Good Vibrations

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Illustration: Samia Singh

“For centuries, doctors had been treating women for a wide variety of illnesses by performing what is now recognised as masturbation. However, not only did they regard the ‘vulvular stimulation’ required as having nothing to do with sex, but reportedly found it time-consuming and hard work”

This is what you will find if you ‘wikipedia’ Vibrator — sex toy

FINDING A real sex toy in India, most women would tell you, is also time-consuming and hard work. Until recently.

We went to a 24×7 convenient store in Delhi and found a range of stimulants and lubricants sold behind the counter along with tiny, pint-sized vibrators alongside coffee and chocolates. We made an enquiry about the vibrator and the face of the young man behind the counter froze. “No. One minute, I’ll just call my senior. Sir…”

Enter, salesman two. “Yes, yes… I do know what these are…” he stuttered. Does he feel embarrassed selling them? No. To women? No. In any case, most of the sales happen at night, he says. By now he has regained his composure as if he was talking not about the forbidden truth tucked away behind his back in small boxes; but soap. We ask a woman at the billing counter what she thought of sex toys. She is built of stern stuff. “I have no particular opinion on them. I’ve never thought about whether I want to use them or not. I’m pretty asexual. Like you can be apolitical, you can also be asexual.”

R, a 35-year-old writer who lives and works in Delhi, has not waited for vibrators to arrive sideways in India. She has checked out sex shops in San Francisco. “Well, it’s no big deal there… you find a boutique for designer clothes and then a sex store right next door. I went in and saw a wall full of chains and leashes… and it took me a while to figure out that this wasn’t a pet shop. I think it’s great that these stores exist, of course a vibrator is no substitute for the real thing, but in small bursts, in a limited sense, it does offer pleasure. Certainly better than just your finger. Or maybe a mix of your finger and the vibrator,” she said meditatively.

Nargis is a 29-year-old Mumbai-based photographer and the owner of three dildos. Gifted by various boyfriends. “The largest is the least comfortable actually,” she said showing us her arm, indicative of the size of the thing. It would perhaps be like stuffing a leg up. Not so good.

Y, who runs the flourishing Masala Toys, says a guy just bought a dildo for his sister to replace her boyfriend with a big penis

Online retail has certainly made shopping for vibrators much easier. X, who shall not be named, runs his sex toy store out of Bhilwara, Rajasthan. His online dukaan has everything from strap-ons ( Rs 5,700 for the Fantasy series) to giant, monumental dildos like the purple Water Bunny ( Rs 4,600) for sale — all just a phone call away.

In the comforting tones of your neighbourhood kirana store owner, he says, “These things are not legal, no, ma’am. If you order condoms, it’s no problem, we’ll deliver them. But these other things. What to do, some people have it no… (the thing… the urge… the disease). So if you want it, you have to go to the customs office and show your doctor’s certificate and then they will give it to you.”

At the other end of the country and the sexual spectrum is yet another gentleman, shall we call him Y, who runs the flourishing Masala Toys. Pick up the phone anywhere in the country and your vibrator will be at your doorstep in 48 hours. “A guy just picked one up for his sister,” said Y. He claimed the sister was seeing someone who he didn’t like, but mysteriously also knew that the boyfriend had a big penis. He decided the best way to get her to reconsider the boyfriend, was to supply her with a Masala substitute.

Right now, in the Diwali season, says Y, sales are pretty low. Boom time is around Valentine’s Day. Sales go up to Rs 40-50 lakh a month, says Y. The most popular item in his stock is the flesh-coloured, seven-inch long vibrating Realistic Cock — for Rs 2,600. All sourced from China, Japan and the US. Ninety percent of the world’s sex toys are ‘Made in China’, claims Y. Also, he’s on a noble mission. “I came to India from South Africa in 2003 and realised what was missing in our society,” Y explained. “We live in a country where talking about sex is restricted. I want to do something to change that. That’s the main aim. We’re focussed on making people happy.” And now he is making people happy everywhere. “Ever heard of Latur? Heard of Wayanad?” he asks. “Well, my geography is improving, thanks to my sales.”

An online customer review gives perspective on this enterprise in a way that we surely can’t. “If you don’t find a dildo in India, you can always use the handle of a hair brush.”

Revati Laul is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka. 
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