Shopping for sex toys should be a fun experience, but it’s essential to make sure the staff helping you also feel comfortable and that their boundaries are respected. Consider sex shops to be like any other stores, but with products that focus on sex. Just like any other workplace, it’s essential to respect the staff’s boundaries and privacy both in terms of sharing intimate details about their own or your sex life. The bottom line is that everyone has different comfort levels and everyone deserves respect. People working in sex shops deal with sensitive information and talking about sex with a stranger can be awkward, but there are ways to ask questions and share information that can make the experience of shopping for sex toys fun and safe for both the shopper and the worker. So, how do you stay appropriate when talking about sex and pleasure with a stranger? I promise you, it’s not as hard as it may seem!
Right from the Sex Shop Employees’ Mouths
While I’ve worked on the sales floor of a handful of different shops ranging from high-end sex boutiques to stores that had porn booths, I think having a variety of opinions is always a good place to start. So I interviewed 3 of my friends who are former and current sex shop employees. Zoe, our favorite dildo duchess who started on the sales floor slinging dildos. Dirty Lola, who is still on the front lines helping folks pick their perfect toy; and Nani, who also still currently works in a sex toy store in a busy part of Manhattan helping folks find their next pleasure tool. These were some of the things mentioned most so you can make the most out of your trip to your next sex shop.
There are absolutely things that are not only unhelpful for your buying experience but will also likely make the staff uncomfortable.
Questions you don’t need to ask the staff.
When you’re shopping at a sex shop for a sex toy or browsing an online sex toy store, and you ask their staff for guidance, most stores are more than happy to help answer questions. But there are absolutely things that are not only unhelpful for your buying experience but will also likely make the staff uncomfortable.
- Avoid questions about anything personal about their toy preferences or sex lives
- Avoid asking if you can try out the toys in the store
- Avoid shaming the products you aren’t interested in
Personal information from the staff is entirely irrelevant to what you’re looking to buy. Everyone has personal preferences, so the staff preferences might not align with yours. However, the person helping you might end up sharing that information with you if they feel it’s relevant to the conversation, but let them offer it to you rather than putting them on the spot.
And no, you can’t try the toys in the store. Yes, I’ve been asked that, and no, they were not joking. This is a pretty common misconception. No reputable store will allow you to try a sex toy in the store before you purchase it. A staff person might let you hold a toy in your hand to feel the material or vibrations. You may also be able to try on a strap-on harness over your clothes, but you should always ask first. As Nani says, “When people walk into a sex shop, I want them to know that they can expect to have a good time, but it is not an amusement park, playground, or museum. It’s a real retail environment.”
Questions you should be asking or thinking about
Here’s the tricky part about shopping for intimate items like sex toys, you will have to talk to the staff and share some details about personal things if you want help picking a toy. And that’s totally fine! Let them lead the conversation. Lola says, “It really helps me hone in on what someone needs if they can give me some info about themselves. So for me, it’s less about asking good questions and more about knowing some basics about yourself before you come in”. Zoe says, “I like when people are just honest and say that they aren’t sure what they want, rather than being super committed to whatever toy their friend got and loved despite it not being what they want.” Some good things to keep in mind when you’re going to buy a new toy include:
- What’s your budget?
- How do you plan to use the toy? For solo play, with a partner, with partners?
- Are you looking for external or internal stimulation toys or something that can do both? Do you want it to be backdoor safe?
- What kind of sensation are you looking for? Maybe it’s penetration, suction, backdoor, grinding, etc.
- Do you have a compatible lube to go with your new toy?
When you’re on the hunt for a new toy, think about your personal preferences and don’t worry about what others enjoy.
So when you’re on the hunt for a new toy, think about your personal preferences and don’t worry about what others enjoy. You’ll find a toy much more suited to your own needs instead of trying to conform to what you think you should enjoy. Have fun exploring your body and your preferences. And if you’re not sure where to start, there are lots of books to give you a good base of knowledge.
It’s no laughing matter
Humans love to use humor when they’re uncomfortable, and it’s normal to feel awkward in a sex shop, especially if it’s your first time. It’s a really common defense mechanism, and if you need to make a joke or two, that’s fine. Just keep it reasonable because you don’t want to yuck someone’s yum. You risk making someone feel bad about something they’re interested in, and just because you feel awkward doesn’t mean you should make someone else feel that way, too. Zoe’s heard comments like “who would use that,” and Lola has been subjected to comments like “Have these dildos been inside anyone today?” which can wear a person down over time.
It’s a no-judgment zone
If you’re concerned the staff is going to make fun of you for asking a question, don’t be. The staff has heard it all and seen it all. Sex shop workers are basically desensitized to kinkiness. Are you looking to buy a sex swing? No problem. It takes a lot to shock us. Plus, thanks to employee discounts and trainings, most staff members will own more stuff than you’d ever want. The people that work at sex shops are super comfortable talking about sex and won’t judge you. Online staff won’t look through your orders and think anything of it. If they weren’t open-minded, they wouldn’t work there; it’s just bad business.
Sex toys don’t have a satisfaction guarantee, so try and use it as a learning experience of what you like and don’t like, and try and use it to figure out your preferences better.
Something To Keep In Mind
Despite your best efforts of doing research and asking staff questions, it’s possible to find a sex toy that looks fun, try it out, and totally hate it. It also might stop working or simply just not be suitable for you. If your toy is defective, most stores will exchange defective products within 30 days, and sometimes certain brands will have extended warranties. However, if the product isn’t defective and just isn’t your cup of tea, you won’t be able to return it or ship it back to the online shop. Sex toys don’t have a satisfaction guarantee, so try and use it as a learning experience of what you like and don’t like, and try and use it to figure out your preferences better. Was the toy too firm? Too big? Too buzzy? We’ve all bought something we didn’t like; it happens to the best of us. Just use it as a learning experience.
You’re ready to shop!
It’s completely normal to have a lot of questions the first time you buy sex toys or go into a sex shop. Whether you’re nervous or excited (or both!), you’re not alone! Every person who enters a sex shop has questions when they walk in. There’s always something new to discover. So come with an open mind and a willingness to explore, and hopefully, the path to pleasure is fruitful.