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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Sex Shops: Out of the Shadows and Into the Light

Published: January 26, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

Q: I am looking to buy a sex toy and Ive heard a lot about these new feminist sex stores. Can you tell me more about them?


A: There has been a great deal of buzz over the new phenomenon of feminist sex stores spreading quickly across the country, or at least on both coasts. Perhaps progressive would be a better word to describe these stores, since they are not just for women. While women are often their target customer pool (quickly replacing tupperware parties with sex toy parties) these stores also reach out to men, transgendered folks, and people of all sexual orientations.

These stores, located in clean, safe areas, are anything but shady. They carry books on all topics, from finding the female orgasm, to an introduction to anal beads, to the art of erotic massage. They carry safer sex products, including top-of-the-line condoms and lubricants. They carry quality sex toys of all shapes, sizes, and materials. And they often carry massage oils, candles, and sexy lingerie.

What is most impressive about these stores is the staff. The staff members are often women, though there are plenty of folks of different genders as well, who are educated about anatomy, health, and safety. These people embody the progressive, sex-positive, and open-minded attitudes that the stores stand for. Without batting an eye, they can explain to you why a silicone butt plug would be a better choice than one made of jelly latex. They can explain why glycerin-free lubricants like Liquid Silk are less likely to cause yeast infections and UTIs than drugstore brands like KY and Astroglide. They can also help you and your partner find exactly what you have been looking for and they make you feel comfortable and welcome in the store.

These progressive sex shops have opened up a whole new world for us. The internet may have provided us with a shame-free way to purchase sex toys, but it could never compare to the experience one receives at a progressive sex shop. The internet may provide the hardware, but it can never compare the experience of walking into a sex shop where you arent made to feel guilty, embarrassed, or dirty.

Once a person walks into a progressive sex store, his or her enjoyment of sex and interest in sex and pleasure is instantly validated. Not only is the validation empowering, but the open, relaxed environment gives people the confidence to ask the questions they need to ask in order to get the product they want or have the kind of sex life they deserve. An internet vendor cannot really validate, and probably wont warn against, buying inferior products. An internet vendor cannot help you learn to love your body.

People visit sex shops, progressive or not, because they like sex and are either not getting enough on their own or desire a little enhancement. Traditionally, these sex shops seemed shady because they didnt make enough money to beautify the store, or because they legally werent allowed to have storefront windows or in any way reveal the nature of the business. The people may have looked shady because they were embarrassed and didnt want to be seen entering. This is not the mark of a psychologically disturbed person. This is the reaction of a completely sane person who recognizes the stigma attached to sex stores and only wishes to avoid bearing the brunt of that stigma.

But sex store goers no longer need to hide beneath hats and long trenchcoats. More progressive sex stores are opening everyday, and they are selling vibrating cock rings in the broad daylight. Good Vibrations, located in nearby Brookline, and Mikos Exoticwear, located in Providence, Rhode Island, are two excellent choices. If you still arent ready to step across the threshold of a sex shop, their websites are still good resources for information and quality products. SSIS also recommends Babeland and Smitten Kitten for online shopping.