by Constance Garcia-Barrio
I sweated my way through my first moments at the Sexploratorium — on the second floor of Passional Boutique, 317 South St. — not only because the sex toys promised luscious possibilities but because at my age, my presence might seem outrageous. I’m a widow who will turn 70 next year.
Much of U.S. society seems to feel that we post-menopausal women should cast aside sex along with tampons. On top of that, many of us grew up at time when shame shrouded sexuality. A personal prohibition nagged me, too: Suppose one of my former students caught me here with a dildo in hand and a veritable forest of them behind me? And what if the staff here wrote off my arrival as a strumpet’s last stand?
I took out a hankie and mopped my brow. As doubts wrung me, something good happened. I spied a gent my age tucking away a purchase he had just made.
“What do you recommend?” I asked him.
“The Tango,” he said, speaking of a quiet powerful vibrator, often rated as the Cadillac of its kind. “My wife loves it, and if she’s happy, I’m happy too.”
It settled me down to see that the clientele included grooving geezers. The staff’s philosophy also reassured me. “We focus on safe sex and smart choices,” said general manager Justin Blackman, who proudly indentifies as trans, queer, kinky and approachable.
“We’re not about novelties or gimmicks. We focus on education because no one should think they can learn all they need to know about sex from porn flicks.”
The Sexploratorium has workshops to help folks of all ages become more savvy. They range from “Pillow Talk, the Art of Sexual Communication” to “Corsets 101” for those interested in including that colorful bit of apparel in their encounters. “Kink Your Own Adventure” and “Sexual Fitness” are both scheduled for Nov. 7.
“We also have workshops on fire and knife play,” Justin added. When he said that, my imagination went into overdrive, and I whipped out my hankie again. Most workshops are $20 in advance and $30 the day of the event. For upcoming classes, visit www.passion101classes.com.
Sid Alistair, a salesperson, had helpful advice for seniors. “Some women whisper to me that they’ve never had an orgasm,” Sid said. “They think there’s something wrong with them. Please remember that your partner, stressors, comfort and sense of safety all come into play. There’s nothing wrong with you.”
While one’s outlook influences sex — I’ve heard it said that the brain is the most important sex organ — a lot does depend on the purely physical. Sid suggests taking L-arginine, an amino acid that may promote better sex by improving blood flow.
Sid also urged me to keep in mind the erotic potential of the whole human body. “For some people, a massage with a luxurious oil is the ultimate in foreplay,” Sid said. Then again, body candy that can be applied and licked off may heighten arousal. It comes in flavors like cocoa mint and spicy orange and costs $14.99.
Lubricants may top the list of considerations for those of us who are 50-something or older. “It literally never hurts to use lube,” Sid said. “The FDA doesn’t regulate sexual lubricants. Some of the cheaper drugstore bands contain irritants like glycerin, a sugar that will feed yeast infections, and parabens, derived from petroleum.” I marveled when I saw a lubricant for vegans that’s latex-safe, organic and edible (cinnamon-vanilla flavored) that costs $20 for 8.5 ounces.
The shelves held more vibrators than even my fevered brain could have conjured: big, small, red, yellow, eight-speed and lots of shapes. “I tell women to explore themselves to find their pleasure points,” Sid advised. “Once you have that knowledge, you can choose the vibrator that’s best for you. Do you want an internal one or an external one? Do you want a small one for just the left side because that’s where you’re most sensitive? Do you want a bigger wand-style one because you’re a larger woman or because you have arthritis or Parkinson’s disease and the bigger one is easier to handle?”
The Wizard of Wow must have created the array of dildos of every color and size, including ridged ones designed to hit the G spot. Enough said.
Granted, it was beyond my depth, but I couldn’t leave without a peek at the collars, handcuffs, ropes, chains, blindfolds and other toys in the BDSM (bondage/disciple, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism) section. I broke a sweat again, and it surprised me to see objects designed to simply heighten sensation rather than cause pain.
The Sexploratorium carries many more things, including butt plugs, condoms, dental dams for safer oral sex, and glass toys that “look like bookends so you don’t have to hide them from your friends.” Downstairs brims with “passion fashions,” ranging from cat suits to nuns habits to include in your fun.
I left the Sexploratorium with a wonderful new sense of playfulness and, yes, with a purchase. I bought the vanilla chai body candy. Hope springs eternal.
More information at 215-829-4986 or passionalboutique.com.
Constance Garcia-Barrio is a retired professor of Romance languages (no surprise there) at West Chester University, a Mt. Airy resident and highly curious and adventurous freelance writer.