A sculpture at the 10th Guangzhou Sexual Culture Festival. (Photo/CFP)
With numerous Chinese enterprises in traditional sectors struggling amid hard times, they may envy suppliers and retailers of adult products that continue to enjoy brisk sales as this traditionally socially conservative country becomes more open about sexual practices.
The recently concluded 10th National (Guangzhou) Sex Culture Festival and Exhibition saw a decrease in the number of visitors this year, as many people may have had travel plans for the long holidays in early October. But the sex product trade show in Guangzhou still attracted a quarter of a million people in just three days, Oct. 6-8.
The final day saw a 100m queue of both men and women, including people of advanced ages, buying tickets for admission, while tour buses continued hauling visitors from other cities and townships, reported the Guangzhou Daily.
Organizers emphasized the "culture" and "education" angles of the trade fair to set it apart from the stigma of pornography, which is officially banned in the country.
Exhibitors competed to offer major discounts on condoms as well as sexual health products and items for self pleasure in the name of promoting safe sex. Lingerie and other intimate apparel were also among the best-selling items.
The numbers of female visitors and curious students have increased every year at the show, while the organizers also arranged seminars, presentations and lingerie catwalk shows.
Bargain hunters surrounded almost all booths to purchase sex toys, many of them vendors who would resell the goods at adult stores or via their e-commerce operations as many shy customers in the country still prefer to buy such products online.
One retailer said he sold some sample toys for women and sex dolls on site plus receiving orders for several dozen more of the latter despite their high price tag of 30,000 yuan (US$4,780) each. He said some buyers requested realistic sex dolls resembling specific movie stars or celebrities. But the company will provide only lookalike products rather than dolls identical to celebrities so as to avoid possible legal difficulties over image rights, he stressed.
The organizers had claimed beforehand that they would display for the first time 100 ancient and rarely seen sex toys made of stone or jade used by people in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Some visitors criticized the organizers however for a "lack of sincerity and seriousness" for simply placing the relics on show without giving information about them.
One female visitor said the name of the trade fair should be changed to "reproduction worshiping exhibition" because almost half of the objects on display were exaggerated phalluses.
Similar sex-themed culture festivals and trade fairs are now regularly held in other Chinese cities, including Shanghai and even Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of inland Henan, suggesting social trends stretching beyond China's more cosmopolitan coastal regions. The annual show in Guangzhou is still reckoned to be the biggest, however.