NZ defies Aussie move on vibrators

04:06, Oct 07 2013
ON SHELVES: The vibrators on sale at Countdown.

Vibrators didn't last a fortnight on Australian supermarket shelves, but in New Zealand they have been selling for more than a year.

Woolworths recently became the first Australian supermarket chain to sell sex toys, after the retailer unveiled a new Vibrating Bullet across 900 stores.

Manufacturer Durex hailed the controversial move as a "game-changer for the industry", but the supermarket then pulled an extraordinary U-turn.

They cleared thousands of the products off shelves after learning a leading Christian group had called for a nationwide boycott of the stores.

In New Zealand, Woolworths operates 160 Countdown supermarkets, and 80 per cent of them sell the battery-powered sex toys, Countdown spokeswoman Kate Porter said today.

"Countdown has stocked this Durex Play product for more than a year in a number of our stores nationwide," she said.

"They are retailed discreetly and we haven't experienced negative feedback from customers."

The device sold in Australia for A$24.95 (NZ$28.11) and was positioned in the existing sexual health section that included condoms and lubricants.

However, the same aisle also featuredfamily-oriented products such as toothpastes, shampoos and shower gels.

Sex toys belonged in sex shops, said Australian Christian advocacy group researcher Roslyn Phillips.

"Society is already suffering massive problems with young children being over-sexualised ... this move by Woolies just makes the problem worse," she said.

"I, personally, would not patronise Woolies while this situation exists and I encourage everyone else to boycott them too.

"I hope parents will let Woolies know how they feel and I hope they tell them they'll continue to shop elsewhere until these products are removed."

But Australian sexologist Nikki Goldstein argued that grocery stores already promoted safe sex through the sale of condoms, "so why shouldn't they also promote pleasurable sex through sex toys?"

"Why is it so offensive?" she asked.

"We are taught to view such products as dirty, naughty, shameful and outside the boundaries of normality, and that's wrong. A vibrator is no different to a vitamin in that it does something positive for your body."

Goldstein believed the introduction of small vibrators should be accepted in supermarkets.

A spokesman for Woolworths confirmed an email was sent to all store managers on September 27 telling them to withdraw the products immediately. By 6pm the vibrators had vanished from the stores.

"Woolworths has taken the decision to not offer the new Durex vibrator," the spokesman said.

"This is a product that is more appropriate for pharmacies than supermarkets."

In 2007 Britain's high street retailer Boots scrapped its Durex sex toy range after public criticism. Last year, Boots launched a second attempt at introducing the same toys but copped a further backlash after an incident involving a mother who found her two sons playing with a vibrator at the checkout.

Durex said in a statement: "Products that assist Australians to have great sex should be made easily available to consumers through a variety of channels."


POCKET SIZED: The Durex Play Delight is seen above the cold medications at a Wellington Countdown.
Durex Play
RICKY BUSINESS: Australian supermarkets have pulled vibrators off the shelves but they remain on sale in NZ.

Fairfax Media