Durham’s Frisky Commercial Shop has been there for all the changes in our attitudes towards sex over the past two decades
Almost 25 years ago, women across the country sat down on the couch, turned on the television, and discovered the Rabbit vibrator.
Pink, thrilling and phallic, the sex toy became an instant bestseller when Miranda told her friends about it on Sex and the city. But the vibrator didn’t just become a pop culture sensation, it also ushered in a new era of sexual freedom and exploration.
“[That show] has had a big impact on the standardization of stores like this,” says Frisky Business Boutique owner Matt Ferber. The adult toy store, which opened in 2004, is the largest of its kind in Durham.
sex and the city took the sex toys out of the shoebox under your bed and into the public, according to Ferber. Seeing Miranda discuss dildos, masturbation, and female pleasure so openly allowed other women to talk about these things with friends, partners, and adult store owners.
“[When people come in] for the first time, they often need that little bit of comfort,” Ferber told the INDIA. “Information is much more accessible than ever before, and I think that’s a positive.”
The discussion of sex in the media has created a big boost in business. In 1992, only 2% of people said they bought vibrators or dildos, according to the National Survey of Health and Social Life. Fewer people, 1.5%, said they buy other sex toys.
Today, the purchase and use of “marital aids” is much more widespread. In 2015, about half of women and 33% of men said they had used a vibrator or dildo in their lifetime, according to a survey conducted by researchers at Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion. About 17% of people had used anal sex toys.
“I think toys have become an integral part of a lot of people’s sex lives now,” says Gaby Soto-Lemus, who will become owner of Frisky Business in March. “There are sex influencers on Instagram and people who post opinions [of sex toys]. There is a lot more access to information about it than there was before social media.
Customer phone calls today aren’t about the Rabbit vibrator, but about the latest toy trend on TikTok, she says. The internet has made word-of-mouth recommendations easier than ever, according to Ferber. Before social media, people who entered Frisky Business mostly acted on the word of a gregarious friend who wasn’t shy about sharing information about their sex life, Ferber says.
“Now social media means everyone has a gregarious friend who’s going to tell you, ‘You really should try this,'” he says.
Shades of sexuality
In 2011, a new shock wave struck the sex toy industry with the publication of Fifty shades of Grey. Like sex and the city, the racy romance shed light on stigmatized sexual practices. In the late 1990s, it was sex toys and masturbation. A decade later, it was BDSM, which includes bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism.
The book was an “open door” for many who had an interest in BDSM but were unaware of it, Soto-Lemus says. Fifty Shades helped people find their local community, learn safe practices and find out what really matters to them, she says.
Activities like spanking, bondage and role-playing are fairly common in the bedroom, according to a 2015 study from Indiana University. Of both men and women, about 30% have spanked in their lifetime, 22% have tried role-playing, and about 20% have tried tying up their partner or being tied up.
Other common sexual behaviors included wearing sexy lingerie or underwear (75% of women), having sex in public (about 43% of both men and women), and watching sexually explicit videos (60% of women , 82% of men).
After Fifty shades of Grey came out, many people got into Frisky Business because they were encouraged by reading the book, according to Ferber and Soto-Lemus.
“We got a lot of people who had never walked into a store like this before,” says Ferber. “It was a great gateway for us to be able to say, ‘Well, let me give you specific information.’ It allowed us to start conversations.
Ferber says he tried to make sure that when they went out they would feel more comfortable figuring out what they liked, talking about sex with their partner and exploring kink. One of his goals is to educate everyone who walks through the door, he says.
The Frisky Business website not only advertises toys, but also covers topics such as sexual health, acceptance, safety and consent. The store’s blog answers frequently asked questions about BDSM, anal play and lube. There are discussions about stereotypes, misinformation and why there is no need to be ashamed.
“Our goal is to help people come out better informed and make good choices for themselves,” says Ferber. We will take every opportunity to talk to people about [what they’re buying].”
Today’s adult toy stores don’t have grimy floors or blackout curtains. At Frisky Business, the latest products are proudly on display. There are boutique-style tables with brightly-packed dildos, mannequins adorned in lacy lingerie, and racks of high-end cuffs and collars.
“Attitudes have changed a lot as more stores like ours have popped up,” says Soto-Lemus. “We get a lot of older adults coming into a store like this for the first time because it’s more comfortable for them, and their idea of what an adult store is is changing. “
When Ferber opened the business, he wanted it to be a store that served everyone, he says.
“I wanted to have something that was as inclusive as possible, for men, women, couples together, LGBTQ people,” says Ferber. “I didn’t want anyone to feel like they were left out.”
The store is busiest, of course, in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, Ferber says. Customers come in all shapes and sizes – men shopping for lingerie for girlfriends, couples stopping in for new treats on their way out of town, and people buying massage oil for an intimate night with their partner.
“What’s the funniest thing about it [business] is the wide variety of reasons why people come to us,” says Ferber. “It really runs the gamut from people who have just started dating and it’s kind of a fun little adventure for them to people who have been together a long time and want to spice things up.”
The benefits of visiting an adult store may not be immediately obvious, but several studies have shown that the use of vibrators and other sex toys is linked to positive sexual function and relationship satisfaction.
A pair of 2009 studies from Indiana University found that vibrator use in both men and women was linked to positive sexual experiences. In women, it was linked to desire, arousal and orgasm. Men who used vibrators, alone, with a female partner, or with a male partner often said they had more sexual desire and satisfaction and found it easier to get an erection and an orgasm.
More recently, a 2016 study found that women and men who were happy with their relationship were more likely to have tried using sex toys together, showering together, trying new positions in bed, and dating. one night to have sex.
“I think it can be very empowering [and] healing to have a place where you can come in and think about whatever you want,” Soto-Lemus says. “People who feel independent and take control of their own pleasure are truly valuable. Couples who come in and learn to communicate about their desires.
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