Sex Toy Shopping: Oh, Trust Me: I Can Make It Embarrassing

Sex Toy Shopping: Oh, Trust Me: I Can Make It Embarrassing.

One of the more positive developments in the world of adult entertainment in recent years has been the reimagining of the brick and mortar adult shop. After decades of being seedy little joints that catered to an entirely male clientele, many adult businesses have retooled, brightening up their shops, using more attractive displays and creating an environment that’s more women-friendly, in general.

At the same time, the mainstream media has become at least a little less hostile to adult businesses and all things sex, branching out from their traditional tales of woe and exploitation to address the positive aspects of people exploring their sexuality — and even occasionally singling out specific adult businesses for praise.

Along those lines, Calico recently read an article about a young woman’s experience shopping for a sex toy, aided by a friendly, sensible, sex-positive young male cashier (one with a most unlikely name, at that).

Delighted by what she’d read,  Calico decided to see if she could replicate the experience at an adult shop in her own hometown. As it turns out, however, not all adult shops have updated to become more female-friendly — and not all young male clerks are as well-trained and prepared to answer questions from a woman in her 50s, at least when those questions require the young clerk to momentarily contemplate this particular weird older woman’s vagina.

How did Calico’s shopping experience differ from the one she’d read about earlier in the day? Would things have gone better if she’d asked about simple anal beads instead of some fancy, complicated vibrator? Does the shop in question even have a “gay bukkake section”? Find out in Calico’s latest post, “Oh, Trust Me: I Can Make It Embarrassing.”

– Calico Rudasill,

sex toy shop

Read On…

For many years, whenever I’d see something about brick-and-mortar porn shops in the headlines, it was almost invariably bad news. Reports like a city aiming its zoning requirements squarely at an individual adult business, or an item about a shop that had its license revoked, or in this case, both things happening to the same adult shop.

While this sort of story about adult shops obviously still pops up a lot, I’m pleased to say that these days, I see a lot more reference to adult businesses in what I’ll call “noncontroversial” contexts, like assessments of which shops are more female-friendly, or sex-positive, or gender-inclusive, or all the above.

A Brighter New Day for Adult Businesses

These days, with the public being more accepting of adult entertainment and open discussion of sexuality in the media, I even come across the occasional piece encouraging people to explore the wares offered by adult businesses and assuring prospective customers that the experience won’t be uncomfortable, oozing with sleaziness, or otherwise awful.

Along those lines, I recently stumbled across a piece from the Rocky Mountain Collegian, which sounds like a good description of a graduate student from Colorado I dated back in the day, but is in truth a publication (loosely) affiliated with Colorado State University.

Buying a sex toy is not embarrassing,” asserts Bella Eckburg, summing up her experience at an adult shop called the Book Ranch. 

As a quick aside, to me, “Book Ranch” is a business name that doesn’t summon images of adult videos and sex toys, so much as it leads me to envision people dressed like cowboys using lassos to get books down off high shelves for their customers. It’s far from the worst sex shop name I’ve heard, though; that honor belongs to “Adult Toy Shoppe,” mostly because I hate it when people spell shop “shoppe,” but also because that spelling makes my brain reach for old-timey imagery, which then leads me to imagine dildos made of wood – and all the awful potential mishaps my mind can conjure involving splinters.

Anyway, back to Bella and her not embarrassing trip to the Book Ranch.

“The environment of the Book Ranch was more than welcoming,” Bella reports. “Despite a majority of the windows being blacked out for privacy, sunlight spills in over the shelves and illuminates the brightly colored vibrators on the walls.”

I do appreciate that adult shops are better lit these days. The first time I set foot in one, back in the late 80s, it was so dark inside that I momentarily thought the place was closed and someone had mistakenly left the front door unlocked – until I heard the unique audial tapestry of grunts, groans, squeals and squeaks emitting from the video viewing booth area, that is.

Travis, The Dream Clerk

During her visit to the Book Ranch, Bella was assisted by a store clerk named Travis McKeg, which sounds like a fictitious name for a hard-drinking frat boy, but happily seems as though it has been bestowed upon an earnest young fellow who is very committed to providing quality customer service.

“It’s a busy place,” McKeg said of the Book Ranch. “It’s sex-positive, friendly and educational if requested.”

I must say, Travis sounds just about perfectly suited for his job – possibly trained into that perfection by a management team that understands what their more discerning customers want when they set foot in the Book Ranch.

Bella goes on to describe an experience that is indeed embarrassment-free, unintimidating and very inviting to prospective clientele. Is her Book Ranch foray truly representative of the general experience of going to just any adult shop, though?

Old School for an Old Girl

Always a self-declared scientist, but too lazy to engage in the rigors of actual science, I decided to replicate Bella’s experience at an adult shop in my hometown. This particular shop has been around for decades – a good fit for me, I figure, since I too have been around for decades.

The first difference between the shop I went to (the name of which I am withholding to protect the innocent) and the Book Ranch is the lighting. Whereas the Book Ranch has sunlight spilling over its shelves, I get the sense the only thing that has ever been spilled on this shop’s shelves is bodily fluids –and maybe the bleach used to clean off those bodily fluids, if indeed they’ve ever been cleaned.

Josh, the clerk behind the counter, like Travis McKeg of the Book Ranch, seemed an earnest young fellow. Unlike Travis, I got the feeling this might have been Josh’s first verbal exchange with a female customer, or possibly even his first exchange with a female, full stop.

In a way, talking to Josh reminded me of some of my early dating experiences, in that he had enormous difficulty making eye contact. Sadly, unlike my dates of old, Josh wasn’t having difficulty making eye contact because he was staring at my breasts, but because when it comes right down to it, Josh appears to prefer staring at his shoelaces.

Josh, The Clerk Dreaming of Being Somewhere Else

Josh was answering most of my questions with muttered, monosyllabic responses – “yeah” or “no” or “uh” mostly – so I decided to pose one which would require at least a sentence.

“What’s the smaller appendage sticking off this ‘Dolphin’ vibrator for?” I asked. “I get that the larger one goes in my vag, but what’s the little one for?”

Josh froze, suddenly a deer in sexually explicit headlights. I wasn’t sure if he was having a hard time with hearing a 50-something woman say “vag,” having a hard time getting himself to say “clitoris,” or if he was honestly in a quandary over the question of whether the smaller bit goes ‘in front’ or is designed for butt-play.

“Um-uh-gee-I-uh…” Josh stammered before finally managing to say “I’ve, uh, never used one, so I’m not sure.”

I briefly considered doing something truly cruel, like asking if I could take the dolphin into the restroom with me to see if I could work out the answer on my own, but I thought Josh’s head might explode if I did that. Instead, I decided to let him off the hook gently, by requesting assistance of the sort he was certain to be entirely comfortable offering.

“Never mind,” I said. “Can you just show me to your gay gangbang videos? Preferably something that ends in an all-male bukkake.”

In the end, like Bella, I later left the shop without a hint of embarrassment (and a fancy new dolphin vibe that I really like, I might add). 

I’m not sure Josh would say the same about the end of his shift – but who knows? Maybe Josh decided to take home a dolphin, too.

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