This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Rohini Banerjee. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

5 Women Talk About Using Sex Toys And Taking Pleasure Into Their Own Hands

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A friend, who was in Australia last year, had excitedly texted me from Melbourne: “There’s a sex shop right across the street from where I live, and I want to buy you something!” Needless to say, I got a little excited too. Growing up in a more or less conservative setting, I hadn’t seen a sex toy up close before and was thrilled beyond belief at the prospect of owning one. And once I started using it, there has been no looking back ever since.

But that’s the thing with sex toys in India. They aren’t easily available, and neither are they made visible in common discussions or popular culture. Many Indians don’t even know what sex toys are, and where to find one, because it’s shrouded in so much secrecy and taboo. And when they do get hold of one (like I did), they often don’t know what to do with it (especially if they send you one without a manual!).

Of Pleasure, And More

I was curious to know whether others had had similar experiences with sex toys, and hence, I went about asking a few women about their close encounters with these literal objects of pleasure.

Shipra, a 20-year old law student got her first sex toy a year back, and initially (like me) even she was hesitant to use it. “It was something so strange and new,” she says, “I mean, it wasn’t like I didn’t know what a vibrator looked like, because I had googled it earlier. But it was so deeply ingrained in me that these things are something bad or something warped, that I felt apprehensive.”

But once she actually started using her vibrator, all her initial doubts disappeared. “It’s like a whole world of sexual pleasure has opened up for me,” she said, “The orgasms are so intense. Better than actual sex.”

Curiously enough, the majority of women I spoke to who use sex toys while masturbating had a similar revelation- of how these orgasms are better than the ones experienced during actual sex. And even when they’re not, they’re a close enough replication.

Mugdha*, who’s a single mother of two children, says, “I’m in my 30s, and frankly, don’t have the time or the will to have sex with a partner,” she says, “But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel sexually frustrated. A vibrator is the best way to release that tension and pleasure myself.”

Mugdha, Shipra, and the experiences of countless other women who find satisfaction and release through sex toys are wonderful examples of how thoroughly the sex toy has been reclaimed as a means of sexual liberation. Historically, they were often used as a means of controlling female sexuality, but now, women are using it to pleasure themselves, and revel in their bodies on their own terms.

However, the use of sex toys isn’t limited to masturbation. A study found that 78% of women who use sex toys report being in a relationship. Sex toys can be used in partnered sex in diverse ways to enhance the experience, and in same-sex relationships, they are particularly common. “Some of the best sex we’ve had has been with sex toys,” says Namita*, a 25-year-old PhD scholar who often uses dildos and strap-ons with her lesbian partner.

The Availability and The Taboos

Though the consensus among all of the women I spoke to was more or less that sex toys were pretty amazing and were great for orgasms, there was one recurring complaint—the lack of its physical availability.

“I’ve had to go to some ridiculous lengths to acquire my vibrators,” jokes Mugdha, “When I was younger, you didn’t really have the internet. So I had friends smuggle it from abroad, or had to make use of some of my contacts from work to find them. But things are easier now. You have online stores that deliver it to your house.”

Though some of these online stores might seem shady at first, they actually have some interesting items to offer. That’s Personal, Kink Pin and Masala Toys are some of the most popular ones and sell a wide range of products.

But sadly, there are hardly any actual sex shops in India. Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code forbids the sale of any “obscene objects” on Indian soil—and though this law was initially meant for so-called “obscene” books or pamphlets, the wording of it is such that many use this law to justify banning of sex toys.

But this kind of a notion — of seeing sex as obscene and clubbing it with immorality — is so common in Indian society that our unwillingness to see the use of sex toys as normal or legitimate doesn’t come as a surprise. We as a culture find it difficult to even talk about sex openly, and in fact, often try to deny that it’s a natural, normal thing. Hence, there exist some ridiculous myths and taboos.

Oh, I’ve heard the craziest things,” says Malvika, a graduate student who often uses the dildo, “ Since you don’t see them enough, many people don’t understand what they are and make up some random myths. They say that sex toys are something ‘dirty’, that they are ‘painful’, that they harm your genitals and so on and so forth. The stupidest one I heard was when my mum told me that women who use vibrators can’t get pregnant.”

This isn’t the least of it. The stigma gets even more incomprehensible.

“My mom found my vibrator in the bathroom and went apeshit.” says Khushi*, a management trainee and another sex toy frequenter “At first she didn’t realize what it was but once I told her, she acted like I had brought shame to the entire family. She started telling the rest of my family that I was a ‘sex addict.’”

Laughable as that is, it is also the sad truth about what society thinks of a woman’s sexual agency. From those horrifying chastity belts of yore to the taboo around sex toys, a woman in-charge of her pleasure seems to threaten the roots of patriarchy.

Sex toys have been around since The Stone Age, and from personal experience, all I can say is that they are a gift to (wo)mankind, so why the shame? It’s time to throw these obsolete ideas out of the window, and if it takes a rechargeable WiFi enabled Rabbit Vibrator to start us off, why not?!

*names changed

Author’s Note: In writing this piece I had to really hunt for men and women willing to talk about using sex toys. Interestingly, it was finally the women who came to my rescue. But if you have an experience to share, don’t hesitate and share in the comments below or email us at cake@youthkiawaaz.com. Let’s all shed the shame around self-pleasure!

You must be to comment.
  1. Mahreen Hasan

    Another terrific read. Kudos to you for getting this women to open up to you.

  2. Shipra Prasad

    It is the irony of the Indian society that people feel embarrassed for talking about sex even when it inspired the world to explore the sexual life itself. Indian sex is discreet rather than open. People are shy when it comes to discussing one’s sex life. That is the main reason why sex toys aren’t sold like garments in the market. visit https://www.sexcare.com

  3. Varun Maturkar

    I am wondering why such a bold piece isn’t featuring in Staff Picks.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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