Seven years ago, I walked with some trepidation into a tiny shop on the third floor of a commercial building; it was up a narrow staircase, and I had to ring a buzzer at a heavy door with a tiny window to get in. I only knew this place was there because other foreigners told me so: “Look for the interlocked male and female symbols,” they said. Walking past masks, fake blood, face paint, props, and various other costume pieces, I saw what I came for: sex toys. Well, sort of. Everything was covered in a fine layer of dust and had Japanese writing on it; it all looked very old, as though it had been smuggled in via Soviet Russia. There weren’t very many products – a fake pussy here, a crop there, a couple of PVC dildos. Pornography is illegal in Korea; adult toy stores are highly frowned upon and hidden away, and I think they can only be open as novelty stores. Anything considered “obscene” by the Korean government can be confiscated by customs; the Korean version of Amazon does sell a limited number of items, but only on its Korean-language page. and shoppers must submit a phone number for age verification.
|A bit like these guys…
|But back to this store. The older man with greying hair behind the counter lowered his glasses and looked me up and down before asking, “Vibrator?” I nodded and walked toward the counter. From behind the glass, he brought out a huge rabbit and told me the price: 100,000 won. Nope, I said – too expensive. I was just looking for a cheap way to get off quickly. He then brought out, in sealed plastic wrapping in a tiny box one egg vibe, bright yellow and transparent. 20,000 won, he said. Sold. I know this is outrageously expensive for a cheap plastic egg vibrator – but seeing as how Korea is lacking in feminist sex-positive sex shops, I took what I could get, and I got down.
I had that vibrator my first two years in Korea; it never blew my mind, but it did the trick! It was a traumatic time in my life, and that little vibrator meant waves of relief when I desperately needed it. Every time I go home to the States now, I make several trips to my local superhero sex store and stock up, very, VERY thankful that I have all the vibrators at my disposal that I could possibly want (and that nothing has been confiscated by Korean customs). And dammit, I want them all.
I’m a fan of rumbly over buzzy; of patterns over continuous vibration; of silicone over… well, everything. I use vibrators mostly when I want to get off hard and fast; if I’m in for a long wank or am highly aroused and lubricated, I prefer my hands and a dildo. That being said – I bought my first vibrator on my eighteenth birthday (it was pink and had hearts all over it – triple ugh) and have never looked back.
I bought my mom a vibrator (maybe that’s what this post should have been about!) for her 55th birthday after she confided in me that my father wouldn’t touch her anymore… and she shed tears of joy when I said that every woman had the right to experience pleasure. She called to say thank you the following week, and we never talked about it again – but I know it made an impact on her to know that her daughter had her back. We should all have each other’s backs when it comes to the right to self-pleasure. Maybe when I move back to the States, I should make it a point to mail all my friends in Korea vibrators for their birthdays – I’ll just write “novelty item” on the customs slip.