5 Characteristics of the Best Sex Shops

I've worked with many great sex shops over the years, and many shit­ty ones. It's no mys­tery: the retail­ers I link to over and over again are the ones who give back to their work­ers, shop­pers, and com­mu­ni­ty. Find out what that means for you, the consumer.

5 Characteristics of the Best Sex Shops 1

In this post:
  1. Stocks body-​safe and non-​porous materials
  2. Includes a vari­ety of indie brands (and lim­its the shit­ty manufacturers)
  3. Gives a fuck about inclu­sive education
  4. Fantastic cus­tomer ser­vice and experience
  5. Easy on the eyes and well-organized

1. Stocks Body-Safe and Non-Porous Materials

[Image: toxic jelly sex toys melted in a jar vs. inert silicone sex toys]
On the left, tox­ic jel­ly toys have off-​gassed and melt­ed each oth­er. On the right, pieces of pure sil­i­cone have remained intact after years.

Let's start with the bare min­i­mum of a sex toy that doesn't suck: mate­r­i­al safe­ty. Body-​safe sex toys, when appro­pri­ate­ly used, are made of mate­ri­als that will not harm a human.

The best sex shops don't stock tox­ic jel­ly sex toys. (The good ones at least label them prop­er­ly and are hon­est about it, while most­ly stock­ing body-​safe sex toys.)

Someone I know who works at a brick-​and-​mortar sex shop advis­es shop­pers to sniff their toys. Seriously. If a dil­do smells like a show­er cur­tain, offends your nose, or makes your lips go numb, think about what that can do to your oth­er orifices.

A danger of buying cheap sex toys on Amazon

Let's say you're on a bud­get and don't want to splurge on sex toys. I've been there — and I've found plen­ty of body-​safe and afford­able gadgets.

Here's the thing: I'd pre­fer you to buy from a trust­ed shop than gam­ble with your safe­ty on Amazon.

For one, a search for "sil­i­cone dil­do" on Amazon yields plen­ty of results for bla­tant­ly tox­ic toys. I can tell from the image. (Think soft and crystal-clear.)

But also, you run the risk of buy­ing coun­ter­feit sex toys (think shady mate­ri­als and void­ed war­ranties) or used ones labeled as new. Amazon doesn't give a shit.

Be care­ful out there and stick to sex shops that care about your health.

If you want the cheap AF "instant noo­dles and an egg" of body-​safe sex toys, con­sid­er shop­ping Tantus — par­tic­u­lar­ly their Grab Bags and Planet Dildos line.

2. Curation Includes a Variety of Products From Indie Brands and Limits the Shitty Ones

Think about who you're giving your money to and what they stand for.
5 Characteristics of the Best Sex Shops 2
SheVibe's June 2020 Pride Month cov­er art

Are you sup­port­ing indie arti­sans like Uberrime Dildos, Funkit Toys, and NobEssence, and their unique cre­ations? What about Person of Color-​owned busi­ness­es, like Lumberjill Leisurecrafts?

Does your favorite sex shop donate to any caus­es? (SheVibe and Crystal Delights do!) Do they care about reduc­ing con­sumer waste?

When you do buy mass-​manufactured and low-​cost sex toys, are they from com­pa­nies like Blush Novelties — that treat their work­ers more kind­ly than the white-​label Joe Schmoes?

On the flip side, are you lim­it­ing spend­ing on prod­ucts from com­pa­nies that let racism and misog­y­ny run ram­pant, like Pipedream? Copycats like Satisfyer? Or the ones that don't give a shit about the harm their prod­ucts can cause, like LELO?

I've reviewed some stuff from these com­pa­nies, with con­sid­er­a­tion for what's in demand. From a busi­ness stand­point, it's hard to ignore the Pipedream Fantasy For Her Ultimate Pleasure. But I've expressed my reser­va­tions where applicable.

Consider what com­pa­nies are rep­re­sent­ed in a sex shop's selec­tion, to what extent.

3. Gives a Fuck About Inclusive Education

Also, think about how com­mit­ted a sex shop is to edu­cat­ing their shop­pers about sex­u­al­i­ty, and how that might look dif­fer­ent, depend­ing on what group(s) they serve.

Sex toy mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als often cen­ter on thin, cis, het­ero, non-​disabled, white peo­ple. While many peo­ple who go to sex shops fit those cat­e­gories, many oth­ers don't (myself included).

The best sex shops keep that in mind.

The Pleasure Garden Shop, for exam­ple, focus­es on sex toy con­sumers with disabilities.

Peepshow Toys fea­tures peo­ple of col­or in their images and uses gender-​inclusive lan­guage. SheVibe also does that, and interviews/​spotlights peo­ple from a vari­ety of back­grounds. Early to Bed stocks a wide range of gen­der expres­sion gear.

Spectrum Boutique ampli­fies the voic­es of sex work­ers, trans peo­ple, and more — and fea­tures books about polyamory, dat­ing when you're on the autism spec­trum, trau­ma, and more.

That's just to name a few exam­ples! Plenty of sex shops wel­come and sup­port those who have his­tor­i­cal­ly been ignored (or fetishized) in the sex toy industry.

4. Fantastic Customer Service and Experience

If you're in a brick-​and-​mortar sex shop, how do the show­room staff treat you? If you're shop­ping online for sex toys, what you can expect from them?

SheVibe is an online retailer that excels in this regard!

Their "about" and "help" pages are exten­sive. The shop has a fast turn­around time (under 48 hours), dis­creet billing (like SV INC or SV COM on your cred­it card state­ment), and ship­ping. Customer care is read­i­ly avail­able via phone (dur­ing busi­ness hours) and email.

Ground orders at SheVibe ship for a flat rate or for free (with options to upgrade). That means that, even if you're just get­ting bat­ter­ies and lube, you won't pay that much extra for shipping.

5 Characteristics of the Best Sex Shops 4
Of course, if you need an order fast, consider buying from a retailer closer to home.

SheVibe is based in New York and Peepshow Toys in New Jersey. For those in the U.S. Midwest, con­sid­er Spectrum Boutique (metro Detroit) and Early to Bed (Chicago). Pre-​COVID-​19, orders from Spectrum would show up at my house in under 48 hours — but I'm prac­ti­cal­ly their neigh­bor, so I'm a bit biased. :p

5. Easy on the Eyes and Well-Organized

Website design is anoth­er sub­set of shop­per expe­ri­ence. How eas­i­ly can you fil­ter through prod­ucts on a sex shop's web­site? My favorite sex shops in this cat­e­go­ry are Good Vibrations and The Pleasure Garden Shop.

Good Vibrations' web­site side­bar includes a vari­ety of use­ful and intu­itive fil­ters, such as inten­si­ty, loud­ness, pow­er source, aver­age user rat­ing, flex­i­bil­i­ty, and whether the toy is water­proof. The Pleasure Garden's web­site also empha­sizes whether prod­ucts are disability-​friendly. Its inter­face is clean with big sans-​serif fonts in the prod­uct descrip­tions for easy reading.

In short, I appre­ci­ate sex shops that show that they appre­ci­ate and care about consumers.

What do you LOVE about your favorite sex toy shops?

This post was spon­sored and con­tains affil­i­ate links, which bring me a com­mis­sion at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

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6 Responses

  1. Sptfan says:

    Peep show Toys is my favorite! They always ship out fast, and their min­i­mum for free ship­ping is less than Squarepegtoys direct­ly. They also have a loy­al­ty pro­gram to get more toys.

  2. D. Dyer says:

    The first Time I ever bought some­thing from SheVibe, a glass toy, it arrived bro­ken. I remem­ber the stress of con­tact­ing them about it, informed by hor­ri­ble expe­ri­ences with oth­er shops, but they were so great about send­ing a replace­ment. I have been a loy­al cus­tomer ever since.

  3. G says:

    i love the info you high­light here about what's real­ly impor­tant to take notice of.

  4. Eris C (he/him) says:

    I'm the assis­tant man­ag­er at a brick-​and-​mortar in California. We make a point to hire diverse staff and to be as open to all expe­ri­ences and inter­ests as we can! When onboard­ing a new staff mem­ber, we like to impress upon them that we would much rather spend the extra time to chat and edu­cate some­one with­out them ever buy­ing some­thing, than to push a sale and have them leave dis­sat­is­fied. I like to think we do a fair­ly good job as we have a lot of loy­al cus­tomers and con­sis­tent­ly pos­i­tive feed­back (when we aren't being bom­bard­ed with crap­py yelp reviews for enforc­ing masks, social dis­tanc­ing, and per­son­al boundaries…).

    We also love to rec­om­mend thought­ful blog­gers like your­self to any­one who is look­ing for tips on where to learn more about healthy sex­u­al­i­ty! Thank you for being one of those great resources! This is one of the first sites I turn to when there's a toy I want to know more about. You have reviewed quite a few of the toys we car­ry in store here.

    • Your shop sounds like a pleas­ant work envi­ron­ment for every­one involved! It's unfor­tu­nate that some of the main­stream shops encour­age staff to pro­mote spe­cif­ic prod­ucts that they may not nec­es­sar­i­ly like. Congrats on keep­ing the shop going through all of this year's ups and downs.

      And thank you so much — that means a lot to me! <3

  5. Prudence says:

    I've been real­ly hap­py with my pur­chas­es from SheVibe! They pro­vide so much help­ful infor­ma­tion about the prod­ucts they offer, I feel cer­tain that I'm buy­ing some­thing I'll be hap­py to own.

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