Sex toy treasure hunt in Belgium celebrates sexuality and raises awareness
As I waded through the mud, swinging my spade like a medieval axe, I grew increasingly desperate to find a vibrator.
And no, this isnât a tale of rural sexual repression. This was the annual sex toy hunt in WÃ©pion, Belgium. Forget the Easter bunny â" I was hunting rabbits. The rampant kind.
In a little village just outside of Namur, the capital of Wallonia, I found myself knee-deep in a crowded muddy field, digging for dildos at the highlight of the âChasse aux Sextoysâ festival.
You might be picturing this as some sort of kinky, European orgy preamble. It was anything but.Hen party vibes but no bridal glower (Soft Love / Pierre-Olivier Tulkens Photography)
While the treasur e hunt (there were 800 tokens buried in a field, to be dug up and exchanged for a sex toy) formed the peg â" so to speak â" of the event, the day was otherwise much like any summery festival: mud; music; beer tents and desperate queues for the Portaloos.
This year, there were more than 4,000 women taking part in the dig, dressed up to varying degrees in hen party-esque frippery, as well as the 200 men permitted to join in â" so long as they dressed the part.
And although the quirky naughtiness of the festival contrasted delightfully with the traditional vibe of the Walloon region, it turned out to be a surprisingly family-friendly day, attracting more than 10,000 people, including infants in prams.
The festival was set up and organised by Nicolas Bustin, boss of Belgian sex-toy company Soft Love, and is hosted in a field on his family farm. In 2008, he instigated the first Chasse Aux Sextoys for marketing purposes; only 400 people showed up and he lost m oney on that event.Far from kink or sleaziness, the event functioned as a celebration of sexuality (ChÃ©rie Belgique)
It was then that he decided we needed to change our thinking around sexuality. He invited non-profit partners to offer health advice and sexual guidance to coincide with his aim of achieving âpleasure equalityâ between men and women.
âA clitoris isnât just to procreate,â he tells me, somewhat redundantly. âIt can have pleasure, too.â
I did learn something new about the clitoris at one of the educational health stalls in the tent â" which was itself a haven of contradictions. Filled it may have been with STI awareness leaflets, sexology clinics and anatomical diagrams of le clitoris; it also sold dips.
- Read more
How celebrity-branded sex toys can sexually liberate fans
And so, indeed, was the entire festival: attendees could enjoy Zumba sessions, body positivity workshops, beer and frites, but they were also welcome to watch pole dancing classes and gawk at the male strippers.
The event couldnât have been more perfectly designed for a hen party or girlie getaway, but when I spoke to people most explained they simply came to have fun with their friends and families.
Children rode the bucking bronco, designed in the shape of a penis â" but nobody was calling social services. In fact, parents were cheering enthusiastically, as they managed to combine a healthy destigmatisation of sexuality with a good day out.Diggers at the ready for the hunt to begin (Harriet Marsden)
At 1pm, female diggers lined up on the edge of the field, heavy metal spades at the ready. The male diggers were shepherded into a tiny cordoned-off section of the field; inclusive and male-friendly the event might have been, but this was definitely a womanâs game and the men were very defiantly handicapped.
The women pawed the edge of the field, champing at the bit like thoroughbreds, eager to get down and dirty. The whistle blew and we were away, stabbing at the earth, flinging mud and spades about with reckless abandon.
It was hard work, and I struggled to break any ground under the warm Belgian sun. After an increasingly frustrated hour, I headed back to the beer tent where I belonged. I did win a vibrator on the tombola, though.Only 200 men were allowed to join in the digging â" provided they dressed the part (Harriet Marsden)
All the buried treasure was found. Prizes ranged from bog-standard vibrators to massage oil and ducks. The duck symbol is everywhere â" a rubber duck is an iconic sex toy in Belgium, the way the rabbit is in the English-speaking world.
The money raised from the event goes to womenâs health charities, including Think Pink for breast cancer and the ASBL association in Belgium, which supports sufferers of endometriosis.
- Read more
Debilitating disease affecting 1.5m UK women still being misdiagnosed
But despite the charitable effort, the event still courts controversy. Bustin told SudPresse that his company received more than 1,000 emails and 400 phone calls from angry Catholics. âSome people are not so keen on it,â he says wryly, âfor obvious reasons.â
âBut things need to change. We must start respecting and understanding woman, and equality between men and women regarding sexual pleasure.
âWe are religiously, socially and familially conditioned to being frustrated and having limited beliefs regarding sex. It creates frustration, trauma, and complexes, which can be dangerous and lead to terrible consequences.âMoney raised goes to charities for womenâs health, especially endometriosis (Harriet Marsden)
Controversial or not, the event is growing and has become a celebration of womenâs freedom of sexual expression â" and not only in Belgium. People are coming from France, Italy, Luxembourg, and this year a group of 15 British women â" one of whom, came to prove to her husband that she too âhas needsâ.
As Bustin says, âSexual pleasure is accessible to all. It is a universal need. It is inside us, in our DNA.â
So next year, hop on the Eurostar to Belgium. Youâll have a blast, get some fresh air and exercise, and leave with a newfound sense of liberation and positive awareness.
And perhaps, if you get lucky, a free vibrator as well.
- More about:
- Sex toys
- Sexual Health
- Breast Cancer
- Women's Health