Cocktales: what makes a good sex shop
By this point it’s safe to assume that most people out there have been to a sex shop at least once, if only to get some cartoonish genitalia for a bride-or-groom-to-be. But what happens after the bachelorette and bachelor parties are over and you need a little help? Sometimes the fun you want to have (whether alone or with partners) requires a bit more than human anatomy alone can provide, and that’s where sex stores come in
As the fourth largest city in the US, Houston has as many sex shops as there are ridges on a penis sleeve. There are national chains, like Adult Video Mega Plexxx, and local institutions, like Cindies, there are places that make women feel scuzzy just driving by and there are places that are clean and known for their selection as well as…other things. Sex shops are as varied as the products they sell, so here are some basic guidelines to consider before you decide to take a trip into an sex shop or their cousin, adult bookstores.
Selection of Merchandise
Any head shop, grocery store, hard ware store or even an office supply store can have a cheap item or two that can get you off, but a really good sex shop will have a little of everything from $10 bullets to $200 glass dildos to harnesses all the way up to St. Andrew’s crosses that can retail for nearly $1,000. You should be able to go somewhere you can check out different materials and fabrics and sizes in order to see what works best for you in your price range, especially if you’re new to sex toys or a particular kink. It’s also worth keeping in mind if you’re looking into a specific kink or just looking for a place that is queer friendly that some stores cater more to certain audiences. You should be able to go somewhere you can check out different materials and fabrics and sizes in order to see what works best for you in your price range, especially if you’re new to sex toys or a particular kink. It’s also worth keeping in mind if you’re looking into a specific kink or just looking for a place that is queer friendly that some stores cater more to certain audiences.
If you’re undecided between a paddle and a crop, don’t know how a certain gadget works or you just need to avoid anything with latex in it, the staff should be able to point you in the right direction. A great staff will also let you know what items really are worth the money and when you can get away with a cheap alternative instead, and how to care for whatever you end up buying. A good staff could have saved me from buying my very pretty, shiny, expensive vibrator that can’t hold a candle to my $16 pocket rocket. Employees should know there product enough that if you’re just dipping your toes into some edge of the kink pool, they can assist you on where to start. My favorite stores have at least some employees that are unashamedly kinky themselves and can walk you through finding the best new toy for your sexual needs. Plus they have the best stories to entertain you with as you shop.
So you definitely want knowledgeable staff that can help you, but there is such a thing as too much help from the employees. On a recent shopping trip with a friend, she was approached by 5 separate employees in about 2 minutes asking if she needed help, and I had one employee hover around me, waiting for me to pick something out so he could jump in with his opinion. It was annoying for both of us and my experience left me uncomfortable.
Fits your comfort level
This is part an extension of the knowledgeable staff and part an extension of what you as a customer need. Houston is home to stores that cater to the leather community, transgender community as well as the swinger community and almost every other group under the sun. So it’s not surprising that newcomers often can feel intimidated when they walk through the door of some sex shops. One of the things that can help make a sex shop your sex shop is its ability to meet your specific needs. It’s one thing to walk into a store looking for some lube or a box of condoms, it’s quite another to go somewhere looking for a 10 inch dildo, harness and anal hook combo for under $150. There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing exactly what you want and not being able to find it, or only having an idea about what you want and being treated like a fool because the clerk is “more developed” in his or her sexuality and you are just beginning to explore kink.
Perhaps the only thing that might rival those experiences in frustration is when a store doesn’t carry what you want and the staff doesn’t have any idea where you can get it, or worse isn’t even comfortable talking about your needs. A good sex shop should not only be able to offer a wide variety of products or experiences and have a staff who can talk knowledgeably about the products but can tell you where to get what you want if they don’t carry it.
This definitely doesn’t make or break a good sex shop, but I always try to support businesses that support the community. It was thanks to a lawsuit brought in part by Le Rouge in Austin that the Texas Obscenity Statute was overturned in 2008. Now you can buy dildos instead of “educational models” and own more than 6 of them without it being a crime. You also no longer have to worry about your favorite sex store being raided. The employees at your local sex shop can also give customers information about how to safely use the toys they are buying. Some Houston stores, like Eros 1207, try to keep their customers knowledgeable of goings on in the kink or swinging or queer worlds through mailing lists.
Sex stores have come a long way from the seedy, windowless, back corner room where you feel you need to purel your whole body when you leave (of course there are still some of those around if that is what you need). There’s no need to frequent a store you don’t feel comfortable in, especially with the selection Houston has. Find a local sex store to call your own and your climaxes will thank you.
(Note: “Dr. Absinthe” is not a real doctor nor is she really absinthe.)