|Last week it was brought to our attention that not everyone knows about our teen friendly atmosphere. Xtra (a Canada wide bi-weekly paper) featured a cover article called 'Teens Get the Shaft in Struggle for Sex Toys'. The article was about how teens have nowhere to buy toys because they are banned from most sex stores until they're 18. Condom Shack is, and always has been, the exception to this rule. We have no age restrictions for entering our store. Check out the article (http://www.xtra.ca/public/Toronto/Teens_get_shaft_in_struggle_for_sex_toys-6423.aspx), post a comment, and tell Xtra all about how Condom Shack has been here for you.|
Below is my letter to the editor;
Teens Struggle No More! Condom Shack to the Rescue!
As soon as I saw the last issue of Xtra (No 636 March 12) I was instantly intrigued by the art, and headline. I then read the article and was disappointed in Andrew Innes’ apparent lack of research. Although it is phrased “most major sex toy retailers” the article goes on imply that there are no stores going against the grain by giving teens a place to buy sexcessories. Condom Shack is, and always has. Condom Shack is a Toronto landmark, we’ve been on Queen West for 15 years, and have always been known as a youth friendly environment (we even give a student discount!). We’ve also loyally carried Xtra for years, and that makes being overlooked all the more frustrating!
Our store credo is:
“Condom Shack provides a comfortable atmosphere for anyone, of any age, or sexual orientation, to buy safer sex products and adult novelties”
As teens walk around our store we listen to them comment to their friends, ask each other questions, and give each other answers. The beauty of Condom Shack, is that as they give each other classic school yard misinformation, we step in and give them the real answers. One prime example of this; when the movie Superbad started the trend of asking for spermicidal lube, we took the opportunity to educate kids on the damaging effects of nonoxynol-9. We also explain things like, why you’d use a flavoured condom, why lube is good, and why ‘pulling out’ is NOT an effect method of birth control.
A lot of teens aren’t comfortable enough to buy a vibrator, nor would we pressure them to. But if they want to ask questions about them, or see how they work, or what they feel like, they can. They leave knowing that it’s okay to use toys, and we feel that’s an important part of our job. It’s what we affectionately refer to as ‘Rounding the Squares’ and we do it regardless of age.
We spend a lot of our day listening to kids (and adults) get grossed out by products we love. We hear ‘do people really buy this stuff?’ everyday, and ‘I don’t need that, I’m not desperate’. We hear guys who think anal play is ‘gay’, and girls who think using vibrators is ‘weird’. It’s difficult sometimes to not get offended by the ignorance, but most of the time a simple ‘don’t knock it til you’ve tried it’ changes their tune. In their defense, it’s hard to become comfortable with anything if you’ve never been around it, we all know that hatred stems from ignorance. Ignorance cannot become tolerance and acceptance without education. Sexuality, toys, fetishes, etc. can’t be off limits until you reach a certain age, at which point you magically become accepting and comfortable. I have heard way too many adults make childish comments to think that works.
We also gauge the maturity of our customers as they enter the store. If just seeing condoms and lube makes them say ‘eeww’, we know that they’re not ready to see a vibrator. When they’ve said ‘eeww’ twice we inform them that we have a 3 ‘eeww’ limit, and that if they find this stuff so gross they should probably wait for their friends outside. Depending on what they’re eewwing at, we ask them what they find gross about it, or simply say “I have that, it’s great!” Our staff is 6 friendly, youthful girls, who refuse to be ashamed of our sexuality. It’s hard to continue to be grossed out when confronted with someone not too unlike themselves, being completely unabashed about using whatever they’ve just eewwed at. Our goal is that people leave the store with a ‘whatever floats your boat’ mentality. Just because it’s not ‘your thing’, that doesn’t make it gross or wrong. Once you live within an accepting community, it’s sometimes hard to remember just how many sheltered, closed minds there are in the world. Our dream is to live in a world of safe sexual freedom for all, but alas, we do not…yet. Keeping our sexual habits as shameful secrets, is not the way to empowerment.
Accepting that teens are sexual beings is important. My problem with most of the people teaching kids abstinence, is that masturbation is not given as the logical alternative. As mentioned in the article (by Heather Corinna) encouraging the use of toys can discourage potentially dangerous sexual activities. I would rather a teen experiment sexually on their own, and with toys, then to jump in to physical relationships with other people. Dildos can’t get you pregnant, won’t give you an STI (as long as you keep it to yourself of course) and won’t break your heart.
People will buy toys when they’re comfortable enough with their own sexuality to do so. But letting them know that they are free to ask questions like ‘what is this?’ and ‘where does this go, and why?’ is an important step in educating teens. And it’s crucial in creating a future of open-minded adults.