Dare Yourself: The Adult Toy Store Adventure

Get out of your (dis) comfort zone and into your erogenous zone

Note: the following story and listing of adult toy websites may make you feel uncomfortable.  It’s your choice if you want to continue reading or not.  However, if you are uncomfortable reading about sex and learning what you find fun…then it’s a sign you should definitely take yourself on this adventure!

When a few girlfriends came into town for a women’s empowerment weekend, they wanted to go on an adventure in Manhattan. Fortunately, they had been to NYC before, and were up for seeing different sights. Going along with the theme of the seminar (empowerment through pleasure), I created a special tour. First stop was shopping for handcrafted items, the next a new chocolate store and then the final stop was one of the Big Apple’s best sex shops.

One friend, Sandra, was a little apprehensive. She felt her married sex life was fine and didn’t need any spicing up. The other friend, Terri, has recently re-joined the dating scene and has come across men who have a variety of sexual interests. It was all pretty new to her, and she was open to learning more about it. I knew this store, Purple Passion, would be great for them as the people who work there are always friendly and happy to answer any question. The store is near where I used to work. In the past I would go there during lunch breaks to ask questions. The people I hang out with in the Burning Man community have such a diverse background, I wanted to understand more about their lifestyles.

My first year at Burning Man I came across this class schedule being offered by a camp. I admit, I took the photo partly because I didn’t know…what some of those classes were even about!
At Burning Man there is such a wide variety of topics you can learn about, or meet people who are so different from you. The Burning Man principal of “radical inclusion” often opens you up to expanding your awareness and accepting these differences.
The store front of Purple Passion in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

When we entered the store, I could tell Sandra was uncomfortable, but enjoying this adventure by her nervous giggles. The store is small, but packed with a wide range of sex toys catering to all levels of kink. Another sex toy shop in the City, Babeland, has more open space and also offers education, but it feels (to me) that it caters more to entry level than all levels. Babeland has the high end, gold plated dildo while Purple Passion carries high quality, hand-crafted spanking toys that will last through “lots of playtime.” As I wandered the aisles, I could hear Terri asking all sorts of questions from how does the owner color her hair (which is naturally grey colored shades of blue) to “what’s that for?” (while pointing to something behind the glass counter).

While in the shoe department (Purple Passion’s basement floor has shoes and a room for educational seminars), Sandra found a men’s size 16, red thigh-high leather boot. Standing next to it, it came up to her shoulder! We all laughed, trying to imagine how short she would look next to the person who could wear this! Sandra found a pair of platform shoes she admired, but decided to stick with her comfy sneakers.
In Purple Passions clothing department (where they have hundreds of all kinds of corsets), I found this pink leather harness. While it’s not my style, we enjoyed wondering if the person who wore it, maybe as a bathing suit of sorts, would have unique tan lines!

As we were leaving, Sandra asked the staff if we were the most boring customers they ever had. I loved the reply: “not today!” Once out the door, my friends wondered who else had been in there today who would have been more boring. I guessed maybe people who didn’t ask questions and enjoyed the journey!

At coffee afterwards Sandra and Terri agreed that unless dared, they would not have explored an adult toy store. They were ecstatic at trying something that at first made them feel out of their comfort zone, and coming out with interesting discoveries. From (dis) comfort zone to erogenous zone!

Explore at home

Excited to take a step towards overcoming any fears around sex toys and exploration? Not sure that the adult toy store near you is geared towards education and making you feel comfortable asking awkward (to you) questions? Going online can be overwhelming when you’re not sure what you’re looking for!

Years (as in over a decade) ago, when my life was stressful and I wasn’t sleeping well, I would go downstairs to watch TV. This is before Netflix and Amazon Prime, a time when even with all the cable stations there wasn’t much to watch. One channel had porn on after hours. Since these shows didn’t have much plot line, I would get bored and eventually get sleepy again. I also remember being frustrated that the movies were all geared towards men, often repeating the same exact “money shot” again and again. Snooze.

After my marriage ended, I decided to look online and see if any porn movies were made for women. I had read an article about a sex shop in Seattle which was started by women and geared towards women. I found their website, and was pleased to see how educational it was and included reviews of sex movies. While I never did end up watching any, I often remembered the site. At the time it was called Toys in Babeland. Now the store has added locations (two in NYC) and it’s website is geared towards more than just heterosexual women. Last month, I read an article about how a female-oriented sex toy was banned from the recent CES (Consumer Electronics Show) yet a AR sex doll was not. It seems some industries are still pretty sexist. However, a week later the AVN (Adult Video News) held it’s expo and the new toy for women was properly showcased.

To help you explore your curiosity and learn more about what you might find fun, or sexually pleasurable, below is a listing of top websites. Having discovered AVN, I found they have awards for all sorts of categories, including sex toy stores and websites. I culled from their listings to find the ones that meet my criteria of being educational.

Babeland is the store and website that I first encountered all those years ago. Claire Cavanah and Rachel Venning opened the first Babeland store in 1993 in response to the lack of women-friendly sex shops in Seattle. Their popularity can be attributed to their sleaze-free, sex-positive, caring environment in which customers can buy their sex toys. They have earned Zagat ratings for their stores, and have been featured in popular media such as O! Oprah’s Magazine, Fox News, Cosmo, BuxxFeed and more.

Dallas Novelty site has a wide range of toys, real customer reviews, sex educators and a new spokesperson, Rachelle, who represents the growing market of disabled people.

Eden Fantasys caters to all genders, ages and orientations. They have all sorts of blogs, guides and even videos. The video on an intro to vibrators made me laugh.

Good Vibes was started by a woman in San Francisco, who (like the creators of Babeland) was frustrated she couldn’t find a clean, safe space for women to shop for sex toys. At the top of each sales page are options for learning about how to choose different products. They also offer a series of videos explaining the different products. Watching Dr. Carol Queen you feel like you’re hanging with your cool aunt or your calming therapist.

Holistic Wisdom is women owned & operated. Besides selling well known brands, it also is a manufacturer and wholesaler for its own products. While the site isn’t as slick as some of the others, they have tons of useful information.

My Pleasure states their mission is to ‘transform lives through better sex, making your pleasure a priority by offering the most comprehensive sex education blogs and articles of any online sex toy store, and discreet shipping.’ Their goal is to appeal to a broad, mainstream, upscale audience (so you won’t find heavy duty kink here, and not much for those in alternative lifestyles either).

SheBop out of Portland, OR is “female friendly, not female only.” Their emphasis is specializing in non-toxic body-safe toys, as well as other safe sexual health & wellness products. Their blog features great advice, and staff reviews. They also link to a site for people under 18 for exploring their sexuality called Scarleteen (check this sex-ed site out if you’re a parent – it has great advice in language geared towards teens).

SheVibe is a fun site filled with cartoon illustrations. It’s mentioned and recommended by several different industry bloggers. Run by a husband and wife team, the product ranges from high-end vibrators to low-end gag gifts and costumes (perfect for parties). SheVibe is fun to cruise: informative articles, staff ratings, sex ed movies and even health & well-being resources (such as toll-free numbers for mental health and more). This site is even on all the social media platforms (with discreet images).

Tabu Toys is locally owned in Austin, TX and prides itself on it’s customer service team who all will personally answer your questions (as they all have years as sex industry experience). The site offers blogs, forums and sex toy 101. What’s cool is that this company also gives back to the community by donating a portion of it’s profits to AIDS, human rights, gay and lesbian, and child protection organizations in the United States. Tabu Toys is a proud member of the ASACP: The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection.

The Pleasure Chest started with the 1970s gay scene in NYC. By the end of the decade they opened stores in Chicago and LA. It’s now become a couples-oriented store, regardless of gender. The site offers a full range of products -for beginners to hard core kink. Their education and information is ever-present. They even offer mini-tutorials on Instagram Stories!

Smiling at the end of our adventure at an Adult Toy Store

Do you dare?

Does the thought of venturing into an adult toy store make you uncomfortable? Or maybe excited? Or have you gone to some, and want to explore new options? Let me know (in the comments below) what your experiences are, and how they may have shifted your outlook on your own self pleasure, pleasures with partners, or even broadening your mind about how others enjoy themselves!

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