"I really want a new sex toy, but I'm absolutely terrified about stepping into my local sex shop."
6 Tips for Having a Great Experience at Your Local Sex Shop
I can't tell you the number of times I've heard various versions of those words. There's just something scary about going somewhere for the first time - especially when that "somewhere" is a place that focuses on sexuality.
It isn't like movies and television have provided any help either. From local news stories about zoning battles to the portrayal of the "seedy" sex store as a plot point in the latest drama, we just don't get a lot of honest information about sex toy shops - and that can make them a bit of an unknown - and unknowns can be scary!
I'm here to tell you that your local shop is more approachable than you first imagine - especially if you have a reputable chain nearby like Lion's Den.
So, let's say you work up the courage to head to your local sex shop. Let me give you some of my favorite tips to make your visit to a sex shop as amazing as possible. First:
1. Think About What You Want
Like any shopping out there, having a general idea of what you want before you step foot in the store is going to help you have a better outcome.
That doesn't mean you can't go exploring. If what you want is "to see what's out there", that's knowing what you want too!
But most sex toy stores are organized into goal-focused shopping sections, so knowing what you're looking for can make the store so much more approachable.
I'm talking about narrowing things down from vague, generic ideas to specific ideas as best as possible:
Go from: "A toy to please my wife" to "We want a sex toy that we can use during intercourse. We're okay holding it in place, but we really like missionary position, and we want something that doesn't get in the way of our bodies being together. She mostly orgasms from clitoral stimulation, and intercourse alone isn't providing enough for her."
And go from "A new jerk off toy" to "The stroking toy I have doesn't feel intense enough for me. I'm looking for something that can feel tight on a circumference of 4.3" - and preferably something that's easy to clean up when I'm done too. I prefer realistic-looking toys."
Not only does narrowing down your vision help you figure out what area of the store to start your shopping adventure in, but it also will help you if you want a sales associate's help.
If you can, aim for narrowing down these aspects of what you want
- What areas do you want to pleasure?
- What sizes/dimensions are applicable to pleasuring that area?
- Where do you tend to use that toy?
- Any other aspects of how your body interacts with toys that might make a difference? (like grip strength or preferences for different patterns vs steady vibrations)
You can always broaden your search scope as you find new toys or learn new information at the store, but if you're heading to a local store to pick up a toy to solve a need, this can be one of the most effective ways to ensure you come up with what you wanted.
Take the quiz: What Sex Toy Should I Try Next?
2. Touch Display Versions
No, in store, you won't be able to touch the vibrators and dildos to the spots where you (presumably!) intend to use them once you own them, but one of the biggest benefits of a brick and mortar store is the ability to really hold a sex toy in your hands.
In many stores, some of the pricier vibrators may already be out on display on shelves. This means minimal interaction with staff (hello, fellow introverts!) if you want to try touching a toy or seeing how it feels. In other stores, display copies may be held behind a glass case - or require asking a person in order to handle a toy.
If you're intrigued by a product in its packaging - but can't find the display copy - don't hesitate to reach out to a staff member. It's possible the display version is located elsewhere in the store - or they may be able to provide information about the toy by comparing it to a different toy that's on display and ready to handle. ("It feels just like this one right here!")
When handling toys, I recommend testing them for the various factors - and figuring out if its results "match up" with the ideal sex toy you'd like to take home:
- Vibrations: While you won't be able to get a 100% clear picture about how vibrations will perform on your erogenous zones, holding (and comparing!) vibrations in-store can be a good place to start. Instead of focusing entirely on how vibrations feel, focus more on how vibrations compare. Does Toy 1 feel deeper and rumblier than Toy 2? Do you like that? Do you prefer the wider range of intensities on Toy 3? Some people recommend testing a vibrator on the tip of your nose for a good comparison, but I find that a quick trip to headache town. I usually use the inside of a bare wrist or elbow.
- Flexibility: How bendable is the toy? Will this help/hinder any g-spot/p-spot play - or being able to firmly press the toy against you?
- Smoothness: Is your potential toy's material really draggy - or really smooth? Do you think it'll require extra lube to insert or will it slip and slide? Which works better for you?
- Firmness: If you grasp the toy in a firm grip, how plushy is it? Does it squish a lot? A little? Does this matter to you for what you want to achieve?
- Interior Texture: Especially if you're shopping for penis strokers, slipping a finger inside of the display copy can be a good test for how the stroker feels. Consider slipping two fingers inside to get more of an idea for how it feels when that texture is stretched.
- Size: Will you be able to comfortably use the toy? Will your parts fit inside the toy, or it into you?
- Buttons: Do the buttons feel pleasant to press? Hold the toy like you think you'll be holding it during use. Are the buttons easy for you to press, and do you like where they're located? Remember: for many sex toy uses, you may not be able to see the toy while you use it. Can you still easily control it?
- Cleaning: Look over the potential sex toy with a fine-tooth comb. What areas do you see for dirt to hang out? Will there be spots that need a toothbrush or toothpick to fully clean? Are you okay with that?
3. Know What Size You're Shopping For
On that note, being able to touch and feel tons of sex toys can begin to make them all blend into a blur after a few minutes. Touch one, squeeze the next, bend the third.
This doesn't bode well for remembering how large your favorite sex toy is at home - and in more than a few occasions, this has led to someone buying a sex toy that's much larger - or much smaller - than what they were actually looking for. Eek!
To help prevent this, do a few things:
- Before you leave your house, compare your old favorite toy to your fingers. Get a general estimate of how thick your sex toy is in fingers. Is it thicker than two fingers held together? Three? Less than one? This can be a really quick measurement that's hard to forget and it's an important thing to know, especially if you are shopping for an insertable toy.
- To get a more accurate measurement, use a fabric tape measure to get the different dimensions of your toy. You're free to bring that tape measure to the store for direct comparisons.
- If you still know the brand and make of your at-home sex toy, look up the specifications online. You can easily screencapture the specs - and you'll have them for reference!
Take a picture of your sex toy at home next to a common object - like an empty water bottle. Then bring that empty water bottle to the store for other in-person comparisons.
The one thing you don't want to do is bring a used sex toy to the store. That one is generally very, very frowned upon. So use these workarounds to ensure you get a good comparison between your at-home toys - and the toys you want to buy.
4. Be Factual in Discussions
Yeah, talking about sex (and thinking about using sex toys!) can feel kinda hot, but this isn't the time to take out your arousal on the salesperson. Instead, even if you can feel yourself flushing, try to focus on being factual, distant, and polite in your conversations. Staff are definitely there to help you find items that'll work great for your needs - but this is the job they do day-in, day-out; they aren't here to flirt.
For most of us, open and honest sexual conversations with strangers is a brand new territory - and we may not know what's okay and what isn't! If you're worried about crossing a line, focus on being as factual as possible. Use medical terms for the areas of your body, politely explain what has/hasn't worked, and be factual about your experience.
Remember: it's the salesperson's job to help you find a great toy. Don't mistake their questions about your previous experience (and what pleasure you enjoy!) as an attempt at flirting.
If you find yourself starting to feel a bit out of control, it's totally okay to leave - and come back later! - at a time when you have a better handle on your arousal.
5. Get Involved Locally (If You Want!)
If you find yourself feeling comfortable and enjoying yourself at your local adult store, don't hesitate to ask the staff about future and upcoming events.
Depending on the retail store you're visiting, they may have upcoming educational events - or upcoming sales. They may be hosting a meet-and-greet, or they might be sponsoring a local sexuality event in your area. For BDSM boutique stores, they may be sponsoring play parties or other events. But you won't know until you ask!
Not only does this help support the store (and ensure it'll be around for future shopping trips), but it also helps make you a better (and safer!) sexual person - and sex toy user!
6. Remember It's Simply a Retail Store
I know, I know: a sex toy store has sex stuff! But at the end of the day, any adult boutique is simply a retail store just like any other retail store; they just happen to sell vibrators and dildos instead of computers and home furniture.
That means that your behavior needs to match the behavior you'd showcase in any other retail store. Don't open the packaging. Don't attempt to flirt or chat up other patrons while they're shopping. Don't bring in food. Don't bring in "used" products to compare to the items in the store. Put things back where you found them, and if you need to try on lingerie or shoes, wear your underwear and/or use foot coverings to keep from dirtying the merchandise.
The one big caveat to the normal retail experience is this: most adult stores do not allow any photographs in order to protect the privacy of any other patrons who may happen to be sharing the store with you. Keep an eye out for signs advertising this, and if that's the case, make sure to ask a staff member for permission if there's something you need to take a photo of.
Aside from that, though, most adult stores operate just like your local, favorite retail store. Viewing them through the lens of commerce (instead of the products they sell!) might help you feel more comfortable in them! So, go out there, support your local economy, and find new toys for orgasmic pleasure!
The Bottom Line
Visiting a sex shop is only as intimidating as you allow it to be. If you are still feeling nervous despite our assurances, you may want to spend some time online before making the leap. The Lion's Den website has a handy FAQ section that may help you with any lingering questions.
After that, if you are STILL on the fence, or if you are confident enough to buy without face-to-face help, consider Lion's Den BOSS (Buy Online, Ship to Store) program, that allows you to shop from the comfort of home and pick up from a convenient Lion's Den location.
Mistress Kay has a fondness for all things sexual. With a house that's quickly running out of room for all of her reading and vibrating pleasures, she spends her free time reading, writing, and learning about the sexual universe with her partners. She can be reached at Kinky World.