The furnace is exploding. That was my first thought as a whining thud ripped me from sleep and sent my dog chasing after phantom mailmen. The sound was everywhere, then gone just as suddenly. I held my breath. Sliding out of bed, I pressed an ear to the floor. The thud shocked me back to my feet and senses. It was Purpsy, my neglected vibrator, turning himself on in the dresser’s lonely dark. I laughed so hard I scared the dog, and soon after, Purpsy went to the dump. I don’t think that kind of plastic is recyclable.
He was a birthday gift, a bright purple joke I would never have bought for myself. It took me a year to work up the courage to experiment with him, and our times together were few and unmemorable. Partly because I have a fulfilling relationship with an actual penis (and the man attached), and partly because I couldn’t shake the giggles whenever I saw Purpsy’s mint-condition jelly sheath nestled among my underwear.
The same giggles betrayed me when I called Déjà Vu Love Boutique to tell shift manager Marc Griffith about my plan to shop for a new toy. My man would be away for Valentine’s Day, and it was only fair that I explore my battery-powered options. He told me that even though I was obviously uncomfortable, Déjà Vu wouldn’t bite.
- Looking for a special Valentine’s Day goody? Hit the Déjà Vu holiday fashion show at 9 p.m. Saturday, February 11.
Griffith hooked me up with Kim Faubel, the Ken Jennings of sexy merchandise. If you recall, Jennings won 74 straight games of Jeopardy!, but Faubel could take him in categories like “G-Spot vs. P-Spot” and “Famous Phallus.” The 27-year-old part-time comic has worked in adult retail for nine years, both in management and sales, even organizing events to welcome women like me into the intimidating, unlimited world of erotic play.
“If someone comes in and says, ‘I’ve never had one; I don’t know where to start,’ this can be really scary,” Faubel says, nodding toward a wall of silicone/glass/elastic fun. It reminds me of the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when Indy has to pick the Holy Grail from among countless golden goblets dripping with jewels. The bad guy chooses “poorly” and gets his skin melted off. Faubel sees me flinch and knows just what to say: “The nitty-gritty, the bottom line of it is, how do you come? What sensation are you looking to achieve?”
Faubel hasn’t done it all, but she’s probably seen it all, and she swears she doesn’t judge. Even so, she says customers often joke about the products because they’re afraid to admit their interests and impulses, or because the toys have names like “Don Wands” and attachments that look like cartoon rabbits, butterflies and beavers.
“These are non-threatening animals. If they made a hyena, that thing would be terrifying,” Faubel jokes. “It’s all about preference. If you’re not comfortable with it, don’t do it.”
Naturally, the conversation turns to the butt plugs hanging nearby. Weekly calendar editor Allison Duck: “It’s like a damn trailer hitch.” Me: “That terrifies me.” Faubel: “That terrifies me, and I happen to like anal sex.”
Back in the vibrator section, I notice they break into two basic styles: sleek, ergonomic, silicone tools you could mistake for kitchen gear and lifelike jelly “dongs,” with all manner of glass dildos and bullet harnesses in between. One of the dongs is enormous. Quietly, so as not to provoke it, I ask Faubel if this exists in nature.
“I think they probably get close, but if that came out of someone’s pants it would be ‘let’s just be friends’ time. I don’t mind a challenge, but that’s ridiculous,” she says.
Given my preference, which doesn’t include “Real Skin Latin American Whoppers” (with balls!), she points me toward Lelo. From the G-spot tickling Gigi ($125) to the waterproof Soraya ($209), the Swedish-made vibrators have graceful lines and smooth, powerful, multi-speed action. There’s even a Siri (sorry, Apple; they had it first), and the devices lock, so there’s no danger of late-night furnace impersonations.
The We-Vibe line has a similar feel and price point. We-Vibe 3 ($187) is a couple’s toy shaped like a squashed C, with internal and external massagers. The tongue-shaped Touch ($107) is a flexible, external stimulator that, according to Faubel, “packs a wallop” (at max speed, you could almost frappe a milk shake).
“I’m not crazy about vibrations,” Faubel says, shaking the foundations of my sex toy world. “For me, it makes me numb before I really enjoy it.”
She prefers simple glass, the easiest to clean and, surprisingly, the most durable. The hand-blown pieces look like art and can run as much as $500. The Pipedream Icicle line is one of many affordable alternatives, but Faubel warns not to skimp on material if you have the money. So I walk the wall, letting my eyes lead me. I stop in front of a Phallix design listed for $99.99. It’s handmade, medical-grade glass with a color fade from white to delicate pink. It doesn’t look like a sex toy. I’m not sure we belong together, but it makes me wonder about the possibilities, almost like a good first date.
On the way out, Duck and I pass a motion-activated flasher mannequin that looks like Columbo with a beard. “See anything you like?” he asks. And I don’t even giggle.
Toy Land Tips
• An overwhelming number of women (Faubel says it’s close to 80 percent) require clitoral stimulation to reach climax. So start with toys designed for external fun.
• Pretty much any vibrator can be used for external stimulation, but some shapes are better (and less comical) than others.
• If internal stimulation is your thing, look for a toy that can massage the G-spot and the clitoris simultaneously. No harm getting twice the bang for your buck.
• For the very adventurous, there are discrete toys you can wear in your panties or swimsuit and turn on with a remote control whenever you feel the urge.
• A clean toy is a happy toy.
• There are toys for every taste and budget, though the pricier ones will probably be quieter.
• Faubel says if your mock penis has a cartoon face, it was probably made in an Asian country, where manufacturing rules require that phallic devices pretend to be something else. (It may be smiling, but I’m pretty sure it’s still a penis.)
• And the No. 1 tip? Ask questions. ANY questions. The Déjà Vu staff knows sex, and they aren't afraid to talk about it.