The Frisky Feminist

The First Timer’s Guide to Shopping in a Sex Store

We know there’s a wide range of Persephoneers with really different experience levels out there, but something that keeps coming up in both our real-life conversations and online discussions is interest/nervousness/hesitation about going to sex shops.

It’s easy to understand why venturing into a sex store could be intimidating for some. What you like and what turns you on can be very personal, and acknowledging your interests by looking at merchandise or making a purchase might feel like a public announcement: “ATTENTION, I LIKE CLITORAL STIMULATION AND PORN WITH THREESOMES!” But although we love and will always sing the praises of online sex stores, going to a sex store can also be a lot of fun, as well as interesting and very helpful. So, how do you make the most of your trip?

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Some stores’ employees are more friendly than others, but they’re all there to help you if you need it. If you want to know whether a particular movie comes as a DVD instead of a Blu-ray or if they have a certain vibrator in green instead of purple, ask. Many stores will even open merchandise for you so you can see exactly what you’re getting, which is helpful if you’re investigating things like bondage kits and you couldn’t tell how the straps fasten from the picture on the box.  Some stores will even order specific items for you. We went into a small BDSM store last summer, and they were perfectly willing to get out this enormous catalog and go over our options for vegan floggers. Remember, nobody is judging you – they see dozens and dozens of customers every day, and everybody comes in for the same reason: to browse and buy sexy-sex related things.
  • Take advantage of the demonstration tables/samples. Our favorite local store has demonstration tables with lots of different toys an employee is always happy to show off; another store we’ve been to has a small counter with trial-size bottles and packets of lube, so you know exactly what you’re getting before you buy it. Another store has various vibrators attached to shelves, and paperispatient has lots of fun pushing all the buttons and making them flail around.
  • Do a little research if you’re hoping to make a purchase. This isn’t an Absolute Necessity, but for the nerdy among us or people who feel intimidated by lots of options, doing some investigation first can be really helpful. It’s important to know the pros and cons of various sex toy materials, especially for any toys you insert into your body, and reading reviews can sometimes help steer you in the right direction (always good to know if a certain vibrator has a tendency to die after a week’s use). And the frugal among us may like to compare prices to see how to get the most bang for their buck.
  • Don’t judge a store by its appearance. Paperispatient was a little skeptical the first time she went into a Hustler Hollywood store because she assumed that the store, like the magazine, might be geared towards straight men. What a pleasant surprise – they had a lot of variety to offer in both porn and sex toys and had a bigger bondage section than the other mainstream stores we’ve been in, and the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. Of course, if you decide to give a store a chance and you find that its employees aren’t very friendly or you just don’t like the atmosphere, listen to your gut. (And if you find that you just don’t enjoy sex stores, period, and strongly prefer shopping for naughty things in the privacy of your own home [or not buying naughty things at all], that’s perfectly fine, too.)
  • Most importantly, enjoy yourself. You can certainly go to a sex store by yourself, but it can be really fun to go with a group of friends (if you and your friends are fairly open about your sex lives and everyone would feel comfortable) or with your partner(s). You can giggle at the porn DVDs with the punniest titles (though many stores have a policy against going there just to laugh at everything – try to be at least a little mature about it), and if you go with someone you’re sexually involved with, you can show each other toys that appeal to you or guess what the other person would like the best. It sounds cheesy, but going to a sex store (or browsing one online) can offer you and your partner some insight into each other’s interests and help jump-start a conversation about anything new you’ve been wanting to try.

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By paperispatient

I recently earned my MA in women’s studies. I enjoy reading, working out, playing Scrabble, watching cheesy movies, and cooking yummy vegetarian meals with my partner and Frisky Feminist co-author, Future Mr. paperispatient.

4 replies on “The First Timer’s Guide to Shopping in a Sex Store”

This is a great article! I’ve found it interesting that in my group of friends I’m least experienced and the most comfortable shoping in a sex shop. I actually had a friend tell me she was in awe that I could just walk in and buy a vibrator like I was going to a store to buy shampoo.

I’m not as comfortable in the larger chain stores (ie Castle or Fantasy for Adults Only), but there is a small shop that I like. Their staff is super friendly and happy to put batteries in a vibrator so I know what the vibe feels like. I just wish their inventory was a bit larger.

I think the point in my relationship when I knew I really loved my boyfriend, was when he sent me into Good For Her (Toronto) with his credit card, waited outside as it was woman and trans* only day, and encouraged me to buy my first vibrator, regardless of cost. He’s a prince.

Some recommendations for sex stores:
Toronto, ON
-Good For Her (Sundays are Women and Trans* only days)
-Come As You Are (Great selection of materials on sex and disability)
-Seduction (Looks sleazy because of all the sexy girl costumes in the window, but the staff are wicked friendly and items there are often slightly less expensive than elsewhere)
Halifax, NS
-Venus Envy (best book selection in the city, hands down)

“Come As You Are” and “Venus Envy” are the best toy store names ever.

We have several chain adult stores (Tasty’s, Pricilla’s) and one called 24 Hour Favorite Adult Products, which is in a huge purple building covered in neon in one of the sketchier parts of town. I’d rather go there than any of the chains, sticky floor and all, because there’s an elderly woman who works checkout and she’s a total bad ass. She looks like the grandma from the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, down to the pompadour. She knows which products are cheap and which ones are awesome, and she makes sure you leave with batteries if needed. I want to be her when I’m elderly.

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