February 5, 2013

500 Miles of Porn - Vol. 1

One of the founding members of the Samurai of Spoken Word pretty much talked me in to starting a blog a little over two years ago.  Then, the day after Christmas last year, he dragged me kicking, screaming, and blushing up on stage to tell the stories behind the post.  In that span of time, he’s thrown topics seeds my way in case I was short on inspiration.  One of the seeds that has been germinating all this time was to write a review of the adult novelty store offerings in a 500 mile distance east and west of Omaha on Interstate 80.  I’ve sat on the idea through countless shows, several fizzled relationships, and many conversations about how I’m going to eventually do it.  I’m happy to announce that it’s not just talk.  Today’s offering will be the stores in the Omaha metro area.  Due to the length, I’ll have to break this up into multiple posts.  So, without further ado, 500 miles of porn begins.   


I think Thunderhead was just as, if not more excited about the idea of visiting all of them we could in a weekend with the intent to really get to know the store.  He spent two days worth of free time trying to research all of the locations in the metro area.  His efforts came across some interesting information, and perhaps a hole in the internet’s net of information.  The first roadblock was discovering there’s not really a good search term to find the stores we were looking for.  Adult novelty, porn, and sex just didn’t produce the results.  At best, you could find a partial list if you searched for lingerie.  It would seem that for all the adult material there is on the internet, there’s not really a good index for it.  

The lack of a good common search term brought up another question.  How do you narrow down what you want to include in your results?  Do you want to say Spencer’s qualifies because you can get a couple of vibrators if your shame allows you to wander to the darkest back corner of the store for your purchase and then proceed to walk out of the mall with a glass dildo or a small flogger?  What about the head shop that has lovely glass items in a case next to their pipes?  Or, do you want to count only the stores whose primarily in the business of selling orgasms?

After mulling over the thought for awhile, I decided we’d focus mainly on stores where their entire purpose is to sell pleasure, but still note the others in case you’re an experienced shopper who doesn't need the perks you get with a dedicated adult novelty store.  What perks you ask?  Well, you’re going to get fewer stares from the staff, and you’ll have a better chance of having questions answered with more than an eye roll or an “I dunno.”.  Generally, you have better selection at dedicated stores.  Your odds of having a display model are better, and you’ll have a chance to learn something about the different items.  

For example, on my trip out over the weekend, one very enterprising staffer from Lover
Luxuries dropped one of the glass phalluses from a height over his head to demonstrate their shatter resistant properties.  (He did, however, make sure to note that you want to use the smooth ones.  One with spirals or nubs have weak points in those joints and may fail when dropped.)  On another trip to Romantix in Council Bluffs, one of their knowledgeable passed along the tidbit of testing the strength of a motor in your toy of choice by placing it against the tip of your nose.  You have the same number of nerve endings there as you do in the intended area of use.  I highly doubt that you’re doing to have that wealth of knowledge and lack of shame talking to a high school kid working a part time job.  What you gain from purchases from places like Spencer’s is an inexpensive option for someone who’s curious about trying something new.  It has its place, but can get expensive if you end up having to replace/upgrade your item later.

Without further ado, here are the stores to be reviewed in the Omaha area.

  • Doctor John’s
  • Lover Luxuries
  • Romantix
  • Basic Tease
  • Spencers


Doctor John’s
Our first stop was to Doctor Johns on 72nd street.  This is not the location for those among us with any sense of what others might call common decency.  Not that I'm against adult stores.  Obviously I'm not.  But, this store doesn't have alot to offer anyone.  

For those shoppers who are nervous about being spotted in a store of this nature, the parking lot is a huge strike against it.  Yes, they do have parking behind the building, but it's not easy to get to and it doesn't appear very well lit.  The majority of the parking is in front of the store, which is mere feet off one of the city's busiest streets.  Neither lot is ideal, one for the stranger danger factor, and one for the spotability.  (Fun fact, we found out later that Thunderhead was spotted standing outside the store by his children and ex wife while he was smoking   I was inside, finishing up my purchase at the time.  This just proves that it can happen.)

Once in the store, the first thing I noticed was the clothing.  Just inside the door was a table displaying the portfolio of a local boudoir photographer with business cards and rate sheets.  This was tastefully done, but slightly out of place with the rest of the store.  To the right was the costume/role playing area.  Straight ahead was the lingerie and corset section.  Intermixed in both of them was their shoe. . . mess.  I'd call it a department, but they weren't very well organized or displayed and spread between two separate areas.

Immediately to the left and up on a small platform was the cash register.  The staff member behind the counter called me over and asked to see my ID.  Like all adult stores in the area, you have to be 18 or older to enter.  As I walked over to show my ID, I took in the store.  The overhead lights were harsh fluorescent with dimmer pockets among the racks of clothing.  The carpet was stained and torn where there had been a large liquid spill from one of the lube display cases.  The staff, while friendly and unobtrusive, were dressed in street clothes without IDs to indicate they were employees.  One of them had some over-processed bottle blonde hair, and the other needed to have a working relationship with an orthodontist.  I'm not saying that all porn stores need to hire beauty pageant contestants, but if your store looks like the plastic and nylon equivalent of a $2 whore, you might want to put some lipstick on it.

Across the aisle was a small display with misc items like kama sutra massage oils and other sensual smelling products.  They seemed pigeon holed between the shoes and the table of free lube; almost more of an afterthought than a real display.

In the back right corner of the store was "the cage".  This is the area concealed from view from the street, and where you can find all the toys, videos, lubricants, gag gifts, and magazines.  All I can say is that while they do sell anatomically correct items that vibrate, their selection is limited.  There is a very small representation for many tastes, but they are not well displayed, organized, or priced.  You can find magic bullets in three separate areas of the room, for example.  Unlike other stores in the area, there were no "designer" brands of toys, and no working floor models or displays.  Their BDSM selection is very small, and there is little offered for the GBLT community to choose from.  However, if you're a hentai lover, the video selection seemed to be the largest of all the stores surveyed.

On the far wall to the left we found the body stockings, thigh highs, and other lingerie pieces hanging on pegboards.  Having made a circle through the store, we continued on, looking at the selection and taking note of prices.  It wasn't until we'd made it back up to the front of the store and into an area tucked up behind the cash register dias that we found the plus sized section.  Being a woman who needs the Layne Bryants of the world, this was important to me.  The selection was markedly smaller and hidden from the rest of the shoppers.  To me, this sent the message that women over a certain weight weren't as sexy as your centerfold body type.  Women are sent enough messages to dislike themselves, a store whose purpose is to celebrate flesh and human sexuality really shouldn't perpetuate those ideas.  

As we rounded the back of the cash register area, we found several high dollar items set up on the ledge at the rear.  They didn't appear to be on display as much as they were removed from an area with easy access in an attempt to prevent theft.  Among them were two or three fleshlights, the only male masturbators in the store.  Upon quick inspection, these were roughly double the price of what you'd spend if you wanted to buy them online.  Disappointing to say the least.

After rounding the store, I approached the register with my item.  (I was in need of some toy cleaner, and figured it couldn't hurt to test their purchase process.)  To buy 1 $15 item, they needed to record my driver's license number and fingerprint on the receipt.  In this instance, buyer beware should this not be acceptable to you.  Also, as is with most stores of their kind, DJ's has a no return policy.  Once it walks out the door, you may not bring it back.

So, after surveying the store, here's my reaction.  Price versus selection and poor displays rounded out the reasons why shopping at Doctor John's should be a last minute gag gift, or high priority vibrator need only occasion.  I can appreciate their existence, but they do nothing to remove the stigma of porn stores being sketchy places of ill repute.  

Lover Luxuries
Lover Luxuries, Omaha's newest adult novelty store, ranked about as far on the other end of the scale as is possible.  Located in downtown Benson, it's a potentially undiscovered treat.  Parking can pose a challenge since it's all on-street or in the neighborhoods.  But, having many other shopping and dining destinations close by, you can rest easy that someone won't immediately assume you're in the area for salacious reasons.  

At first blush, the store looks rather small, only carrying clothing and shoes.  I am happy to say that this is not the case.  Upon first walking in, the staff greeted us warmly and asked to see our IDs.  This is a normal part of shopping in these types of stores, so it's to be expected.  Like Doctor John's, the cash register area is located on a raised platform above the customers.  The staff on duty were pleasant, well dressed in business casual, willing to engage, but didn't hover in such a way that made a customer feel, for lack of a better word, icky.  

Once our IDs checked out, Thunderhead and I started with the front corner of the store.  The idea was the same, shoes and costumes were close together with body suits and nylons in cardboard boxes hanging in rows on a pegboard.  However, the shoes were displayed on foot or leg forms, rather than on top of ratty, manhandled boxes in dark cubbyholes.  All pairs to try on appeared to be hidden out of site giving this department the appearance of a shoe store rather than a flea market.  

Lover Luxuries earned major brownie points when it came to their clothing and lingerie selection and marketing.  In speaking with one of the employees, I asked how they displayed their plus sized items.  What he told me both surprised and pleased me.  It seems that their vendor had sent them a plan for how to stage their showroom with products based on a size chart.  Fearing that would alienate some of their customers, and wanting to appeal to everyone, they pitched it in favor of laying out the stock based on kind, rather than size.  If you wanted a queen size catsuit, find the style you like and you'll find all sizes in stock on the same peg.  The same goes for teddies and stockings.  To me, this is much more inclusive, and I think many women will feel the same way.

First in a respectable list of distinctions, Lover Luxuries had a small (but expanding) selection of educational items.  Not everyone was born a Casanova.  If you don't know how to give an erotic massage, or are curious about g-spot stimulation, there are tasteful videos to teach you these and other techniques available.  Also, they offer a small section of erotic fiction you might choose to read to your lover as a bedtime story.  (I might suggest the Herotica series for this purpose. *wink*)

No novelty store is complete without the bachelorette and gag gift items.  Their selection will not disappoint.  For example, I lost count when I got to 8 different types of blowup dolls.  There are cake pans, straws, and everything else a bride to be could want for her garish day.  

All of this pales in comparison to the rest of the store.  Their products are arranged in logical order, with multiple examples of each type in multiple price ranges.  Lining the walls are your items you'd expect to find in an Omaha adult store; the gel dildos, magic bullets, body wands, basic "massagers" like you'd see in a catalog, g-spot simulators, and the deluxe rabbit-style vibrators.  The sizes, shapes, and variety are impressive.  For example, for the rockabilly lover, you have a selection of vibrators with sugar skull designs on the shaft.  For the goth in your life, you have the zombie or the vampire toys.  And, to go along with your new toy, they offer condom like toy protectors.  (Not to be used in place of a condom, these are for sanitary purposes and shouldn’t be substituted for actual birth control.)  This is much more than your basic rubber dick store.

In the center of the toy room, there is a large glass display case.  This is where you'll find the specialty items like glass phalluses, metal items, high dollar toys, and electrical stimulation products.  Our in store guide gave us a demonstration of the latest item they'd gotten, an e-stim machine very similar to a violet wand.  As he was showing us how the device worked, he was professional and was not embarrassed to use proper terms for body parts or functions.  (This is so refreshing.  It seems to be the norm that a person's sense of shame keeps them from calling a spade a spade or a penis a penis.)  While discussing the beauty and craftsmanship of the glass phalluses, he also demonstrated their shatter resistance.  He dropped one from a height over his head onto the floor, which was concrete covered on industrial carpeting.  There was a mighty clang, but the item didn't even crack.

This is a prime example of why I rate Lover Luxuries highly.  It's the people.  This young man knew about sex, and he knew his product.  He could give you advice on what to buy based on what you're looking to get out of a new toy.  He could use grown up words while describing the inventory, and was quick to offer suggestions.  Certainly, plenty of people are mortified by the idea of talking to the staff when in the store.  I get it.  Sex and sexuality still has an awful lot of shame attached to it.  But, let me tell you, you're missing out.

There are two rooms in the very back of the store.  To the right, you'll find the video and print section.  In browsing through titles, it would seem that the majority of tastes are well represented.  Though, Thunderhead and I had a good chuckle to notice that to the side of the emergency exit/back door was the gay porn.  When I asked our guide if this was on purpose,  there appeared a twinkle in his eye and he answered "Never let it be said we don't have a sense of humor.".  Cheeky.  Very cheeky.

Last on the hit parade is the BDSM room.  As glorious as I think its existence is, I also know that this isn't something that your hard core lifestylers will think of as completely legitimate.  I know this, and I still think it's pretty fantastic.  Here's why.  There is an entire room in the sex store devoted to kink and BDSM.  I don't care if the products aren't boutique quality.  I care that someone, when designing the store, decided to give that much real estate to alternative sexuality as they did.  You can find your nipple clamps, hoods, gags, paddles, and plugs in this room.  They have tie-down sheets, a swing or two, and even a sex machine.  If you want to built a starter kit but don't know what you might need, it's not a bad place to start.  Especially since, as I've said, the staff can answer any and all questions frankly and honestly.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy Lover Luxuries and feel that it's the pick of the litter.  It's clean, it's bright, well organized, well representative of available products, well priced, and well staffed.  If I were to become mayor of another adult store on 4Square, I'd try for this one.  

Romantix (Formerly the Adult Emporium)
Perhaps the best known store of its kind in the area, Romantix in Council Bluffs is the last of the stores with a focus on hardware and video on our list.  Formerly known as the Adult Emporium, this store could have easily devolved into the creepy old guy equivalent of a rubber dick store.  And truthfully, it used to be pretty sketchy.  In the 90s and early 2000s, you might have had to really worry about what it was that was making your shoes stick to the floor.  Since that time, the store has been through at least one minor redesign, though it's still without windows.  The overall atmosphere is rather dark, but private.

Located off Broadway, parking is less visible than at Doctor John's, but you're still just yards away from the main drag.  You do have the option to park in the back lot, but good luck not giggling when you go through the back door to get into the shop.  I mean, it's the back door, fer fek's sake!

As far as how I'd rate Romantix, I'd say that price, selection, and employee knowledge is on par with Lover Luxuries.  This store has been there for a long time, and it gives the staff a chance to see the trends wax and wane.  While the interior isn't cutting edge or as bright and pristine, Romantix does have plenty to offer.  The clothing and costume selection is smaller than Doctor John's, but they do have a good variety of lubes and toys considering the size of their location.  I would hazard a guess that it's got more square feet than Doctor John's, but has more inventory.  Another plus is they do have several displays that have the more expensive items available for demonstration.  Now, I'm not talking about using one of the $200 vibrators to give you an orgam right there on the showroom floor, but you can feel the heft, test the buttons, and press it to your nose to determine the strength of the motor.  They do represent the kink scene with a few items, but they don't have what Lover Luxuries does.  However, they are more respectively stocked than Doctor John's.  I can say that I was also impressed with the lube selection.  They do have an assortment of full sized bottles, but what really sold me was their variety of trial sized packets.  You never know if you're going to like a new lube, so who wants to spend $6-10 on a whole bottle?  If you can buy a small sample for a buck or two to test it out, that's great.  (They also are great for traveling.)  They have all sorts from silicone based for use in or around water, to the kinds that will provide a little numbing to the throat for those deep penetration oral sex sessions.  One for every pleasure.

Where Romantix seems to pull ahead of the pack is in their video selection.  They have the largest room, and without counting, what seems like the largest selection of the three other stores mentioned.  If you're still one to purchase your dirty movies on DVD or blueray, this might be where you can find what you're looking for.  

If you're looking for a new toy and want to both spend less on a tank of gas and avoid the restaurant tax, heading over across the river to Romantix is worth it.  Consider it dinner and a show.  *wink*

Basic Tease
While lingerie and exotic dancer clothing is their primary business, Basic Tease does have the Amorous Room where you can purchase a toy or two.  They also offer pole dancing classes and party room rentals.  While a clothing store wasn’t the greatest fit on the list, but I wanted to include it for no other reason than their genesis story is interesting.  It began with Tamara when she started stripping in the 80s.  Being thrifty, she learned to make her own outfits to save a buck or two on the pricey specialty dancer outfits she could buy locally.  As time went on, she became a sort of green room mom, making sure that the girls didn’t get into too much trouble between sets.  She was allowed to have her sewing machine with her, and maintained a lucrative side business while keeping the peace.  When she moved back to the area, she brought her seamstress skills with her and opened the first Basic Tease location in West Omaha.  Her store now has three industrial sized sewing machines and makes most of their inventory on site.  You can purchase one of their designs and hand pick your fabric from in stock, or special order patterns and colors.  Think of them as the tailor for your love life.

Spencer’s
While I don’t really think about Spencer’s as being a rubber dick store, the fact is that you can buy a few different toys and accessories from them in their locations.  Their inventory seems more about shocking the vanillas than anything.  They do offer a few kits for the BDSM curious.  However, my guess is they cater more to people who don’t want to advertise they’re shopping for a dildo and don’t have much breadth in their knowledge of human sexuality.  They don’t offer videos.  They don’t cater to a non straight crowd.  They don’t have much by way of accessories like condoms, lube, or toy cleaner.  Buying your rubber dick here will not teach you about better sex, and it certainly doesn’t help to remove shame from the purchase.  Maybe I’m just jaded, but I don’t think I’d ever head to the mall to go orgasm shopping.  Kinda like how I feel about Hot Topic.  I mean, you can’t buy your identity in a consumer's paradise.  If you’re a perpetual frat boy or need to get an inexpensive item as part of a costume or one time use situation, Spencers will work.  But if you’re actually looking for an item to add to a collection, you’re better off somewhere else.  

That it.  That’s the local market here in town.  I’d say the top spot goes to Lover Luxuries, with Romantix being a close second.  I’ve got more places to visit in surrounding areas for review later, but this should be a grand place to start.  Enjoy your pleasure shopping.

Love and shudders,
~Ephemily

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