Aarthi Shetty (name changed) was looking forward to becoming richer by some Estee Lauder perfumes when her husband returned from a three-month work stint in Hong Kong. But Shetty’s otherwise-predictable software professional husband had a surprise in store for her. “He bought me a vibrator,” says Bangalore-based Shetty.
The vibrator and penile ring added a new zing to the Shettys’ sex life. “We began experimenting in bed. And now, whenever my husband is travelling, I can always fall back on the vibrator,” says Shetty. Adds Sharmishtha, a PR executive in Calcutta, “My husband and I exchange such gifts just for fun.”
When Shetty boasted to her friends about her new bedroom buy, she learnt that she was in no way a pioneer. Most of her friends were veteran vibrator users.
Clearly, a sex toy is no longer such an unthinkable element of urban Indian bedrooms — and especially not for women. “Indians are finding sex gadgets a fun way to bring excitement into their love life,” says Prakash Kothari, a Mumbai-based sexologist. He claims 30 per cent of his clients use sex toys.
Growing awareness has brought sex toys pouring onto bedside tables. “Awareness about sex gadgets has increased by leaps, thanks to the Internet and with more Indians travelling abroad. The most commonly used gadgets are dildos and vibrators,” says P.S. Murthy, consultant sexologist at Bangalore’s Manipal Hospital. He adds that he receives over 10 patients every week asking about sex toys and how gadgets can improve their sex life. “Five years ago, such queries were rare,” says Murthy.
The annual Durex sex survey, conducted last year, found that an increasing number of Indians were using vibrating rings and lubricants. “Sexual well-being has become important for urban Indians. They are willing to experiment in their sex life,” says R. Srinivasan, vice-president, marketing, TTK-LIG Ltd, the marketers of Durex and Kohinoor condoms in India.
Jyoti (name changed) uses a vibrator, which was gifted to her by her former husband when they were still together. Jyoti is a 26-year-old woman based in Delhi who is fearless about expressing her sexuality in the private or the public domain. “Well, the vibrator replaces you-know-what, but sometimes it also displaces the boyfriend,” she says suggestively.
Mostly used for lazy sex, the vibrator gets a lot of action, almost twice a week on an average. Jyoti, however, holds that her kind is very rare in India, as is the availability of such gadgets.
Technically, selling sex gadgets as adult toys is illegal in India. But these are not as difficult to get as Jyoti would imagine. Walk through Mumbai’s Crawford Market or Delhi’s Ghaffar Market, and you’ll find what you are in search of. A grey market for sex gadgets flourishes in these cities. “Just ask for a massager and you’ll get the choicest of dildos,” says Kothari.
Companies with brands are now breaking into the market. Last September, TTK-LIG Ltd, launched its Durex Play range of products — comprising vibrating rings and lubricants. The product is being marketed through select outlets of the Health & Glow chain in Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta.
TTK-LIG’s Srinivasan doesn’t want to talk about how the goods are sold when they are not quite legal. But he adds that customer response to Durex Play has been phenomenal. “Each outlet sells about 20 vibrating rings and 15 lubricants every month. We have been flooded with repeat orders,” says Srinivasan. The company plans to launch the product in other cities soon. "We are also working on launching more products,” adds Srinivasan.
An up-market Calcutta store, La Lingerie, stocks what proprietor Dharmendra Nathvani calls a play product range — comprising sex toys, lotions, creams and games such as strip poker. “The products are not displayed or sold openly. Even then, sales are growing by 20 per cent a year,” claims Nathvani.
The products available in the shop include “Love on Board”, an adult board game, (“a sensational game for the newly weds and young couples” proclaims the literature on the box!) that costs Rs 1,900. It comes with a dice, heart-shaped pawns, candles, aroma oil and incense sticks. There are instructions at various intervals as one progresses in the game, (for example, “rub the aroma oil on each other’s bodies”).
There is another imported love game “Pose and Disclose” by California Exotic Novelties. Priced at Rs 2,650, in this game the partners roll the dice, and using the numbered cards, they follow the directions given on the cards, such as “pull your pants down and do a booty shake”. The instructions on the cards get naughtier as the game progresses.
These sex toys are kept in a separate floor in the store, where shoppers can buy them in privacy.
According to a salesman, most of the buyers are women or couples. Around 25-30 games are sold each month, and vibrators are also very popular.
For those who shy away from walking into a store and asking for a Bumpy Bunny vibrator, on-line shopping comes handy. The Foreign Post Office at Ahmedabad claims to seize about 500 parcels containing products such as vibrators, inflatable dolls and pornographic magazines every month. “Most products are purchased from on-line sex shops,” says K.C. Sharma, assistant commissioner of customs, who was formerly in charge of the city’s Foreign Post Office.
Clearly, Indians are fast discovering the joys of using sex toys. And age is no bar to using these gadgets, says sexologist Kothari.
“As the AIDS fear spreads, single men and women use sex toys to seek solo satisfaction. Software professional couples, who live apart for months, use them when their partner is away. Middle-aged couples use them to break the monotony in bed,” says Kothari.
It takes two to tango. Sexologists say the demand for sex toys received a big fillip in India when women discovered them. “Every month, I get about 40 enquiries on buying sex gadgets. Of these, 70 per cent are from women,” says Mahesh Nawal, an Indore-based sexologist.
The Durex Play products are also bought mostly by women, says Srinivasan. “The Health & Glow outlets have a majority of female footfalls. Which means, more women are buying our products,” Srinivasan says.
Nawal says 95 per cent of his women clients don’t know what an orgasm is. In medical parlance, the condition is called anorgasmia. “Women need foreplay and take time to orgasm. Most men don’t devote enough time to arouse their partners,” says Nawal. Now, sex toys provide a solution. “Women have begun using sex gadgets to reach a climax,” says Nawal.
Also, as work pressure increases, lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiac problems are becoming rampant in 30-plus urban men. “Ill health makes men under-perform in bed,” says Nawal. So women seek satisfaction from sex toys.
Bangalore-based sexologist Murthy says sex toys provide a quick-fix carnal solution to busy professionals. “Sex has taken a back seat among the city’s stressed professionals. Since people have very little personal time, they look for instant gratification. Sex gadgets provide this,” says Murthy.
For most, buying sex toys adds spice to bedroom activities. “Indians are getting creative in bed. Sex gadgets are one way of doing this,” says Murthy.
Jyoti would agree.