Demand Is Growing in the Bedroom, Too

MTVisitors examining products on display Friday at "X-Show: An Exhibit for Adults" in a small hall above a supermarket.
Glistening skyscrapers and fancy office buildings aren't the only things rising across Moscow these days.

Amid the oil-fueled boom that shows no signs of waning, the splurge in consumer spending has spread beyond iPhones and trips to Paris, to whips and vibrators.

"It was only three or four years ago that people started to use sex toys and speak about sex toys," said Roman Glukharyov, imports manager for erotica chain Mon Amour.

Surrounded by neon pink dildos, lifelike blow-up dolls, and a massive structure called the "Pleasure Machine," which looked more like a torture device gone wrong, Glukharyov was one of hundreds of people who this weekend attended Moscow's main sex-toy fair, "X-Show: An Exhibit for Adults."

Nestled in the small exhibition hall above the Perekryostok supermarket on Tishinskaya Ploshchad in northern Moscow, the 7th annual X-Show was a far cry from major sex fairs like Berlin's Venus, which last year notched up nearly 30,000 visitors.

About 200 people bustled around the hall on Friday, the middle day of the three-day fair, hoping to seal distribution deals and sell to random customers as a rising middle class proves many Russians have money to spare -- for all sorts of leisure items.

"We bring in around $10,000 to $15,000 a month," said Nadya Zhdankina, 29, who, along with her boyfriend Andrei Krupenya, 28, runs a sex toy web site called Paradis-Amour.ru.

"Demand is growing, you can tell," Zhdankina said. "We have a lot of regular clients now."

"The ones who order the really crazy stuff are the guys in oil cities like Surgut and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk," she said. "They'll easily pay 15,000 rubles to 20,000 rubles per order. They have nothing to do out there and plenty of cash."

Svetlana, 41, sat nearby, anxiously watching a catwalk soon to be filled with leggy female models showing off the latest in white lace G-strings and leather corsets.

She came to the exhibit because she was hoping to open up her own sex shop and wanted to learn the trade. "It's a normal business just like anything else," she said.

The S+M toys on display may not have been exactly the kind of small and medium-sized businesses President Dmitry Medvedev had in mind when he said last week that the sector's share of GDP should grow from 20 percent to at least 50 percent.

Most of the sex toys on exhibit were made in China and distributed by wholesalers based in the United States or Europe. But a purely Russian take on the sex toy also exists.

A firm named Andrei showcased an array of products, including a series of blow-up dolls with names like Nastya, a brunette, Dasha, a redhead and Natasha, a pure blonde.

"It's my pleasure to make you happy," read the boxes into which Nastya, Dasha and Natasha were folded. "Two-hole doll," the boxes proudly proclaimed.

"Today, the erotic trade market in Russia is one of the most dynamically developing ones," reads a pamphlet distributed by the firm. "First, and most important, this is because our citizens are getting richer."

The second reason, the pamphlet says, is the end of being raised to believe "that sex is dirty and disgusting, something to be done in total darkness and in the missionary position, only to continue the human race."

The growth in the sex toy trade in Russia resulted in part from a liberalization of ideas about sex, particularly among women, said Claudine Seroussi, the Europe representative for B Swish, a Los Angeles-based erotica firm.

"There are lots of young Russians who want to emulate the West. They watch shows like Sex and the City," she said. That show made the Rabbit, a two-pronged dildo, a household word in the United States.

"And now they have more disposable income. It's a sign of things becoming much more liberal," Seroussi said.

Indeed, the days when someone could claim "there is no sex in the Soviet Union" are long gone.

Alyona Sinitsina, 28, a professional phone-sex operator sat at her booth with a friend, both wrapped in fishnet stockings and seductively eating ice cream cones.

"One out of every three guys is into phone sex," Sinitsina said. "Sure, men can watch a video and see a woman with another man, but with us he can imagine himself. We call him by his name."

Her friend, who declined to be identified, said she thought Russians were above and beyond American women when it came to giving a man pleasure over the telephone.

"In your country, it's 'Ugh, ugh, ugh,' and it's over. In Russia, we know how to take our time," she said.

"It's like therapy," Sinitsina said. "Maybe he wants to learn how to do something or talk about his family problems."

Glukharyov, the Mon Amour imports manager, said he too thought Russians had left far behind the days when sex was a private matter not to be brought into the public domain.

Yet one gap in Russians' sexual education, apparently, still troubled him greatly.

"People in Russia, to tell the truth, can't feel the difference between water and silicone-based lubes," he said, staring off into the distance with a sigh.