By: Agra Mikel, SFU Student
A lot of fear goes into entering a sex shop, and I would know as a former sex shop virgin. Not once have I desired to venture into the depths of dildos and sex dolls. This week, however, I decided that the only way to combat this fear was to visit not just one, but FIVE stores all around Vancouver. And what better way to celebrate than by broadcasting my experiences to the world? That being said, here is a list of sex shops I’ve compiled from my wild sex shop adventure, ranking them from worst to best.
- Happy Paradise Adult Store | Hours: 10 p.m.–11 p.m. | 4713 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC
At the very bottom of my list is Happy Paradise. With a name that seems largely promising, I knew as soon as I walked in that this was NOT it. Right away, I was greeted by the distinct smell of cardboard boxes infused in sweat — a rather unpleasant scent to set the mood. Inside was a long hallway, with all of the items displayed along hooks on walls that were painted in an off-putting green colour. At first glance, it appeared as if the store had a wide range of items. Unfortunately, it might have just been the large stock of identical sex toys on display that gave off this illusion.
Overall, their selection felt bland and unexciting, offering nothing more than your typical dildos and vibrators. Even their so-called BDSM (an acronym that commonly refers to: bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism) section left me uninspired from the limited mix of pink duct tape and basic ropes — things you could find at any hardware store. While the vintage adult films and playboy magazines were a nice touch, it wasn’t enough to compensate for the all-around basic experience.
- Fantasy Factory Adult | Hours: Open 24 hours | 1109 Royal Ave, New Westminster, BC
If you’ve ever taken the SkyTrain and passed by New Westminster, then you’ve definitely seen the brightly-lit neon signs and large placard displaying the words “Fantasy Factory.” As vibrant as it is from the outside, the same could be said inside. From the black-and-white checkered floors to the vivid fluorescent lighting, it’s hard not to spot every item and customer that walks into the shop. While this works well for more of a department store type of setting, I found that it worked to its disadvantage in this kind of atmosphere, especially when most people may prefer some privacy when browsing. As for the selection of products, nothing really stood out to me — at this point, I’d already been accustomed to seeing various sex toys from other stores, and in this one, there was nothing outside of the ordinary. I should note, however, that this store is open for 24 hours, which is an ultimate game changer.
- Male & Female Harmony | Hours: 10 p.m.–12 a.m. | 4554 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC
Just a block away from Happy Paradise is Male & Female Harmony, the slightly better option if you’re hoping to stay within the Kingsway area. Easily visible even from across the street, the storefront is painted in a bright yellow and has a neon-lit arrow sign that reads “Adult Store.” Branded as a sex shop inclusive of needs of both men and women, the shop had a wide array of dildos that came in various shapes and sizes, as well as an abundance of vibrators to choose from in different styles and colours. Aside from your traditional sex toys, they also offered inflatable sex dolls and plenty of BDSM-oriented products. I was particularly impressed by their fun bachelorette party items and sex-related card games — a section that I rarely found in the other sex shops. That being said, the only downside to the store was how cluttered and stiff it all felt. There were empty racks that were left in the middle of the store, which felt out of place. Some random cardboard boxes were also dispersed around the space, which made it slightly difficult to move around.
- Womyns’ Ware Inc. | Hours: 11 a.m.–6 p.m. | 896 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC
Now, I’m no avid goer of sex stores, but walking into this shop definitely had me thinking twice. It had an all-around wholesome atmosphere, as they had plants lining their wooden-paneled walls, giving off that cozy cabin vibe. Women-centric magazines and literature also decorated the space, which made for a unique yet visually pleasing aesthetic that I didn’t get from the other shops. As promised, they boasted a large collection of women’s sexual products, from bullet vibrators to remote-controlled sex toys. However, what made it even better was how they also had each product displayed outside of their packages for customers to see how they worked before committing to a final purchase. Overall, I found myself spending the most time in this store simply because it made me feel the most comfortable and relaxed — feelings that I never would have expected to have walking into a sex shop.
- Honey Gifts | Hours: 10 a.m.–7 p.m. | 350 Water St, Vancouver, BC
While Womyns’ Ware was a close call to being number one on my list, I’d have to say that Honey Gifts was the farthest from your typical sex shop experience in the best way possible, landing it at the top spot. Located in the heart of Gastown and doubling as a lingerie store, the storefront presents itself more as a cute and lavish little boutique. While other sex shops don’t spend too much time displaying their products with any intention, it was clear that Honey Gifts put extra effort in how they laid theirs out in order to induce a luxurious feel. Their BDSM pieces were enclosed in glass cases, making them look bold and expensive. Their dildos were also carefully propped up onto display tables, pairing them with other lingerie products that matched each item perfectly. From the friendly staff to Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire” playing in the background, Honey Gifts had all the right things going for it to give you the ultimate sexy shopping experience.