The adult industry has been growing in denial, contempt, and exclusion of female existence. In the sex toy industry, women are consumed and marketed as toys and trophies. Products sexually objectifying females and their body parts, which have been produced and sold by males, are used solely to satisfy men’s sexual desires.
Generally, women have been seen as products while men were just consumers. However, every injustice sees those who begin the change and spark action. An Jin-Yeong, the CEO of Euphoria, a female-friendly sex toy shop, is a businesswoman in her 20s who strives to establish a safe and pleasant sex toy market for women.
“Women’s sexuality is often sexually objectified in the sex toy industry. Sex toys modeled after women’s genitals and named after female individuals overflow in the market. Images of women who certainly exist somewhere, such as high school girls, younger sisters, and female trainers, are constantly sexually consumed,” reads a paragraph from An’s newly published book, “Adventures of the Little Sex Toy.”
After An’s internship in the United States in 2015, she realized how large a problem the Korean sex toy industry faced. She started her own business by contacting world-famous sex wellness brands. Now almost six years old, the company is generating annual sales of approximately 1.5 billion won, with the main consumers being women in their 20s and 30s.
In her book, An further explores gender issues in the sex toy industry based on her own experience of establishing and running the business in a male-dominated industry as a woman in her 20s. Moreover, by sharing her personal experiences, An also explores important issues related to sex life for many women in Korea.
Looking up sex toys or adult products online, An felt uneasy about how contents on search results stimulate voyeurism originating from the male gaze based on sexual myths that are rampant on the Internet. This led her to start writing the book on women’s sexuality and the natural, healthy ways of exploring pleasure.
“As a woman who has been in the industry for a long time, I felt the need to tell the story of women’s masturbation,” An said. “Also, I thought that introducing my journey as a female entrepreneur would help others who dream of starting their own business.”
An revealed that to end gender discrimination and repression in the industry, she is looking forward to seeing sex toys enter the mainstream market. For instance, there are all kinds of sex aid products like simple vibrators in convenience stores in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the United States.
“It is absolutely not to say that products like sex dolls and real dolls should be brought out on the surface. I am against all kinds of sex toys that objectify sexuality,” An said. “However, if general vibrators that do not resemble human bodies can be easily accessed, we can expect the safety and standardization of sex toys along with the decline of the general public’s sense of refusal. Furthermore, I believe the sex toy industry can be self-purified faster if women move beyond the position of consumers and get actively involved in producing and selling the products.”
An hopes to make women feel the joy of sexuality by selling safe, quality products at a reasonable price. The most rewarding feeling for An is when women who were not even aware of the location of their vagina and clitoris have their first orgasm and find pleasure in sexuality.
Running the business in such strong faith in individual’s healthy sex life, An puts her most efforts into the safety of the product. An mentioned that since there is no safety regulation for adult products in Korea, importers and sellers should pay more attention to inspecting the product.
An concluded the interview revealing her ultimate dream of becoming a happy CEO with her employees together to run a happy company and, eventually be happy with fellow women in the society.
“Writing the book, I thought a lot about how women’s genitals are like extraterritoriality,” An said. “My sexuality is my territory in my body, but its jurisdiction feels like a colony in another country. I was not happy that the sexuality of myself and fellow women was controlled by the media and the male power. Long live the vagina independence!”