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If it buzzes, whirs, tickles or only just fits, we’ve checked it out

A writer walks into a sex store and asks where the vibrators are. “Just come this way,” says the manager, gesturing with her finger.

OK, the joke works better in person than print (you have to wiggle your finger suggestively), but it is partly true. We did walk into a lot of sex shops, we did ask a lot of questions, but, unsurprisingly, the staff recommended their products rather than a bit of digital diddling.

So here are our findings: the whole spectrum of Shanghai sex shops laid bare, from the seedy to the sexy, clinical to the clitoral, erotic to the experimental, niche to the nasty, and hot to the really, really horrible.

Oh Toys 

An erotic boudoir

Opened just over a year ago, this up-market two-storey sex shop offers a whole range of chic toys and erotic outfits to the city’s horniest. The first floor is filled with imported vibrators (including a decidedly unsexy Hello Kitty number, RMB168), S&M leather toys, love eggs and stuffed animal key rings sporting colossal genitalia. The second floor consists of a large room of erotic lingerie and dress-up stuff as well as a hidden plus-sized sex toys room. Prices are affordable, ranging from RMB19 to over RMB1,000. The cheeky cashier says: “It makes me happy just to see a line of handcuffs hanging here everyday.”

Kaixuanmen Sex Toy Market

Megamall for the sexually superstitious. And gimps.

This out-of-town market is like the Qipu Lu of adult products – cheap, crowded, and you’re never sure if your purchase is going to give you a rash. Packed with middle-aged men, the first three floors are an apothecary of stag antlers, ginseng, dried animal genitals, turtles and snakes in jars of baijiu – all supposed to strengthen men’s Yang energy and act as aphrodisiacs. The sex toys are on the adult-only fourth floor, which houses over 40 small stores. Many are aimed at wholesale buyers, but staff members are still very attentive to those making personal purchases. They offer a blinding (literally blinding, if you believe what your gran told you) range of alternative toys such as latex bodysuits (RMB136), butt plugs (RMB25) and glow-in-the-dark condoms (RMB15). Don’t leave without a gimp mask, a bargain at RMBB65. Yes, that is an order.

428 Tianmu Xi Lu, Haining Lu

Buccone

The place to spend an obscene amount of money

This emporium shop looks a bit like a nightclub from the  outside. The cashier tells us sometimes people say  they’ve come in by mistake, but end up indulging in a little retail therapy anyway. (One of the worst excuses we’ve ever heard – don’t be shy, sex shoppers!) Almost all the products here are imported and very high-end. Staff members are ultra-professional and have two months of training before they start, so we listened hard to their recommendation: a dolphin-shaped vibrator, part of the Climax Remotes range, which can be controlled from 20 feet away. It’s around RMB3,000, but you can’t put a price on hands-free steering, can you? As for their most expensive product, it’s a platinum vibrator, costing an eye watering RMB13,900.

3822 Hongmei Lu, by Yan’an Xi Lu

Huaguang Sex Health

Let’s get medical

A government-run sex shop? This is something we’d never heard of before, but the woman in the white lab coat at the desk (standing proudly next to official government certificates) was not yanking our chain, so to speak. This place looks and smells more like a surgery than a dirty dungeon. “You are not allowed to take photos in here,” she said. We asked her what kind of people shop here. “People who have just had operations, or have medical conditions which have affected their sex lives,” she said. That seems reasonable, we thought. Then among all the vibrators we spied a rubber approximation of lady-parts with the most gruesomely unconvincing pubic hair we’ve ever seen… all in the name of medicine.

13 Shaanxi Nan Lu by Julu Lu

Amy’s Bedroom

Here come the girls

This snug pink store is all about the ladies and has a feminine, welcoming vibe. Amy’s Bedroom specializes in sexy role-play costumes and toys for girls. The owners also host ‘passion parties’ to showcase their goodies, and regularly hold after-hours information events about sexual health. Drop in for a sneaky peek at their Valentine’s Day makeover.

160 Xiangyang Nan Lu, between Huahai Lu and Fuxing Lu

Honey Time

For condom connoisseurs

Deep inside the mall in People’s Square station, Honey Time is home to a dazzling array of rubbers, love gloves, French letters, English overcoats, tour guides, whatever you wish to call them. You’ll find everything here from novelty products such as condom passports and key chains, to just the normal kind that, y’know, smell a bit weird and stop you getting STDs. We’d be remiss not to remind you: It’s not much money to catch your honey.

Shop BE-006 Huangsheng Metro Shopping Mall, 19 Nanjing Xi Lu

G-Le

Avoid at all costs

Attention ladies! Don’t let the stylish décor fool you, this is a seriously unsavory venue. We had an unfortunate experience here when a staff member attempted to cop a feel in the course of showing off the products. As we hurried to leave, he took out his mobile phone and tried to snap some photos of us holding dildos, lamely claiming it was company policy for “shop records,” then called after us: “Ok, just for me then, I promise I won’t put it on the internet…please?”

142 Jinxian Lu, by Maoming Nan Lu, 6217 1009