An introduction to sex stores in BC
By Natalie Serafini, Assistant Editor
They’re housed by covered windows and signs boasting nondescript—or extremely descript—titles. Blushing faces enter, and discreet bags filled with sexy-time treats exit. Adult stores, those meccas of sexual exploration, carry a certain illicit taboo that might intimidate the quick to discomfort.
Now, “quick to discomfort” is a category which I belong to easily , so it wasn’t until a recent jaunt to Victoria that I crossed the threshold of my first adult store. There, I found to my amazement that it was—wait for it—a store like any other.
While I’d been expecting fetish accoutrements and a sleazy clientele, or a store dedicated to the older set with walls of lube, my narrow-mindedness proved inaccurate. It was clean. The staff was friendly. The customers were varied, but none of them seemed sleazy. It wasn’t much different from your average Chapters, granted with more vibrators and racks of lingerie. I emerged not with a sack full of goodies, but with questions about whether stores fit the off-putting stereotypes, or if the off-putting stereotypes simply emerge from our discomfort.
I brought an open mind, a cellphone for discreet note-taking, and my blushing face to tour BC in all its sexy glory. Here’s a short list of stores to sex-plore! Whether you want discretion, convenience, political statements, or an uncensored sex-selection, you’ll find something that meets your needs.
Susan James, “stores for adventurous adults,” can be found in Victoria and Kelowna. This is the adult store inductee’s paradise. The staff are neither overwhelming nor intimidating, and are perfectly ready and able to answer any questions you might have, including my query as to whether “kissable” meant “edible” (side note: it doesn’t). Where I’d been expecting towering walls of lube—the name “Susan James” just sounds like the sexual playground for a rapidly aging clientele—their selection is extensive, including lingerie, adult toys of every variety, and massage oils. As their website says, “Our bright, welcoming environment will put even the most reticent shopper at ease, while the wide selection of products and top-notch customer service will satisfy all her shopping needs.”
Fantasy Factory boasts eight locations in British Columbia, including one right in New Westminster: perfect for a lunchtime sex-cursion between classes at Douglas! At first glance, it’s not the most sophisticated of sex boutiques (and on closer inspection, it’s not much better), but its business is strong for a reason. For one, it’s convenient, with most locations running 24-hours a day—whenever you find yourself in urgent need of a cock ring, strap-on, or anal plug, you know where to go. I wouldn’t suggest Fantasy Factory as an introduction for those who blush easily or who have an aversion to the scent of Patchouli, but for those who want unapologetic one-stop adult toy shopping, this is an ideal venue. Although I didn’t partake, you can enjoy a peepshow for the fantastic deal of 25 cents—they don’t just make you go home to have your fun! Honestly, the store wasn’t my style, but it’ll get the job done. Highlights included:
– Pocket pussies
– Anal bleach cream
– Deep-throat numbing spray
– Just-in Beaver Love Doll
– Farm animal blowup dolls
– A 14.5” dildo (which looked more like a murder weapon than a sex toy)
– Vaginal tightening gel (“Feel like you’re 18 again!”)
Womyns’ Ware Inc on Commercial Drive is well-established in the sex store scene. Around since 1995, the store will appeal to feminists and those who like food analogies. (“While meat & potatoes may be hearty & satisfying, nothing improves your appetite like spicing things up.”) Woman-owned and -operated, the two co-owners refer to their women’s sexuality business as a political statement, as is clear from their slogan behind the cash register, “Celebration and Empowerment of Women’s Sexuality.” The store features a wide and extensive array of vibrators and dildos, as well as high-end butt-stuff and quality bondage tools. Where some of the products in other stores looked cheap and poorly made, the products in Womyns’ Ware looked like they’d stand the test of time and use—a good sign, especially if you intend to get rough with any of it. The staff were helpful, friendly but not overbearing, and seemed to be sex-savvy. The store itself is clean and pleasant: it screams classy. Your pocket might feel a pinch, but again, these are sex toys that will last. This store is an investment, and a worthwhile one.
Love in Love Adult Store in Burnaby (on Linden Avenue and Edmonds) features a plethora of options, so I’d advise knowing what you’re looking for before you go a-looking, lest you get bogged down with neon restraints or octopus-festooned pirate-themed vibrators. The store feels a bit bare, like there aren’t enough toys to fill the space—unlike Fantasy Factory which, being a smaller space, seemed to bursting with tools—but Love in Love Adult Store isn’t short on products. A quick walk around puts you face to face with a massive bed with a reclining lingerie-clad mannequin, a line of fetich accoutrements, and a wall of plain-old vibrators and bachelorette party favours. Like Fantasy Factory, Love in Love is not my ideal store, but they’ll almost certainly have what you’re looking for. Highlights include:
– Vibrating nipple clamps
– Pendant vibe, for on the go
– Dicky nose glasses (think Groucho Marx glasses, but with a penis instead of a nose. Found in the bachelorette party section)
– Inflatable ass-blaster (“Pump it up for extreme pleasure!”)
– The X-rated ring toss
– Stamina training kit
Walking into any of these stores, you might initially feel uncomfortable, but that’s part of why I wanted to write this Feature: there’s a stigma attached to sex stores, and a stereotype about the sort of perverts who frequent and even (gasp!) use the products they purchase from the stores. Having spent a handful of afternoons staring at various phallic-shaped objects and analyzing my comfort level in these adult stores, browsing through their extensive selections isn’t the worst way to spend your time. Whether you know what you want or not, and whether you leave with a bag full of tools, a simple set of massage oils, or nothing at all, you’re almost guaranteed to have a good time—if only from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Do what you want to do, and don’t be deterred by the supposed judgment of others. I survived walking into multiple stores in a short frame of time without dying or being chased away by angry mobs—I think you’ll be okay.
Like most businesses that provide a particular service, there’s something for everyone at each of these stores. More than that, there’s a store for everyone. You can ease yourself into things slowly with a store that emphasizes comfort, plunge right into a fun and frisky option, or find something that shares your values. These are businesses in the business of indulgence and, while shopkeepers are there to help you should you need it, they don’t force you to buy anything or give you a tour of their brand spanking new fetish collection. You’re left to shop as you want to shop and buy what you want to buy, with no judgment if you leave with nothing or the whole shebang.