Although men are still the biggest online consumers of sex products, an increasing number of women in China bought such products in the past year, according to a report released on Monday by online medical and health provider AliHealth.
The report was based on data from last year acquired from retail platforms owned by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, said Hu Nan, a public relations manager for AliHealth, of which Alibaba holds a majority share. The retail platforms included popular shopping websites Taobao and Tmall, which altogether have more than 400 million registered users.
Last year, consumers used more than 10 million different key words when searching for sex products online, such as sex underwear and inflatable doll, according to the report.
The report, which covered consumers between ages 18 and 59, said that males accounted for 64 per cent of all sex product consumption last year on the platforms, although different age groups tended to buy different types of products.
For example, those born after 1985 mostly bought condoms, while purchase of other sex products, such as sex perfumes and toys, increased among older age groups, the report said. This is because older people have sex less frequently but have higher demand for products that can improve the quality of sex, it added.
The report also said that women were generally more likely than men to prefer buying sex products for their partners.
The report said the number of women buying sex products online continued to increase last year, and in Henan, Qinghai and the Tibet autonomous region, the number of women buying sex products in the second half of 2015 increased by more than 14 per cent from the first half of the year. That was the fastest increase of all regions in China, it said.
Festivals related to romance also had a remarkable boost on the public's interest in and sales of sex products. For example, sales of condoms increased significantly for festivals such as qixi, or Chinese Valentine's Day, which falls on the seventh day of July on the lunar calendar.
"It is reasonable that more women are turning to sex products in China with the development of society," said Zhang Zhichao, a doctor of andrology at Peking University First Hospital.
"Traditionally, Chinese women play a passive part in the two-sex relations, but ... more are turning to sex products for a more satisfied sex life," he said. "It is also a sign of social progress."
Yang Wanli contributed to this story.