Eckburg: Buying a sex toy is not embarrassing

Bella Eckburg

Graphic illustration of four quadrants of the same graphic depicting abstract bodies being held by hands in pastel colors (pink, blue, green, orange, purple)
(Graphic Illustration by Rachel Macias | The Collegian)

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Many of us have driven past the Book Ranch on our way to campus, but few stop in to check it out. 

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Upon entering the building with blacked-out windows through the cloudy glass door, I was not sure what would meet me on the other side. I’ve never been one to shy away from engaging in a stereotypically embarrassing situation, and this was definitely something I was curious about experiencing. 

Sex toys are inherently associated with being taboo and extremely private, but buying sex toys should not be embarrassing, especially when you’re a college student exploring your body and gaining sexual experience.

Using sex toys does not mean that your partner is not doing enough in the bedroom, it just means that you’re stepping out of the box together and trying something new.”

The environment of the Book Ranch was more than welcoming. Despite a majority of the windows being blacked out for privacy, sunlight spills in over the shelves and illuminates the brightly colored vibrators on the walls. 

It’s a busy place,” said Travis McKeg, a Book Ranch employee. “It’s sex-positive, friendly and educational if requested.”

As I moved around the store, it was easy to understand why some people might feel embarrassed. Being surrounded by giant realistic, silicone penises and vaginas can be a little intimidating for sure. 

“It’s really silly; sex toys have been around for centuries,” McKeg said. “If these things add spice and help people be more intimate with one another, then what’s the problem?”

Many people have assumptions about sex toys that make them afraid to try one out for themselves, and some countries have even banned sex toys. Still, sex toys have been around for a long time, and they’re certainly not going anywhere. 

In fact, the pandemic actually boosted sex toy sales. With more people spending a lot of time at home, the idea of experimenting and keeping things interesting in private became more normalized. 

There’s something extremely intimate about walking around and having an open discussion with your partner about things you’re interested in sexually, knowing that you’re in a safe, sex-positive place.”

Sex toys don’t have to be linked to kinks, although the Book Ranch does carry bondage equipment if that’s something customers are interested in. Additionally, using sex toys does not mean that your partner is not doing enough in the bedroom, it just means that you’re stepping out of the box together and trying something new. 

We should normalize using sex toys — both alone and with partners. Sure, you can buy a toy online, but going into an adult store with your partner is a unique experience that everyone should try if they’re comfortable.

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There’s something extremely intimate about walking around and having an open discussion with your partner about things you’re interested in sexually, knowing that you’re in a safe, sex-positive place with people who are able to answer any question or concern you have.

“We always say, ‘Just try things that you want to try’ — it’s a good reason to have a bricks-and-mortar store, it’s a discreet place to try new things,” McKeg said. “Some people feel uncomfortable having something shipped to them if they live with their parents or roommates, so we have a place where they can come.” 

Being vocal about your sexual needs with your partner will only make your sex life more enjoyable for you. The porn industry and discussions of sexual pleasure can be male-dominated, so being open about your sexual needs as a woman is extremely important even if it feels a little awkward. 

The only way we can continue disproving myths about sex toys is by asking questions, and the Book Ranch employees are happy to answer.

Regardless of your gender identity, you deserve to focus on your own pleasure without engaging with the message that body parts determine sexuality.”

“When I first started (working here), I was a little sensory overloaded, but it’s just selling stuff — it’s customer service,” McKeg said. “People say they’re embarrassed to ask (us questions), but we don’t care. We cannot be shocked; most things are benign.”

According to McKeg, the Book Ranch sees a variety of customers — both solo and couples. He reiterated that sex toys are for everyone and that he feels encouraged when he sees couples coming in together. 

Sex toys don’t have to play into highly gendered stereotypes, and they come in all shapes, colors, types and sizes, not just penis- or vagina-shaped. Regardless of your gender identity, you deserve to focus on your own pleasure without engaging with the message that body parts determine sexuality. 

Going alone or with your partner to a sex shop can be daunting, and you might prefer to shop online, but exploring your sexual needs — even alone — can help you feel more in tune with your body and strengthen the sexual aspect of your current and future relationships.

Bella Eckburg can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @yaycolor.