Artificial matchmaking at a sex-toy expo in Henan. (Photo/CNS)
Over half of the sex toys made in the world are produced in Chinese factories, and the country itself accounts for 70% of the world's market for such products. However, this market is still not at a mature stage and is beset by multiple problems.
A quality inflatable sex doll sells in China for between 30-100 yuan (US$4.75-$15.80).
Ma Xujie, the owner of a factory in Fenghua in the eastern province of Zhejiang that makes sex toys, told the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekend that his factory can make 800 inflatable sex dolls per day. In 2010, a total of 70,000 dolls, valued at a total of 5 million yuan (US$791,800), were produced and sold in major cities including Guangzhou and Beijing, as well as exported to South Korea, Japan and Turkey.
The production cost of sex toys is lowest in China, due to the country's low labor costs. However, high-end equipment and technology is now needed to make quality products.
The state news agency Xinhua reported that unlike other manufacturing enterprises, the inflatable sex doll industry — the largest segment in the market — mostly employs young women.
Though the historicity of the claim may be dubious, the newspaper reported that the world's first inflatable sex dolls were produced in 1941 when the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler ordered a Danish doctor named Olen Hannussen to develop them. The doll was meant to serve the sexual needs of German soldiers who might otherwise visit brothels.
It was reported that Hitler himself provided the measurements and design for the doll in line with his views on racial superiority: "She should be a natural size with a pretty woman's appearance with white skin, blond hair, blue eyes, 1.76 meters tall with full lips and breasts." The traditional Aryan preference for childbearing hips were presumably not a priority where the dolls were concerned.
The Southern Weekend reported that since China established the first sexual health store in Beijing in 1993, such stores have mushroomed around the country, while the number of manufacturing enterprises has grown to nearly 1,000.
By 2008, the annual sales of the sex toy industry reached 100 billion yuan (US$15.8 billion), maintaining a 20% annual growth. Yet a survey showed that 80% of sex toys were not labeled with government approval stamps or details of their production location or date.
According to the survey, the procedures and materials used did not meet the standards for human safety and an inflatable doll might have a working life of less than six months.
According to a 2011 survey report, most buyers of sex products were men, though most users were women. Per-capita annual spending on such products was 1,823 yuan (US$288.80), a 30% rise over 2010. Most users of such toys were born in the 1970s and 1980s.
Consumers attach importance to safety and have largely preferred foreign brands. Sex toys, massage oil and erotic underwear were the most popular products.