Sex Shops – I have a confession.


I have a secret indulgence – sex shops.
I enjoy frequenting them, be it to buy toys and accessories, as a fun outing with a partner (often terrifying for my partners), or as of late – a private night drive. On days when I’ve been at work for too long, or just feeling a bit low – I like to set the GPS to an interesting sounding sex shop.
I like the adventure, the naughty feeling, getting in touch with my sexual/kinky side and the simplicity of the privacy of it. True, usually they are dingy and gross. But sometimes, you find a gem. Boudoir Boutique was such a pleasurable experience I had to write about it.

Usually I don’t meet anyone there, but the other day while listening to the giggling women telling the shop assistant how they’ve never been in a sex shop before – I started wondering; Am I alone in my secret adventures? Do other women share my indulgence?

And this is how this article happened.

First, some history.

“The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, “It’s a girl.” ~Shirley Chisholm

Female sexuality is a difficult subject – feared, owned, controlled, oppressed and abused in almost every culture seen today. Chances are – its primary power, political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of assets belong to men. Very likely the God worshiped is a He and that’s never questioned.

This wasn’t always the case. Evidence suggests that most prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies were relatively egalitarian. There isn’t a single event that can be marked as the start of patriarchy, nor is the cause singular. Shulamith Firestone, a radical feminist thinker suggests that it’s a reaction to the advantage women have of bearing children and creating the future of the community. To control the offspring – cage the sex.

The West had the Victorian era, instructing a woman to “close her eyes and think of England” and to live up to the chaste and proper vision of what a woman should be. Sex was reserved only for procreation. On the side were frustrated men sneaking out to visit the courtesans, who wore black stockings and swung off the chandeliers, but we didn’t mention that in church.

Time passed and generations of women have kicked against the palace of patriarchy hard enough for it to start crumbling. But do the old walls still surround us?

Sex shops first came into existence in 1962, at the time of the free love movement. The notion of casual sex and the invention of better contraception was a game changer in allowing people more freedom in their sexual choices. Especially women.

The sex-positive feminism that followed in the 70s advocates a woman’s sexual freedom, to do with her body as she wishes and to practice the expressions of sexuality previously denied by patriarchy. They attempt to take apart the old notions of gender defined by social constructs and solidified in culture and law. Naomi Wolf writes, “Orgasm is the body’s natural call to feminist politics.”

Prior to starting this blog I conducted a series of short interviews with women volunteering on social media, and had a chance to learn their views.
Most of the women I interviewed seem to embody both of the mindsets above: they are comfortable in their individual sexual choice, but when it comes to sex shops – there isn’t a lot of interest.

– Some do have a hang up about being seen as “slutty”
– Some genuinely don’t want to try sex toys
– Some may buy lubes and basic things – but not frequently
– Many choose to shop online instead (privacy seems key)
– Some women would go into sex shop – as they prefer to have the experience of real life shopping, but most reported only going with a partner (this seems to me that they feel unsafe in these environments)
– A few reported buying the more extreme fetish/BDSM items. (We had nice chats).

General idea: Why go to a place that isn’t made for me?

Your average, cliché sex shop is located in a back of some shopping center, hidden from site. It feels dingy and unsafe.

When you walk in – the cheap, smutty vibe, fluorescent lighting and the degrading porn images screaming from the shelves, all create a feeling you really aren’t the intended target market. In fact there is an uncomfortable feeling, especially if you’re on your own and a guy walks in.
Even I personally find myself sometimes feeling like a part of the pornographic display and tense up. After all – the world in general, especially South Africa isn’t safe for women, let alone in this context.

And there isn’t generally much to shop for. Just the same gaudy toys of questionable quality and one itchy, scratchy pair of cheap crotchless panties.

Of course times are changing.
Women are taking a stand against inequality and of course consumerism reflects it. Some of the major Adult chain stores are introducing more items for women, but also I’ve come across a shop that actively opposes the norm.

A perfect example is Boudoir Boutique, a beautiful and classy sex shop.

I found it through a friend on Facebook, promoting this fancy looking place. Because of my sex shop fetish I had to check it out. I’m a bit of a cheap skate, so when I walked in and saw the beautiful interior, I felt like some dingy imposter. But only for a few seconds.

They have only female staff who are very knowledgeable, discreet and warm. Next thing I know – I’m having an inspired chat with the sales lady, while walking around from room to room and feeling a bit overwhelmed. There is so much to look at – luxurious lingerie and outfits, and just shelves and shelves of me going “OMG”.

Sex Shops – The variety and quality stand out.

I then noticed that there were no smut pictures anywhere. Just some tasteful erotic art on the walls. The shop assistant informed me that they are a supporter of SlutWalk and various women-driven initiatives. Their mindset, she said, is creating a space where men and women of any orientation can shop, explore and experience in a healthy and empowering space. Please note – by now I’ve been there for ages. I was genuinely enjoying myself and talking the poor woman’s ear off.

A bit of a back story –
Been a rough year – emotionally, mentally and romantically. I’m not sure where confidence resides, but I suspect it’s somewhere in the heart region. When the heart breaks, confidence leaks out. And apparently my sex drive switch clicked to “off”. When I walked into the shop, I was to myself an old, worn out woman.

And that’s when the cat-suit happened.

It’s a beautiful PVC and mesh item, way too sexy to be practical. Not something you wear out. Not something an older woman should own, according to society… but my 20-year-old self piped up: “try it”. And I did. The woman in the mirror was smiling back at me with the confidence I thought was gone forever.

What I like about that moment is – it was just me. No lover to impress or lure, no other entity to prove myself to. It was about confidence and what I think it really is about, the happiness within yourself, whatever and whoever you are. The kind no one gives, nor takes away.

So I guess this is my message. The old world of sexual stereotypes is falling, and we’re on the exciting brink of a place where people get to be themselves, own their sexuality in any expression they choose and make conscious choices in terms of their consumerism, so the sex industry has no choice but to follow. Boudoir Boutique embodies this effortlessly. And I’m pretty excited about that, as I am about my personal journey of self love and liberation, hoping to inspire and be inspired.

I am so inspired I will be writing more:

  • Anastasya Eliseeva