San Diego has grown a lot in the past few decades, but it wasn't all that long ago that our glossy, condo-towered, baseball-parked downtown was little more than a downtrodden destination for horny sailors looking to get loaded and laid. Downtown has been cleaned up quite a bit since then, but it seems you just can't keep the sex market out of San Diego. As the city has grown, the sex shops have conveniently spread out into many different neighborhoods, each one catering more or less to the tastes of its residents.
And because the majority of locals who shop for erotic goodies are actually not lowlife perverts, many of these stores are nicer places to visit than you might think.
When the beach crowd is looking to spice things up, they head to Doctor Loves (1155 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach), which is a big, sparkly shop crammed with sex-related merchandise, from lingerie and bachelorette-party goodies to a make-your-own-dildo kit and an amazing selection of penis pumps. They've even got an in-store stage with a pole attached, but, sadly, it's just for show.
Uptown dwellers depend on the The Crypt (3847 Park Blvd., Hillcrest) when they're looking to stock up on leather goods, so if you're in the market for ass-less chaps, this is the place to get 'em. They also have lots of fun costumes, a big case of beautiful glass dildos, and a bigger gay and tranny porn selection than most other local stores.
More mainstream tastes need look no further than Hustler Hollywood (929 Sixth Ave., Downtown), which is kind of like the Borders-meets-Hot Topic of sex shops. The spacious three-level store has shiny wood floors and an espresso bar, so you can casually sip a latte while you peruse their vast variety of porn DVDs and admire the floor-to-ceiling photos of nude Hustler models. The only question--what's with the hand sanitizer dispenser in the corner by the third floor windows?
Women who enjoy pleasing other women--or just themselves--must make a point to visit The Rubber Rose (3812 Ray St., North Park) a beautiful, classy little "sexuality boutique" that also boasts an adjacent art gallery and performing-arts space. With oral vibrators, remote vibrating thongs and exclusively designed strap-on harnesses, they've got a little something for the naughty cowgirl in all of us.
Finally, if you need to do some no-frills sex-toy shopping or you've run out of lube in the heat of the moment, F Street has eight locations around San Diego and offers a 20-percent discount for all members of the military, honoring the people who brought the sex industry to San Diego in the first place.