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
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 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 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 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
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!
This post was sponsored and contains affiliate links, which bring me a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!
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.
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
i love the info you highlight here about what's really important to take notice of.
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.
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.