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.
In this post:
- Stocks body-safe and non-porous materials
- Includes a variety of indie brands (and limits the shitty manufacturers)
- Gives a fuck about inclusive education
- Fantastic customer service and experience
- Easy on the eyes and well-organized
1 Stocks body-safe and non-porous materialsLet’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
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 Funkit Toys’ Nofrilldos.
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.
Are you supporting indie artisans like Uberrime Dildos, Funkit Toys, LuzArte, NobEssence, and their unique creations? What about Person of Color-owned businesses, like The Butters Hygienics and Lumberjill Leisurecrafts?
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.
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 turn-around time (under 48 hours), with 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.
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 (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
For those in Australia, shipping can especially be a hassle. Consider sex shops in Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne. Or, if you want quirky indie toys, check out Geeky Sex Toys’ unique selection.
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?
Tell me in the comments below!
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