Today’s mail bag query comes from “Scared in Seattle,” who writes:
I just moved to a new city and I’m living on my own for the first time. I want to buy myself a vibrator but I don’t know much about them. I’ve heard there are actual stores in my area that sell them, but I feel like I’d be super nervous to ask an employee for help. I think I might want to smoke up before I go so I’m less anxious. Do you have any suggestions for making this a good experience?
If you’ve never been to a quality sex shop (and I say “quality” to differentiate from those seedy shops with dim lighting where you don’t completely feel comfortable touching things with your bare hands), I can understand your apprehension. For those unfamiliar, a sex shop is a store (online or brick and mortar) where sex toys, lube, condoms, and other sexually relevant accoutrements are sold.
In quality sex shops, the staff members are well versed in topics like anatomy and physiology, toy materials, lube ingredients, common questions and concerns, and most importantly, how to communicate with customers about all of those things. The best sex shops will have also trained their staff in the more nuanced aspects of sexuality like trauma awareness, gender inclusivity, anti-racism, body positivity, and the wide spectrum of sexual orientations and relationship styles.
I can totally understand thinking you might want to get stoned before going to a sex shop to combat anxiety and inhibitions. We live in a culture where sex is simultaneously used to sell just about anything you can imagine while also shaming those who dare to be open (or even curious) about their sexuality. In the United States, we lack comprehensive sexuality education, so the average person only has cursory understanding of reproductive anatomy and STIs, if that. Plus, as John Oliver pointed out in his segment on sex ed, only 13 states require sex education in K-12 schools to be medically accurate. With all of those factors at work, it’s completely understandable that someone might find walking into a sex shop intimidating.
Getting a functional buzz on in advance can be super helpful. I suggest a hybrid strain with a good bit of CBD. A nice 1:1 like Cannatonic would be a great place to start, as you’ll have the uplifting aspects while also soothing anxiety. Heavy indicas like Northern Lights might leave you silently staring at the anal toys section for 20 minutes, and a sativa like Laughing Buddha could give you with a serious case of the giggles, which isn’t conducive to having a productive sex shop visit. Tangie would be an excellent choice for a sativa if you don’t have access to a high CBD strain. It’s light and fun but with a nice undertone of relaxation.
Now that you’ve got some strain recommendations under your belt, here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind before you spark up and saunter over to a sex shop.
- Hydrate! The first rule of cannabis: stay hydrated. Bring a bottle of water with you. It’s no fun to open your mouth to ask a question, only to realize that your tongue is auditioning for the part of the Sahara Desert. Also, have some Clear Eyes on hand in case your eyes get too red or dry for your liking.
- Do your research and come with questions. Most sex shops have websites with at least some of their inventory online. Take some time in advance (this is a planned field trip, after all) and figure out what you want to focus on while you’re there. Are you looking for a toy? Is the toy for solo or partnered use? Do you just want to see what it’s like there? What’s your best-case scenario?
- Set a budget. It’s helpful to set a budget for yourself in advance so you don’t wind up overspending (sort of like why you don’t go to the grocery store hungry), so I’d suggest either only bringing cash or wrapping a piece of paper around your credit card with a note reminding you of your budget.
- Incorporate your heightened senses. Taste the flavored lube samples. Smell the massage candles. Notice the diverse sizes, shapes, textures, and colors of the products. Hold a vibrator to see if you like the vibration frequency. Most sex shops have testers for some of their products out on the sales floor. Before you start worrying about what you’re touching, let me assure you that these testers do not get field tested. They do, however, give you an opportunity to get a sense of how well the toy will suit you and whether it will fit your needs (literally and figuratively — don’t buy something too gargantuan for you to handle).
- Yuck someone else’s yum. This is the cardinal rule of sex shops. Do not go up to a toy or item, hold it up, and ask incredulously, “Who would use this?!” It’s entirely possible that is the favorite toy of the person standing three feet from you and you’ve now shamed them. Likewise, if a sales associate tells you a toy would be good for an activity that’s not your bag, don’t respond with, “Ew!” Instead, be polite and communicate that the product is not what you’re looking for.
- Ask the sales associate invasive questions. It’s no fun to have someone come in and creep up your work day, so don’t be that person. Some sales associates will supplement their suggestions with personal recommendations, but that’s at their discretion and according to their comfort level. If the sales associate happens to overshare, it’s okay to say, “I actually wasn’t looking for that level of detail; can you tell me more about the features?”
- Feel bad for not knowing something. There are a lot of things to see in a sex shop! Considering the lack of pleasure-focused sex education in this country, it’s no wonder that the average person doesn’t know the difference between a dual-stimulator and a double-ended dildo. Just come in with an open mind, talk to the employees, and try to relax. Sex toy shopping (or even just browsing) should be a fun experience, after all!
Have you ever been to a sex shop while high? Share your tips and insights!
Do you have a sex, relationships, or intimacy dating question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I may address your request in a future article! (Don’t worry, we’ll keep your queries anonymous.)