Once upon a time, a gang of giggly high school girls—myself included—wandered into a sex shop while out and about in the West Village. We ran out of there after about 10 minutes, utterly confused as to what all that rubbery, wiggly, strange-shaped stuff was for. Ah, to be fourteen again! Anyway, there are plenty of adult toy stores in this city, ranging from fetish-friendly to bachelorette party-ready to high-end to delightfully seedy. Here are some of our favorites; leave yours in the comments, and please take care not to injure yourself while shopping.
BABELAND: Babeland is essentially the city's most accessible sex toy boutique, selling female-conscious erotic playthings, DVDs and educational books out of brightly-lit, well-organized stores. Babeland's three shops are upscale without giving off a snobbish boudoir feel, and staffers are friendly and incredibly helpful. Feel free to rifle through colorful vibrators, dildos, strap ons and cock rings, peruse the bondage gear, and stock up on lube and condoms; all three locations also offer classes on everything from anal sex to blowjobs, and you can even score free gear at their sporadic trivia nights.
Babeland has three locations in NYC: 94 Rivington Street between Ludlow and Orchard Streets on the Lower East Side (212-375-1701, babeland.com); 43 Mercer Street between Broome and Grand Streets in SoHo (212-966-2120, babeland.com); and at 462 Bergen Street between 5th and Flatbush Aves in Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-638-3820, babeland.com).
SHAG: Shag is another female-conscious sex shop, though this upscale spot puts an added emphasis on sex paraphanalia as "functional” art, as befits its Williamsburg location. In addition to the usual sex shop suspects, Shag offers up bespoke handmade marble dildos, $48 artisanal aphrodisiac truffles, exotic massage oils, erotic arts-and-crafts items, greeting cards and designer lingerie. The space also functions as a fine arts gallery and bachelorette party space, and staffers offer regular workshops covering everything from bondage to burlesque dancing.
Shag is located at 108 Roebling Street between North 5th and 6th Streets in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-721-3302, weloveshag.com).
TIC TAC TOE: This dual novelty/sex shop sells everything from dancewear to penis gummies, making it a pre-bachelorette party must-visit and a mob scene around Halloween. Though employees here aren't as knowledgeable as those at some of the higher-end stores, they're lovely and won't judge you for spending a fortune on nipple clamps and a box of Pasta Boobs. Their selection of condoms, lubes and other such staples is unparalleled; whether you're looking for the fun flavored variety or some heavy duty silicon-based lacquer, they have you covered. Head upstairs to check out their collection of costumes and lingerie, and expect to leave with a much lighter wallet.
Tic Tac Toe is located at 161 West 4th Street between Cornelia and Jones Streets in the West Village (212-462-0019).
THE PLEASURE CHEST: The Pleasure Chest's been doling out sex toys in the West Village since the 1970s. But its real moment of pop culture glory came a few decades later, when it served as a pivotal sexual awakening spot for Sex & The City character Charlotte, who purchased a vibrator there. Racy! Now, sadly, the shop's a stop on the Sex tour, but even hordes of Cosmopolitan-bearing ladies can't lessen The Pleasure Chest's awesomeness.
Sex toys of all shapes and sizes are on elegant display, staff members are friendly and knowledgeable, and there are plenty of fun gift items—both erotic and less so—available for purchase at both the UES and West Village locations. And, like any high quality sex boutique, The Pleasure Chest offers a wide range of kinky classes, with topics like performance anxiety, anal and strap-on techniques on tap.
The Pleasure Chest has two locations in Manhattan: 1150 2nd Ave between 60th and 61st Streets on the Upper East Side (212-355-6909, thepleasurechest.com) and at 156 7th Ave South between Charles and Perry Streets in the West Village (212-242-2158, thepleasurechest.com).
NITECAP MEGASTORE AND SMOKE SHOP: This SI sex shop/head shop mashup touts itself as a megastore, and it sure as hell is, boasting piles upon piles upon piles of toys, videos, lubricants, costumes and other X-rated goodies aimed at all genders and sexualties. Beyond a veritable warehouse-worth of sex merchandise, Nitecap sells bongs, bowls and other smoke-related paraphernalia, if you prefer to pair coitus with a little THC.
Nitecap is located at 690 Gulf Ave in Staten Island (718-370-8100, nitecapmegastore.com).
THE LEATHER MAN: As its name suggests, The Leather Man is a store for leather enthusiasts of all shapes and sizes, with specific focus on items for men. Though wares here climb into the $100s—we're talking about quality leather, after all—you can get custom-made pieces here, including corsets, harnesses, chaps, jackets and caps. You can also score plenty of toys, bondage stuff, S&M gear, power units, leather teddy bears, paddles, and other fetish-friendly goods. Leave your grandparents at home for this one.
The Leather Man is located at 111 Christopher Street between Bleecker and Bedford Streets in the West Village (212-243-5339, theleatherman.com).
EVE'S GARDEN: When Eve's Garden was founded by women's rights activist Dell Williams in the 1970s, it was one of, if not the first women-centric sex shop, tasked with transforming the genre into a shameless, sensual, and liberating experience. It's still one of the city's top sex boutiques for ladies, though it caters more to the discreet shopper and less to the bachelorette party crowd—here, you'll find high-end (and pricey) sex toys and contraceptives, along with products boosting sexual health, instructional books, tantric supplements and other aides in helping women embrace their spiritual and physical sexuality.
Eve's Garden is located at 119 West 57th Street between 6th and 7th Aves in Midtown West (212-757-8651, evesgarden.com).
KIKI DE MONTPARNASSE: Kiki de Montparnasse hedges more towards lingerie shop than sex boutique, but amidst all the schmancy European lingerie are some pretty handy accessories fit to accompany your new $975 bustier. Belts, lace blindfolds, handcuffs, vibrators, whips, ticklers and other tools are up for grabs, along with erotic massage oils, candles and a $295 "Sleep/Fuck" pillowset. But part of the fun here is the shopping experience itself; the shop's laid out boudoir-style, with mannequins lounging on silk-sheeted beds, erotic photographs lining walls and varied sultry lighting in the dressing rooms. Even if you can't afford a $500 vibrator, taking a stroll through the store will get you going on your own.
Kiki de Montparnasse is located at 79 Greene Street between Broome and Spring Streets in SoHo (212-965-8070, kikidm.com).
A&J LINGERIE AND MORE: Sure, it seems weird that this longstanding Flatiron discount sex shop is run by a middle-aged man and his octogenarian mother, but A&J Lingerie—helmed by the aforementioned mother/son team of Jimmy and Aida Burd—is actually one of the loveliest X-rated stores in town. Aida mans the store's lingerie/seXXXXy costume section, and Jimmy handles the large selection of toys and candy underwear in the back, but both friendly, helpful Burds make for a more than pleasant shopping experience. As a bonus, Aida will hand you some Hershey kisses when you head out of the store. Come in for the corsets, leave for the candy.
A&J Lingerie and More is located at 41 West 28th Street between Broadway and 6th Ave in Flatiron (212-779-1141, ajlingerie.com)
PURPLE PASSION: For more BDSM wares, this Chelsea lifestyle shop offers up a full range of accessories, like suspension cuffs, bondage belts, hooks, plugs, harnesses, instructional books, canes, corsets, and latex and leather outfits. Do note that prices here are not low, and also note that you will be asked to check your purse or other personal items at the door, which can be frustrating. On the other hand, if it's S&M, kink and fetish gear that you seek, this is your place; staff members also hold workshops covering topics like bondage, kinky yoga and rope scenes.
Purple Passion is located at 211 West 20th Street between 7th and 8th Aves in Chelsea (212-807-0486, purplepassion.com).