"the most popular product for women is the 7-inch-dildo and for men, the silicone vagina"
Pakistan may not be the first place to think of when it comes to sex toys. However, the existence and growth of the sex toy industry in Pakistan is a phenomenon that can no longer be kept a secret.
In the overly sexualised world in which we reside, it is hardly surprising that even a country like Pakistan is yielding such interest in an industry which has grown out of sexual gratification and exploring sexuality further than the basic norms.
However, in South Asia, sex toys are far from normalised. According to Indian laws, the selling of any “obscene object” can be punishable by a fine and prison sentence.
Yet, even the illiberal India has been exploring the ins and outs of sexual pleasure by slyly finding legal loopholes. A survey on female masturbation in India carried out in 2017 revealed that old Nokia phones were being turned into vibrators.
According to a Quartz report, India’s online sexual wellness industry will be worth Rs. 8,700 crore (£1 billion) by 2020, a massive increase from about Rs. 1,000 crore (£115 million) in 2014.
So what about sex toys in Pakistan? DESIBlitz lifts the lid on the contentious issue.
The Sex Toy Industry in Pakistan
Vibrators, dildos, love eggs. All household terms in the 21st century – in the West at least. With high street stores like Ann Summers and Victoria’s Secret boasting a range of sex gear – from oral sex simulators to G-Spot hunters – the gutsy gadgets are an integral step toward seeking sexual pleasure.
But how far does the perilous profession reach the conservative confines of Pakistan?
Pretty far, apparently. Following a 2015 study, Pakistan tops Google’s list of most porn searching sites:
“Don’t let the Big Beards and Black Garbs fool you. There is plenty of Sex, Drugs and Alcohol to go around, even in this part of the world.
“Condoms, Lube and other Sex toys fly off the shelves. As do seductive outfits and other sexy items sold in the malls. Some days women have to wait in line at the nearest Victoria’s Secret just to get a look in,” says a precarious internet user.
Another user adds: “Pakistanis are also human and enjoy sexual pleasure, BDSM as much as Westerners…but the fact is people here in Pakistan don’t open up [about] their sex life to anyone because we all know that conservatives would behead us! Pakistanis do everything – but undercover and in privacy!”
Yet, even the hormone driven youth of Pakistan isn’t enough to push for the legalisation of sex toys. The selling of sex toys is a violation of 292-C (sale of obscene material) of the Pakistani Penal Code and is punishable by a jail term of 3 months.
This was brought to light last year when a 25-year-old student was arrested for selling sex toys in the bustling metropolis of Lahore.
In addition, the manufacturing of sex toys in Pakistan is an activity that brings trade to businesses.
According to The Economist, metal factories in Pakistan are producing steel dildos which are being created to meet the demands of Western customers who are increasingly opting for alternative materials to the Chinese toys which contain chemicals of a carcinogenic nature.
A metal-working factory owner in Pakistan stresses that dildos made by them are of better value. He says: “You can use Pakistani steel for a long time. It rusts much later than Indian or Chinese.”
Makers of leather goods are also profiting from the trade. Over 60 sex-toy suppliers just come from one provincial city in Pakistan. Making anything from kinky corsets, gimp masks, jock-straps, anal beads to other kinky and fetish wear.
The Kadir brothers in Karachi set-up a multi-million dollar business selling leather fetish items for bondage primarily to export to Western clients. Asifa, a designer and sales executive at the company in Karachi says: “I have a desire to wear some of the items but not all of them.”
Online Sex Toy Sellers in Pakistan
Perhaps this is why the bold business has been shifted to online platforms. Most sellers in Pakistan choose to make their sales via Alibaba.com, an online trading website:
“Alibaba provides sources for export, not local sale. There is no shop openly selling sex toys in Pakistan,” Farhan* states, a seller of medical instruments online.
“Some female beauty parlours and massage centres provide sex toys to clients secretly. Also, some gynaecology instruments such as speculums and pinwheels which are available in medical shops in Pakistan can be used as sex toys.”
That being said, Cutpricestore.com, a Pakistani website selling sex toys and products promoting sexual health was made fairly accessible to all users – even providing a live chat with an agent for support and details to potential buyers.
After going undercover, DESIblitz delves deeper into the industry by contacting the sellers:
“Our products are made abroad, the most popular product for women is the 7-inch-dildo and for men, the silicone vagina (Fleshlight),” says Saad*, an agent for the company.
When asked if there is a need for the products, he very honestly responds:
“Many men and women are sinning with each other, so sex toys are needed to allow them to satisfy themselves instead.”
Some rather strange products were also ‘hot sellers,’ including the vagina tightening gel and breast enlargement gel – averaging around Rs. 4,000 (approx. £26).
Of course, such an audacious trade attracts massive backlash in traditionalist Pakistan:
“Around 80% of the population like it and 20% of the population threaten us. Either they complain to the PTA (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) or report the website as cybercrime.”
As expected, the issue of discretion and privacy is high on the list of priorities for buyers and sellers in Pakistan, where Saad* assures us that “your privacy is our number one priority.”
Unsurprisingly, he also mentions that more men than women tend to buy the products.
Urwa Trading flaunts a selection of novelties for the purpose of sexual pleasure. Still, it is evident that the stigma surrounding sex toys is too much to bear even for ‘the one and only online sex store in Pakistan,’ as an interview request was refused.
“Nobody will help you out,” says Farhan* when asked about contacting sex toy companies in Pakistan. “Even those who are really selling. It is illegal in Pakistan. It is a Muslim country and no one can sell these toys openly. It is prohibited and illegal by law.”
Rather surprisingly, Urwa Trading also provided a live chat helpline for advice and product support, even offering a telephone number for potential clients.
Saloni Health and Beauty Supply also had a lot on display. Though they didn’t specialise in sex toys they offered a range of sexual wellness and wellbeing products. One of the more popular products included the rather controversial, private parts whitening cream.
To conclude, an industry believed to be virtually non-existent in Pakistan is actually thriving – albeit away from the prying eyes of the conservatives.
The reason for its success can be down to an array of factors. Be it more devout men and women avoiding fornication, or sexually sparked youth in the pursuit of pleasure – the list is endless.
All that can be clarified is that this contentious trade will continue to flourish, even within the borders of a country that is deemed to be very ‘conservative’.