Don’t save that dildo for Valentine’s Day—sex toys are the new big-ticket Christmas item for couples. Read on for a helpful (and non-creepy) guide to erotic gifting.
Last week, as I was exploring the Distillery District’s Toronto Christmas Market, I came across a pair of truly impressive model penises. They were about 10 inches tall and stood boldly upright, using their testicles as a sturdy base.
Their incongruousness inside the antique store where I’d found them had also attracted the attention of a middle-aged lady. After studying the figures for a few moments, we discerned that they were probably novelty salt-and-pepper shakers—a conclusion that did not please my co-admirer. “Such a shame,” she said. “I would have told my husband to buy me one for Christmas.” She obvously wasn’t looking to stock her spice rack.
It’s anyone’s guess whether she was serious about her desire to be gifted an antique wooden phallus, but it seems that a lot of Torontonians would be quite happy to rip through wrapping paper on Christmas morning to find something naughty inside. Sex stores around the city are reporting strong sales in the weeks leading up to the holidays, suggesting that Christmas crackers won’t be the only things making a bang on chilly, late-December evenings.
Carlyle Jansen, owner of Harbord Street sex store Good For Her, says that while her independent shop doesn’t experience the same seasonal madness as other, bigger retailers (where people are shopping for dozens of family members), there is a definite uptick in sales—and not just from those in search of something tawdry for their office Secret Santa. More and more, couples are using Christmas as an excuse to shop for sex toys. “This is a time to splurge,” she says.
A few blocks south, on Queen West, Sarah Forbes-Roberts—part-owner of Come As You Are—has also seen a shift in the holiday market in recent years. Whereas the majority of customers used to come in looking for a spiced-up stocking stuffer, nowadays, she says, more shoppers are buying sex toys as real presents, often leaving with a $200 vibrator (in a plush gift box) under their arm.
“Sex toys have evolved quite a bit in the past five or six years—they are now high-end luxury items,” she says. “People put off buying them all year in hopes of the person they are in a relationship with figuring it out and buying it for them.”
Forbes-Roberts attributes the rise of serious sexy gift–giving to increasingly adventurous public attitudes towards sex, as well as a push by manufacturers to market their products like consumer goods, instead of clandestine materials stored discreetly in a bedside drawer. Stores are also starting to see a boost in the numbers of women browsing for a toy for their male partners.
Of course, including sex toys alongside other meaningful Christmas gifts creates its own set of problems: When you’re dropping a few hundred dollars on a restraint set, laughing off an ill-chosen present as merely a novelty is no longer an option; a sex toy is a statement purchase. As with the expensive jewellery or posh cologne, there are hidden layers of meaning at work that can speak volumes about how you view your relationship.
There is always the risk that your beloved might misinterpret your gift, so all of the sex-store associates I spoke to counselled against the element of surprise. An unexpected dildo might, in your eyes, be a manifestation of your heartfelt love, but to the recipient, it might come off as an attempt to fix a problem in bed. This is one instance where you should lay the gifting groundwork with some not-so-subtle hints. I’d suggest sticking a note to the fridge door, but I understand that might not be for everyone.
There are options out there for every orifice, and even some that are remote controllable, but the newbie sex-toy buyer is generally advised to stick to simple and versatile. “You don’t want to give someone a toy that means they are going to have to do something,” says Jansen. She recalls one man who bought a book on pleasuring the penis—to give to his wife. “You’re not supposed to hand out homework,” she adds. Choose a toy that will bring joy to your partner’s loins this season, and not necessarily your own. (Jansen suggests massage candles or oils, along with a promise to indulge your partner.)
However you choose to do it, make sure you get the green light before splashing out. Sex toys are one purchase you can’t exchange for store credit come Boxing Day.
Sexy gifts at Come As You Are
Come As You Are, 493 Queen St. W., 416-504-7934, comeasyouare.com.