Buying sex toys

Recently on a night with Henpicked friends, we got talking about sex toys.

sex toy and condom in a handbagWhether they’re a good idea and where to buy them.  Views ranged from ‘no’ to actually, ‘sex toys and exploring your own pleasure is very liberating’.

And sex toys are more mainstream now. Apparently you can buy them in Selfridges and they come in little silk purses – classy but we don’t all live in London or want to spend a lot.

So Jacqueline Seddon and I ‘volunteered’ to do a bit of research. The first thought was the recent sex shops that have sprung up from former roadside cafes on the A1, but having found loads of reasons not to travel that far, only to sit outside and not have the courage to go in, we Googled what’s on offer in our local city centre.

We decided our approach over lunch, then set off and here’s what we found:

Ann Summers

Deep breath and we started with an easier one – Ann Summers. Who hasn’t been to one of their parties with the peep-hole undies and toys passed around with giggles?

The shop wasn’t at all intimidating, in fact it looked more like a bra shop, with some nice ones at reasonable prices too.  Women with pushchairs and couples were shopping without any apparent thought for the merchandise at the back of the shop.

The front of an Ann Summers shopThose venturing a little further would find a selection of fantasy items, including the expected naughty nurse outfits, handcuffs in fur, lotions and potions, and, of course, vibrators and toys. More titillation than full on, and in pretty packaging.

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We happily picked things up, put our glasses on and read the instructions. The shop assistant popped over to see if we needed any help and told us a bit about Ann Summers.

They’ve been trading for nearly 30 years and still do their parties. And, she added, they love doing them for older women because parties with younger women can get a little rowdy.

She had good product knowledge, talked to us about Kegel balls, designed to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles in ‘just half an hour a day, while you’re walking round doing your shopping or cleaning’. But we’re not to worry, the vibration is only small so we wouldn’t be falling down in pleasure in the aisles.

The shopping bags were a bit of a disappointment. Who wants to carry a plastic bag with Ann Summers on it? Sex toys are nothing to be ashamed of but why advertise where you’ve been?

Feeling a little braver now, and having handled some sex toys, we moved on to our next destination.

Private Shop – sex shop in Nottingham

Conveniently located in the heart of Nottingham, with a selection of bus stops outside, we braved it and went in. The covered windows and ‘over 18’ signage made me think twice.

red thong and handcuffsWe were a little shocked to walk in and come face to face with some very large, ‘lifelike’ vibrators. Don’t know whose idea of ‘lifelike’ they are but they were more than big.

But we were in and, deep breaths, time to learn something.

After the initial jitters, the shopping environment was relaxed and we enjoyed it. The other shoppers didn’t mind the giggles and ‘no’s’, ‘oh my goodness’, ‘go on touch it’, ‘what’s that for – nooooo’ and general silliness.

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And we learned lots. The product selection was absolutely huge, everything you could imagine and loads we hadn’t. Some lower-priced items right up to expensive toys (we’re talking thousands of pounds).

Some things I’d thought were a myth but no, there they were. Unbelievable.

The male sales assistant popped across to see how we were getting on. He told us he enjoys his job of eight years, although he doesn’t tell everyone what he truly does: vicars for example, get told he’s in retail. People are very liberated these days, it seems, particularly the youngsters who think nothing of calling into the shop. He knew his products, too, including questions of safety and effectiveness (ahem). He gave us a discretely packaged catalogue to take home and order online if we’d rather.

Shopping online

Image from 50 shades of greyOf course, all of the above had reference to 50 Shades of Grey, with LoveHoney claiming the ‘Official Pleasure Collection’.

Though it was the ‘How To Use A Clone-A-Willy Kit‘ that caught my attention – make your own for when the old man’s away. Very helpful ‘how to’ video in the style of Blue Peter. Hilarious.

Actually, there’s lots online, and as always, browse. After five or six sites, I found myself just flicking through them. Even Amazon has pages and pages of sex toys.

Our hints and tips:

  • Go in with a friend. When one of you needs a little extra push, the other one’s there to encourage you. We really enjoyed the day and learned a lot.
  • Order online if you want to buy something discretely. That said, both shops we went into were friendly and helpful. No embarrassing moments at all.
  • Safety first. Toys made with silicone, glass, stainless steel, or latex and phthalate-free plastic are body friendly. Read up on safety here.
  • Prices vary for the same product so shop around.
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Why not give them a try, after all, what have you got to lose? If you’ve any tips, please share.

And did we buy anything? That’s for us to know.

(Special thanks to wise woman Jacqueline Seddon for pushing me into this – in fact, literally into the Private Sex Shop! And for a great day out and lots of laughs.)

About Deborah Garlick

I'm the founder of Henpicked. I love reading the wonderful stories and articles women send us - I read every one. I've learnt so much and hope others enjoy them too. I believe life's about being happy and that we're here to help one another. And that women are far wiser than they often realise. I'm passionate about helping women live better lives by educating on the facts about menopause. I'm a Director of Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace and one of the authors of Menopause: the change for the better.