The Sexual Feminist’s Guide to Sex Toy Shopping from Afar

3 04 2010

I have this memory of watching something on TV a few years ago that I’m pretty sure led directly to my discovering my own personal sexual pleasure. Though I had slept with someone years before witnessing this TV moment – I hadn’t really considered taking care of myself sexually – I really just thought of it as a partnered experience. I look back in my mind to that very educational moment and see four or five middle-aged women, sitting at a table outside – on some patio – discussing personal sexuality. And no, it wasn’t Sex and the City – it wasn’t fiction at all but real women, talking openly and honestly about their personal sexual lives.

I was surprised to learn that some women don’t explore their own sexual pleasure until they are in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and onward. I was also surprised to discover that I hadn’t really gone there myself either. This has a lot to do with the socialization of us as we grow into our sexually unique selves in this sexually bizarre society. There’s a whole culture and money-making industry around male masturbation – so pervasive and normal that all genders are aware of it. What a strange betrayal of our existence that we women can grow into being sexual without knowing ourselves as honestly as we can – we are somehow denied this education and support system as young women. While in fact there is a full sex positive culture and knowledgeable industry for females, it’s just not as accepted in the mainstream (yet). Somehow positive female sexuality is too scandalous to be the norm. It definitely didn’t reach my teenage self. I didn’t start masturbating until I was 20. In fact, I didn’t start using sex toys until I was 23. I only started purchasing sex toys at the age of 25, just last year.

I can say that, today, buying sex toys as a woman is a great experience. There are so many options for body safe toys from sex positive spaces.

A feminist sex shop is a good thing to have and a great thing to share. For exploring your sexuality in a partnered adventure or as a personal journey – women-oriented spaces offer all you need to make it a slippery slope to pleasure and discovery (yes, I went there with the pun). Being that I live in a small city that lacks a feminist, woman-owned sex toy space – I turn to the internet. So this is me sharing what I’ve learned so far about shopping for toys as a feminist who lives far away from feminist spaces.

As a woman in the internet era, you don’t even have to walk into a store if you don’t want to (though with workshops and more, you’ll probably find a reason to stop by if you’re lucky enough to have one near you) and you don’t have to wait for your town to get a shop if it doesn’t have one yet – you can go to the many sites already chock full of safe, sensual and sexy toys (and tons of healthy sex info as well):

Babeland (Seattle, New York)
Ah, Babeland. This is the fun, sex positive environment from my dreams. I’ve always wanted to visit Seattle – an opportunity to stop by the Babeland store is just one more reason.

Sugar (Baltimore)
Lesbian owned, woman and trans operated

Smitten Kitten (Denver)
I’m not sure if this is woman-owned but it is a great resource for body safe toys

early to bed (Chicago)
Woman-owned, woman-oriented and welcoming to all genders

Womyns’Ware (Vancouver)
Their tag says: “Celebration and empowerment of women’s sexuality”

Tool Shed (Milwaukee)
Supportive of all genders, woman-owned

A shop that isn’t queer-positive, woman-positive, trans-positive – isn’t really positive at all. As far as I can tell, all of the above meet that criteria.

These few cities are so lucky to have such great spaces for a healthy and sexual lifestyle – many of these include workshops, lectures, screenings and more.

I offer this list as an alternative for those who live too far away – this is sex toy shopping for the rest of us.

PS – Know of any others with online shopping? Please let me know in the comments – thanks!