Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sex Shop Jitters

So, today, I am musing about sex shops. I'll be frank here and put my heart on my sleeve: I love sex shops and when I enter one, it's hard for me to leave before I turn on every vibrator, feel the length of every dildo, and pinch myself with every pair of nipple clamps...even if I end up not buying anything. A visit to a sex shop now is quite analogous to my visits to Toys R' Us when I was little; back then, I ecstatically shouted "Geoffrey!" (the Toys R' Us giraffe mascot's name) every time I passed one of those giant pieces of heaven.

Classy sex shops like Babeland, Good Vibrations, and Come As You Are--the ones that show their customers respect by stocking only the most functional and user friendly toys--are the most basic type of "toy" purveyor for adults. In middle school, I remember the day when a particularly rich classmate's dad was invited into the classroom to tell us about how he worked hard doing what he loved (I forget what he did, though) and made good money doing it. He lured us into a trance as he talked about all the wonderful "toys" he could buy with his money and his lifestyle. There was even a bit of show-and-tell to it: he brought in--what was, at the time--a fantastically high-tech photo printer and other unaffordable gadgets, even being so tacky as to speed off in his Lamborghini at the end of the presentation. My point is: when people talk about swapping in stuffed animals and action figures for more "grown-up toys", they often mean cars, computers, and fabulously outfitted vacation homes. But when you get back to the basics, a good old adult toy is one that will give you pleasure. While childhood toys offered the glee of simple, imaginative play, adult toys of the caliber I'm talking about will yield the glee of orgasmic play.

So why is it that so many people are hesitant to feel at home in sex shops? I'm not even talking about the sleezy ones that resemble caves or carry toys with porn-star packaging. I'm talking about friendly, neighborhood sex shops! I've visited Babeland with some friends who have skittered along with me from display to display, eyes averted, ever eager for me to finish my giddy perusing so we can, well, get the fuck outta there. To their credit, it must be hard to dissociate even the most polished and professional of sex shops from the ever-pervasive image of the taboo sex shop, frequented by pervs looking for jelly dongs and glory holes. But, to all of you sex shop scaredy-cats out there (no insult intended: society has made us this way!), no worries! Here's a short guide that will have you relaxed and browsing in no time. Once you learn to do this, you may even find (and purchase) a new best friend! (or two...or three...or...)

1) Take a day off and relax. It's much easier to get into the mood of sex-toy shopping when you don't have ten other errands waiting to be finished. When you're wandering into a sex toy shop without knowing exactly the item you want, the last thing you want to do is be rushed in and out without have enough time to make a careful decision. If you really want to make it a special occasion--and a relaxed one-- you can even indulge in some basic, relaxing spa treatments at home beforehand. Then, let the pampering continue when you return home with your new toy!

2) Pre-shop. Maybe I'm the only one that does this, but oftentimes, even when I'm just shopping for clothes, I like to peruse the websites of some of my favorite stores beforehand, just to check out some standout items that I want to make sure to try on in stores. This makes the whole shopping experience less overwhelming, especially if I'm about to walk into a department store with well over a million items in stock (or something in that ballpark, right?). Well, the same goes for sex toy shopping! In fact, this advice is even more relevant when buying sex toys because the variety of sex toys available is jaw-dropping. Walking into the store armed with information about toys that you're potentially interested in may be less intimidating--for some-- than asking the sex toy educator about every button or every curve on every toy. You can even look up sex toy reviews if something on your pre-shopping adventure catches your eye! Some good sites: Jane's Guide, VibeReview, as well as many of the sex shop websites themselves, which often include reviews from actual customers.

3) Don't be paranoid. One of the biggest phobias upon entering a sex shop is that someone you know will see you inside, or worse, knock elbows with you while you're both reaching to check out the same toy! But most of this fear stems from the increased self-consciousness that arises simply from being in a sex shop. Think about it: when you're walking past shop windows, you're usually looking straight ahead, on a mission; if not, you may be looking at the displays. How often do you actually search for faces of people you know? Furthermore, even if someone saw you in the act of shopping for delicious naughtiness, if they're awesome, you'll instantly rise a few notches in their book. If they're not, well, everyone buys sex toys: you're just awesome enough to be doing it in Babeland or another such shop (and since you're all relaxed, you'll look damn good doing it too!). If you're still paranoid, drink a tiny bit of your favorite wine before busing or walking to the store or smoke a bit. This point can also be filed under "relax".

4) The people inside won't bite. If you've been smart enough already to visit a well-stocked and customer-conscious sex shop (look for brands like Fun Factory, Lelo, or Tantus as indicators, all of which use non-toxic, good quality materials to create their "lust objects" as Lelo calls them), then one thing you definitely don't have to worry about is the employees who work there. They will be well-trained to know what works well and will be up to the standards of the kind of toy you're looking for. They will also be knowledgeable about sex in general and they definitely shouldn't laugh at any of your requests (ie: "I want to buy a strap-on for this dildo and a palm harness so I can peg my boyfriend and palm-fuck this girl in a threesome"). As for your fellow sex toy shoppers, they won't judge since they're already in the throes of excitement as they pick out their next toy.

5) Have fun! You haven't come this far to be uptight. Feel free to test out all the toys (on your hands, of course) and ask questions without feeling the least bit uncomfortable. After all, these are adult toys: did you ever feel self-conscious about testing out every single toy in Toys R' Us when you were a kid? Didn't think so. If you were anything like me, your parents had to drag you out. Now, have fun! (But hopefully your parents won't have to haul your ass out of Babeland ;) )

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