As some of you may have noticed from my #SexBloggerVaca posts on Twitter & Instagram, I had the amazing opportunity to visit New York City this summer. My brilliant partner got accepted into a summer institute at NYU, which of course meant 6 long, strange weeks during which I talked to the cats like they were people. But it also led to a very convenient & thrifty week full of big-city adventures together.
Being a sex geek, I had a slightly different list of must-see attractions than most. I scoured the internet for sex toy stores, weird museums, and erotic date ideas. I discovered a few places that were absolutely out of our price range, some that simply weren’t having any events during the week that I was in town, and (most heart-breaking of all) a handful of amazing places that have gone out of business in the last few years.
We jam-packed our days together, riding the subway all over town. I got to squish Vixskin, drool over Fucking Sculptures, & feel the heft of the njoy Eleven. I somewhat unexpectedly discovered the appeal of packers after encountering the pure realness of one. And I squeed to anyone who would listen about how amazing Tantus is, because there they were — in real brick & mortar shops!
For a girl straight out of the sexually repressed Midwest, it was like a dreamworld; like I jumped straight into the internet with all of my favorite manufacturers, retailers, & other sex-positive individuals. For anyone who is planning a sexy trip to NYC — or simply feeling isolated and desperate for a reminder that shame-free communities do exist…Here are my 2 cents on the whole experience.
I had just arrived in NYC and I was excited to jump straight into my own custom-tailored, sex obsessed itinerary. “I’m not going to have to put anything in my mouth, am I?” my partner nervously asked as we made our way to the Pleasure Chest‘s advanced blowjob workshop, cleverly titled Head of the Class.
This would be my first visit to a sex-positive toy store & my first real-life glimpse of adult sex education. To be honest, I wanted to see if I thought I could be on the other side of this experience some day: standing in front of a group of people, teaching them how to have great sex. I know it’s silly, but I was fearful of suddenly realizing that I am on the wrong path.
If anything, this experience only reinforced my dreams of becoming a sex educator. Despite the room being full of strangers, the facilitator expertly fostered feelings of relaxation, openness, and sex-positivity. Plus, I learned a few things along the way! I would suggest that anyone who lives (or visits) near a Pleasure Chest store to take advantage of this amazing resource. Workshops are free — and we even received a 15% in-store coupon for any purchase after the class!
The following morning I’m standing in Bluestockings bookstore, flipping through zines about consent, menstruation, & herbal abortions while chatting with my partner’s classmate about my upcoming trip to Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit. Again, I’m struck by the atmosphere of the place. It’s soft & welcoming, but yet still considered “radical.”
In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a huge bookworm. I’ll happily waste hours in any old bookstore, but nothing makes me happier than cozy little shops that cater to my specific interests of sex & gender studies. Bluestockings is an open-minded, intellectual oasis.
I leave with a couple of issues of Bitch, homemade zines, & a huge smile on my face — only slightly regretting the fact that I passed up the felt nipples.
Even before my partner got accepted into his academic program, I started daydreaming about the Museum of Sex. Okay okay. Let’s be honest… I was mostly thinking about floundering around in their boob bounce house — exactly like this.
Maybe it’s because we lost track of time & arrived within the last hour, or maybe it’s because I live right by the Kinsey Institute, but I was a little disappointed. First of all, at $17.50/person, admission is a little steep for how small it is and for how text-heavy some of the exhibits were. Secondly, I felt like most of their audience was drawn there by a juvenile “tee hee” reaction to sex, which I found a little distracting at times.
Still, they had a pretty great exhibit on the history of porn. (I’m a sucker for black & white vintage images of BDSM.) There was an interactive exhibit that made the art student in me smile. And I did get approximately 15 seconds with the inflatable titties before they closed. In the end, I think riding the dildo bike was the most exciting.
When someone asks what my favorite part about NYC was, I have a decision to make: be honest and say, “This awesome little kink shop we went to!” or substitute a more acceptable answer (usually involving delicious Czech food).
The truth is, Purple Passion/DV8 wins — no contest. It was my first visit to a kink/fetish store, and their selection of impact toys & educational books had me wishing that money was no object. Leather goodies are a weakness of mine, but what impressed me the most was the amazing customer service.
Immediately upon entering, we were greeted by Keith: a gentleman whose photo could be used under the kinky dictionary definition of “leatherman” & who was so genuine in his warmth and helpfulness that I was completely smitten. He showed us his favorite new items, shared some of his personal experiences, and expressed our own belief: that BDSM is about connection above all else.
We ended up spending a small fortune on rope & leather items hand-crafted by local artisans — all of impeccable quality at affordable prices. (I actually regret that we didn’t spend more; my dreams are filled with a certain leather-padded cane.) Basically, if you are kinky & find yourself in New York, you simply have to check out their selection. If you’re a member of your local BDSM club, you’ll even save 10%!
Eve’s Garden has an impressive history. Founded in 1974, it is the world’s first “sex boutique for women,” created with empowerment & sex-positivity in mind. Sounds great, right?
Unfortunately, our experience was lackluster at best and mildly uncomfortable at worst. The shop itself is located in a high-rise office building, which (in theory) makes your shopping adventure more discreet from street level bystanders — leading to a more relaxed experience. The problem is: My partner & I are ridiculously awkward in new situations.
Once we reached the 12th floor, we were faced with a plain wooden door with a gold placard stating our destination. This is where our social anxiety kicked in: “Do we knock? Is it locked? Is this place so fancy that it’s by appointment only?” On top of that, once we did gather our nerves and walk in, the selection was unimpressive and limited. Sure, there were body-safe sex toys of high-quality…but there wasn’t anything special or unique about the place. We left empty-handed.
Shag is one of New York’s best kept sex secrets. Despite days of internet-scouring for notable attractions, the place never reached my radar. The way that I finally discovered it was by seeing an advertisement in Purple Passion for the Sex Ed a Go Go event that they help sponsor. (Sadly, I discovered it the day after the event. Cue much pouting.)
Shag is a unique shop, specializing not only in sex toys but also jewelry, artwork, and beauty supplies. Although we didn’t find anything to bring home with us, we did take the time to admire their selection of crafty, erotic nesting dolls and — if we had the necessary funds — we would have purchased a stunning set of bronze doorknobs, molded from the vulvas of real women.The moment I walked into Babeland, I loved it. It had a “homey” feeling that was unlike the other sex toy stores that we visited. It was beautifully organized, but not fancy. The employees were super excited to show me items (like the new Minna kGoal) but didn’t impose upon our experience as a couple.
One of my best discoveries was that Babeland offers the most fantastic array of scented & flavored items. We left with two bottles of lubricant (pomegranate vanilla & dulce de leche) — which I’m super excited to try during oral sex and report back to you all! And we vowed to make an online purchase for a couple of their body massage bars. (Didn’t want to risk getting our luggage all oily on the flight home.)
On our way out, we struck up a conversation with our cashier about the Midwest’s extreme lack of sex-positive shops and promptly found ourselves being buried under an avalanche of swag & coupon codes. Seriously, I cannot stress how nice these people were! I’m so glad that I got to experience this company’s atmosphere & generosity in person.
Not specifically an erotic theatre, Nitehawk Cinema is a bit of an added bonus to this list. We were lucky enough to catch one of the midnight screenings in their Nitehawk Naughties: Scandinavian Erotic Cinema from the 1960s and 1970s series. The film we saw was titled Without A Stitch and to be honest, we were never quite sure if it was trying to be serious or facetious. There were several moments when the audience was erupting in laughter, regardless of the original intent.
With a delicious set-up of truffle popcorn, homemade lime jerky, and beautiful naked ladies exploring new & humorous sexual escapades, it was a perfect date night for perverts like us. I only wish that there was a similar theatre closer to home.