Whenever I go into The Home Depot for potting soil or air filters, I wander the massive aisles brimming with all kinds of strange gadgets and tools and wonder: What is all this stuff, and why does anyone need it?
I have the same feeling about sex toys.
I used to live in Los Angeles, where adult stores are more in-your-XXX-face--or perhaps I was more tuned in. My favorite adult store was the Pleasure Chest on Santa Monica Boulevard, where motorcycle-leather-chap-wearing dudes mingled with mink-coated mamas. But here, I couldn't find any specific adult store Yellow Pages listings, so I turned to the back of Tucson Weekly for guidance. I also brought along my gay friend Robert, who was visiting from the San Francisco. Two heads are always better than one on any assignment.
Sex toys invariably answer the question: Does size matter? It definitely matters to men, which is why penile enlargement products like the Stallion Pump, Peter Pump and Big Man's Pump-12 inches! brag bigger, stronger and harder as they dominate an entire wall at Bookstore Southwest, a generically-named adult store at 5754 E. Speedway Blvd. As Robert educated me about the nuances of gay sex, it got a little deeper than I wanted to go.
While we milled around the cluttered Bookstore Southwest perusing old Playboy covers (including November 1985, "Women of MENSA: America's Smartest Females Pose Nude"), two 20-something women came in and spent much time giggling and looking at vibrators. As they checked out, I overhead the polite cashier say, "Do you want batteries with that?" Although I wanted to interview them for this article, I had a gnawing pang to respect their privacy.
The sales clerk, Justin, was really knowledgeable, especially for a young guy. He said that the latest clit stimulator craze grew in immense popularity after "that old lady (Grandma Sue Johanson) recommended it on the Oxygen Channel." Justin showed us the Rare Gems model by Doc Johnson, the trifecta--G-spot, clit and anal pleasure--engineered into one exciting, emancipating device.
After dinner at Casa Molina, we went to the Continental Adult Shop at 2655 N. Campbell Ave., where on a Monday night, the joint was jumping with mostly men, although three college-age couples came and went. Except for the X-rated videos running on a small television attached to the wall, the Continental was just like any store, because the lighting was bright, the music hip hop and the merchandise almost fun.
I found fishnet gloves, crotchless and edible panties, oral sex helpers for people who wear mouth retainers, butt plugs, flavored dental dams, over-the-counter stamina enhancers for men and arousal pills for women, nipple clamps and handcuffs, fake bulges, lots of lubes and the Dream Date--a float that lies on her back and is partially anatomically correct. (I picture them floating around fraternity pools.) If I ever wanted to host a penis-envy theme party, there's penis sipping straws, popsicle and jello molds, cake toppers and gift wrap.
Ed, another young and helpful sales guy, directed our attention to the barely clothed Hustler's Virtual Girl, posed in an unnatural position so some horny dude can poke a part of his throbbing anatomy into the squishy part of hers. Ed confides that six of these dolls have sold in the past three years, for $500 each. He chuckles about the most recent buyer, who drove off into the sunset with virtual girl propped up in a brand new two-seater convertible. Now that's an odd couple.
As Robert and I stood in front of the vibrator display, he voiced his vote for the life-like beige or brown-skin-toned vibrators with matching testicles. However, my fantasies scream Technicolor, and the 6 1/2-inch magenta gel gyrator called my name.
Another day after lunch at B-Line, I asked my friend Scarlet if she wanted to accompany me to Fascinations, the sensual superstore at 3658 E. Speedway Blvd., where the sales staffers are fondly called "romance educators." Fascinations is about the size of Trader Joe's with brightly lit pastel ambience and free coffee.
Our romance educator, Fisher, showed us the wall of romance toys, or what I christened plastiques fantastiques. We were amazed at the voluptuous variety--a sea of colors and sizes featuring waterproof, weatherproof, beaded for texture, battery-tested and multi-speeded (but not yet remote-controlled) vibrators and clit stimulators. The Red Rider caught my eye: a bright red gel-lee dual-speed vibrating cock.
Scarlet and I became liberated in that decade when vibrators were the one-size-fits-all, hard, beige plastic kind that came in a plain box, archaically referred to as "facial massagers." Worse, they buzzed so loudly that once while I was on a business trip, the phone rang in the middle of my personal rapture. The guy in the next hotel room called to ask if he could come over with his "ready-for-beddy" 8-inch power tool.
Fascinations functions at the pinnacle of female friendliness. I was amazed at the selection of erotic and instructional books in the lover's library. The medley of metallic body tassels, lacy and leather bustiers and bikinis made me wish I was still a size 9. On the more modest side, I almost succumbed to the pink bowling-bag purse, purple boa and glow-in-the-dark bubble bath. Informational product notes are prevalently posted, not unlike wine descriptions in gourmet stores. Even the DVDs have kinder names, like Fluff and Fold, Serenity in Denim and Intimate Expressions. The Kama Sutra bedtime box features a pocket book of positions, sexy stories and an assortment of oils, creams and passion balms; my compliments to the packaging designer and copywriter.
I even found the tester-sized tastes of erotic butters and flavored lubes easy to swallow. As Fisher said, "Everything's better with lube."