A few months ago my friend Nancy*–who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada–decided to do something nice for me by offering to send me something I wanted (not needed). I live in India, a country where sex toys are not easily available; so I asked them to send me a vibrator. They had me pick one out on Amazon and a few days later they told me that they’d sent me the vibrator in the mail.

It never arrived.

At first I blamed it on the mail system–sometimes packages just don’t turn up–and moved on. About a month later, I received a notice from the Port Authority of India: my package was examined and confiscated. I was charged under Section 124 of the Customs Act with improperly importing a sex toy, which bans the sale of ‘obscene objects’ under Section 292 of the Indian penal code. I was advised to appear in court to defend myself.

My initial response was shock, quickly followed by anger. What’s obscene about a vibrator? I shot off a response that I wasn’t trying to import the toy; it had been a gift. I considered consulting a lawyer, but my friend persuaded me not to go. She said that they would use me as an example and humiliate me.

I’m not the only Indian woman this has happened to. In 2011, the Mumbai Airport Customs department seized five sex toys from a woman who was returning to India from the United States. More recently, sex toys are still being confiscated from people flying into India, with over a thousand parcels appropriated in Delhi alone.

Women, Indian or not, are typically left out of the conversations about self-love and masturbation.

If I’d made it to the court, I would have talked about how it’s normal (and necessary) for women to masturbate, and that Indian women are no different. But women–Indian or not–are typically left out of the conversations about self-love and masturbation. It is perfectly acceptable to educate boys about masturbation, but with girls the conversation almost never happens. When girls are talked to about sex it is more or less in relation to the needs of their partners and the dangers of getting pregnant.

Frustrated at this, Agents of Ishq–a multimedia project about love, sex and desire in India–decided to start the conversation about female masturbation in India with a survey. I reached out to founder, Paromita Vohra, to ask her how the survey about female masturbation came about in the first place. “We’ve been using the idea of a survey as a way to start a discussion. For example, one of the problems with the way sex is discussed publicly anywhere around the world is in a very generalizing kind of way, you know?”

She continues, “There’s so little room for specificity of experience. The problem with that sort of generalizing is that it’s ultimately shaming. So, it’s very important to have these ways to discuss people’s own sexual journeys and their sexual identities on some level.”

In the course of my conversation with Paromita, the topic of sex toys in India came about, and she pointed out that the sexual wellness industry in India is actually booming.

Despite the sex-shaming in India, Samir Saraiya, the founder of India-based That’s Personal—a sexual wellness line—agrees that demand is high and there is a healthy growth of repeat customers. “I believe there is a minority set of people who are not in favour of these stores, and it will take us another decade or so for high street stores to be launched.”

According to The Economic Times, India’s largest business newspaper, the Indian pleasure products market will grow to a $1.60 billion market in the next decade. When will India’s government catch up with the innate human need for sexual gratification?