Things I learned Working in a Busy Downtown Sex Shop

9 Things I Learned Working in a Busy Downtown Sex Shop

I was just your typical starving artist, working jobs I didn’t care much about so I could afford some semblance of sustenance ( also known as instant Ramen ).

And there I was, jobless again and on the hunt for my next miserable existence. Desperate, I applied to literally every entry-level job I could find.

During that grueling process, I came across the sex shop that I would eventually end up working at for the next 3 years.

sex shop worker
Jim the Dildo Dealer: The Beginning

Much to my surprise, this became the most at home I’ve ever felt in a job. Well except for this job, which I literally do from my home. But I digress.

My experience was also quite peculiar since this wasn’t any small-town sex shop or your typical crummy city sin bin. This was a large downtown sex shop, in a multicultural and sexually diverse city.

Working there was extremely formative, and thought me so much about people, life, and sexuality. This truly was an anthropologist’s wet dream.

In hindsight, these years of dong peddling is essentially what lead me to make this site. The dildo shaped hole in my heart just had to be filled somehow. And since Tabooless has been my way of sharing the knowledge, it would be just silly to keep all the following lessons to myself.

But before I get to it, a little disclaimer.

For the sake of brevity, this article is going to be chock-full of generalizations. But know that generalizations imply that there are exceptions.

My observations only represent the big trends at the time, not the whole picture.

So if one of these lessons don’t apply to your reality, congratulations for defying the norm! The world needs more of you.

So without further ado, here are all the little wisdom nuggets I’ve collected during my 3-year stint as a clerk in a busy downtown sex shop!

Everyone goes

The first thing that comes up when people learn about my old profession is how it must’ve been hard dealing with all the weirdos.

“What kind of people would possibly go in there?” they ask, as if you had to be completely out of your mind to dare to enter. And while I did get my fair share of weirdos, they were still the minority at the store.

I’m sorry to disappoint but absolutely everyone goes to ye olde sex shoppe. And if you weren’t shocked enough yet: Absolutely everyone has sex.

Mom and pops? They sure didn’t stop at making you. Grandpa and grandma? Doing it all the time. Disabled folks? More than able to. Deeply religious? Strong knees baby!

Throughout the course of a normal day, I would see people of all ages, sexual orientations, religions, and cultures. I also served my fair share of celebrities as well. You see, sex just doesn’t discriminate.


It’s not even about the sex toys

At the beginning, fresh-faced and innocent, I thought these fine establishments were all about providing tools for those who wanted to get their freak on. But what I soon found out was way more human, and far from being that superficial.

People were coming to me with touching and often heartbreaking stories to justify their purchases. Some were trying to get through a tough break-up or the death of a loved one. Others wanted to regain control over their sexuality after being sexually abused.

Words wouldn’t be enough to describe how gratifying it is to help someone get their orgasms back after being prescribed antidepressants or assisting some trans kid in finding gender gear that will help them feel more complete.

Sometimes, just having someone tell you that what you’re going through is normal can be a lifesaver. Especially when those subjects are usually shunned by society and we’re left to deal with it in silence.

So throughout the course of our subsequent interactions, we would rewrite these stories to become tales of self-love and empowerment. Real bonds of trust were made and it wasn’t rare for visits to end in tears of joy and a big warm hug.

I ended up feeling more like the Wizard of Oz than some underpaid dildo peddling clerk and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But it also made it painfully clear that…

Sexual education is really missing

When I noticed that the bulk of my work was more about talking through things than making sure people left with something to tickle their bits with, I knew that something was fundamentally missing.

We all heard the debates. Parents were terrified that a sex-ed program would lead kids to early-onset promiscuity, orgies on the weekend, devil worship, and all that other fun stuff.

But from my experience, the reality is that a robust sexual education is all about protecting your children.

You actually don’t want some sex shop clerk to pick up the slack of the schooling system. Yet it’s what I had to do on a daily basis.

A twenty-something dong merchant had to tell your kids that “If you don’t feel like doing something, you don’t have to do it to please your partner” and that “If it hurts, you don’t need a numbing cream, you need a caring person who will take things slow with you”.

That’s without talking about the big fundamentals like how to properly protect themselves, dangerous practices, and how not to be a predatorial asshole. You know, basic stuff.

The truth is that a half-decent sex ed program would undo most of the damage that has been done by movies, pornography, and societal pressures. And these things are what are educating your children about love and sex right now.

No wonder that we need a #MeToo movement when the heroes from our favorite movies basically trained men to believe that yes means no. And don’t even get me started on traditional pornography.

Strangely enough, this has left us in a world where…

Society’s perceived deviants have the healthiest sexuality

It probably comes to no surprise that I’ve met my fair share of kinky folks during my time at the shop. Bondage aficionados, Swingers & BDSM experts were definitely no strangers to me.

Furthermore, while I wasn’t much of a participant, I did end up working for a few local fetish events myself and felt accepted right away. Something that is quite baffling to me since the usual party makes me want to find a corner to hide in. Yet, surrounded by latex-clad half-naked folks spanking each other, I felt right at home.

But what struck me the most was how open, smart & emotionally intelligent most of them ended up being. These people were closely in touch with their dark side, instead of being consumed by it. Something that would make the late Carl Jung proud.

For example, when it came to swingers, most would think that it’s all about tied down men looking for some extra action. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. Swinger parties are actually extremely matriarchal and almost no move is made without a woman’s say. It’s also extremely common to have the woman in the relationship bring up the whole subject in the first place.

But most importantly, in those communities, consent was foundational. And it’s been that way years before it was cool.

That’s right, Kinksters are the consent hipsters the world always needed.

And if you think I’m talking through my ass, get a load of this: Tons of sexual abuse survivors end up turning to these lifestyles since they feel more in control and safer in there than they would out there in the streets.

Now, I’m not saying that these places aren’t without their fair share of creeps. But they sure get promptly weeded out… As opposed to being offered a room in the white house.

Which reminds me that…

Appearances are deceiving

During my stint as a silicone pusher, it quickly became obvious that what you get in the streets is usually the polar opposite of what you get in the sheets.

Clients who seemed the shyest were often the ones who were the most in the know and into the kinkier stuff. Those in positions of power gravitated towards being dominated while the opposite made for the best dominatrixes. People who acted overtly sexual were often the tamest in their practices.

Heck, this “Sexual Duality” even applied to me and my coworkers.

You see, while I’m an all-around sex-positive guy, an ally, and knowledgeable about all things sex and kink, I’m still rather vanilla myself. On the other hand, my kinkiest coworkers almost all came from extremely religious and/or restrictive backgrounds.

Maybe it’s a way to compensate or just nature’s way of keeping a healthy balance. But just know that what you see out there in the world is just half the story.

It finally put that size debate to rest

Let’s talk about dicks size. Because I feel like there are a lot of dudes who need to hear this.

Before anything, know that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a taste for the more sizable stuff. But as a general rule, bigger being better simply isn’t the case. And you know I know what I am talking about since I was literally the guy who was supplying the city with faux-cocks for a full 3 years.

From what I found, when given the choice, people mostly go with the most average size possible.

You heard me right, but let me repeat it so it sinks in:

If someone had to choose anything they wanted from a diverse wall of dicks, they would almost always go for good old Mr. Average.

Of course, there was a tiny amount of people who just had a bit of a fetish for the big stuff, or simply just loved the sensation of being filled up to the rim. But even then, in most cases, they would rarely look for that in a partner since it takes a lot of self-control and care not to hurt someone when your dick has its own gravitational pull.

I’ve also had a ton of encounters at the shop where big dicks were more of a problem than a gift from the gods.

So please guys, enough with that insecurity. Oh, and speaking of male insecurity…

Men are insecure & Women aren’t in touch with their sexuality

Boy, I sure hope you remember what I said about generalizations back in the intro…

But let’s face it, If you look at male products, almost every item that isn’t some kind of masturbator or prostate stimulator is directly catered at dealing with male insecurity: Dick pumps, cock extenders, pills that make you hard, pills that ( allegedly ) make you bigger, numbing delay ointments, and so on.

Now that I think of it, even masturbators have been corrupted, with many models being branded as training units.

While prostate toys are probably the only untainted male toys out there, they still managed to put the spotlight on male insecurity. After all, a resounding “I’m not gay!” has been echoing through the prostate aisle for decades.

All that is without considering how intimidated most dudes would be when coming face to face with our big wall of dicks.

Great wall of vagina
Opposite to the Great Wall of Vagina, of course.

It was also an unwritten rule that if you wanted to keep your man on your good side, you’d be better off buying something smaller than him or forget about it completely. Sad stuff really.

On the other hand, while men were being eaten alive by insecurity, women would often be completely at a loss when it came to their own bodies and tastes.

And it wasn’t in a “There are so many toys, I don’t know where to start” kind of way. I would totally understand that since I’m still learning every day, and I’m supposed to be the “sexpert” here!

What I mean is that, on the daily, I would meet women who had no idea if they preferred clitoral or vaginal stimulation, never met their own g-spots and even worst yet: Never masturbated. While this mostly applied to younger women, it wasn’t uncommon to hear this kind of talk from gals way past their middle age.

Hell, If I got a penny every time some woman told me she never had an orgasm, I would be Scrooge McDuck rich. But instead of pennies, all I could swim in was the sea of sadness it left in my dildo dealing heart.

But if you thought I was just throwing shade, know that…

It’s kind of society’s fault

You know, I’m sure years of shaming women about their own sexuality and men about their own sexual prowess didn’t help.

Men are trained to think that they need to fuck for hours on end and that if there isn’t a look of shock on a woman’s face when you whip it out, you better pack that shit right back up and go home. In our minds, there’s literally nothing worse than premature ejaculation, and that kind of anxiety constantly looming over you… well, it makes you prematurely ejaculate! It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of the sticky kind.

No wonder virgins are such an appealing concept for men. How can they compare your sexual prowess with someone else’s when you’re the one and only?

Meanwhile, while most dudes would get all the fist bumps in the world for their countless partners, women are considered whores and/or broken goods if they attempt anything remotely similar.

Only the virgins survive in slasher movies. Because being in touch with your sexuality means you should be turned to ribbons and left in a ditch. Right? Who writes these movies anyway?


Well, people of the internet, I call bullshit!

Men, If you think it’s flattering & hot when your significant other orgasms in mere seconds, chances are they are going to think the same way if it happens to you. Just don’t be a sore loser and promise them some big O’s of their own in the near to immediate future.

Sex isn’t a performance, it’s a beautiful & intimate exchange. So relax and enjoy it the best you can!

And if a woman has had a nice healthy amount of partners, feel privileged that such an in-demand specimen chose you as their new favorite plaything. I know that I would be honored. After all, experience does tell you more about yourself and what you want in life. So if that conclusion is you, it’s definitely a good sign.

Sex shops are dated relics of another time

Nearly 2500 words in happily tooting my own horn and now this?

Well, as you might’ve figured out by now, It’s actually been years since I’ve set foot in a sex shop for work. And it’s not because of monetary reasons since this site has afforded me to be able to do whatever I want with my time.

So what gives?

Well, while I did learn a lot, most of the time it felt like I was swimming against the current. We held tons of products that I would routinely advise my clients against purchasing. Things like toxic and porous sex toys, lubes with unhealthy ingredients, anal numbing creams, and penis enhancing scams are all mainstays of your traditional sex stores.

That’s without mentioning all the sexist, racist, and transphobic advertising you would find on many of these products.

Male sex toys covered with lines like “No Headaches, no complaints, the only thing she won’t do is the dishes!”.

Dark-skinned versions of products accompanied with tag lines like “fizzle my nizzle fo’ rizzle”.

Referring to post-op/non-op trans women as to having “big secrets”.

I mean…. Give me a fucking break.

How am I supposed to have a sex-positive discourse when everything around me is screaming sex-negative? Even the aging owner was predatory at best. He was also completely out of touch.

For example, when I first landed the job, our strap-on wall almost exclusively had realistic toys on it. And if you think that’s what lesbians and pegging fans ( which is 70% of strap-on users ) usually gravitate to, you should probably marry the old fart.

The store was only half-decent because of the amazing staff there at the time, and not the other way around. Which is insane when you think of it.

Thankfully, things are slowly changing and sex-positive stores like Early to Bed, Come As You Are, Good Vibrations, She Bop, and Good for Her are getting more and more traction. And to nobody’s surprise, most of them are women-owned. Yet, these are far from being the norm. But I have faith in what’s to come.

A brand spanking new sexual revolution is coming, and it’s about time we shook things up a little!