I avoided the big-box sex shops—you know, Hustler Hollywood, the barnett Avenue Adult Super Store, even F Street—because they're impersonal, un-sexy and hella cartoonish, which, let's face it, is pretty easy in the land of jack rabbits and mermaids and spray-tanned, computer-enhanced bronze boobs. So, that left two somewhat hidden North Park shops.
The first, Pleasures & Treasures (2228 University Ave., pleasuresandtreasures.biz), is housed in a small purple and white house just a block east of F Street. While not hidden (it is on a major thoroughfare), it's unassuming in its sex-shop-ness. From the outside.
Once inside, there's no escaping where you are.
Every nook and cranny and angle and alcove is filled with a mish-mash of lube and cuffs, gags and whips and a good-size lot of rings. And that's just the first room. The second room is wall-to-wall toys, many preternaturally large, and a rentable sling hanging from the center. It can be yours for a night for just 40 bucks.
The final room is filled with used things. This scared me. But then I realized we were talking oldschool VHS porn, magazines and—uniforms! If you have an orange-jumpsuit fantasy, this is your place.
Actually, this may be your place if you want a store where, regardless of your sexual orientation or desire, you can comfortably ask questions, get advice or start small and work your way up. In the middle of the day in the middle of the week, there were no less than 10 people in here—relatively normal-looking people, singles and couples, women and men, all shopping without irony or visual trepidation.
The selection at P&T was vast—but, sadly, filled with truly bad graphics that featured naked people of questionable attractiveness and era (mostly '80s is my guess), lots of gold lettering and bad photography. Not so with Rubber Rose (3812 Ray St., therubberrose.com), the small, sort-of-hidden shop. Rubber Rose doesn't carry anything '80s or porn-y or ugly, despite being very much a sex shop.
The guiding principles of the store are twofold. First, if you're gonna put it in or on your body, owner Lea Caughlan feels you should be able to touch it first, and, to that end, there's one of everything out of the package and out on a table. This is undeniably genius and also hilarious. Imagine a table of multi-colored upended penises. I bumped the table just to see them all jiggle.
The second principle has to do with standards and also quality. Caughlan explained that all those regulations on plastics that my husband is so obsessed with— the ones that disallow certain grades for cups and plates and food containers and even make-up applicators—are for naught when it comes to sex toys because the government considers them a “novelty.” That means crappy plastics can, and are, used on the stuff we stick inside us. Rubber Rose doesn't carry that stuff. The lines they feature are made of phthalate-free plastics, hygienic stainless steel, Pyrex-like glass and non-porous silicone and are Oprah-approved (really!). There is a truly lovely selection of vibrators (and music vibrators that hook up to your iPod) and dildos and g-spot manipulators and butt things I know not of, all in girly colors, all ergonomically designed and many with remote controls and rechargeable batteries.
My favorite thing, though, was comparatively innocent and sweet. Rubber Rose really doesn't do lingerie, but it does carry a French-made pantyless panty: three lace elastic pieces—one for around each leg and the last for around the waist—essentially outlining the panty without filling it in. Outlining. Without filling in. I know, to each her own, but that just sounds so much sexier to me than a gigantic purple penis.
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