Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — There is a PhD dissertation on the history of sex toys. Hallie Lieberman, a writer and a sex historian from the U.S., authored this study and turned it into a book that she released in 2017 entitled “Buzz: The Stimulating History of the Sex Toy.”
The book presents surprising facts about the sex toy — how it’s been in existence for about 30,000 years now, from how humans used lubricants and wood-carved penises in Ancient Greece to how sex toys were used as a tool for female liberation in the ‘50s.
At least in the Philippines, sex toys are still seen as objects to be hidden from sight, and their use only discussed in hushed conversations. Sex in itself is still a topic that Filipino households rarely talk about. Sex education in the country still works around the premise that unmarried people should abstain from the act. And so to even talk about sex toys can be met with abject terror.
However, the presence of sex shops that are thriving in Metro Manila tells us otherwise. Lucky Doll, a lingerie and adult shop, only started as an online store, but has eventually installed a physical shop in Manila. Love 365 also began online and found the business to be lucrative enough to build a store in Makati and then in Malate. Ilya, a sex shop in Quezon City, first dove into selling sex toys through a website, and now, a charming space in Maginhawa St. is filled with vibrators, lubricants, and cockrings, among many others.
CNN Philippines Life visited these shops and we found some interesting products.
During Love 365’s opening in 2016, the brand invited Maria Ozawa to come to the Philippines. “Ang daming tao that day,” says Cy, the operations manager of Love 365. “Siguro kaya rin nakilala yung [shop] dahil sa opening.”
But prior to their physical store in Poblacion, Makati, Love 365 already operated online, through their website and platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WeChat. “Nag-boom siya, within the first year. Madami kaming sales. So in 2016, we decided to build our first physical store.”
“Madaming mga clients, especially mga foreigners. Sila ‘yung madalas pumupunta sa store,” Cy adds. “Kasi ‘yung mga Pilipino, medyo conservative pa sa ganyang bagay. Parang discreet sila eh, ayaw magpahalata. So ‘yung mga client namin na Filipino, online sila.”
Love 365 is located at Lourdes Suites, Kalayaan Ave. corner Makati Ave, Makati City and Unit 301, 507 Gen. Malvar St., Malate, Manila.
Lucky Doll’s store is located at the fourth floor of a decrepit building in Manila, one that is quite hard to find. Ella Lim, the owner of the store, says that they have a “private shopping” concept so guests can only visit by appointment.
The brand initially started only as a lingerie and boudoir online shop, but over the years, her clients started requesting for bondage accessories, sex toys, and sexy costumes. And so when Lim decided to open a physical store in 2016, she gathered all kinds of sexy products into it.
On the kinds of clients they attract, she says: “Ninety percent of our customers are women from all walks of life: the shy, the adventurous, all women of shapes and sizes, from regular to curvy and plus size, to men buying presents for their partners and LGBT clients.”
Lucky Doll is located at Unit E, 4th Floor, 1867 Oroquieta Rd, Santa Cruz, Manila.
Going inside Ilya is like going inside a tech store. If you’re completely unaware of what sex toys look like, you would think it’s just a shop that sells phallic-shaped appliances and gadgets.
In a previous interview with CNN Philippines Life, founder AJ Osmeña shared that when looking at the websites of the sex toy brands they carry, people wouldn’t immediately think they’re sex toys. “They don’t look like it. The branding is great, as well, they really explain stuff: nothing lewd, healthy, fun intimacy,” he said.
Ilya’s branding has a similar take as well. The toys are lined up neatly on wooden shelves in a brightly lit space in Maginhawa St. The store even sells ice cream for those who may just want dessert. Through this kind of set-up, Ilya has managed to make its sex store more accessible while also creating a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for its clients.
Ilya is located at Unit 2H, 189 Maginhawa, Diliman, Quezon City.