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Use of sex toys is on the rise as many young Chinese grapple with how to explore their sexuality.

Modern China is slowly but surely sexualizing. From scented strap-on dildos, to lifeless sex dolls and brightly-colored butt plugs, the country’s younger generations are starting to explore everything the sex toy market has to offer.

Lin Degang, chief executive of sex toy online retailer oyeah, told Reuters in 2012 that within five years, “sex toys will be a common commodity” and “a key element of a fashionable lifestyle.” A report from iiMedia Research Group says that only two years ago, China’s online market for sex toys was worth nearly 18.9 billion RMB (3 billion USD) and was projected to exceed 60 billion RMB in 2018. A quick flick through online marketplace Taobao can easily lead to an accidental two-hour shopping spree of adult toys, which are conveniently delivered right to your door, often the same day.

According to a survey from Renmin University on 21st century sexual preferences in China, between 2010 and 2015 the number of men purchasing sex toys increased from 5.7% to 10.0%, and the number of women from 2.7% to 5.7%. The stats are small, yet significant. While those with more traditional views might still associate sex toys with “infidelity, disrespect, no love and no care” according to the survey, Chinese women in particular are rejecting this sentiment in favor of simple sexual pleasure.

The Preferred Downtime

The time-old phrase “the sooner you lose your virginity, the worse your life will be” (“初夜越早, 生活越糟”) no longer applies to contemporary China. The Renmin University survey also found that in 2015, the average age for men to lose their virginity was 19.5, and for women 20.5 years old — a gender gap that has been narrowing year upon year. A similar national survey found that between 2000 and 2010, the number of Chinese using the “top five sexual skills” — which include kissing, nipple touching, foreplay, and oral as well as anal sex — increased to 83%.


Olivia Halsall is an incoming Masters student at Cambridge University. She spent a year studying Chinese at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and a year working as a freelance tutor and journalist in Shanghai.