opinion

Drugstore Invasion: Sex Toys Go Mainstream

Kim Airs

Look over your shoulder. The sex toys are coming! The sex toys are coming! Many of us in the adult industry already know that several kinds of toys have made their way into bricks and mortar general merchandise stores such as CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and the ever-conservative Walmart. Yep, Walmart.

Industry giants Durex and Trojan have penetrated the mainstream market by placing their toys in the condoms and lubricants section of the stores — I mean, where else would they put them? They aren’t by the front counter … yet. Sometimes, they cleverly hide in the “massagers” area — the place where once can easily erase those aches and pains with a Tylenol and a vibrator. The mainstreamed products range from vibrating cock rings, the original cross-over product that created a stir when introduced into drug stores a decade ago, to real, live action vibrators that make no pretense as to what they really are. Their discreet packaging is what slides them easily into those stores.

I was at a Walgreens recently and gulped when I saw the mainstay Pocket Rocket, complete with interchangeable heads, being pawned off as a massager.

I was at a Walgreens recently and gulped when I saw the mainstay Pocket Rocket, complete with interchangeable heads, being pawned off as a massager. And of course, the price was waaay lower than what a typical adult store would need to charge to cover their overhead. I wondered how many elderly women would go back to their hubbies and say “Look what I got at Walgreens, honey! It’s for pain relief for my arthritic knuckles!”

I really feel that the mainstreaming of toys is both good and bad for the adult industry. Here’s why….

It’s bad because people don’t have to feel obligated to visit their local adult store to buy a vibrator. When checking out at Walmart, they can simply add it to their purchase. “That’ll be tissues, a bottle of Minute Maid, a new T shirt, a Transformers toy, tampons, and oh, a Trojan vibrator and the total of your order is…” with the check out clerk barely noticing what’s in the shopping cart. Vamoose pesky embarrassment!

So then you have suburban housewife, or even RURAL housewife, discovering the joys of using her new found toy. “Gee, I only read about these things in Redbook,” might cross her mind. “I think I like this.”

And that’s where we come in. Once Ms. Suburbia finds she likes the sensation of her new found pleasure, it can often open the door to more purchases of bigger, faster, harder, more kinds of toys. And lubricants. And body treats. And lingerie. And DVDs. And sex ed instruction books. The list can go on and on. It’s up to us to continue her education (and hopefully her partner’s if that’s the case) to let her know buying these things is okay. She’s an automatic upsell as the overwhelming majority of toys sold in the mainstream are pretty straightforward, well, straight, vibrators.

But I’m still concerned. It’s like my own little secret of where to buy these things has been mass merchandised and all the special attributes I’ve learned about each and every gizmo will be out there for everyone to know. But isn’t that why we do this anyway? To preach the gospel to the public of why we love these unique and alwayschanging toys? To share our enthusiasm and educate those hard to reach customers so they can reach those “hard to reach places?” I guess so.

So let’s embrace our mass merchandisers in the sex toy department, knowing that the next purchase for these women will be in our stores and from our websites, where we can provide so much more information than the clerk sporting the blue smock.

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