Going to a sex shop for the first time can be nerve-racking! Everyone’s experience will be different, but most people have at least a little apprehension – usually there’s a fear you’ll see someone you know or you’ll feel a bit foolish asking questions. Some people might feel very adult-like while others might feel the opposite – very young. You might feel sleazy, scared, out of place, excited, sexy, or turned on. You might also have several of these feelings simultaneously. Allow for your experience to move slowly and don’t try to push yourself if you do not feel comfortable. If you are struggling significantly with tough feelings, you might want to consider reaching out to a therapist or coach trained in helping people to explore sexual blocks.
If you have never been to a sex shop before, you might have some preconceived notions about what takes place or what you might find. All sex shops are considered adult shops; meaning if you are under the age of 18, you are not able to enter. In this case, we suggest you purchase your items online. Sorry, you will have to wait until you are 18 to visit a store. On that note, make sure you bring a valid ID with you, most places will request to see it either upon entering or check out.
Each shop is different and will have different things. In larger sex shops, there are usually general areas for men and women; in the smaller specialty stores, you might have more toys that cater to specific types of play or sexual orientations. Check out shops online or call ahead to see what types of things the stores nearest you carry.
In San Francisco, for example, we have Good Vibrations. This sex shop is known for being particularly friendly for female audiences and has incredibly friendly and knowledgeable staff. You cannot try anything on in this store and often times many other people will be shopping around you, looking at condoms, lube, sex games, or handcuffs with fur on them. There is another well-known sex shop in San Francisco called Mr. S, that specializes in BDSM, leather, and other fetishes for men. Females can find more than a few things in this shop that will blow their minds, however, there is a very heavy gay bend throughout the store. In Mr. S you will find flogs, latex, lots of leather, bondage, masks, butt plugs and even swings specially designed for BDSM play. In this store, you have the option to try out certain items if you feel comfortable. Aside from both having wonderful employees, these two stores could not be more different.
Good things to remember on your first trip:
- The people helping you at the store think you are normal. They work at the shop and see all sorts of folks every day. They work at a sex shop because they are sex positive and want people, including yourself, to have more pleasure in their lives. Look to them for advice if you have questions. They are accustomed to answering lots of questions.
- You do not have to buy anything or even like anything you see. It is perfectly ok to just go to a sex shop to look around. You could even just walk into a sex shop and turn back around and walk right back out. It might take time before you feel comfortable enough to allow yourself to explore your desires in a public space.
- If you are going with your partner, set up a safe word in case one person wants to leave quickly. Create one word, something arbitrary like “watermelon,” that either one of you can say if you are feeling overwhelmed at any point during the visit.
- It’s fine to change your mind about what you want to buy or take some time to think about a potential purchase. Some toys are cheap and you might use them once, while others are quite the investment. You want to avoid forcing yourself to buy something if it doesn’t seem right because you will never use it. It is similar to shopping for clothes, if you don’t love it, you most likely won’t wear it. Same thing goes when it comes to buying sex toys. It’s also a good idea to look at the return policies for items before you buy them and keep the receipts for any purchases.
- Most people feel uncomfortable on their first trip to the sex shop. In doing research for this article, every person I interviewed shared that the first time they went to a sex shop, it was a shady-looking building with no windows with the word “adult” on the outside. Needless to say, they all felt weary and nervous.
- Once you get inside, there is lots to see. If you are the type that gets overwhelmed easily, this might be another overwhelming space. See if you can allow yourself to be as open-minded as possible and remember that people experience pleasure in all different forms. See if you can label things as interesting instead of weird, gross, or “how could someone like that?”
Sex shops can be a blast once you get past the initial fear. No one will know it is your first time unless you tell them. To learn more about how you would introduce bringing a sex toy into the bedroom, click here.