Sex fair's success is challenge to taboos
Latex, leather and lace descended on Shanghai this weekend as the city played host to the region's largest trade fair for the adult industry.
And in a sign of changing social mores, organisers and exhibitors at China Adult-Care Expo 2012 yesterday hailed higher numbers of female and elderly visitors as evidence that traditional taboos are rapidly breaking down.
'There's nothing to be ashamed of,' said Jennifer Wang, a 25-year-old visitor from Anhui province. 'I think a lot of young women like me are curious about these things.
'In the past, you felt as though you weren't supposed to talk about these things and we did not get taught very much at school. My generation is very keen to learn more, and we don't mind discussing sex.'
The three-day show, held at the Shanghai New International Exhibition Centre, was the biggest in the event's nine-year history, attracting thousands of visitors to ogle at products from more than 100 manufacturers of adult wares, including exhibitors from 20 countries.
The show was spread across two floors, with a glittering array of sex toys, lubricants, costumes and assorted novelties.
'It is quite rare to see a fair like this in China, so my boyfriend and I felt we really should take a look,' said one 27-year-old visitor, who asked not to be named.
'We came last year as well, but this year has been much more impressive. Some of the exhibitors' stands are much larger than before, and everything just feels much more professional. Some of the show did look a little seedy before.' Qu Hong , a manager with the organisers, CIEC Overseas Exhibition, said that although the final visitor numbers had yet to be confirmed, they were expecting this year's attendance to break previous records.
'We are delighted that the show has grown in both size and scope from year to year and that it is now attracting a much more diverse crowd of visitors,' she said.
Exhibitors largely agreed that business was booming.
Tonny Wang Jun, assistant commercial director of Sn365, an online retailer specialising in adult toys and lingerie, said his company was hoping to ride the wave of a more open attitude towards sex on the mainland.
'The crowd is definitely still largely men, but the number of women coming has been steadily increasing in recent years,' he said.
'It seems that younger people in China are increasingly open-minded about sex, and there isn't the same taboo about sex toys. That can only be good for our business.'
While the fair was predominantly geared towards the heterosexual market, Phantom Glory was one of a handful of exhibitors that were also showing products openly marketed at gay customers.
'There has been a clear shift in attitudes in the past three to four years,' said Vincent Gong Bofan, domestic affairs officer for the Hong Kong-based company.
'Mainlanders seem to have started to come to terms with homosexuality,' he said. 'It can be openly talked about without causing the easy offence it once did. We see this as a very positive sign.'