Few object to vibrators bring sold in Watsons
Sex toy on sale at local retail chain puzzles some as experts debate social outcome
They come in four different personalities, each designed with women in mind.
The Tennis Coach, for instance, is "sculpted and fit" and promises to "take very specific aim".
The Millionaire, on the other hand, is a "classic gentleman and an all-rounder" who is here to "pleasure you like the princess you are".
They are "personal massagers" - also known as vibrators - for women. Each comes in a different colour and is represented by a simple cartoon character.
Made by Swedish brand Smile Makers, which comes under the company Ramblin' Brands, these vibrators are the first to be sold by a major retail chain in Singapore.
Launched on Wednesday, they are exclusively available in health and beauty care store Watsons Singapore island-wide and its online store.
Not everyone was aware of what they are.
When shown the discreet package yesterday, a 57-year-old woman in Toa Payoh asked: "Is it perfume?"
When told that the box contains a vibrator, all she said was: "Oh." She then stared at the packaging for a few seconds, looking confused.
After the woman, who declined to be named, finally figured out what it does, she said it was not up to her to decide whether such vibrators should be sold in mainstream stores.
"It may be not okay for my generation, but it may be okay for the younger generation," she added.
Another woman, who wanted to be known as Lisa, told The New Paper the packaging looks like that of a children's toy.
But the 32-year-old did not oppose the sale of the vibrators in Watsons.
"It is okay to let people have a choice, like how condoms are displayed in public," said the mother of a five-year-old girl.
She does not think the sale of the vibrators will be a bad influence on teenagers.
"I wouldn't call it a danger. It is up to parents to explain to their children if they ask about it," she said.
Mr Walter Lim, 45, who has an 11-year-old boy, agreed the issue is not about where the vibrators are sold but rather about educating the young.
"I think parents should inculcate the right values and morals in their children. The children would then be able to differentiate between right and wrong irrespective of their environment," he said.
Their views echoed the results of a TNP online poll which shows 78 per cent of respondents were not concerned that the vibrators were available in Watsons.
Ramblin' Brands co-founder Mattias Hulting said the company chose to sell its products in Watsons to normalise the sexual wellness category.
Watsons Singapore general manager Daniel Teo quoted a recent study that indicated six in 10 women here are open to buying a vibrator.
He hopes to cater to this group with the Smile Makers vibrators. (See report at right.)
TNP checked out two Watsons stores - in Clementi and Toa Payoh.
In the Clementi store, the vibrators were displayed on the top and bottom tiers of the family planning section.
In Toa Payoh, they were tucked at the bottom shelf below where condoms are displayed. They are also displayed on shelves behind the cashier's counter.
With its simple packaging of white and pastel, it is easy to miss these vibrators if one does not look specifically for it.
When this reporter asked a male cashier about the functions of the vibrator, he simply handed a package from the shelf behind him.
"For women," he said awkwardly, before lowering his gaze to the cash register immediately.
Experts contacted by The New Paper were divided over the sale of vibrators at family-friendly stores.
Adjunct Associate Professor Lynda Wee from the Nanyang Technological University said a vibrator need not be sold at visible areas as it is an "intended or planned buy".
Adding that it could make others "uncomfortable", Prof Wee, who specialises in retail management, said shoppers would buy a vibrator through low-profile methods.
"(The vibrators) should not be at public places," she said.
Associate Professor Daniel Goh, a sociologist at the National University of Singapore (NUS), does not see why anyone would object to the sale of the vibrators.
"In any case, vibrators are for private usage and there are no public health and issues associated with it... What form could the objections take?"
Rather than a measure of Singaporeans' open-mindedness, the vibrators are about "the line between private and public and the norms concerning it", he added.
"It really isn't anyone's business to police private matters that have no bearing on public health and issues," he said.
But fellow NUS sociologist Tan Ern Ser said he would not be surprised if complaints or unhappiness surface over the vibrators.
"The fact is if we have 40 per cent of conservatives, including concerned parents, among Singaporeans... It doesn't take a lot of people to make a loud complaint in the media, including social media," he said.
...vibrators are for private usage and there are no public health and issues associated with it... What form could the objections take?
- Associate Professor Daniel Goh, a sociologist at the National University of Singapore
(The vibrators) should not be at public places. Respect the mass.
- Adjunct Associate Professor Lynda Wee from the Nanyang Technological University, who specialises in retail management
THE GOOD VIBE STUDY
Only three in 10 women here are satisfied with their sex lives, says a recent study.
This dissatisfaction stems from three factors: Loss of interest, inability to orgasm and low libido.
The Good Vibe study, commissioned by Smile Makers and conducted by global research company TNS in March, polled 800 women in Singapore, aged 18 to 50, on their perceptions of sexual well-being and views on self-pleasure.
The survey also found that six in 10 women are open to using a vibrator - an indication of demand in Singapore for the Smile Makers vibrators, said Watsons Singapore general manager Daniel Teo.
"Smile Makers has been a huge success and was very well received in the Taiwan market when it launched last year. Smile Makers' range of products is sold exclusively through Watsons Taiwan and Singapore store networks as well as our E-Store," he said.
"Singapore is certainly as sophisticated a consumer market as Taiwan and the new independent and well-travelled Singaporean female shoppers today definitely have a more mature disposition to such products."
OPEN TO BUYING
Quoting the TNS study, Mr Teo said that two in three women either already own a vibrator or are open to buying it online or at a trusted retail store.
Mr Mattias Hulting, the co-founder of Ramblin' Brands, said: "Our vision is to normalise the sexual wellness category as a natural and healthy part of life, wellness and beauty care."
Asked if Watsons is worried the vibrators would attract complaints from the public, Mr Teo reiterated the "substantial demand" for the vibrators here based on the survey.
"As for accessibility, there are already many 'adult' shops retailing such products. Singaporean females feel more comfortable walking into a health and beauty retailer that they are familiar with," he said.
Another sex aid, a vibration ring called Durex Play Vibrations, has been sold in mainstream outlets for years.
"These have been retailing for some time now in supermarkets, hypermarkets and convenience stores in Singapore," Mr Teo said.
Asked if Watsons plans to bring in similar products, he said it is open to that, as long as the products are in line with their "look good, feel great" ethos and are in demand.
FOR AND AGAINST
Here are some comments from those who took the poll:
"If they can sell condoms and lubricants, then they should be allowed to sell vibrators."
"A pharmacy seems 'cleaner' then having to walk into an adult toy store."
"The packaging is so cute! And I don't want to have to walk into a shady store to get one."
"Selling condoms is already unacceptable. Why not sell porn magazines and videos too?"
BY THE numbers
The New Paper conducted an online poll on Thursday to find out what people thought of the Smile Makers products being sold in Watsons stores. Of the 515 people who took part in the poll as of 10pm yesterday, 404 (78 per cent) felt there was nothing wrong. The rest objected.