During my time on this earth and in employment I have worked in various fields. I’ve done time in box offices, music PR, archives and, of course, shops.
When discussing my employment history there is one job I have had that people will latch on to rather. Nobody wants to hear tales of my time in music PR, apparently The Time I Met Lulu only needs telling once. Nor do they care about the time, whilst working in an archive, the head of the image library decided to show me Myra Hindley’s personal photo collection.
Nobody wants to hear how my first day working in a clothes shop I helped a newcomer to transvestism negotiate a Lycra halter dress. This is the same clothes shop where as I silently priced up clothes the owner would moan to his mother that he was considering going back to a life of crime.
'Hm, boring. Tell us about the sex shop Kate!' They (the general public, co-workers, friends, family etc) say.
'Ahem, sex boutique' I passive-aggressively correct them. Then, I really have to admit that nothing as untoward as you might hope goes on in a sex boutique. The one I worked in had recently made the transformation from a Whittard tea shop to sex boutique.
People of a certain demographic would walk in confidently, spot the rack of Fun Factory vibrators directly in front of them and do one of two things. They would either turn to their left and announce their mistake to the ball gag display and leave, or scuttle into the sectioned-off part of the store.
A word to the wise: when you unexpectedly walk into what is referred to in polite circles as a Marital Aids shop, never aim for the private area. There lie the biggest dildos you ever did fathom and glittery holsters with which to wang them around in.
Giant dildos are the last straw for such people and any attempt at fake browsing would be abandoned in favour of running out the door, where the pair would turn to each other, wide eyed, hats askew and ask: 'what the cock was that?'
And indeed what the cock is a sex boutique? Friends, it is a place where you are more than welcome (unless you’re under 18 of course). For, in addition to these misguided consumers, I did see many a wannabe customer. Those people who couldn’t quite get beyond browsing, or were put off by the presence of other customers. They found the place a little more overwhelming than they had expected.
As any former Brownie* knows, a little preparation goes a long way in situations you might find unsettling. With all this in mind I’ve taken the liberty of preparing a guide for those wishing to visit a sex boutique in the near future. And I do recommend that you visit one. The internet’s good for research but you can’t beat seeing the product in the light flesh before you buy.
Squeamish Kate’s Sex Shop Dos and Don’ts:
1. Do talk to us. We’ve been expecting you
Whether or not we insist on referring to the establishment as a sex boutique there will be shop assistants and they are going to talk to you. Do ask any questions you have about what’s available. No question is too naïve or weird. Seriously, they’ve heard it all and are more than happy to help you find a product you’re going to love. If the shop assistants do seem a bit grumpy you’ve probably just interrupted a mini-vibe race across the cash desk. So, place a bet and tell them what it is you’re after.
2. Do press every button
Might I take this opportunity to assure you there are no second-hand items here, this means there’s no need to recoil when an assistant proffers you the pulsating phallus you just inquired about. Press all the buttons you see and by all means press anything that vibrates to the end of your nose to help you gauge the strength of the vibe. In case you’ve don’t know what the hell I’m talking about here - the tip of the nose has a similar amount of nerve endings as the clitoris. Apparently.
3. Do expect high prices
If there’s a part of your body that needs a lot of money spending on it, it should be your eyes. Eyes and genitalia. This because they are both sensitive areas and it is very inconvenient for either body part to become sore. So you have to invest in quality mascara and quality sex toys (with which you could potentially put your eye out as well, come to think of it).
The difference between a flavoured lube from the pub vending machine and a bottle of System Jo is not just about £20. The right lubricant can help protect your skin and keep the material your toy is made of from perishing. I cannot tell you the amount of disappointed men who hoped a £200 beast of a dildo for a stag do could be theirs for a fiver.
4. Do be discreet
Yes a lot of the products for sale are kind of hilarious and/or baffling, but they’re there because some people like them. Please be respectful of other people’s sexual preferences and keep your comments for when you have left. Also that tartan dildo on the counter might just be an innocent flask of coffee.
5. Do come back!
A returning customer (with no returns) is much appreciated. It means we’ve done our job well. With my guide you should be able to negotiate a sex shop, a sex boutique or even a sex emporium and come out with a great selection of goodies and no blushes.
*before I gain your trust by invoking the Brownie Guide name I should tell you I was a terrible Brownie and the only badge I got was an Imp badge to denote which team I was in. And even that was a pity badge I feel.
All the pictures were taken at Tickled in Brighton. Check them out - they come highly recommended by an old pro like me...