In praise of feminist sex shops.

If there is one thing that I think MOST people can agree on, it’s that orgasms are awesome. Yay for orgasms! However, in our wonderfully open-minded culture where the virgin/whore dichotomy rages on, fetishization of youth is rampant, there’s constant perpetuation of the purity myth, and sexual education is downright wrong, it’s hard to visualize healthy sexualities just blossoming left and right. This is one case in which shit, it turns out, is not a good fertilizer.

So I would like to take a moment to praise feminist sex shops. When one thinks “sex shop,” generally the idea is porn store–sketchy, dirty, dimly lit, lots of business men in overcoats trying not to be seen with whatever smut they are buying. Whenever I think of porn shops, I think of that scene in Amelie where Nino is tagging prices on these giant, ridiculous dildos and there’s all the fetishwear in the background and the awful thumping porno groove soundtrack. It’s not to say that fetishwear is bad (I’d be a shitty feminist if I couldn’t respect that Your Kink Is OK), but that your typical sex shop is all about making sex itself into a fetish. It’s dirty and weird, and requires these vinyl garments. Also, check out them huge-ass fake penises–boys, if you weren’t already insecure about how much heat you’re packing, now is the time to start.

And then there’s the woman-friendly shops–a completely different world. My personal favorite is Babeland, which I visit every time I’m in NYC (I like the LES location, though they also have one in SoHo and others around the country. I’m still rooting for one in Boston!). The store is well-lit with vibrant colors, huge windows in the front, and shameless slogans across the windows. They have a mind-boggling assortment of vibrators, all out on central tables so you can hold them against your palm and give them a try. They have a condom bar that looks like a candy shop–shelves of jars full of all kinds of condoms, with commentary provided! Lubes, massage oils, anything you could need for your kink, and shelves of books (with my bookworminess, how could I not love it?). The staff are fan-fucking-tastic. I bought my first vibrator from them years ago and I swear it was a life-changing experience. Their open attitudes and no-shame approach make clientele instantly comfortable, and they are fountains of knowledge on safe sex practices and good health. The sexual health educator in me is suffused with a warm fuzzy glow everytime I listen to them. Anyone can enter the store and be shown a supportive environment to explore their sexuality.

I think of women having access to sex shops as being almost on par with access to birth control as far as sexual liberation goes. While birth control gives a woman the freedom to do what she wants with her body as far as it interacts with other people, sex shops give a woman the freedom to do what she wants with her body with, well, herself. It is important for a woman to be able to own her sexuality–to know what she likes, how her body responds, how to achieve orgasm, and also what doesn’t work for her. It’s hard to do that with someone else. Learning on your own, and developing that kind of relationship with your own sexuality, is in my mind a huge part of being liberated. Basically, it’s hard to keep subscribing to the idea that your body is dirty and shameful and your sexuality is bad when you have concrete knowledge to the contrary.

Plus, baby Jesus never said no vibrators until marriage, so if you’re waiting, a visit to your local sex shop can solve all those pesky libido problems that are so prevalent amongst, well, humanity. 😉 Also, orgasms are great stress relief and make you happy person. Who doesn’t want to be happy?

Over at the fabulous VaginaPagina, they’ve compiled a small list of woman-friendly sex shops. Check it out!

And now, because it’s never a bad time to rock out, here’s a song from French artist Yelle, who wrote a love song to her vibrator:

Confession: this entry technically isn’t what I added the “magic vaginas” tag for, but let’s face it–it’s a great tag! I really just wanted to use it again so that it would become a little bigger over in the tag cloud. 😀

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04/06/2009. Tags: , , . Uncategorized.

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