Advertisement
Identity

Meeting a Dildo Dealer in Cambodia, Where Sex Toys Are Illegal

It's not easy to find a strap-on or a vibrator if you live in the home of the Angkor Wat, so you have to get creative.

by Nathan A. Thompson
Oct 6 2015, 3:00pm

Photo by Vera Lair via Stocksy

My fake girlfriend and I were waiting to survey illegal dildos. There was a high-powered vroom and our dealer arrived on a muscular superbike. He hopped off, clutching a black bag to his slender chest. If I had to guess his sexuality, I would have said gay. "Hella gay," agreed my fake girlfriend, Eve.

Eve had arranged the meet because I had spooked him with phone calls requesting an official interview. So we were undercover. Inside her house, the dealer withdrew a couple of dildos and looked down each shaft as if checking a pool cue, then he cocked a couple of vibrators and laid them out on the table next to the strap-ons.

Read More: How to Make a Dildo

He was right to be cautious. In Cambodia, selling sex toys is punishable with a fine or jail time. In 2011, the Phnom Penh Post reported that police raided a traditional Chinese medicine shop, seizing 10 dildos and a number of medicines thought to improve sexual performance.

There is no law explicitly banning sex toys but, in this case, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge, Kor Vandy found the defendants in violation of a law against human trafficking "which prohibits the display, possession, import, export and sale of pornography," according to the report.

"That's a normal ruling," said Sam Onn Kong, the president of Cambodia Law Services. Dildo pushers can also be prosecuted under another law that forbids anything that disturbs the good culture of Cambodia. "We are very proud of our culture," he explained. "So if there is no law, then we can look to Cambodian culture and appraise whether or not selling sex toys violates [our customs]."

A woman looks out over the Phnom Penh skyline. Photo by Jesse Morrow via Stocksy.

Still, it wasn't hard to find a source in the amiably chaotic capital of Phnom Penh. We just searched online. Back at Eve's house, the dealer refused to give us his name or allow photographs. The toys had apparently been bought in Hong Kong.

"Don't worry about the police," he said, as Eve's housemate arrived, looked slowly at the array, shook his head, and went straight into his room. "It's OK because I have sold them for three years; the police know me and if they know you bought it from me they won't arrest you."

I examined an unnervingly realistic and veiny dildo named, "American Boy Dong." Considering the dealer's pricey ride, and his regular trips to Hong Kong (something the overwhelming majority of Cambodians could never afford), it was likely he was a member of the wealthy elite.

Not true, according to the Cambodian government. "We don't tolerate that kind of thing," said Phay Siphan, a spokesperson for the Council of Ministers. "It's illegal to sell pornography and sex toys, and if we find out who he is we will pick him up right away." Still though, three years operating with impunity isn't a bad track record.

I examined an unnervingly realistic and veiny dildo named, 'American Boy Dong.'

Apart from elite families and their wayward, dildo-swinging offspring, there is another way to get hold of sex toys in Cambodia: The lesbian underground. Homosexuality is legal in Cambodia, though same-sex marriage is still outlawed. It was a world I partially accessed while dating a bisexual girl with a penchant for pegging. For those who don't know, "pegging" is when a girl puts on a strap-on and fucks a guy's ass. She raised the pegging flag a couple of months into our relationship. I shrugged: Sure, why not?

She had a contact in the US Embassy who had a secure Army Post Office box (APO) beyond the control of local officials. It wasn't the first time quality, non-toxic sex toys had landed in this special box, to be distributed among expat lesbians and femme bisexuals with overly-accommodating boyfriends.

"It was the only way I knew how to get one," Cindy, a lesbian and former Phnom Penh resident, told me. She wanted to be identified by first name only. "I thought it would be safer to mail it through [the source's] APO since you hear these stories of people getting their mail raided." The embassy contact did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

They're forcing sex toys onto the black market and that is not exactly safe for anyone.

Cambodian lesbians, on the other hand, almost never use sex toys. Perhaps this is why the law has never been clarified. If there was a local demand, then lawmakers might resolve the issue before local businesses started stuffing the gap in the market with plastic cocks and vibrating eggs.

"I'm for sex education, premarital sex and sex toys," Dany Vinh, a Cambodian LGBTQ activist, told Broadly. "But Cambodia isn't at that stage yet; I'm an outlier and my view doesn't reflect the majority of Cambodian LGBTQ people." Another local lesbian who only wanted to be identified as Tomboy said she had never heard of anyone using sex toys.

And no wonder; Cambodia is a conservative country. In the countryside, where the vast majority of the population eke a living by selling six-foot piles of rice gleaned from bright green fields, courtship would be more familiar to Jane Austen than Candace Bushnell.

"Our parents teach us not to have sex before marriage," said Raksme El, a male student. "Parents bring up their daughters very carefully and the future husband must pay them in exchange for this." Prices vary, but when I stayed in rural village I was quoted the not untempting price of $2000 to $5000 for a local bride.

Read More: Working at a High-End Sex Shop

While this might seem awfully transactional to westerners, many Cambodians prefer their culture and point out that western romances can be overly complex and selfish. Even educated and independent locals like my female housemate, Thida Zéra, feel that way. She said it was fine for us foreigners to rut away, but that she wanted a traditional courtship.

Rubbish, a local feminist sex blogger known as Catherine Harry told Broadly. "As if talking about sex or anything remotely close to sex is going to destroy a country's culture." She plonked a link into our Facebook chat log: It was a CNN report about a sex shop that opened in 2001 and was immediately shut down. "They're forcing sex toys onto the black market and that is not exactly safe for anyone," Catherine said.

While it is amusing to think of clandestine rubber cocks in Cambodia, it is symptomatic of a "see no evil, hear no evil" approach to sex education that keeps people ignorant of the dangers of unsafe sex and issues of sexual violence. While Cambodian culture should be respected, locals like Catherine believe a middle way is needed so folks can be safe.

Back at Eve's house, there was a faint smell of rubber in the air as the dealer hastily packed away his products. Eve and I would not be buying any today. He didn't seem to mind. "Message me on Whatsapp if you change your mind," he said. Then he walked downstairs and hopped back on his bike, his engine echoing down the road.

Tagged:
Sex
Broadly
Politics
Asia
cambodia
Broadly Sex