Outlawed Orgasms: Places Where Vibrators Are Illegal [2022 Data]

Sex toys are illegal in some countries. So before you travel, check our research where it’s illegal to own a vibrator so you’ll have a worry-free travel.

vibrators illegal in what countries

Vibrators are a source of pleasure and joy for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Still, some regimes have made them illegal – usually alongside porn and any “obscene” material. 

As society evolves, sex toys have become legal and common in most places. However, a few morally conservative governments have outlawed them for ethical or religious reasons. 

From Bangkok to Alabama, we dug up the data on every place where it’s illegal to own a vibrator. Here’s what we found. 

These naughty vibrator data points are punishable by up to three years in prison:

  • 52.5% of American women use vibrators. 
  • 47% of Americans own at least one vibrating sex toy. 
  • Though mostly illegal, it’s estimated that the sex industry is up to 10% of Thailand’s GDP. 
  • In 2020 alone, the Thai customs department confiscated over 4,000 sex toys. 
  • The production, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute obscene materials in Alabama is technically illegal – though it’s hardly, if ever, enforced. 
  • 81% of American women with a vibrator say they wish they had bought one sooner. 

How Many People Own a Vibrator?

Before we dive into the illegality of sex toys, let’s establish some context. Over half the women in the U.S. use vibrators, and a large portion of men do as well. 

Worldwide data is uncertain, but it’s safe to assume that developed nations have similar rates. Here’s a look at the data.

  • In America, 52.5% of women use vibrators. (The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2009a)1
  • 44.8% of American men have used a vibrator for sexual activity at some point. (The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2009b)2
  • According to one survey, vibrators are the most common sex toy in the U.S. (Statista, 2022)3
    • 47% of respondents said they owned at least one vibrator. 
    • 46% said they owned anal toys. 
    • 40% said they owned lubricant. 
    • 35% said they owned dildos. 

Vibrators Are Illegal In What Countries?

Wherever people are having fun, there seems to be an equal and opposite group of moral conservatives trying to stop it. 

In the most extreme cases, they outlaw sex toys and pornography entirely, often using vague language such as “obscene” that can be enforced as necessary. 

Here are some of the nations with the most extreme anti-sex toy laws. 

  • Malaysia:
    • Section 292 of the Malaysian Penal Code prohibits the sale or ownership of any “obscene” item whatsoever. (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2022)4
      • This crime is punishable by fine, imprisonment up to three years, or both. 
    • The code also states that any import or export of any “obscene” object will be punished. (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2022)4

  • Maldives:
    • The Maldives prohibits the import of any pornographic material, including films, software, toys, and more. (Maldives Customs Service, n.d.)5
    • Producing, selling, importing, or disseminating porn in the Maldives is illegal under section 617 of their penal code – criticizing Islam. (University of Pennsylvania, 2014)6
    • A nurse was sentenced to six months in prison and fined about $1,350 for possessing pornography (some of which she starred in) and a dildo. (SunOnline International, 2014)7

  • Saudi Arabia:
    • Possession of porn or even pictures of scantily-dressed people is prohibited in Saudi Arabia. (GOV.UK, 2013)8
    • In sex shops that abide by Islamic standards, raunchy sex toys and pornography are not sold. (LA Times, 2010)9
      • One sex shop owner explained that sex toys are clearly against Islamic laws and that there is no porn or foul language in his shop. 

  • Thailand:
    • Though famous for LGBTQ acceptance and red-light districts, Thailand actually has laws against most drugs, prostitution, sex toys, vaping, and gambling. (The Thaiger, 2021)10
      • Bangkok’s red light district is estimated to be worth $6.4 billion. 
      • Even though it’s against the law, sex toys are sold openly in many districts. 
      • It’s estimated that the sex industry is up to 10% of Thailand’s GDP.
    • In 2020 alone, the Thai customs department confiscated over 4,000 sex toys. (Vice, 2021)11
    • Buying, selling, or possessing sex toys is punishable by up to three years in prison, a fine of about $1,700, or both. (Vice, 2021)11

  • United Arab Emirates:
    • Customs officials in Dubai seized sex toys that had been ordered online and stated that such items were illegal in the UAE. (Gulf News, 2010)12

  • Vietnam:
    • The General Department of Vietnam Customs outlawed the import of sex toys in 2011. (Thanh Nien News, 2011)13
      • Sex toys brought into Vietnam by travelers will be confiscated and returned upon exiting the country. If they arrive as gifts or luggage, they may be destroyed. 

Sex Toys In India

India is a unique case in the war on pleasure, as they haven’t necessarily outlawed sex toys. Instead, they outlaw the public display of anything considered obscene. 

However, courts have decided that sex toys aren’t necessarily obscene. Here’s a look at the data. 

  • Selling sex toys is not explicitly outlawed in India. (The Times of India, 2021)14
  • Section 292 of the Indian penal code outlaws the sale, advertisement, distribution, or exhibition of obscene pictures or objects. (iPleaders, 2018)15
    • In this sense, displaying sex toys in an obscene manner is illegal. 
    • In 2011, the Calcutta High Court ruled that sex toys are not inherently obscene just because they bring out sexual desires. 

Are Vibrators Prohibited Anywhere In The U.S.?

If you’re reading this as an American and thinking this could never happen in your country, you’re wrong. 

Two states have outlawed the sale of sex toys, though these laws have hardly – if ever – been enforced. 

  • The production, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute obscene materials in Alabama is technically illegal. (Onecle, 2008)16
    • This is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to one year. After the first offense (misdemeanor), the second offense is a class C felony. 
  • Possessing any obscene material or device or promoting it with intent to sell is illegal in Texas. (Texas Constitution and Statutes, 2013)17
    • Possessing six or more obscene devices is legally considered intent to promote and, therefore, a crime. 

How Old Do You Have to Be to Buy a Vibrator?

This goes without saying, but vibrating sex toys aren’t for kids. In most places, you have to be a certain age before you can buy one. 

  • Depending on store policy, most people need to be over a certain age (usually 18) to purchase sex toys in-store or online. (Planned Parenthood, n.d.)18
  • One survey asked women their age when they got their first vibrator: (Minna, 2020)19
    • Under 18 years old – 14.3%
    • 18 to 22 years old – 38.3%
    • 23 to 25 years old – 15.6%
    • 26 to 29 years old – 10.3%
    • 30 to 39 years old – 8.3%
    • 40 years old and older – 6.3%
    • Never – 6.9%
  • 37% of women with vibrators say they still have their first one. (Minna, 2020)19
  • 81% of American women with a vibrator say they wish they had bought one sooner. (Minna, 2020)19

Conclusion

Vibrating sex toys are a common way for people to enhance the pleasure of their sexual experiences, either alone or with a partner. Unfortunately, in some parts of the world, vibrators are outlawed (typically along with porn and all other sex toys) for ethical or religious reasons. 

Malaysia and Thailand are a couple of examples of nations with laws against obscene material, but these laws aren’t always enforced – especially in Thailand. Texas and Alabama also have laws that technically prohibit sex toys. 

While moral conservatives have succeeded in passing anti-sex toy laws in some places, it’s clear that most of the world is choosing to embrace sexuality. So in the near future, we may see these laws repealed. 

For more interesting sex studies and statistics, head over to our guide here.

Footnotes

  1. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2009a. A study on vibrator use in 3,800 American women aged 18 to 60.
  2. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2009b. A study on vibrator use in 1,047 American men aged 18 to 60.
  3. Statista, 2022. A statistic report on the number of people in the United States who own a sex toy using data from a survey of 1,760 American adults.
  4. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2022. A U.N. site hosting the Malaysian penal code.
  5. Maldives Customs Service, n.d. An informative article on items prohibited or restricted for import into the Maldives.
  6. University of Pennsylvania, 2014. A 2014 provision on the laws and legal codes in the Maldives.
  7. SunOnline International, 2014. An article on the story of a nurse in the Maldives sentenced to six months in prison for pornography.
  8. GOV.UK, 2013. A U.K. government travel advice article on the unique laws and customs in Saudi Arabia.
  9. LA Times, 2010. An article on the rise of sex shops that abide by Islamic standards and their subsequent success.
  10. The Thaiger, 2021. An article on the conservative laws in Thailand and the popularity of sex toys despite them.
  11. Vice, 2021. An article on Thailand’s illegal sex toy market and how it is booming in spite of prohibitive laws.
  12. Gulf News, 2010. An article on customs officials in Dubai seizing sex toys that had been ordered online.
  13. Thanh Nien News, 2011. An article on the Vietnamese government’s ban on sex toys in the country.
  14. The Times of India, 2021. An article on the dubious legality and ethics of sex toys in India.
  15. iPleaders, 2018. An article on the legal repercussions of buying and selling sex toys in India.
  16. Onecle, 2008 (archived). The Code of Alabama that explicitly outlaws the sale of obscene materials.
  17. Texas Constitution and Statutes, 2013. The penal code for the state of Texas that outlaws obscene objects.
  18. Planned Parenthood, n.d. An article on the different types of sex toys, why people use them, and how to use them.
  19. Minna, 2020. An article on female sex toy purchasing habits using data from a survey of 1,003 American women.
Dainis Graveris

Dainis Graveris

Over last 4 years Dainis have helped millions of people through his advice on this site (200+ guides and 1M+ visits/monthly). His work & advice has appeared on sites like: Healthline, Vice, Cosmopolitan, Men's Health, WomensHealthMag, MindBodyGreen & more. Read More

Got Questions? Ping me on Twitter.