Sex shops can be an intimidating and scary. This is unfortunate because they can also, if done well, be wonderful places of community, safety and personal growth. We are lucky enough to work for a fantastic, friendly, body-safe and sex positive shop! As educators at a sex positive sex shop, there are some things we want you to know before making another trip to your local shop.
Heading into a sex toy shop can be intimidating, but it can also be exciting and fun and it is oh-so worth it! There’s a lot of stigmatization surrounding sex stores, and they tend to have the reputation of being sleazy, shady places of debauchery. While there’s nothing wrong with a little debauchery, sex stores focused on health and education are here to stay.
We get a lot of different kinds of people with a lot of different interest–it kind of comes with the territory. Chances are, whatever you’re into, we’ve helped someone with the same thing before. And even if you’re the first, we’re not here to judge you or make you feel uncomfortable. Our priority is making sure that you leave with a product you love, and that you know how to use it safely. So don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, we’re here to help you find it and feel safe and supported in doing so.
Many sex positive shops are trained to understand the specific needs of different groups, and pride themselves on maintaining a safe and inclusive atmosphere for anyone who walks through the door. Some shops, like Lotus Blooms, aim to educate by hosting workshops on getting involved in the local kink scene, using toys safely, and much much more. So relax, we get you!
We get a lot of questions about whether or not X body function is normal, and 99.9% of the time, the answer is a resounding yes! Tragically, many people are seriously misinformed about their bodies, especially as they relate to sexual functioning. This is due to a combination of factors, including lack of comprehensive sex education, and general sex-negativity in the broader culture that discourages people from exploring things on their own. While we love working to bridge that gap in understanding, we also hate the idea of people walking around feeling like there’s something wrong with them. So unless something’s hurting (you know, in a way you’re not into), chances are your body is working exactly like it’s supposed to.
Some people can do missionary every day with the same person forever and be perfectly content, but others have a more adventurous side. Trying something new and different can infuse your relationship with a little bit of intrigue, and keep things exciting both in and out of the bedroom. Whether it’s a new vibrator, a sexy piece of lingerie, or a flogger with color-coordinated handcuffs, we’ve got you covered for whatever you and your partner(s) are interested in exploring (and the expertise to help you explore safely).
If you get halfway down the aisle before realizing that you have no idea what most things are for, don’t worry. You’re definitely not alone. Sex educators are trained to speak with authority on every product. It’s literally our job to know about them. So don’t hesitate to ask us questions. Some shops teach workshops on this stuff.
Non-consensually in our store, that is. We get it, it’s not every day you walk into a store with floggers and whips hanging on the walls, so it seems like fun to pick them up and smack your friend with one. But we find that problematic for two reasons: first, we’re huge advocates of consent in everything, and sneaking up on your friend or partner to whip them with a sex toy isn’t the same as getting their consent to be hit. In fact, it can be triggering or upsetting to suddenly and unexpectedly experience pain that you weren’t expecting or consenting to, so always act with consideration for the other person in mind. Second, people come into the store with the intent of buying an impact toy to actually use. Not only is it unhygienic and inconsiderate to put your hands all over a toy someone will be using, but it’s off-putting to walk into a store and see someone making fun of the thing you came in to buy. Which brings us to our next point…
Or put another way, “don’t yuck someone else’s yum.” People are into a lot of different things, and as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult, whatever you’re into is okay. From faux-fur butt plugs to suspension bars to bondage gear, we take pride in carrying products that cater to a diverse array of interests, and don’t believe in shaming people for whatever they may be into. In fact, most places create an environment where people feel safe and comfortable buying things that cater to their kink. People who come in specifically to gawk and giggle at our products really throw off that vibe. Not everyone is into the same thing, and that’s okay! If you see something that doesn’t tickle your fancy, keep walking and make a mental note to mention it to your friend later, when you’re not among people who might be interested in the same product.
Can we really sing the praises of a good lubricant enough? Whether alone or partnered, whatever you’re doing can always be enhanced by a good lube, and generally speaking, the more lube the better. Using lube can help prevent vaginal and anal tearing, stops condoms from breaking, and enhance sexual pleasure. However, a lot of lubricants can contain ingredients that aren’t actually safe to put in your body, including parabens (which can be carcinogenic), glycerine (which can feed yeast infections), and nonoxynol-9 (which can irritate and feed bacterial infections in the vagina and anus). So, make sure you find a shop that carries body-safe products.
No matter what you come in for, your sexual health and pleasure is something worth investing in. A lot of people are inundated with the idea that their sexual pleasure is unimportant, or that pleasure is something reserved for people of a certain body type, age or ability level. Being sex-positive means not only embracing your sexual identity, but also feeling like you have the right to sexual pleasure and gratification for yourself. It means feeling safe and comfortable exploring your body and your identity, and taking the time to find out what you like. We believe that anyone interested in sex has the fundamental right to sexual satisfaction, and to feel confident and happy in their own skin. It’s this idea that’s at the crux of what we do, and why many of us became sex educators in the first place.
Cass works at Lotus Blooms in Alexandria, VA. She completed her Masters of Social Work with an emphasis in social justice with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) community. She has been a sex educator and seller of toys since her undergraduate years in New Hampshire. Kim has been a member of the Lotus Blooms team for two months. She’s held jobs in sexual assault prevention, education, and advocacy and worked as the coordinator for the LGBT & Ally Education Program at her university.