For instance, we have seen how sales of real male sex dolls in the conservative American States have surpassed sales in more progressive states. Speaking of changing traditional attitudes towards sex, South Korea is a good example. A good way of gauging this change is focusing on how easy or hard it is to shop for sex toys in the nation’s capital, Seoul.
Shopping for sex toys in Seoul
Vice has a running feature called “The Vice Guide to Sex.” This particular episode investigates the sex toy retail industry in Seoul. South Korea has embraced western culture faster than most of its neighbors. It is, therefore, no surprise that sex toy stores have been increasing in number and that more people are flocking to them as well.
For the first time, it is not uncommon to see individuals and couples entering the stores and going through the sex toys available to spice up their sex lives. This trend has become common because these shops are displaying their merchandise in an open and welcoming manner.
Gone are the days when sex toy shops were dark places located in secluded alleyways. In those days, it was considered taboo to consider buying a sex toy. It was even worse openly talking about sex with strangers.
Now, these stores are clean, well-lit, and beautiful establishments with helpful staff who are willing to discuss the sex toys that they sell openly. They are located on the main streets. Customers can now get in, chat with the attendants, touch the toys, test them, and buy whatever pleases them.
Vice explored a few outlets and interviewed the key players to gauge how sex toys are perceived in the country. The following shops came through:
Red Container adult shop belongs to a man known as Kang Hyungil. Before he ventured in the business, he was an office worker. He was briefly interviewed by Vice to establish his views on the sex toy scene in South Korea.
He opened his shop to cater for the younger, more open-minded people. Such people crave for a place where they can openly explore their sexual preferences. They have fewer inhibitions towards the subject and are the most frequent visitors.
Mr. Hyungil noted that when people in Korea encounter the subject of sex toys, the first impression is always negative. He attributes that to the traditional Korean values being influenced by Confucianism (a highly conservative tradition that emphasizes the benefits of devotion to family, the importance of learning, and love for humanity).
He mentioned that people were initially embarrassed to talk about their sexuality hence the reason why many such shops used tints on their windows. Products were also never openly displayed.
Red Container is now the biggest adult supplies franchise in the country with around 14 stores. The customer base is expanding as more people buy into the idea of being open with their sexuality.
It is a sex toy shop co-owned by Hyeyoung Kang and Sheri Slick. Piooda is known for being a female-friendly establishment.
Hyeyoung saw the opportunity to open the store after visiting a very sinister sex toy shop. The store encompassed everything about the earlier perceptions of sex toy vendors. It was dark, shrouded, and very unpleasant to visit.
Sheri, of American descent, sold her the idea of setting up a clean store borrowing from what was already a norm in the US. Since the industry is still unregulated, they test the products themselves to ensure that they are safe for the consumers.
Eunhasun, a popular sex columnist runs Eunhasun Toys. She selects the sex toys that she thinks are good. She notes that talking about sex from a woman’s perspective in Korea is still not widely appreciated.
Nevertheless, she noted that women don’t shy away from expressing themselves and buying sex toys. They are catching on.
Korea has gone through a transformation over the past few years, but Eunhasun is not yet convinced that the old ways have gone completely. Even though a lot of marketing has changed the perceptions, it is still short of a cultural revolution.
She went on to point out that the media has wrongfully sold the idea that more sex meant sexual liberation. As a result, women are caught up in an illusion that attitudes have entirely changed while they haven’t.
Women Talking about Sex in South Korea is not fully accepted
Women openly talking about sex in predominantly conservative populations like Korea is still a touchy subject. They are not expressly forbidden to do it, but it is generally frowned upon. In the sex toy shops, at least, women can be open about sex.
They can discuss their options candidly without being judged. They can even visit with their partners to explore options and buy new toys. That shows a significant change in attitudes.
Lack of Regulation
While retailers appreciate the fact that it is now easier to import sex toys, they don’t like the fact that the industry is not regulated. It is up to them to personally test the products themselves to determine whether they are safe for customers.
The Bottom Line
Perceptions about sex toys have changed in the past few years in Korea. This feature by Vice has shown that. However, the key players of the industry have noted that the changes have not been wholesome.
More stores have merely papered over the cracks and led to many, including the media, acquiring the illusion that all has changed. The subject is still very contentious, and there needs to be a more holistic change in attitudes for this problem to be solved.
Even then, more stores signal a step in the right direction. The next step is for the government to regulate the industry to ensure that all products are safe. Government recognition may also help shift more people’s outlooks.