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Grace R. Duncan Presents
Welcome to my blog, A Little Something… Wicked, and welcome to the Sex Positivity Blog Hop! I was super excited about this hop when I heard Grace R. Duncan was putting it together. I soared to the sign-up page so fast I think I gave myself whiplash. Seriously, a hop where we’re all posting positive messages about sex?? What could be better?
Possibly one where the posts are read by underwear models dipped in dark chocolate who magically appear beside your computer to feed you and wipe your chin with a cloth napkin.
But other than that, I can’t think of anything better.
OK, maybe I can think of a few things that are almost as good, but I have a really vivid imagination. Particularly when it comes to sex. Positive sex. Really, any kind of sex. I tend not to be picky. I’ve never been picky, and most of my characters aren’t either. (I said most, not all.) But I digress. Back to the topic at hand!
I collect sex toys. I’ve been collecting sex toys since 1985 when I found a curious-looking cylinder-shaped object in my next-door neighbor’s garage. I was 11. My brother and I were being paid to clean out said garage and we each had small piles of treasures set aside – things we’d salvaged to keep. I remember examining the device – it looked like a very long extended bullet – and asking Mr. Smith (name changed to protect the guilty) what it was. He turned very red, coughed, choked, apologized for his allergies, and said, “That’s a massager. It’s broken. Just throw it away.”
Sure enough, when I twisted the dial on the bottom, nothing happened. I was a very bright kid, though, and I immediately ascertained that it had no batteries. I surreptitiously placed the massager on my pile of take-home items. That evening, I put two “C” batteries inside it, and turned it on. That sucker roared to life with more RPMs than anything Wham! or Duran Duran ever recorded.
Now being 11 it was a full year before I figured out what to do with that object – how to get the most zoom for my vroom, so to speak. I’d been masturbating since I was 9, but there’s a subtle difference when sex toys are involved, particularly ones with speeds ranging from slow to medium to launch-the-space-shuttle. Needless to say, after I figured out how to zooma-zoom-zoom, well… My romance with sex toys began, and it’s been ongoing to this day.
What I wanted to write about, though, was the craziness associated with the places sex toys are sold: adult stores. According to the IBIS World Market Research Report, there are currently 3,838 adult stores in operation employing 4,686 people. The industry has seen average annual growth over the last five years of 12.5%, and revenue of $610,000,000. Our business – erotica and romance literature – is tied directly to the sex toy industry. For example, 50 Shades of Gray spurred a triple digit increase of sales in BDSM toys and paraphernalia. And let’s not forget that not too long ago in the pre-Kindle era if you wanted to buy erotica in paperback, the only place to get it was at the adult store.
Despite this ever growing popularity of sex toys, marital aids, and adult “novelty” devices, the actual, physical stores where people purchase these items continue to be shrouded in a weird sort of loathing and unpalatability. They are relegated to the outskirts of town, to areas zoned for “industrial” use rather than “commercial.” Still others are denied building rentals, business licenses, and the necessary permits to operate legally. People picket and demonstrate outside the stores in an effort to close them down. Adult stores are treated a lot like drug rehabs, halfway houses, and methadone clinics. While the public might recognize such businesses’ rights to operate, they don’t want them to do so in their backyard.
In the state of Alabama, they’ve been outlawed entirely. That’s right – in 2007 the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (that would be federal, kids) ruled that an Alabama law prohibiting sales of devices “primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs” didn’t violate the constitutional right to privacy because the state needed to preserve public morality. In 2008, however, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a Texas law that was nearly identical to Alabama’s law. With two federal courts at odds over whether it’s legal and constitutional to ban the sale of sex toys, you better believe I’m hoarding them and hiding my collection!
But it’s the 21st century, Tucker, you say. Anybody looking to buy a new double-ended dong or an inflatable butt plug can jump online and be assaulted by a bevy of choices in every style, color, and material available on the open market. Those skeevy old porn shops are passé and out of date. We can have the best of both worlds. We can preserve public morality and have our ShockSpot Robotic Fucking Machine, too!
Because here’s what that feels like to me. It feels like wearing clean clothes with dirty underwear. It feels like going to orgies during the week and buying indulgences on Sunday. It feels like knowing I’m a gender-queer, bisexual polyamorist and living in the closet.
There’s nothing wrong with sex toys. And there’s nothing wrong with the stores that sell them. I still remember with vivid clarity the first time I walked into Frederick’s of Hollywood. “Assailed by beauty” took on new meaning for me that day. I’ve spent some of the best hours of my life in AdultMart, Priscilla McCall's, Adam & Eve, and my personal favorite, Lion's Den. Alone, with friends, lovers, my spouse, boyfriends, girlfriends – buying toys, gifts, supplies, books, cake molds (if you want a penis-shaped cake mold where else would you go?) and more. Part of the reason I have such a healthy, positive view of sex is because of the time I’ve spent in these places.
I’ll end on this:
I remember being in a tiny hole in the wall town in West Virginia and I needed information for my "Dust & Ash" series. What I needed to know dealt with butt plugs. Anyone who’s bought one knows they’re sized as standard small, medium, large, and extra-large. What I was trying to find out was whether or not every company’s medium was the same size, if every large was the same size, etc. I’d gone online, and really, I couldn’t get exact dimensions from every site. My collection of sex toys was back at home. So I looked up the local adult store and took a field trip. It was the middle of the day on a week day and I walked in wearing my ball cap backward and carrying a notebook and a tape measure. I looked at the lone clerk and gave him a friendly smile.
“I’m just here to measure the butt plugs. Don’t mind me.”
He opened his mouth to say something, but I headed him off.
“Oh don’t worry… I’ll buy something.”
Shop local. Shop often. Shop proud.
Support your local adult store.