For the longest time, I had remained confused by my orgasm. “But why does it take you so long?” I was asked once or thrice. My inability to answer left the question hanging in my mind, like the thread of a tampon, gently reminding you of its presence. My orgasm was like that time you could spin 6 glass plates on your finger when you were all alone in your room, but failed the minute there was someone watching, almost as though it preferred the solitude we shared. When I told my best friend about this phenomenon, she went on to secretly order a vibrator for me, and nothing has been the same since.
With a population of a whopping 1.3 billion people, it is safe to say that Indians like having sex. A lot. After all, we are the 5th most sexually active country in the world. But when it comes to matters of pleasure, we seem to be on the back burner. According to this survey, only 26% of Indian women almost always have an orgasm during sex. That’s a lot of women going to bed without one. For some, it may be because their partner is unable to satisfy them, but a more fundamental issue is that not enough women know what they like done to them, let alone communicating that to another person. This is where our story begins.
My physical reluctance to climax wholly with a partner had me worried about the actual functionality of my body, nervous to admit to a partner that it might take longer than usual, and afraid that this admittance would deter even the slightest prospect. This was until I used my vibrator, and began to understand the difference between clitoral and vaginal orgasms, and that my body liked one over the other. In fact, 70% of women need clitoral stimulation to actually achieve an orgasm. I remember stopping somewhere between tears of thankfulness and joy to apologise to my vagina for ever thinking that this was on her, and all this was only possible because of my vibrator.
Sex toys have actually helped women embrace and own their own sexuality. Nyra*, a Bangalore-based PR Manager told us, “I discovered that I need clitoral stimulation and that I enjoy it more than penetrative. It’s extremely handy for when you masturbate with a book in your hand.“ It is this knowledge that changes the game itself. Shibani Satpute, a copywriter said, “Earlier, the only way I orgasmed while having sex was when the guy went down on me. I never climaxed ‘during’ sex. That was my main purpose to experiment with a vibrator. I wanted to navigate and learn what would work for me in bed and what all I could do to orgasm ‘during’ sex. Because let’s be honest, if you don’t know what works for you, how will the guy?”
Shibhani’s insight is important because it also highlights that communication is essential to sexual pleasure.
Knowing what you like and being able to tell your partner only makes for better sex, and toys have most definitely perpetuated this conversation. For example, Shibani says her toys have helped her be more vocal and honest about her sexual needs. “I now have a better understanding of my own sexual likes and dislikes and I feel it is important to know your body in that way.” As for sex being better with a toy, Daisy Bu*, a pastry chef in Mumbai says that it has made sex so much better. “Earlier, I would wait for the orgasm, so to speak, assuming I had no part to play in its arrival. But now, I participate too and it’s a lot more fun for me and my partner. The fact that I can have orgasms without a boy also balances out the responsibilities during sex — there’s less pressure on him, and also more power to me.” We asked Nyra* how she would integrate her toy with her partner and she said, “ It’s thrilling for me to masturbate while he watches or vice versa. And sometimes, he uses it on me. It’s not a dildo, so, it’s helpful when I want clitoral stimulation and not penetrative.”
While some partners might take to a sex toy with the same gusto as a potential threesome, others are slightly more hesitant. In this story by Vogue, June Tomaso-Wood, a psychotherapist and sex therapist says, “Some men do find it intimidating or emasculating when their partner wants to incorporate a device into their sexual play. Men-especially young men — want to be viewed as virile, self-confident, and capable of satisfying a woman in bed.” But what happens when they’re not?
Moreover, what happens when the female orgasm is considered to be an afterthought, while men almost always have a 100% satisfaction rate? Daisy Bu* mentioned that there had been a few men who were miffed at her use of a sex toy, but she deemed them to be inadequate people and moved right along. While not much comes close to the intimacy of sex with a partner, no one’s trying to pass off a glorious orgasm thank you very much. Nyra* actually picked her toy over her partner when it came to the purely sexual element of it all.
Today, the sex toy business in India seems to be on an upward crawl. The sexual wellness market here itself is expected to grow at a rate of 34.8 per cent per year from 2014 to 2019, according to Technavio. It estimates the current market size of the category in India to be around US$227 million. That’s Personal, a website that sells sexual wellness products delivering within India did an extensive survey of the consumption of these products across India. They found that Indian women made up 38% of their buyers, with an 18% larger basket size than men. While the most common product bought by men are lubricants and most viewed product are ‘delay sprays’, intimate massagers (vibrators) seem to be what women are after. Interestingly, it should be noted that India’s favourite role play costume is that of a nurse, and the most bought ‘kinky product’ is… handcuffs!
The fact that these products are even available in India as we know it is a boon many could never have imagined even a few years ago. Websites like LoveTreats, That’s Personal and I Am Besharam play a pivotal role in sexual wellness and empowerment of one’s own sexuality — these were the most frequented sites by our readers. Their discreet packaging ensures the safety of the product and the buyer as the sale of “obscene goods” is currently illegal in India — one really knows how far the category stretches. Owning a vibrator or a dildo in today’s India is like holding a key to the room of liberation, open-mindedness and empowerment — key ingredients that seem to be lost in the mix today. Perhaps, if more women were to grab their own keys with gusto, we could take that 26% up to a number we’re all more satisfied with.
Feature Image courtesy: Anjul Dandekar
Disclaimer: This story was intended to explore the relationship between women and sex toys, and the role they play in sexual empowerment. If you’re a male reader who would like to share your own experience with sex toys, please write in to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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