Sex. What? Don't look at me like that—you know you're thinking it, too. Valentine's Day is around the corner, and the last thing you want or need is tips on where to get chocolate and flowers. You know that part. Not to say that you don't know anything about sex, but it is a far more interesting affair after all, isn't it? We think so, too. So our gift to you this lovelorn holiday season (or lustlorn, as the case may be), won't be on the best spots to propose or the best deals on spas—you can invariably get that advice from a million other places—rather, we're going to deal with the down and dirty. Mainly, we're talking sex toys, along with a few other accoutrements. If you're shocked, disturbed, curious or comfortable, stick around. You just might learn a thing or two.
There are a couple stores in town that fit our stringent criteria for happy sex toy shopping, which is that it feel safe, be tasteful and be comfortable enough for a woman to visit by herself. The winners tied for gold are Martha's Body Bueno and Seventh Goddess, who both offer such an amazing service to the community that we should bow down right now and thank them, or at least go patronize their businesses. These stores have slightly different markets and offer different items, but have something in common: They offer excellent service and outstanding products.
Not in a couple this Valentine's Day? Don't look so glum. The holiday is about appreciating the ones you love—and that includes yourself. Be your own sweetheart. Give yourself some lovin'. Buy yourself a toy. Better yet, check out this book for some real advice on flying solo. And don't forget the chocolate.
With all this talk about sex, it would be downright irresponsible of us to not give you a little lecture ... er, reminder ... on keeping yourself safe. Don't forget that STDs are spreading faster than reality TV—be careful out there. For goodness sake, use a condom if you're not in a long-term monogamous relationship and either on birth control or ready to have kids. That includes sex toys. Don't share without properly sterilizing them between uses or slapping a condom on them. Talk to your partner about his/her history. Sure, there's some initial embarrassment, but it's a lot less embarrassing than finding out you've contracted something.
For more information on safe sex, check out the number of websites listed in this section, buy one of the books reviewed here, talk to your doctor or call Planned Parenthood (check the phone book for a bunch of numbers and locations).
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With all this talk about sex toys, it's important to get a few things straight. Buying a sex toy for someone else isn't always appropriate; in fact, sometimes it's just bad form. So how do you know when the time's right? There are a few easy rules:
Sure. Valentine's Day has been turned into a consumer holiday. It's less about love and appreciation and more about buying. Granted. But so what? It's not about you; it's about your relationship. To paraphrase what a girlfriend of mine recently told me, “some girls just want a six-pack of beer, a bar of chocolate and an ’I love you.'” It's not about gifts or obligations, it's about remembering. Even if you don't have a penny to your name, you can still say “Happy V-day.” Besides, small things like that give you a better chance at getting laid (not that that should be your goal).
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Not everyone likes to go toy shopping in person. You're embarrassed, you're lazy or you just can't find exactly what you're looking for. If virtual shopping is more your bag, check out these super-tasteful, independently run websites. They're sure to have what you're looking for, usually send purchases in an unmarked or disguised box, and have a slew of information on sex, health, toys, lubes and any other kinky thing your mind can conjure.
Trying to find a quality book on sex is like trying to find a quality movie in Hollywood—every now and then you strike gold, but most of the time you're just struck with disappointments. There are a few gems out there, and a lot of over-the-top fluff. Here are a couple of our recommendations for awesome sex books that come to the subject from completely different angles (again, no pun intended). These are by no means the only good books out there, but they're our favorites, and together they should tell you just about everything you ever needed to know about sex, safety and respect.