Sex, it's everywhere you look, adverts, cinema, Zapatas but what of the lone soldier? The person who wants the pleasure without all that having to meet someone nonsense. We find out a little about the sex toy industry right here in Shanghai.
The evolution of sex toys is as vast and varied as those who use them. People have pursued pleasure in all tangible and non-tangible forms, dating as far back through recorded history as the hedonistic Romans. Attitudes towards sex toys have gone through cycles, often changing to suit fashions and social expectations. During the Victorian era, one of the most outwardly prudish and reserved periods of British history, sex toys were prescribed to women suffering from ‘female hysteria’. The release experienced by the big ‘O’, otherwise known as “hysterical paroxysm”, was thought to subdue feminine whiles, thus quashing the ever more irksome independent thought.
Fast forward several decades and we have the self-proclaimed pioneers of sexual expression, born of the open-minded ‘try everything once’ generation. China, being a slow starter but progressively speeding up in the race of modern man, is also becoming more open to the idea of sex toys. This is demonstrated by the (still relatively modest) array of sex shops which have opened in big cities such as Shanghai. These shops are stocked to rival the countless Western equivalents, offering an array of sexual aids and apparatus, designed to suit any desire or fantasy.
While sex shops have become a sociably acceptable concept in the West, particularly in countries such as Germany, The Netherlands and The Czech Republic, their wide-spread existence is entirely new for the Chinese. As such, the comfort level of being seen in such places is still adjusting, yet it would appear than many Chinese people are curious about sex toys. The mix of Western and local customers at shops such as Amy’s Bedroom and My Honey, serves to highlight a continued discovery of sexual exploration.
Eric, from Amy’s Bedroom, tells that when they first opened the shop five years ago, people were initially shocked and terrified. However, over the years, as China’s sexual revolution progresses, many have become more open and accepting of the idea. Amy’s Bedroom isn’t hidden away in a dark, gloomy corner, but instead displays their purpose proudly with a giant poster of a dildo, plastered across the store’s façade. The quality of products has improved over recent years, and Amy’s Bedroom has gained the reputation of selling high quality sex toys to the diverse folks of Shanghai.
As Kyle from My Honey points out, sex toys are not purely a solitary pursuit; many of his clients are couples who come to the shop to choose the items together. In this way, sex toys can be used to re-vamp or invigorate a relationship. The openness of these ideas helps to move away from past beliefs which link sex toys to sexual and social depravity.
Whatever cultural nuances we each have, we have one shared human characteristic…we enjoy sex. After all, that is basically our biological function; what’s there to be ashamed of in that?
WORDS: Sophie Turton / Camille Gazeau
PICTURES: Camille Gazeau