Shopping for sex toys, positioning devices, lube, even sexually oriented books can sometimes feel awkward. Not to worry! There are lots of places that will sell you what you want (or help you figure out what you want) in a safe, comfortable atmosphere. There are more and more great boutique shops popping up in bigger cities, and many of the bigger chain shops are becoming cleaner, brighter, and more woman- and queer friendly.
There isn’t a boutique shop near me. The shop nearest me is a chain shop in a business development that shares its parking lot with three churches and a Roto-Rooter (I can’t decide which of those I think is funnier). It has large neon signs that you can see from the freeway and is not what most people would describe as tasteful. But this shop, which I like to call The Sex Shop near Darrell Issa‘s Office hosts workshops, ladies’ night events, and makes sure their staff is well informed about all their products. Their employees have to take a class on lube. Many sex shops are beginning to realize that a sleazy atmosphere alienates customers and are working hard to welcome a wider variety of people. That said, if you don’t live near a good shop, or aren’t comfortable going to one, there is, of course, an option.
Online shopping is easy. There lots (by which I mean LOTS) of online retailers that want your money. But not all of them are discreet. Not all of them are respectful. Not all of them are reputable or have good customer service.
But there are some that are amazing, and that work hard to improve the sexual health of all of their customers. Just so you know, I have affiliate links to the sites with fancy graphic banners, which means that if you buy something after following my link, I get a commission, which helps pay for this site.
Lots of these shops started with physical stores, created to provide a place to shop for sex toys that didn’t feel like a creepy, sticky-floored adult bookstore, and have carried that bright, open aesthetic to their online stores.
Good Vibrations is probably the oldest of the sex-positive, woman-friendly sex shops. The original clean, well-lighted place for vibrators. They have retail stores in the San Francisco area and in Boston, where they hold numerous educational events. They have an antique vibrator museum and published one of my favorite books. Their website is full of helpful advice, buying guides, and general sexual education info.
It is also relatively safe for work, at least for a sex shop. Yes, there are dildos, but there is not much nudity.
Chicago-based independent Early to Bed is another education-oriented site that really works to support its community. Like Good Vibrations, their site is clean and free from exploitative imagery. They are very helpful and will go out of their way to answer your questions by phone or email, and have some pretty entertaining reads under “Toy Tips” and “Sex Advice.” I especially like their piece on the quietest vibrators.
I love SheVibe. They have no physical stores, but what they do have is an incredible selection, low prices, and very friendly customer service. But, and this is a big but, so please pay attention, if you are offended by sexually explicit imagery, this is not the shop for you. Their site is filled with gleefully obscene (and often very geeky) comic-book style illustrations of all that they have to offer. You may love it, too, but don’t be surprised by the technicolor nudity. I totally warned you it was there.
Peepshow Toys is relatively new to the game, but every interaction I’ve had with them has been great. Their selection isn’t huge, but it is very carefully selected to be high-quality and everything they carry uses only body-safe materials. You can feel comfortable knowing that they have put a great deal of thought into every product they offer. Their site contains only simple product images, so, like Early to Bed and Good Vibrations, it is not overly graphic, aside from the images of the products themselves. You can get 10% off any purchase with the code MIDDLE10.
Some other great sites :
- Babeland has several physical locations (three in New York and one in Seattle) and a great online presence. They host workshops, publish a blog, and donate to worthy causes. The whole friendly-sex-shop enchilada.
- Minneapolis’ Smitten Kitten is a champion of toy safety. BadVibes.org, the blog where they publish their research on toy and lube safety is an amazing resource. They fight the good fight.
- SheBop’s three Portland shops and their online shop specialize in “non-toxic body-safe toys, exceptional books, female- and queer- friendly DVDs and quality sensuality products.”
- U.K.-based Lovehoney has a great selection, and great sales. They carry a lot of lower-priced merchandise, which is great, but a lot of it isn’t really body-safe, so you need to be careful there. Also, I always use a private browser window when I look at their site. There are colorful photos all over their site, and, if I use a regular browser window, these pictures will show up as ads on every other page I look at for months.
As you know, Amazon sells everything. You could certainly find pretty much any toy you wanted on Amazon. But there are a lot of counterfeit toys sold there too. There are even rumors of used toys being repackaged and sold through Amazon. Disgusting stories aside, manufactures often will not honor a warranty for a product purchased through an unauthorized seller, so any purchase made through Amazon is an at-your-own-risk endeavor.
Usually I shop at a retailer rather than directly from the manufacturer, but I make an exception for Tantus.
Tantus is known for their high-quality silicone toys. They sell a carefully curated collection of toys and accessories from other manufacturers on their site, but really, you should go here for the stuff they make themselves, and just throw in some lube if you are trying to earn free shipping. Be sure to check out their Grab Bag selections, if you are looking for a great deal and are willing to be surprised by the color. Some of these are really beautiful, but you don’t get to be picky.
If you would rather buy straight from the manufacturer, or just want to check out the manufacturers sites, here are some other companies that make high-quality products. You can also buy these from the shops listed above:
- Fun Factory is a German company that makes a variety of vibrating, pulsating, jiggling, and relatively stationary toys.
- If you want to buy Canadian, We-Vibe is produces high-quality rechargeable body-safe toys.
- Sliquid makes fantastic lubes. Safe, vegan, and just fantastic. I don’t love the selection of additional products that they feature in their shop, though. So unless you are planning to buy a lot of their lube at once, or are looking for something specific that your regular shop doesn’t carry, it’s probably easier (and cheaper) to pick it up from another retailer.
There are plenty of other companies that make wonderful, safe products. These are just some of my favorites.