Little (adult)shop of horrors 

So, let me tell you why I hate sex toys.

Firstly, they’re called ‘toys’.

Secondly, despite the spectrum of fleshy colours, hot pinks and purples are overrepresented. The only other place you’ll see such shades roaming in such high rotation is Barbie Lane in Toys R Us. Colours that remind me of my childhood.

They’re also hilariously unsexy.

I remember shopping for one when I was a little over 18. It was 1996. I was with my best mate and  we got up the guts to head into a very seedy-looking Adultshop in Subiaco. The store felt stark and temporary, like it could pick up and flee at a moments’ notice.

One minute I was trying to figure out why the hell you would need a ben wa ball, let alone two, the next I was face-to-face with a fine selection of studded leather paddles but, you know, anything to avoid eye-contact with another human being in this situation.

My friend and I ended up buying the exact same thing: The Pearly Prick. I know, I know. Twenty years later, I’m still WTFing.

That’s another thing. Their names. I mean, unfortunately or fortunately, most vibrators these days have far more high-tech names… but how can you not lose your mind snarfing when trying to decide between the ‘Screaming Finger’ or the ‘American Bombshell Bunker Buster’?

Recently I read about a certain ‘game changer’ and thought that, why yes, I would like to change my game.

The basic model was $250.

Jesus wept.

But hey, I’m a single lass with some disposable income and, as Miss Maud would say, ‘You deserve a treat’.

I didn’t want to buy it online either. If I’m going to drop that kind of cash, I need to eyeball it first. You know, buy it a drink, get to know each other.

So one Sunday (praise the Lord) I headed to my local Adultshop.

On the way, I was already practising my practical purchase schtick: ‘Oh I heard about the Womanizer, do you stock that here?’ Yes. That is what it’s called. Kill me now. ‘What speeds does it have?’, ‘Does it have a warranty?’, ‘How popular is it?’, ‘Do have a colour that doesn’t, in fact, evoke Peaches n’ Cream Barbie?’

I pulled into the car park.

I turned off my car’s engine.

I sat in the car as I stared at the vinyl arseless chaps in shop’s front window.

The Cheesecake Shop was right next door.

For a moment I thought about a slice of Black Forest Torte.

I looked at the chaps again, then checked out what cars I could see, nay, who could see me.

I wondered why I didn’t bring a disguise.

Then, then, then… I just went in.

Judging from the amount of displays around the shop, The Womanizer was clearly the new ‘it’ product. I needn’t have worried about finding it on the shelves… it was an easy game of follow the garish hues.

I picked the least be-dazzled (black and animal print, UGH) and took it to the counter.

It was also, it seemed, my lucky day.

As for an extra $20, the shopgirl excitedly said I could get this showbag full of ‘sexy stuff’.

I snarfed. Unless it was a copy of ‘Addicted To Love’: The Robert Palmer Remixes, we had very different ideas of sexy. I think I handed the $20 over to make the whole shopping experience end already.

She told me to photograph my receipt as ‘they fade pretty easily’ and within minutes I was back in the warm embrace of my car.

When I got home, I put the Womanizer on charge (USB connected, totes technological) and one by one, had a look at what this x-rated showbag contained.

  • A vibrating cock ring. OK.
  • The ‘Party Vibe Necklace’ looked like something you’d wear to a rave, circa 1998. Because we all need the convenience of having a tiny green neon vibrator, on a lanyard. For added convenience you could also attach your work swipe card.
  • A baby pink bullet-style vibrator with a remote control that looked like a flimsy iPod shuffle knock-off from Mini Price at the Galleria.
  • ‘BJ Blast’ oral sex candy. Because sugar and genitals are always a top idea. Instead I ate the sexy pop rocks while watching Family Feud.
  • Raspberry sorbet flavoured lubricant. From memory, ‘flavoured’ stuff just tastes like unfun chemical fruit. Seriously. Get in the bin.

Speaking of the bin, later that day The Mister had come over to pick up a couple of things. We were talking in the kitchen when he tossed out a crumpled-up receipt or tissue or something. He took one look at the ripped open packages of lustful objects then looked back at me.

‘It’s not what it looks like,’ I said, not really knowing what, in fact, it actually ‘looked like’ or not. While he laughed, I slowly died of embarrassment.

 
  
 But that was nothing compared to what happened two weeks later.

Remember the episode of Sex And The City when Charlotte got addicted to The Rabbit vibrator? Just swap out the name Charlotte for Pip and The Rabbit for The Womanizer.

I was kinda hooked.

Then it happened.

One day, I took the thing off its charge, attached the nozzle thing and switched it on (the ‘on’ button is this awful plastic jewel, because of course it is).

What should’ve been a pretty muffled hum was now a jangly, grindy noise.

Had I been using it too much? Had I recharged it too often? Had I told it I loved it too soon?

Panic rose. Not over it not working but that I had no choice but to return it.

So there I was again.

I pulled into the car park.

I turned off my car’s engine.

I stared at the vinyl arseless chaps in shop’s front window.

It’s one thing to return a faulty item… but a sex toy?

Sheepishly, I walked to the counter, dripping with mortification.

I was met with two super-smiley ladies who were busy unpacking a range of butt plugs.

They were amazing. Nothing was a problem. Within 10 minutes I was in-and-out with my new  – blue (UGH) – Womanizer. I couldn’t get home quick enough.

Over the next three weeks, my relationship with my new Netflix-and-chill buddy was stronger than ever.

I don’t really want to go into how this thing works but you can read about it here. But it involves a small amount of vibration and, crucially, suction…

Until it didn’t.

Yep.

I managed to break another one.

This time, the suction… well, sucked. It completely lost power.

I pulled into the car park.

I turned off my car’s engine.

I noticed the arseless chaps had been replaced with Tarantino-style nurses outfits and swingy nipple tassels.

I walked in.

The dynamic duo I dealt with previously weren’t rostered on but another woman was manning the fort. And she was skeptical of my claim.

What’s worse than taking back a dud sex toy for a second time? Having the shopgirl think you’re bullshitting.

I was already feeling completely embarrassed but to get the third degree that firstly, I probably wasn’t charging it properly and secondly, that I just didn’t know what I was doing.

Humiliation was definitely what this girl was into. And I didn’t have the safe word.

I argued that if it was a charging issue, then why would that have any bearing on its suction? Also, if there was a fault with it, well, I was owed a full refund.

I understand that she was trying to troubleshoot the problem but claiming that I shouldn’t charge it with an Apple-branded USB plug just didn’t make sense. I shot back that if Apple wasn’t an appropriate brand for the device, perhaps one that was should be included with the purchase. I mean, we’re talking a $250 product, not a $20 Pearly Prick.

Then, it got freaky. She started to go on about how she used it on herself before trying to engage me in some kind of orgasm one-upmanship.

It was the weirdest conversation I had ever had. And I wanted it over.

I needed to create a diversion. So I told her I wanted to upgrade. Yes, I basically paid an extra $50 to exit this crazy situation. But it worked. Suddenly she was more than happy to help.

Three hundred dollars. I was pussy-whipped. In more that one way, it seems.

The only real difference with the newer model was that it was smaller and had three more speeds. The higher speeds were wasted on me, I couldn’t get off much past the second… so to speak. I certainly didn’t need eight of them. I salute anyone who does.

But what I really needed was a goddamn lottery ticket.

Because, four weeks later, the grindy sound AND the disappointing lack of power were back with a vengeance.

I knew it was four weeks as that the was the maximum time allowed for returns, as per the Adultshop policy. I had two days up my sleeve.

But my real problem was that I looked totally dodgy… and this returning-of-the-product routine wasn’t, surprisingly, getting any easier.

The thing is, I had struggled for years in finding something that truly worked for me, and my days of faking it were completely over. Finally.

In hindsight, my anxiety over returning it was ridiculous but at the time I thought that surely someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder and tell me to take a hike, leaving me with a faulty device that looked like an bedazzled ear thermometer designed by Brynne Edelsten and hundreds of bucks out-of-pocket.

I must’ve gone through the entire staff roster by now and I had to game out a scenario where I might be challenged again – specifically by that last woman. Something about her DILLIGAF demeanour, coupled with impending sense of Murphy’s Law, was making me feel a little traumatised.

I rang my friend Michelle. Yes, she laughed at my so-called problem. And what a problem to have. We worked out from my last receipt that the last girl was probably a casual who worked on Thursday nights, because the receipt was stamped on Thursday night. A tenuous link, yes, but this was a Wednesday and I didn’t want to risk running into her the following night.

She called me a peanut before she hung up and left me to meet my fate.

I pulled into the car park.

I turned off my car’s engine.

I ignored the swingy nipple tassels.

I walked in.

A woman was vacuuming towards the back of the store and I did a slightly-louder-than-usual clearing of one’s throat at the counter.

No sign of the other woman. I was immdiately at ease. This joint clearly has a cast of thousands on their books.

She was so friendly and sweet and said it just wasn’t good enough that such an expensive device was playing up. She actually told me that a few had come back, that it wasn’t just me.

She replaced it and, like the first time, I was out the door within 10 minutes.

All that anxiety was pointless but it just proves that if something isn’t right, broken or faulty (this goes for anything, not just a hilariously unsexy sex toy) speak up, even if it’s gut-wrenchingly embarrassing.

Three times, if you have to.

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