Would You Buy a Vibrator at a Drugstore?

6 years ago

Janine placed the pregnancy test on the counter to be rung up. The woman behind it hardly gave a glance as she took it to ring it up.

“You’re having sex,” she said. It wasn’t a question. The woman motioned dismissively to the condoms on an aisle nearby.

Janine blushed, mortified. “It’s obviously a little late for that, isn’t it?” she stammered.

She paid quickly and left, her cheeks still red. As she walked home, she consoled herself with her own uncharitable judgments: how dare that woman judge her? It didn’t matter. Soon Janine would graduate and leave Hawaii and go live big, bustling, fabulous city, and that woman would remain here, stuck to that counter with her judgmental gaze and shaming hand gestures.


Across the Pacific, in Las Vegas, Jessica and I got out of Jessica’s Jeep and walked into a CVS. We picked up all manner of snacks for our evening in, the first since my arrival from Los Angeles that afternoon: brownie bites, pound cake, strawberries, whipped cream, cream soda, wine, ice cream, an assortment of cheeses, pate, and crackers. We joked and giggled as we caught up on gossip. On the way to ring up our items, we cruised by the personal products aisle where Jessica unceremoniously grabbed a pack of condoms and lube.

At the register, the guy behind the counter rang up our wares, sliding the condoms over the scanner so quickly, it didn’t work the first time and he had to do it again.

“Yeah, we have sex,” Jessica said. “Shocking! Sex! In Las Vegas! What the hell, right? Unnatural. Can you add two packs of Marlboro Reds to that?”

I’m closer to Jessica than I am to Janine on the scale of shame. It’s really hard to shame a woman who blogs about her sexcapades, who can be found in various stages of undress with a single Google Image search. But many more relate to Janine: it can be incredibly uncomfortable to procure the things we need in a society where sex retains its reputation as a dirty, shameful thing despite constant bombardment in the media to the contrary.

The mixed messages make it difficult to embrace our sexuality. Magazines and movies foster extreme sexual expectations of modern woman while the rest of the world fights to suppress all but the most subtle manifestations of sexual empowerment. There is a middle ground somewhere, but finding it is hard in the constant tug-of-war, one fought on our behalf but without our consent.

Last week the New York Times ran a hopeful piece about how sex was coming out of the shadows, pointing to the arrival of sex toys to drug stores, thanks largely to the efforts of condom companies like Durex and Trojan that had expanded their lines to include massagers.

Rachel Venning, one of the founders of Babeland, a chain of sex stores, called it “one more step in the evolution of vibrators to just another consumer product, unburdened of its freight of shame, sexual defect and sluttiness.”

But as Liz Canner, director of the movie Orgasm, Inc. which puts the pharmaceutical industry to task for their campaigns to increase revenue by convincing women who are not sexually satisfied that they are dysfunctional and in need of therapy and medical assistance, says, “It’s easier in a repressed culture to have a disorder than go to a sex store and get a vibrator.”

And here she’s talking about sex stores, which today are largely safe environments where you will not only not be judged for your purchases, but educated about sexual enjoyment with a partner and alone at one of their many workshops, we have to wonder how far we have really come.

Small as it may be, it is a step – one I hope will serve to remind women that their pleasure is theirs. Whether you buy the toy or ignore it, or go home and order it from the privacy of your computer – it’s your choice. As it should be, with toys and every other aspect of your sexuality.

Would you buy a sex toy at a drugstore?

AV Flox is the editor of Sex and the 405 -- what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.

This is an article written by a member of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.
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