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Life at The Condom Shack

Canada- Standing outside, under softly falling snow, a light glows warmly through a store window and looks harmless, even inviting. Once you enter the store and dust the snow off your shoes, there are friendly and knowledgeable sales associates who greet you with a smile while stocking products on shelves. Then, something happens that clues you in that you’re probably not in Kansas anymore. Pam has seen it all.

“Somebody comes in and asks for something really obscure, [and] it’s really not weird to me … they think that we’re [the] It Store,” she laments, “They just don’t recognize we’re a sex store, not a novelty store. People don’t realize [that other] people buy these things.” Both Pam and Matt work in The Condom Shack (www.condomshack.com), a tiny shop located on Queen Street that sells more than just its namesake to a wide demographic.

“We get the full spectrum: 12-year-olds, 80-year-olds and everyone in between.” No mention of any UofT students though.

Yes, everyone has different needs and sex is often used as a selling tool for everything, everywhere, so why is a store that openly admits to it seen as taboo?

“A lot of people are very uncomfortable about getting help because they think we’re going to ask about their crotch. I’m not going to ask if he has a foreskin.” Pam smirks as she tags the prices on boxes of colourful dildos on the glass counter. Unfortunately for her, as well as others who are in the same business, gauging and attending to the varying levels of their customers’ comfort is a task that is vital to ensure return business and customer satisfaction, especially from their products.

This type of anxiety was actually anticipated by Adam, the owner of Lovedreamer.com, a Canadian “online superstore” for “adult items” that can be ordered and shipped discreetly to your doorstep. Its 2.24 mile distance from campus makes it the closest sex store location to York.

Stores like Condom Shack, Lovedreamer and Aren’t We Naughty (www.arentwenaughty.com) make it their business to know about sex and make learning about how to do it safely and pleasurably entertaining, employing props and dolls to do so. It also helps that it provides an atmosphere where sexual preferences or fetishes aren’t being viewed through a judgmental microscope, viewing sex as contextual and the ease with which they do this may be what unsettles so many people.

Although Condom Shack may seem out of reach for York students, it provides the most detailed information and the best selection of condoms and lubes. Pam recommends Japanese condom brands such as Kimono and Sagami, because “their standards for condoms are almost three times higher.” There are also less chemicals and they are thinner and stronger in comparison to other brands. She also indicates that she has heard North American condoms like Trojans tend to be the worst by being thicker, having the worst smell and breaking more often as well.

Granted, condoms are free and plentiful in certain places like clinics, but this also does not necessarily guarantee the best protection, especially if not properly applied. Make sure your condoms are lubricated, with the right type of lube, when being used.

Although the body can make its own natural lubricant, it may not work very well when other factors come into play such as drunkenness, drug use, or dehydration (to name a few). Only glycerin and water-based lubricants, not petroleum-based lubes, should be used with latex to prevent breakage and rips or tears that could make it easier to catch a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Some water-based brands such as Wet have different viscosities (“original” and “light” are the most popular), while silicone-based lubes last longer in comparison but are more costly and harder to clean off. With all of these choices, look for condoms with a loose head that can fit around the shaft for extra sensation, then add a small amount of lubricant inside (i.e. three drops of lube, or even spit, if you’re desperate). Water by itself absorbs easily into the skin, so think twice before using that.

There are also products that you’re better off not using at all. Oil-based/petroleum lubricants can not be used with condoms. Anything oil-based eats the latex and puts tiny holes in it, which is scary considering an STI is significantly smaller than a microscopic sperm. Pam emphasizes a warning against spermicide, otherwise known as Nonoxynol-9, which “burns the sperm like pouring salt onto a slug” whether you feel it or not. It eats away at vaginal walls and can cause itching, drying, or burning sensations.

According to a 2002 research study by the Lancet Infectious Diseases Medical Journal and a 2001 report by the World Health Organization, “primary outcomes [of spermicide] were new HIV infection, new episodes of various STIs and genital lesions,” and only kills less than ten percent of sperm in the process. The main way to avoid internal cuts (which lead to STIs) is by also avoiding the following: Oil-based products coming into contact with the condom; dry sex by using condoms without lubricant; and spermicide.

Sex toys are popular products and are organized into many different categories and functions. Remember that they are ultimately still products made by a manufacturer and sold by a legitimate retail store; I was caught a little off-guard when I heard a sales clerk refer to a warranty to a customer. All sales are final, no exchanges or refunds. Places like Lovedreamer and Aren’t We Naughty are better in terms of toy selection, although the latter seems more unsure about the products by relying on “customer feedback” and “what people buy”. In the other two stores, people were openly admitting which ones they’ve used and their quality.

Have you ever been to a grocery store where there are those 25¢ machines that give prizes like candies or small toys, perhaps a tiny jelly hand at the end of a long jelly arm that can stick on walls? Well, if you enlarge that rubbery, supple, gelatin-like hand, its finger could very well look like an “ultra-realistic” dildo. Whether it’s making dolls, dildos or pocket pussies, this is the most realistic-feeling material on the market. That means hand-crafted artistry – some of these products have hand-painted veins.

There are three main competitors in the sex toy industry that have their own claim to this substance: Doc Johnson, the original inventor, has “UR3” (as in third edition); TOPCO manufactures “Cyberskin”; and California Exotics (a.k.a. Calexotics) has made claims to their own “Futurotic”. Products that are made of UR3 usually have talcum included in the box to maintain the suppleness, but if you need more, any general drugstore talcum power would be fine.

At Aren’t We Naughty, blow-up dolls like the popular but rare Gina Lynn go as high as $800. (Unfortunately, she was unavailable to comment – I asked).

Most molds (of either genitalia) are from actual porn stars like Jenna Jameson. To confirm this, the back of some of the boxes show a frame by frame process of the star spreading her legs waiting for a very special paper-mâché lesson you probably wouldn’t see on Art Attack.

There are also molds of male porn stars such as Jeff Styker. Another product called VibroRealistic vibrators come in 6″ and 8″ sizes, as well as white, black, or currently sold-out mulatto ethniticies. It should be noted that only the vibrator mentioned is not made of UR3, making it easier to use and removing the “rubbery feel”.

Speaking of rubbery, there are also desensitizers that can be used to prolong pleasure. With a knowing grin, Adam observes that desensitizers like Stud 100 are commonly bought by men while sensitizers like O’My Clitoral Pleasure Gel are mostly bought by women. There’s also Anal Eaze, a desensitizer that numbs your area with Benzocaine, a weaker cousin to Novocaine, ideal for those who are unsure about anal sex. As always, when lubes join the party, everyone has a good time.

In sex and in life, men and women have distinctive wants and desires for him/herself. For men, the pocket pussy usually has a cylindrical shape with an opening that simulates a vagina. According to Marnie, the manager at Aren’t We Naughty, the Porta Muff is a best-seller (and recommended by all three stores) because it has “strokers or masturbation sleeves”, it’s stretchy, it feels “natural”, it’s lubricated and it has a grip. The product description on sensualcanada.com advertises, “It looks like an ordinary blue tube. Take off the top and presto, you have a tight little pussy ready for your penis!”

In terms of penis pumps, you may want to try Dr. Joel’s Pump. He may be expensive, but the good doctor prescribes a daily routine and application method to maintain a bigger size. For those who are unfamiliar with these pumps, they claim that the penis may be enlarged by applying suction and enlarging the blood vessels.

For those who prefer pills, Herbal Vivid is made by the same company that makes adult films, but both methods are about as effective as diet pills are for losing weight.

Vibrators are self-explanatory and the most popular brand of clitoral stimulators are called Pocket Rockets, because they are portable, discreet, compact and fit on your finger. Dongs are defined by UrbanDictionary.com as “the word for a large penis, as opposed to weiner, which makes it sound short” and ‘dildo’ is synonymous with ‘dong’. In comparison to men, this outline may seem sparse, but it is surprising how many different types of products fall under each of these categories (there’s even a vibrating egg with a remote control).

Experimenting couples have a number of options to choose from. For “heterosexual” sex, there are vibrating stimulator rings. During intercourse, it can be a cock ring for the penis and a vibrator for the female’s clitoris as it penetrates. The pros include being able to maintain an erection and that it’s really favoured by women; the cons are that some say it’s distracting and it you end up finishing faster.

The Diving Dolphin, another vibrating stimulator ring, goes an extra step by having vibrators on the top and bottom of the cock ring. After a certain length of time, these products might be a welcome change for long-term couples who need to “shake” things up a bit.

(Translation: Easy to hide from your parents or roommate.) According to sexinfo101.com, “beads consist of a series of silicone, jelly or plastic spheres attached together by a cord. They are inserted one by one into the vagina or anus and then slowly removed creating pleasurable sensations.” If beads aren’t enough, there are also butt plugs and anal vibrators to satisfy any lingering lust for bum.

In a bid to compensate for their own discomfort, too many people have tried to distort the idea of sex as either perverse, comical or unclean, but the very pervasiveness of sex negates this assumption easily. And not everyone has to have sex to be affected by it; even its absence influences who we are or who we become. The significance lies behind how we feel about it.

But if there is anything to be ashamed about, let it be hypocrisy. Without sex, there wouldn’t be any life, metaphorically and biologically.

Let go of your inhibitions, values, judgements and fears. Or hold on to them tighter. All in all, sex stores aren’t going anywhere, and they’ll be waiting when you’re ready.

 

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