable, like an electric current passing through my body," a woman wrote on her Weibo, who hashtagged a sex toy brand. "Thanks for sending me this, I feel that I don't even need my boyfriend anymore. Lol."

Second choice

It's good to see Chinese women begin to calmly face their own sexual desires, and to actively try more ways to satisfy their demand, said feminist Chen Yaya, a research fellow at Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

"Our society used to have a very narrow view of sexual behavior, which was mainly focused on a man and a woman," she told the Global Times. "That perception to some extent made women sexually repressed, as finding a suitable male partner for safe sex is not always easy."

Therefore, masturbation or toys can help solve this dilemma and meet women's sexual demands in alternative ways, Chen added.

But neither Vess nor F thinks toys can totally replace humans. "I love both,"Vess said, adding that the pleasures her toys and her partners bring are quite different.

"Toys are simple - play, finish, wash my hands and go to sleep," she explained. "Having sex with a man, by contrast, means I have more concerns. How does he feel? Will he stay here all night? Would it be embarrassing if I suddenly farted?...that's troublesome."

Nonetheless, Vess emphasized that real sexual intercourse is also indispensable. "A man has body temperature, he makes me warm, and we can communicate," she said. "Sex is not just about the few seconds of an orgasm."

F agrees. "I think my boyfriend's fingers do a better job than toys," she laughed.

Inevitable trend

Vess believes that the popularity of female sex toys is an inevitable trend.

"Times have changed," she said. "Sex was mainly about satisfying men in the past. But nowadays, we see more and more well-educated and informed Chinese women starting to learn how to please themselves."

As a symbol of gender equality, sexologist Fang Gang encourages adult women to try toys. "(With a toy) they can discover their own bodies, and experience more kinds of pleasures that sex may bring them," he told the Global Times. "Women have the right to enjoy sex as well."

"I remember in Sex and the City (American TV series (1998-2004)), characters Charlotte and Samantha like vibrators very much," F said, guessing that it's partly because toys give women a sense of control. "We have to admit that most of the time, females play a passive role in real sexual intercourse."


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