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Self-pleasure has become the new self-care for Indian women

YS Life caught up with prominent sex educators, sexual wellness brands, and women who are taking their pleasure seriously.

Self-pleasure has become the new self-care for Indian women

Friday June 09, 2023,

7 min Read

Until a few years ago, self-pleasure was a rather alien word for Indian women. They were always advised to navigate sexual pleasure only with their husbands after wedlock.

But the tide has changed in recent years. 

Thirty-five-year-old Amisha Singh*, an event manager from New Delhi, discovered the joy of self-pleasure about five years ago when she couldn’t have an orgasm through penetrative sex. For the longest time, she believed something was wrong with her. 

“I would judge my body for not being ‘normal’. Isn’t this what a patriarchal society forces us to believe? Fortunately, with the help of online resources and the growth of the sexual wellness industry, I realised women’s pleasure works differently. Self-pleasure has been a revelation; it has made me fall in love with my body,” she tells YS Life

Sex toy

Lit by That Sassy Thing

But for Tarasha Sinha*, a dentist from Bengaluru, it was a different experience. She says it took a while for her to get comfortable with her body. The idea of discovering pleasure was a shameful act to her, until her therapist reassured her of its normalcy. Today, she regards herself to be a sexually liberated woman who doesn’t necessarily need a partner to fulfil her sexual needs. 

“I would get disgusted at the thought of me or anyone else touching my body. I viewed it as a sin. This also impacted my relationships and eventually I decided not to date anyone. After much education and awareness, I have no qualms about engaging in self-pleasure or receiving pleasure. I now believe solo sex is far more liberating than partnered sex,” says Sinha. 

Urban Indian women—married or otherwise—are now turning increasingly unapologetic about their sexual needs. The change can be attributed to the rise of pleasure-positive, inclusive sex educators on social media, along with the introduction of fun and easy-to-use sex toys that help elevate intimacy, pleasure, and self-discovery.

Shattering stigma, one product at a time

For Sachee Malhotra, Founder of That Sassy Thing, the seed to start a purpose-driven brand that is making sex talk cool is rooted in her personal experience of feeling insecure and ashamed of her own body. 

Furthermore, as a brand strategist who worked with a range of D2C health and wellness brands in India and the US, Malhotra gained pertinent business and cultural insights, pointing to the fact that the sexual wellness space in India lacked representation. 

Sachee Malhotra

Sachee Malhotra, Founder of That Sassy Thing

“Some Indian brands led by men were making products for women that were ultimately aimed at pleasing the male gaze and feeding women’s insecurities. Most sexual wellness products looked and felt ‘too unapproachable’, ‘in the face’ and not well-designed that felt intimidating for people,” she reveals. 

That Sassy Thing’s goal is not just to sell products like massagers, personal gels, or a 2-in-1 intimate + body wash – it is also in the business of providing individuals with the right knowledge and tools to take charge of their bodies. Recently, it launched India’s first-ever free series of online masterclasses on sex education. 

Similarly, for Anushka Gupta, Founder of MyMuse, a bedroom essentials brand, the idea to create a sexual wellness startup came to mind when she and her partner, the co-founder of the brand, started dating. They always wondered why sex, pleasure, and the body was viewed through a stigmatised lens in India. 

Most individuals believe sexual pleasure can only be explored before marriage, but that’s not true. The brand sells an interesting range of massagers, games, candles, and even kits that cater to solo or collective sexual needs. As they say, sex helps to cultivate physical and emotional intimacy as a married couple. 


Groove by MyMuse

Another name that instantly strikes when we speak of pleasure for women is that of Leeza Mangaldas, a sex-positive content creator, author, and the founder of Leezu’s, a playful personal care brand that offers a dual-ended clitoral massager called Pyaari, and coconut self-love oil. 

Through her videos, books, and podcasts, everything that Mangaldas has worked on so far has been centred on the mission to help people understand and celebrate their bodies, sexualities, and identities. 

“Through Leezu’s, I aim to bring tangible tools and products to people all over the country that are designed to inspire, delight, explore, and make playtime much more euphoric, comfortable, and fun,” she says. 

Have we come of age?


Pyaari by Leezu's

Malhotra’s That Sassy Thing ships its products across 200 cities.  What’s encouraging is that its customer base isn’t limited to Tier I towns and cities, but also Tier II and Tier III centres like Ludhiana, Indore, Lucknow, Jodhpur, Coimbatore, Patna, Salem, and Siliguri. 

“Our range of sex toys is priced between Rs 3,499- Rs 4,799. We will be launching more products in different price ranges. If you look at the category, we are currently more accessible than other brands and marketplaces,” she says. 

Similarly, Gupta points out how a surge in its customers embracing the sexual wellness trend reflects how they are maturing as a society. 

In her words, “it’s a powerful symbol of how we are finally embracing and celebrating the beautiful tapestry of pleasure, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. It’s a rebellious and liberating movement, fuelled by the determination to break free from outdated constraints that have held women and the queer community back for far too long.”

Although it is a big moment for India, with sexual wellness and pleasure being openly discussed, there’s a long way to go for the stigma to be completely shattered. 

“Societal acceptance should be coupled with ongoing efforts to combat gender inequalities, address the needs of all marginalised communities, promote comprehensive sex education, inclusivity, and safe spaces for discussions around pleasure and sexual health to dismantle the stigmas and restrictions that have held marginalised communities back,” comments Zoya Ali, sex educator at Uteropedia, an Instagram page that attempts to simplify sex, periods, and fertility. 

Leeza Mangaldas

Leeza Mangaldas, Founder of Leezu's

Moreover, given the inordinate emphasis on heterosexual sex—or the fact that penile-vaginal intercourse is what most people think of as the definition of sex—there is hardly any education about queer sex and pleasure, something that has long been marginalised and stigmatised, says Mangaldas.

“I do think that women and queer people owning their pleasure is a radical and essential part of taking space, and I think self-pleasure and toys can add a lot of creative and liberating possibilities around understanding your own body as well as ensuring partnered experiences are mutually pleasurable,” she adds.

Introduction to sex toys


Anushka Gupta, Founder of MyMuse

While there are plenty of sex toys and sexual wellness products available today, it may be daunting to explore them if you haven’t used one before.

The first step is to spend some time on getting to know the body first, without the pressure to experience orgasm, advises Malhotra. 

“Experiencing pleasure, feeling good in your body, and having fun should be the end goal, not orgasming. Start with toys that look pleasing in terms of design, are discreet and easy to use. It’s always better to do your research well. Check what material the toy is made of, understand its functionality, the intended use, the warranty, read customer reviews, ask the brand questions, and make an informed decision,” she says. 

While Ali has similar tips to share, she highlights the importance of using a good water-based lube. 

“Toys are great because they can be used during solo and partnered sex. If you are planning on introducing it into partnered play, have open and honest communication with your partner. Discuss boundaries, desires, and consent to create a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone involved,” Ali concludes. 

*Name changed 

(Article was updated to fix a typo)

Edited by Megha Reddy