Kunle Falayi and Ademola Olonilua
In the midst of the biting economic crisis facing many Nigerians, forcing many to go as far as committing suicide, a sub-sector of the Nigerian economy is booming bringing smile to the faces of people lacking sexual fulfilment – married and singles alike.
This is the sex toy market.
In a society where people can hardly speak openly about sexual problems, Saturday PUNCH’s investigation shows that some vendors sell sex toys worth millions of naira every month.
A sex therapist and prominent sex toy vendor, Mrs. Iheoma Obibi, explained that contemporary Nigerians are gradually coming out of some sort of “sexual darkness” and this is creating a boom in the market with an attendant influx of fake sex toys.
For the last six and half years, Kemi Fawole, a certified sex therapist, has been dealing in adult products including sex toys.
She told Saturday PUNCH that she sells at least N7m worth of sex toys yearly. It is about the same for actress-turned sex toy vendor, Bisi Ibidapo-Obe, who told one of our correspondents, “I cannot estimate how much of sex toys I sell in a year but I know that in about three to six months, I rake in more than N3m.”
Yet, these two are just a small fraction of the numerous sex toy vendors who now trade in the country.
Every now and then, a new vendor like Japhet Okoromadu enters the market and soon realises how supply of sex toys pales in comparison to the deluge of demands by Nigerians.
One of our correspondents met Japhet Okoromadu, who has just started selling sex toys online about a year ago.
He said, “I sell penis enlargement pumps and vaginal tightening cream as well. Right now, the demand I get for sex toys is more than my available stocks,” he said.
“I get male customers as much as female. Some ladies even chat with men, complaining bitterly how they are suffering in silence, and how their husbands cannot satisfy them. Eighty five per cent of complaints about sex that I get from clients is about not being satisfied by spouses. Unfortunately, most of the women cannot voice out their concern to their partners.” It was learnt that some of these adult products, sell for between N5,000 and N25,000 while premium brands sell for higher.
Fawole also said some of her vibrators are as cheap as N5,000 while some are as high as N150,000. She said the common vibrators are between N5,000 and N20,000.
In Ibidapo-Obe’s store at Magodo, in Lagos, the cheapest sex toy in her store sells for about N30,000 while the most expensive is about N200,000.
Judging by the volume of sales that many of the sex toy vendors our correspondents spoke with make annually, there is no doubt that the industry runs into several millions.
Crave for sexual fulfilment driving a multi-million naira market
“Why can’t you tell your husband you are not satisfied?” As innocent as this question is, when our correspondents interacted with some users of sex toys, it turned out to be at the heart of the demands that drive the adult products industry in the country.
At 32, Jane Adebola (not real name) has been married for three years. But that was enough time for her to almost give up hope of ever getting the level of the sexual satisfaction she deserves in her marriage.
When adebola shared her story with one of our correspondents, it was not in the coy, carefree banter in which issues of sex are often discussed among friends. She was serious. For her, it was not something to be joked with.
“Before I was married, I was sexually active for at least five years. That does not mean I was hopping from bed to bed, though. But the truth is that throughout that five years, I never experienced an orgasm. I was looking forward to my marriage because then, I knew I would get all the sexual fulfilment I wanted,” she said.
She confided in one of our correspondents that now, despite having a wonderful marriage and a husband that dotes on her, the sexual expectation she took into the marriage has all but waned.
“I realised that the issue of not reaching orgasm is a very big problem. I do reach orgasm, but only when I pleasure myself after my husband is done,” Adebola said.
But Adebola is not alone.
Planned Parenthood reports that one in three women has problems reaching orgasm with their partner, while up to 80 per cent of women struggle to orgasm from just intercourse.
Sex therapist, Funmi Akingbade, cited a report, which suggests that only 29 per cent of married women admit that they have orgasm with their husbands.
But for women like Adebola, the solution only lies in being “bold and experimental” in seeking sexual satisfaction.
Adebola said after suffering for so long and pretending that she was having a swell time anytime she had a sexual contact with her husband, she summoned the courage to tell him one day.
“He was shocked when I told him that he had never made me climax before. He believed that since I never complained, all was well. But we sat down and talked about it. I told him of my intention to buy a sex toy and he was very supportive,” she said.
Few months ago, a courier service delivered a nondescript package at their doorstep. That was the day “Jessica Rabbit” came into their lives.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that there are two main types of vibrators (penile shaped sex toys), the normal one that serves the purpose of penetration and another – Jessica Rabbit – that not only penetrates but also stimulates the clitoris in the process.
Since Jessica Rabbit came into Adebola’s home, life has not remained the same.
“I would never think about cheating on my husband. Today, I have no complaint. What my husband cannot finish, Jessica Rabbit perfects. With so many sex toys available these days, no woman should cheat on her husband just because he cannot satisfy her anymore,” she said.
But many people are not as adventurous as edible household food items still bear the brunt of their husband’s laxity.
One married woman told Saturday PUNCH how she was surprised that her friend was still using cucumber and carrot to pleasure herself despite the fact that she could simply order a suitable sex toy online in Nigeria now.
‘A sex toy cannot break your heart’
Married women like Adebola are not the only ones who are beginning to embrace the use of sex toys in the country.
Rachael, a young single woman and resident of Lagos, who also shared her story anonymously like all the other users who volunteered to speak with our correspondents after much persuasion, explained that she even has two.
She started using a sex toy called “Bullet” in 2014 and has since acquired a second one. According to her, the toys “serve their purpose” twice in a month.
“A sex toy can only break, it cannot break your heart,” she said, a reasoning that underscores why she has resorted to its use.
According to her, since she was sexually active, she could not bear the thought of becoming intimate with a man, whose long-term commitment she is not sure of. Rather than satisfy her sexual urge by sharing her body with someone she could not totally trust, she uses sex toys.
So, her toys “keep the hungry beast fed” while she also does not have to worry about being dumped by a man she has become intimate with.
“The toys don’t get broken easily unless you go out of your way to destroy them. I get 100 per cent satisfaction from them. I had my first sex toy in December 2014 and the second one in March 2016,” Rachael said.
Rachael said even after she began a relationship with a young man recently, she still continued the use of her vibrator, which she said the boyfriend was aware of.
But then, even men use sex toys. There are abundant sex toys on Nigerian online shops made for men. As those for women have the phallic shape, those for men come in the shapes of the female genitalia, made with silicon material soft enough to give the necessary sensation.
Apart from the most common handheld sex toys made for men, sex dolls are gradually gaining traction. Akin, an IT expert and Lagos resident, who admitted to his use of male sex toys, said he is “lucky” enough to have acquired one, an inflatable life-size doll with a silicon adjustable genitalia.
Akin said the genitalia can be adjusted to be anyway he wanted it, tight or otherwise.
He told Saturday PUNCH that after his last relationship ended after seven years, he found it difficult to find love again. He said even though he had had a number of casual sex since then, it has been difficult finding a woman who understands him like his ex-girlfriend did.
He said, “My ex-girlfriend indulged all my sexual desires and knew exactly all the positions I liked. These days, being an IT man, I am in front of the computer most times and do not have time to search for a lover.
“So, I decided to order an inflatable sex doll. Even though it may sound perverted, I would rather hold on to my sex doll till I meet a suitable woman than waste my time chasing women around,” he said.
But of course, like many people who use sex toys, Akin could not even tell his closest friend about his bedroom secret.
A society coming out of its shell
In a society where there is still a conservative attitude around sex, many Nigerians, mostly educated, are beginning to come out of their shells for full sexual expression.
The term “sex toy” does not exactly convey the seriousness behind the problems that force many married women and men to turn to the use of these aids. In fact, sex therapists and the traders who deal in these devices told our correspondents that it would be better to refer to them as “adult sex aids”.
Obibi, who has practised as a sex therapist and sex toy vendor in Nigeria for more than six years, told Saturday PUNCH, “People are beginning to understand and accept that it is important to have a healthy intimate life. Having a successful intimate life with your partner of choice is important and a key de-stressor whether male or female.
“As Nigerians have become better educated on the need for a fulfilled intimate life, they are beginning to utilise all possibilities to make this a reality for themselves.”
Obibi told one of our correspondents that her male customers, most of whom are over the age of 40, spend more on sex toys than the female.
Asked what reason her customers usually give for wanting sex toys and she said it is usually about expressing their unsatisfied sexual desires.
“The over 40s are comfortable in their sexual desire and skin and are able to decide if, what type and when they should buy a sex toy. The younger generations are more experimental in the kinds of sex they engage in but are also willing to engage, to a certain degree, in risky sexual behaviour,” she said.
According to her, apart from requests by her male customers for products that increase the stamina, elongate the penis and delay ejaculation, she gets a lot of orders from women who want Jessica Rabbit.
Obibi said the industry is growing so big that vendors who sell quality products are now having to deal with substandard and cheap products brought in from China.
“The influx of fake Chinese sex toys, which produce odour and have other side effects is something to be concerned about. Yes, these are cheap but are they safe? This is why we cannot really estimate how large the industry has become,” she said.
Fawole also said she had been an adult product vendor for over six years. She said her business started when she realised that almost on a daily basis, she met at least one person battling lack of sexual fulfilment.
She said, “I decided to do a lot of research, armed with the experiences of my friends and many people I had met, I realised I just had to establish an adult store.
“The sex toys are now just a section of my adult store. I sell erection enhancer, lubricants, sex toys, pheromones, educational DVDs, books and lingerie.”
The interesting thing about Fawole’s business is her clientele.
“Ninety per cent of my clients are men who buy them for their wives. Many of my clients are also sailors who travel a lot. I have many clients that are ship captains and sailors. They buy for their wives because they are usually away from home for so long. Also, some military men buy them when they are away from home for too long. They would say it is better for their wives to be with a vibrator than become unfaithful.”
She also explained that some clients she had met were widows who have stayed without sex for too long and don’t find natural penetration by a man easy and need a vibrator to precede the action.
She said the sexual ignorance fuelled by hypocrisy in the society is what is driving the market
“There are times I take some of the clients over the basics of sex. Most of them have very old mentality of sex. It is not about going in and coming out. We need a lot of education about sex.
“Most of our clients are highly educated and classy people. Yet, their understanding of sex is still limited. We have not even tapped into the market of the uneducated ones.”
Like Obibi, Fawole has had to make use of online stores for the benefit of most of the clients who prefer discretion to escape society’s negative reaction to their sexual choices.
Such society reactions came out when the picture of a woman trended few weeks ago on the social media. The Nigerian woman had apparently gone to a social event with her bag unzipped beside her table. The photograph captured one of people derided.
“That hypocrisy is exactly why our store moved online. Despite that, some of our clients still send text messages appealing that we should not make their information public in any way,” Fawole said.
Price-wise, she said some of her products are too expensive to be stocked and have to be ordered for customers. Yet, Nigerians buy these.
For instance, Saturday PUNCH learnt that sex dolls, which have not become as common as other sex toys cost as high as $1,500 (about N475,000) to be ordered and shipped to Nigeria.
Okoromadu explained that once in a while, he got orders for dolls from his clients.
“I noticed that the rise in same sex relationships in the country, even though prohibited by law is also putting sex toys in high demand,” he said.
Okoromadu said he had come to respect women who seek his products because he realised that they are trying to stay faithful.
Ibidapo-Obe told our correspondent that women who opt for sex toys should even be applauded because most of them are faithful.
She said in terms of demography, some of her clients are as young as 30 while some are as old as 60.
According to her, if sex toy helps her client stay faithful and avoid sexually transmitted diseases through multiple partners, then it is something that should be embraced.
She said, “Often times, elderly couples come to my shop to buy my products. There was an instance where a man who is my customer brought his wife to my shop to buy a sex toy for her. He said that he was travelling abroad for a six month course and he needed a sex toy for his wife. He bought a sex toy for his wife and went his way. If it were to be some men with the old African mentality, they would not care about their wives’ sexual needs. But the man understood that there is no big deal in using sex toys.”
Ibidapo-Obe is one of the very few sex toy vendors, who have a physical store.
What religious leaders have to say
In Nigeria’s religious societies, many things are viewed through the eye of religion. This was why Saturday PUNCH sought out what some religious leaders thought about the use of sex toys.
A marriage counsellor, Pastor Rotimi Akintan, said that the use of sex toys is against the tenets of Christianity.
He said when couples indulge in such act, what they are saying is that God’s creation is not good enough.
Akintan further proffered solutions for people who are not sexually satisfied in their marriage.
The pastor said, “It is not allowed in Christianity and we believe that it is a form of oral sex or an addition to what God has given you. You need to be able to satisfy your spouse and if either of them is not satisfied sexually, they should talk about it and find ways to remedy the situation. The use of sex toys means that the person is not contented with what God has provided.
“Godliness and contentment is a great thing; so far as you are married to a man, if his manhood is not satisfying you, you should pray to God for help. It is not permitted in Christianity. It is against the rule and it is a sin because it means that the person is saying what God has created is not good enough,” he said.
An Islamic cleric,Alhaji Idris Yusuff, was of the same opinion. He said Islam frowns on the use of sex toys by couples. He said that the essence of sex is to procreate and also get closer.
“As far as the act of sexual intercourse is not between a man and a woman the way God designed it to be and as it was recorded in the Quran and Sharia, it is against the tenet of Islam. Once human beings are beginning to change the things God designs, they are straying away from the preaching of the Holy Quran. It is called Haram and it is a sin. Sex is meant to bring the couple closer and also to procreate, anything other than that is frown upon in Islam,” he said.
Our hypocrisy about sex comes from lack of knowledge – Psychologist
Psychologist and lecturer at the University of Lagos, Prof. Esther Akinsola, told Saturday PUNCH that if Nigerians were given the proper education about sexuality in their youth, there would not be so much hypocrisy about sex in the society.
According to the don, Nigerians shy away from talking about sex openly because of the erroneous belief that it is immoral.
She said, “We have a myopic idea of what sexuality is about. Sexuality is much more than sexual intercourse. Intercourse is just a minute part of sexuality. I have been teaching human sexuality for many years and have been taking part in non-governmental organisations that deal with sexuality.
“The majority of adults I have met at sexuality workshops are still very conservative about human sexuality despite their education. I am part of a team that is tasked with promoting sexual education in schools. Some people believe that when you introduce sexuality education in school, you are teaching the child how to have sex. But sexual awareness should be part and parcel of our children. We need to teach them right from when they are still young.
“They need to know that there are certain areas of their bodies that not just anybody should touch. They must be taught sexual hygiene. For instance, some of us still find it difficult to talk to our female children about menstruation. We find it difficult to talk to our boys about ‘wet dreams’ when they are growing up. We are being captured by our cultural primitivity.”
Additional report by Angel George