You've never been to a sex toy store. Or, maybe you went into one when you turned 18, just because you could. You laughed at the toys, flipped through some dirty books and left. Or you went to one a while ago (just to see what it was like), but didn't like the vibe. The other patrons acted all secretive and the guy at the counter just plain gave you the creeps.
There are many reasons people avoid sex toy stores. Propriety and disinterest, maybe, but more often shame, shyness and mild fear (after all, how uninteresting can a door marked "18-plus" really be?). You want to go. You want a shiny new sexcessory. But you can't quite get your foot in the door. It's no trip to Whole Foods, but I promise, it's still just a store. You'll survive. Here's how:
* Though the anonymity is tempting, avoid shopping online. Things always look different on a screen and it's hard to get the information you need to make a wise purchase. What does that material feel like? How big is that thing, really? Sex is all about personal touch, so shop that way.
* Choose your store wisely. Places like Boston's Good Vibrations, New York City's Babeland and Northampton's Oh My work to normalize sex toys with clean, comfortable environments and touchable floor-models (with your hands, please). The most invaluable aspect of these stores is the staff, who've often been trained in human sexuality and anatomy, all of their products, and, most importantly, how to respectfully help customers make informed purchases by openly answering questions regardless of people's backgrounds or interests. Take advantage of their expertise. Ask questions. If you're shy, remember that this is their job. Anal plugs are as regular to them as your office's stapler is to you. They're pretty hard to shock.
* Start with the basics. Sex-toy buying isn't a judged Olympic sport. A good lube is the best sex toy in my entire collection. You don't need to walk out with a huge bag to have a successful store visit. When it comes to sex, it's all about quality, not quantity.
* Keep in mind some basic dos and don'ts: Do take advantage of floor models and product testers. No, there is no back room for "merchandise testing," so don't ask. Similarly, don't re-enact a Star Wars scene with the dildos. It's not funny. It just forces your own insecurities on other people. 18-plus is the requirement to be there, so make sure to act like an adult.
* If something strikes you as funny, laugh! But keep it to yourself. Chances are, things you find humorous are actually part of somebody's sex life.
* Ask the staff honest questions—about yourself. They have personal boundaries, too. Asking, "Did you ever get an orgasm from this vibrator?" isn't only intrusive, it doesn't make any difference in your selection. Like food or fashion, what rocks my universe may do diddly squat for you. Try, "I've heard good things about The Rabbit vibrator. Would you recommend it?" Staffers will happily assist in finding what'll work best for you.
* Remember, a sex toy store is just a store. If you run into someone you know, treat it as such. Ask them how they're doing today. Don't ask them what they're buying, what they plan on doing with it, or with whom. You wouldn't ask them that about their cereal at a grocery store, right?
* Generally mind your own business. This means no eavesdropping, averting your eyes from other people's baskets (in both senses of the word), and not hitting on anyone! Take this rare opportunity to think solely about yourself. Choosing a sexcessory is all about what makes you feel good. So, enjoy it and make sure to walk out with a bag full of what you really want.