Love Buzz: the kinky pound is in the market for good vibrations

Malta’s getting kinkier, says sex-shop owner Ranier Zammit of Toysfourplay


It was a kind of open secret at the time, but the go-to-store for an illicit sex toy in a conservative backwater like Malta in times gone by had to be an all-male centre of activity like a barber.

Porn mags and a marital aid? It was all at hand in a stash of naughty goodies between a quick short-back-and-sides and a shave, says Ranier Zammit, the operator of one of Malta’s few sex shops in Birkirkara.

Zammit began running his Toysfourplay sex shop 20 years ago at a time when his kind of wares were still in a legal grey area. Back then, he would share a printed catalogue or PDF file with friends, or take out adverts in the English-language classifieds. “When I began operating I wanted to make sure that it was all legal, so I immediately went to a lawyer to see how to work within those limitations,” Zammit says. Clients would call Zammit and he would deliver the desired product to them.

Ranier Zammit
Ranier Zammit

“There was a need for this kind of product,” Zammit says, who remembers people bringing in sex toys through normal channels and being stopped at airport Customs, with officers parading the sex toys and questioning travellers about their dubious cargo.

Today, Zammit’s shop is a very non-descript store that eschews the kind of kinky, blazing neon promise of sex. But his customers are no longer just dirty old men looking for exciting ways to get their rocks off.

“It’s hard to pinpoint the average client. The current market is so diverse and times have changed. Younger people interested in sex toys has increased,” Zammit says, perhaps a sign of more sex-positive attitudes. It’s the ones aged in their 30s and 40s that seem to lose interest in sex toys until they began to spice up their boudoir routine in their late 40s and 50s.

“Foreigners who move to Malta are perplexed by our lack of identifiable physical sex shops, but I guess they later get bitten by the maltese bug and begin to enjoy the subtle attitude towards sex,” Zammit says.

Zammit in fact insists on continuing with his discreet shopfront rather outwardly advertise his sex shop, even though entirely allowable at law. “We get all types of clients, and we want to make them as comfortable as possible, allow them that discretion and anonymity. That way, we build trust with our clients.”

Zammit says it is couples mainly, that seem to be regular customers: whether they are in the market for a vibrator, a cock ring, or toys they can use together, lovers make their purchases together. Take for example remote-controlled vibrators: Zammit says they are a hit with couples, as they get to experiment with power-play dynamics, allowing them to notch up intensity with either a physical remote or phone app.

Toysfourplay is also collaborating with kink-positive techno organisers ‘Harshmellow’ to offer discounts to party-goers on harnesses and masks, who are encouraged to celebrate the queer, strange and unusual.

And the ladies know where the game is at: the rabbit vibrators retains lasting buzz from Samantha’s epiphany in ‘Sex and the City’, while airpulse vibrators have gained popularity following the infamous Tik Tok ‘rose vibrator’, with devices that deliver a gentler experience more in line with traditional oral sex, by using air-pushing through the mouth of the device. Men on the other hand, seem to ask for performance enhancers – penis pumps too – as well as delaying creams. Strap-ons have also gained traction, ‘pegging’ becoming the new trend amongst Gen Z, taking the once taboo sex act and bringing it into popularity via Tik Tok back in 2020.