Sex toys in production at a factory in Suzhou, Jiangsu. Photo credit: @2dogs.
The Chinese market for sex toys is expected to grow to around 40bn RMB by 2014, up from around 10bn last year, according to industry experts.
Considering the woeful levels of sexual education in China and a conservative, at times extremely patriarchal culture, the acceptance and prevalence of sex toys on the Chinese mainland is somewhat remarkable. It’s not uncommon to find vibrators sold on shop counters, right next to chewing gum and cigarette lighters.
The about face in attitudes towards sex in China, which began when the prudish Communist government launched its opening and reform drive in the late 1970s and has been catalyzed by the Internet, is creating a prime business opportunity for the sex toy industry, insiders say.
Highlighting expectations of a strong upward trajectory in domestic sales, two private equity firms in August jointly invested 300 million yuan into Love Health Science & Technology Co Ltd, the biggest Chinese sex toy manufacturer.
Illiberal and disapproving attitudes towards sexuality and sexual agency are in fact relatively new in China. The use of pornography and sex toys goes back centuries, it was only with the advent of Communism and accompanying policies “aimed at repressing people’s personal desires, including romance and sex, in favour of ideas of revolution and collectivism” that Chinese attitudes towards sex became more conservative.
According to Peng Xiaohui, professor of sexology at Central China Normal University, post-Communist Chinese society “was more conservative than in ancient China”. The slow ‘liberalisation’ of attitudes towards sex is actually a return to traditional values.
The country’s state-run broadcaster has aired a program featuring a controversial sexologist, who on the show called for the legalization of homosexual marriages, while an annual sex fair in Guangzhou in southeastern China drew 250,000 visitors last month.