Sex Shop Etiquette

November 12, 2018 5 min read

Modern sex shops aren’t the shadowy spaces they used to be. The ones in large, liberal cities (like BabelandGood Vibrations, and The Pleasure Chest in the United States, Other nature, Mail & female, Amantis and female & Partners in Europe) tend to have a feminist ethos, a highly knowledgeable staff, and a mission to educate. They can even serve as community hubs by hosting various workshops and events. No need to fear being seen there! Here are some ideas to help create a safe and more pleasant experience for all involved in your self-care splurge.

1) Please don’t sexualize the staff.
This is a big one. Progressive sex shops tend to have mostly female staff. Unfortunately, we live in a misogynistic society that casts feminine people as sexual beings before human beings, especially when we speak openly about sex. As such, sex shop workers are regularly objectified on the job. “So, what type of toys do you like?” “I bet your boyfriend loves/hates that you work here.” “I’d love to use this with you...” All of this is unacceptable, even if your intentions aren’t bad.  


Also, please don’t ask us about our sexual history. We all received the same extensive training. A fellow sex educator and friend of mine has this brilliant analogy: you wouldn’t insist on knowing your physician’s medical history before letting her treat you, right? No, because it’s impolite, irrelevant, and it implies that you doubt her knowledge. Keep that same energy for shop staff!


2) Don’t assume the gender or sexuality of staff members, or anyone else in the store.
It’s 2018. You should know by now that not everyone in the world is heterosexual and cisgender (that is, when a person's gender aligns with the one they were assigned at birth). Queer staff and clientele are very common in progressive sex shops, which often make a point of catering to this community’s needs. It’s important that straight and cis customers in these spaces follow suit.


You may already have a habit of using they/them pronouns for strangers (“whoops, someone dropped their phone”), which is great! Try to make a point to do this intentionally, regardless of how someone adorns themselves. You should also describe people you don’t know in terms unrelated to their gender presentation, such as “the person in the green shirt was helping me.” These simple verbal switches go a long way.

Source: Marie Boiseau

3) When you disrespect a product, you’re disrespecting a person.
It’s perfectly reasonable to stumble upon a product in the sex shop that you’re unfamiliar with, but how you approach it really matters. Picking up the packers (prosthetic penises) and loudly saying, “Ewww, who would use these?!” is rude and othering toward transmasculine folks, for whom they’re intended. You could just as easily pull aside an employee and say, “Hey, can you tell me what these are for?”


Mature behavior is obviously preferred. Grown adults sword-fighting with dildos is really unbecoming. And please, I beg of you, don’t be racist about the flesh-toned toys. If I had a dime for every time a customer approached a Black employee for help with dildos, just so they could make a gross “big black cock” comment to our faces, I could open my own shop. It’s simple, really: just respect the merchandise. 


Source: Look Human

I could go on, but what it all boils down to is this: be good to people, whether they are like you or not. Honestly, this is advice that’s appropriate for any setting, but especially ones of this nature. Progressive sex shops are one of many institutions leading the way toward a more inclusive and welcoming world. All that the rest of us have to do is stay open-minded and keep evolving how we relate to each other. It only creates more love and pleasure.



Aria Vega
« Aria is a poet, essayist, and advice columnist (ASK ARIA @ Lustery POV) based in Atlanta, Georgia. Her work explores sexuality, relationships, and somatic experiences. When she's not daydreaming about living underwater, she's probably talking to her houseplants or meditating under the moon. " » All posts →