“Sex toys have long since graduated from the floppy rubber things you hide in your bedside table to beautiful works of interactive art.” - Anonymous
As an educator who has ventured into sex shops all over the world, there are certain elements that you need in order to have a quality experience and leave with what you want or what you go in there to find. There have been times where I want to find something new, there have been times where I want to find something I’ve never seen before, and there are times when I need to get the thing I trust because I’ve been using it for a long time. But for the most part, whenever I venture into these different places, I’m always looking for that unique thing that you haven’t seen anywhere else.
For instance, in Chicago, one of their shops had a ton of pheromone sprays, while their other shop (which was women-owned) had a dildo that shot out semen if you were trying to get pregnant. In Oakland, there was a shop that sold erotic art with their toys, and in Florida, there’s a shop that is possibly the biggest shop I’ve ever been in that sells everything from furniture to lingerie to books to conducting big classes. In Amsterdam, one shop was set up like a museum, which was cool, and in Toronto, I went to a woman-owned shop that sold sex tampons that I had to buy (and why don’t they sell these in the states!?).
All of those shops were fantastic and their staff was pretty awesome, too, but I’ve been in some shops that have not been as fantastic. One shop I stopped in on my way from driving from Atlanta to South Florida and it was shocking. I went in and I kid you not, they had less than 10 items for sale. I was appalled.
With that being said, I figured, if you are a sex shop venturer, like myself, here are a few things that you should look for in a quality shop.
A wide variety of items
Shops should have the basics, which include condoms, lubes, sex toys. Additional items would be kink items, sex furniture, lingerie, bachelor/ette sections and maybe even a porn section. Really great places also have books when they want to educate their crowd.
Since the sex toy industry is not regulated, it is vital that there are products that are free from toxins. Toys that have BPA, phthalates, and other toxic materials do not belong in your body and many of these products are carcinogenic. It’s important that a shop cares about your health and well-being and ensures that the products they carry are safe for you to use (provided that you’re using them the proper way).
A knowledgeable staff
Hunter, a friend and colleague of mine who is a general manager of her local woman-owned shop in Albuquerque, presents a workshop called Backroom Revolutionaries: How Sex Shop Workers Became the Gatekeepers of the Sexual Revolution and she talks about how the staff of a sex shop need to know all of this information because they are the people that folks seek out when they have a question about a product and don’t want to be judged about what they’re about to buy. The fact is, you need a staff that is knowledgeable not only about the toys, but about sexual liberation and embracing shame-free sexual education. Plus, sometimes there are new products that come onto the market and they need to know about those things, too, so that they can inform their customers if they should need that toy or not. The staff needs to know what you need and be able to recommend the best products for you.
A nonjudgmental staff
Just because your staff is knowledgeable, doesn’t mean they are not judgmental. Whatever your thing is, whatever your kink is, the staff should approach it with a nonjudgmental attitude. The staff should be respectful of your gender identity, your sexual orientation, your race, and/or anything else. They should approach you with an inclusive attitude and respect who you are and what you want to do with your sex life.
A comfortable environment
During the pandemic, we learned that being close to each other can get us more than what we bargained for, so having a good amount of space to roam is more important than ever. Having the space to be socially distant with staff that care about your health is important; especially because they are people who come into contact with many different people throughout their workweek. You also want to feel safe in the environment. We all know that the more that we feel safe, the more we’re actually able to get pleasure from whatever we are doing, so safety is a must. Most stores have cameras and if you feel that someone is being creepy, you should feel comfortable enough to talk with the staff.
Being in Atlanta, I’m proud of our local sex shops, particularly, Starship. Every time I go in, I get exactly what I need. And y’all, I’m not a shopper, so I always know what I want. This last time I went in, I needed a reasonably sized Black dildo with balls and a masturbation sleeve that would fit on it. The staff greeted me at the door and asked me what I needed. I told them and they guided me to everything I needed along with all the different choices to ensure I could find exactly what I needed. The time before that, I needed to find some flavored lubes and they led me to some great ones. Each and every time, the staff was knowledgeable, I felt comfortable and safe and there was not one ounce of judgment about the things I needed. I needed that, especially when I was corralling a bunch of BDSM gear for a kink gig.
With that being said, if you’re ever in the ATL and need a dependable shop, go to a Starship. They’ll take care of you, like they did for me. They have 21 stores in the South and if you can’t get to a store in-person (remember, you can always take your boo there for a fun date night), or you don’t want to go to a store because of The Rona, you can order what you need online. They’ve got a great selection and an easy to navigate website. Take it from me, go here for what you need and shop local!
Cheers to your sexual success!
P.S. Use the code VELVET to get 20% off through 12/31/21.
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