Cape Town - South Africans are vibrating with curiosity about sex toys, according to a study released by the Statistic Brain Research Institute.
The country came in third globally for the highest number of Google searches for sex toys, trailing the US and the UK.
Why the sudden interest in spicing up the bedroom with adult novelty products?
Sexologists and sex shop owners cite a number of reasons for the expanding sex toy market, including female empowerment in the bedroom and the availability of high-quality sex toys, many of which can be used by both partners.
Adult World chief executive Arthur Kalamaris said a big contributing factor to the spiking interest was the open-mindedness of the female population.
“The whole marketplace is changing, with 55 percent of our sex toy sales to women. It used to be male-dominated, like the man would go into the store and pick out a sex toy, but that’s completely shifted,” he said.
Other sex shop owners also said women were becoming more comfortable with introducing toys into their sex lives, taking charge of their own pleasure.
“Sex should be fun. Lots of people don’t know that. Some women still see it as an obligation and that’s not how it should be,” said Sari Cohen, owner of Cape Town’s Allure Sensuality Emporium.
Cohen sees customers of all ages and from all different backgrounds. She offers a senior discount and frequently attends events and parties to educate curious potential buyers. Her stockroom is filled with high-quality products that range in price from R350 to more than R3 000.
“I love sex toys so much because they help women learn about themselves and their bodies,” she said. “If they are used with consent and women are opening their minds to the possibility of pleasure, that’s really empowering and important. It means that they are ready to love themselves and embrace themselves.”
However, Cohen also sees women who buy sex toys but hide them from their partners. “It makes me sad to see them do that, but at the same time I’d rather they take control of their own pleasure rather than not at all if they’re not satisfied.”
Desir Intimate Collection, another Cape Town sex shop that mostly operates through an online storefront, also stocks high-quality sex toys and lingerie.
It markets itself as proudly South African, catering to every sexual orientation, gender and preference possible.
“I was happy to see the study because it reiterates the need for sex toys,” managing director Brodie Meyer said.
“South Africans are happy to move away from seedy environments that are traditionally associated with sex shops. What we’re seeing is normalisation and the creation of dialogue, along with more awareness of the adult toy industry.”
Meyer thinks the search count for sex toys is so high in South Africa because there are not enough brick-and-mortar stores selling them.
“E-commerce has evolved so much. Shopping for sex toys can be private and you can do it with a partner at home,” she said.
One of the sexual health benefits of using sex toys is active communication in relationships, according to Dr Marlene Wasserman, a local |sexologist.
“Avoiding sexuality is unhealthy and sex toys are a great way to explore that and have conversations about it.”