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India: these sex toys that aim to overcome the taboo of sexuality

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The founders of an Indian start-up selling “sex toys” claim to want to overcome “shame, guilt and fear” of sexuality in India, the land of the Kama Sutra. They seek to make their products less intimidating for novices and use slogans full of innuendo.

The founders of an Indian start-up selling “sex toys” claim to want to overcome “shame, guilt and fear” of sexuality in India, the land of the Kama Sutra. Open discussions of sexuality and intimacy are often considered obscene in the generally prudish Indian society. MyMuse, a start-up founded by the couple Anushka and Sahil Gupta, intends to shake up the taboos linked to the use of “sex toys”. They seek to make their products less intimidating for novices and use slogans full of innuendo.

The “shame” associated with the purchase of an intimate object

“Diwali is coming and so should you! And as always, we urge you to save the fireworks for the bedroom,” read one of their Facebook ads, ahead of the Hindu festival of lights celebrating Diwali. arrival of autumn. “There’s this shame and guilt and fear associated with buying something for intimate use,” says Anushka, “that’s the first thing we wanted to change.”

A growing number of companies are riding a certain wave of sexual liberation. The young people who work in the big cities of India are aware of global trends, comfortable on social networks such as Instagram, accustomed to dating platforms such as Tinder, Bumble or Hinge.

The nearly untapped sex toy market in India

And now investors are betting on the almost untapped market in this country of 1.4 billion people for sex toys. It was valued at $91 million by TechSci Research in 2020, and is expected to grow 16% annually. The Guptas began shipping their vibrators and other sex toys, discreetly packaged, during last year’s lockdown amid the Covid-19 outbreak. Taking advantage of the influx of capital targeting Indian tech start-ups, the company has raised seed money from venture capitalists.

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Their start-up has since made more than a dozen hires and delivers its pleasure products to nearly 200 cities across the country today. Campaigning on social media, they say they are trying to seriously refocus discussions on sexuality, far from the often “salacious” clich√©s prevalent in Bollywood cinema. “(We) just want to take all of this misogyny and sexism out of this field and make it something beautiful, natural, universal,” says Anushka, the entrepreneur and former WeWork employee.

Sadomaso kits, naughty lingerie, remote-controlled vibrators…

The start-up Gizmoswala offers the delivery of sadomaso kits in Bombay and LoveTreats presents an offer of naughty lingerie and remote-controlled vibrators. But these start-ups face the many paragons of virtue in Indian society, where arranged marriages remain the norm. “There are several Indias when it comes to sexuality awareness. While one India has accepted and changed, another is slowly moving, another is still ten or 20 years behind,” says education expert Jaya Aiyappa sexual.

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Groups of “vigilantes” attack couples whose behavior does not correspond, according to them, to “Indian values”. Politicians and police are also accused of raiding hotels and nightclubs and attacking young people who behave affectionately in public, drink alcohol or dress in ways deemed indecent.

Orders that jumped with containment

Last year, customs seized a shipment of vibrators and dildos, whose online orders had jumped during the confinement. Indian law still prohibits the importation of “toys that resemble parts of the human body”. Lack of discussion about sexuality can lead to misinformation and abuse, warns Jaya Aiyappa, adding that attempts to schedule sex education in schools have been met with fierce opposition.

Anushka Gupta remembers realizing the need for change when, on returning from abroad, she could not find such essential sexual health products as contraceptives and lubricants. “It’s a fundamentally out of whack situation,” she said, pointing out that Indian women especially are kept in the dark about sexuality. “It’s the most typically Indian conundrum: you don’t talk about sex at all to a woman until she’s married,” she says, “and as soon as she’s married, you ask her: ‘ So when’s the baby?'”

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