Sarah Tahir journeys to one of Shanghai’s weirdest locations–the Shanghai Sex Market.
Deep inside a nondescript suburb of Puxi lies what one may call the mecca of kink. From silicon sex dolls and lipstick vibrators to Chinese herbal medicine, the Shanghai Sex Market has it all. At first glance one might think the decrepit four-story building was simply another edifice of offices, housing frustrated employees and their mundane day jobs. However, past the first three floors of performance and enlargement herbs, there is a maze of sex shops unlike any seen before.
When I first came up the escalator to the fourth floor, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it wouldn’t be much more than a few vibrators and blow up dolls, but I was immediately surrounded by penis enlargement rings, glass dildos, and a host of slightly creepy sex dolls. The absurdity of the whole scene is both hilarious and unsettling, yet the openness of the shopkeepers instantly puts one at ease.
Dildos and vibrators range between 20 RMB to 100 RMB depending on size and style; an array of poppers can be found at 15 RMB each, and a fleshlight can be bought for 100 RMB. Like any other market, though, each item can be bargained down.
At one point I came across a dildo that, objectively speaking, could have killed someone (and probably has). It was approximately 12 inches in length and 5 in girth. I was approached about buying it, but all I could respond with was that I couldn’t possibly. I was then introduced to “poppers,” or inhalants that relax one’s muscles enough for feats like the monster dildo to be accomplished.
That amount of acceptance of kink was completely foreign to me and to see little kids running around amidst everything was even weirder. It was interesting how what would normally be taboo wasn’t in this one unknown corner of the world. These little kids would grow up with the understanding that some people’s desires are more complex, and that those complexities are completely okay. I can’t help but wonder what the Western response would be to the Shanghai Sex Market… people would definitely be outraged by the presence of children, but the atmosphere eventually made it feel normal to me.
Don’t get me wrong though, the Shanghai Sex Market is incredibly weird and any experience there will undoubtedly dip between enjoyable and creepy, but that is what makes it worth a visit. I recommend going with a group of friends, because regardless of the reason for your visit (be it for a laugh or a new toy) it is definitely a bonding experience. I brought two other people along for the ride and it ended up being an extremely memorable one.
If you are interested in an experience that is a bit dusty, run down, and bare but totally worthwhile, then this is the place for you.
Kai Xuan Men Dasha , 428 Tianmu Zhong Road, by Wu Zhen Road.
Closest Metro: Line 1 Xinzha Lu Station
This article was written by Sarah Tahir. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Sarah Tahir