Sunday, 18 August 2013

Sex toys craze hits Kampala

 A woman hoists the edible underwear that has become hot property on Kampala’s sex-toy circuit. Photo by Abubaker Lubowa 

On the face of it, it is just a jewellery and clothing store in the centre of town. The shop is a street-side walk-in boutique measuring about 16 square metres, with much of the floor, wall and window space taken up by cloth-hangers, jewellery and hair accessory displays.
On one of the bottom racks, sitting among the shoe-boxes, is a slim, white carton, with pink lettering that at first glance could be mistaken for an underwear pack. The box contains a game. The adult game of cards is the teaser, which leads to the stash of sex candy in the back.
Having been tipped off by a colleague who stumbled on the city centre adult store while shopping for shirts, I call Sylvia, the 24-year-old partner and sales person for the sex candy shop. She arrived on a boda boda motorcycle, balancing two bags of goodies. I have been told that she charges Shs20,000 for ‘the session,’ during which she shows off the different toys and explains what they do. Having used some of the sex candy herself, she speaks of the products with conviction.
Side business
The candy store is owned and run by two female business partners, one in her thirties and the other one in her early twenties. Sylvia and her business partner started out partnering in a jewellery business. The two are surprisingly open about what they do.
The sex shop is not a formal business. Selling sex toys is a profitable side business, which they do on the down low. They do not advertise and they are careful about how they approach potential clients. Their erotic wares are not exposed in the shop. Unless one has a curious eye, the edible undergarments strategically placed on a shelf, could easily pass for regular underwear as sold in a lingerie shop.
Many of the sex store clients first come to the store in search of clothes and jewellery. If a customer lands on the mature content while trying on shoes, then the shop owner broaches the subject of the sex accessories. You have to have gained a certain level of trust with one of the two women to be let in on the stockpile of sex toys behind the rows of men’s shirts and glass displays of colourful trinkets.
People in the know, keep going in to purchase different sex enhancing items but there are also lots of walk-in clients who come into the shop to buy jewelry and end up ordering sexual aids. There is money to make in the business as the lowest priced item goes for Shs20, 000 and the highest Shs250, 000.
When Sylvia starts talking, you may be forgiven for thinking that she has been selling sex candy for the past five years. The way she explains the concepts, the 24-year-old is probably better informed than the majority of her clients.
“I have had to do extensive reading. I have had to be open-minded. There are things I have been exposed to…We don’t take anything for granted. Before you take a product, I will educate you. With products such as sweeteners, where you have to introduce a foreign liquid in your system, we have had to research. There is no side effect,” she says.
When Sylvia graduated in 2011, she had a passion to make her own money. She just did not plan on making it through selling sex toys.
“I was just supplying my jewellery. I had a supplier, someone who brings stuff from Thailand. In the beginning, my mother gave me capital of Shs100,000,” Sylvia recalls.
As her business capital grew, so did her circle of contacts. One year after leaving the university, Sylvia run into a friend who shared how she was making money in ‘dilly’ sales. ‘Dillies’ is slang for a sex toy known as a dildo. A dildo is a replica of the human male genitalia. It is used by women for self-stimulation.
Popular with clients
Sylvia’s first commodity was gum. Her contact travelled to China and came back with a special kind of gum, a sort of Viagra for women. Her first client, a man who tried the arousal gum on his wife, is said to have registered such amazing results that he called her early the next morning to order for more gum. Apparently, he had never seen his wife like that.
Sylvia told her friends about the gum. She even tried it out on herself. Having tasted the gum’s results, she gained interest and ordered more sex toys and sex sweeteners. She went into business.
Sylvia and her partner sell edible undergarments, waist chains, lubricants, toys like fetish handcuffs, dildos and attractants, among other things.
“We have sold more attractants than anything else. These are perfumed liquids that you can wear to attract the opposite sex,” she explains.
Essentially, this is the store-bought version of our natural pheromones. These have been the most sold things at the shop. There is a version for both men and women.
“The funny thing is that people that really love this stuff are guys. They want to buy for their women to try out. We have so many male customers you wouldn’t believe. People that want to spice up their sex life. There are people who are shy. These might openly reject the product but call you back to order privately,” reveals Sylvia. Her sex-toy customers grew straight out of her jewelry clientele, and these covered a broad spectrum of the corporate class in Kampala, say those working in banks. Sylvia has also hit it big, supplying her raunchy wares at bridal showers.
On the flipside, there is a section of people whom Sylvia says, are very conservative. Other people have the mentality that the toys destroy sex life. We try to get feedback from clients. We organise demonstrations. Most of the clients are grown up, well beyond the age of consent. The youngest clients have been a group of university students.
“For me to expose this to my client, we had to have a certain level of friendship. These are people she has supplied other commodities like jewelry. She does not sell to strangers. People could take it the wrong way,” says the candy store sales person, who juggles a full time job marketing car parts with an undercover part time stint selling edible underwear.