Vendors of sexual stimulants in Baghdad's markets report brisk business, saying Iraqi men, battling a sense of impotence in the face of raging violence, are overcoming shyness to test latest products.
"These days, large numbers of people of different ages come to our stalls or go to pharmacies to buy these drugs," said vendor Abu Saad beside the colourful array of creams, gels, sprays and pills at his stall in central Baghdad's Bab al-Sharji market.
"I think men are turning to sexual fortifiers due to the frustration the Iraqi society is suffering because of the collapsed security situation," said Saad.
"Some men buy these drugs because they need them psychologically -- not because they are impotent. But others of my clients are old and need the drugs to overcome their impotence."
While some men are happy to ask him direct questions about his products, others squirm with embarrassment and wait until no one else is around before making inquiries, he said.
"Many people approach my stall shyly to see what I display, so I decided to write out in detail the name of each medicine and its function," he said.
Samir Nadir, aged 40, welcomed Saad's marketing ploy.
"I have always been eager to know what these drugs are and how they are used, but I was too shy to ask. Now I can just read what has been written near each medicine," said Nadir.
"I feel embarrassed because I am not accustomed to seeing such drugs. It is a new thing that we see these products being sold in public after they were almost non-existent before."
According to vendor Saad, the use of sexual stimulants in Iraq is a relatively new phenomenon because they were forbidden during the time of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.
Only in recent months have they been sold at market stalls instead of more discreetly in pharmacies.
While understanding people's shyness, Saad was also dismissive of it.
"It is paradox that people are shy to ask about these drugs while they have pornography on their cell phones," he said.
Ahmed Obeid, 38, said he bought sexual stimulants because he was looking for something different.
"I use them not because I need them but because I am seeking change. I went through hard times, so my desire to try these drugs is based on psychological factors."
Another customer, Abdul Hamid Mohammed, said he found nothing to be embarrassed about in buying sexual stimulants.
"I use them because I am almost 60 years old. I want to practice my private life as I please," he said.
Many simply browse through the goods, saying they can't afford them, and are worried about their side effects or are concerned they have been made by unreliable manufacturers.
"I worry about buying stimulants because of their side effects or that they may cause harm rather than bring benefit," said Majid Ayad, 41.
"I would like to use stimulants frequently but my financial situation prevents me because these drugs are somewhat expensive," said Naeem Abboud, 37.
"I also hesitate to buy them because they may be spurious," he added.
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