Planner Safari 1: Shanghai Sex Mall

18 Nov

Today we had our very first Planner’s Safari: a day for us Planners to get out of the office and into the real world.

Everyday I walk home, I pass by the tiny adult sex store on Wulumuqi Road. The sleepy face of the middle-aged owner sitting among the dildos and vibrators through the window. I wonder what she’s like, how she got there and what she thinks about her job.

Sex in China. We see it – the adult health stores, the DVD back rooms, the “barber shops”, the KTVs – but we don’t talk about it.

I decided to go to the source and made a trip to the Shanghai Sex Mall. That’s right, like me, you’ve probably read about it inSmart Shanghai.

It’s a 4 story unassuming grey building about a block away from Suzhou Creek. The building struck me as quite friendly – a swiveling door rotating under the main sign ‘Shanghai Health Center’. Two young giggling girls walk out with filled shopping bags. It wasn’t as dirty as I’d imagined nor as underground. Kids were running and playing on the escalators.

Shanghai Sex Mall Sex Herbs

The first two floors are filled with stalls selling Chinese medicinal products. Stall after stall sell everything healing from vitamins, herbs, echinacea, fish oil tablets to coiled snake skins, newts on sticks, moose antlers, and probably every variety of dried penis I’ve ever seen.


The third floor is where the magic is. Dildos, vibrators, blow-up dolls, dress-up costumes, you name it. It was a Wednesday afternoon and the place was pretty empty. There were a few men who seemed like they came knowing what they want, hit up one store and bought in bulk. They looked pretty shocked to see a foreign girl in there. Although I notice that all the packaging are of causcasian women.

The shop keepers were mostly women who were also the easiest to talk to. The men just chain smoked and stared and made me feel uncomfortable. But what surprised me was how open and blase the whole operation was. They could just have well been selling fake bags or watches. Could it be that sex in China isn’t as taboo as we think?

Me: “What kind of customers normally come in here?”

Lady: “Both men and women. Also foreigners.”

Me: “Don’t women feel embarrassed to buy sex toys?”

Lady: “What is there to be embarrassed about? All women need them.”

At the next stall, a 60 year old woman proceeds to try and sell me a foot long golden dildo with unappealing knobbly balls all over it. She tells me men that come in usually buy the blow up dolls because they are very ‘real’ and can be used at home.

There are counters filled with Viagra [Big Brother in Chinese] and the traditional Chinese herbal equivalents which, according to this woman, will last 3 days…

One of the most popular toys now for men is the EGG. The sleek Japanese design baffled me at first, but the lady assures me it’s handy enough for you guys to stick in your pocket and use on the plane! Wow.


Apparently there is now even a toy made for young girls to use in class which look just like earphones.

So, if you’re in need of a cultural sexcursion, check this place out.

Kaixuan Men Dasha is at 428 Tianmu Zhong Lu (Take Metro Line 1 to Xinzha Lu Station. Cross the bridge over the river)



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