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Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011

You're in an ‘Adult’ Store—So Act Like One

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Dealing with groups of loud, giggling young people is an unfortunate occupational hazard of working in a sex toy store. There's a first time for everything, including shopping for lubes and vibrators. However, it's not necessary to broadcast to everyone else in the store that you don't know how to behave. As a service to feminist sex toy store owners everywhere, I present the following guide to proper "adult" store etiquette.

  • Do not come in a big, rowdy group. Shopping for sex toys is not a spectator sport. Large groups that yell across the store to one another or crowd around the same area at once can make other folks shy about asking questions or getting the help they need.
  • Don't pick something up and loudly say, "Oh my god, who would use THIS?!?!?" It's likely that there's someone else in the store who does, in fact, regularly incorporate said item into his or her sexual repertoire. Respect that everyone is different, and that no one deserves to be made to feel ashamed of their desires. Plus, the staff in the store knows that the object you are currently ridiculing probably figures prominently in your secret fantasies.
  • Do not pick up high-quality, handcrafted paddles, floggers or whips and start hitting one another with them. These items are not toys and can cause serious damage; plus, joking around with them seems disrespectful to people for whom these implements are an important part of erotic life. I often secretly hope that Darwinism will prevail and guys pretending to beat on each other will cause an injury that, while not fatal, ensures that none of them will ever reproduce. Unfortunately, I usually feel compelled to intervene before that happens.
  • Men: When you are with your lady friends, and they are buying vibrators, it's in your best interest to stop making fun of them and start taking notes. Seriously. Usually I emphasize that sex toys can never replace a sexual partner, but during these situations I want to lean over and whisper to these women, "You can do better… with this rechargeable dual-stim."

Most of these behaviors are due to nervousness, not douchebaggery. Our society doesn't teach us how to talk about sex openly, so we react the same way that we do to other topics that make us uncomfortable—by sticking with the herd, joking and laughing to dissipate the tension. I encourage you to hold yourself to a higher standard. It's OK to feel a bit scared by sexual practices that you aren't familiar with, but don't pull others down into your pit of fear by publicly freaking out. Stop and think about how your actions impact people around you, and what kind of environment you would want in order to feel comfortable asking questions about sex. Respect yourself and others. Act like an adult.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to
laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the
Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side.