Don't dismiss sex toys out of hand

All the buzz: Once scarce in South Africa, sex shops are commonplace and filled with gadgets designed to thrill. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G)

All the buzz: Once scarce in South Africa, sex shops are commonplace and filled with gadgets designed to thrill. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G)

We live in a digital world, one in which we need technological help to track our meetings, how far we have jogged and even when we are ovulating. We like to involve technology in our everyday lives and sex is no different. Over time sex toys have come a long way, from a massive steam-powered machine to something that looks like it could change the channel in an alien space ship.

Sex toys are increasingly becoming part of people’s sexual experiences; drawers that used to have extra socks and linen now house a variety of vibrators instead. More and more people will hear couples let slip about their “special drawer” or bemoan the price of AA batteries. Granted, these trinkets are not for everyone; the stigma surrounding them still remains. Many shops offer “discreet services”, which demonstrates the extent to which the taboo penetrates the industry.

But the taboo on sex toys continues to fade. One statistics website stated that South Africa had the third-highest global search for sex toys in the world (after the United States and the United Kingdom), beating out stiff competition from Trinidad and Tobago, Australia and the Czech Republic. The country is one of the few on the continent in which sex toys are not illegal and the nation has run with it. As the attitudes towards what constitutes acceptable, or even good, sex begin to change, one can see the market begin to grow.

Despite the fact that the manufacture or selling of sex toys was only decriminalised in South Africa in the past decade, the market is bursting with an annual Sexpo, private parties and more Adult Worlds than you can shake a stick at. My old neighbourhood has three within walking distance of my home (including one near Parliament). With more than 60 branches across the country it’s hard not to bump into one. Then there’s Ronnie’s Sex Store, somewhere between Montagu and Oudtshoorn, which is really a bar with bras.

The selection of toys has also widened and for those who do not want to be painted with the “touch myself under the trench coat” brush there are many online stores that deliver, including Matilda’s, Honey Honey and Allure Sensuality. These stores give a more refined and sensual experience with flavoured lubricants, waterproof silicone-based toys and even toys for couples, all in lovely pastel colours. There are ones that resemble lipsticks and one that can turn corners, as it were.

With increasingly different ways to interact with the world, sex toys are simply another dimension to our ever-increasing search for the latest experience-enhancer. They can easily fall into the realm of virtual reality, Fit Bits, apps on your phone and the ability to record your “stories” on the “magic picture box”. The only difference is you are experiencing this technology naked and, for some, this may not even be a difference. One needs to think of sex toys less as being “a step away from starring in homemade porn” and more about exploring the possibilities. There is a sense of that good ol’ fashioned societal guilt that comes with enjoying sex too much but this is something one can work through.

Either in pairs, alone or in groups, if that is your thing, these toys can be a great way of adding that extra element to your sex life.

Despite the rumours, one doesn’t become addicted to sex toys, in the same way that one doesn’t become addicted to apps. Although the rise of Facebook-based game Candy Crush is probably a bad example, like any good mood enhancer it is all about pacing yourself. And chances are, next time you sit at someone’s dinner party, they have a decent collection upstairs or have at least been near enough to one to feel the buzz. 

Experiencing sex toys is something that more people should try as we let go of archaic, sometimes problematic, ideas about sex. Especially with women, the idea of owning and using your sex toys speaks to a purist of sexual agency and liberation. More women are beginning to explore this space and taking rampant rabbits out of the streets of Sex and the City and into their homes.

To even begin the conversation about adding toys to coitus allows for a whole host of other conversations to be raised in terms of likes and dislikes in bed. Conversations are important in a society that makes speaking about sexual experiences and wants something of a taboo. You may not rush to a sex shop or splash your credit card details all over an online kink store but it will mean that you are at least open to having those talks that will open up your world.

  Kagure Mugo is cofounder and curator of the HOLAAfrica! blog

Kagure Mugo

Kagure Mugo

Kagure Mugo is the intoxicatingly scary gatekeeper of HOLAAfrica, an online pan-African queer womanist community dealing with sexuality and all things woman. She is also a writer and freelance journalist who tackles sex, politics and other less interesting topics. During weekends she is a wine bar philosopher and polymath for no pay. Read more from Kagure Mugo


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