Sex Shop Workers from Across the City Reveal What Angelenos Are “Into”

From dildos in Santa Monica to leather harnesses in Silver Lake, a survey of the city’s adult toy stores and the proclivities of their clienteles

I was recently in the Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood (every woman has the right to a good vibrator) and spent about an hour wandering around trying to decipher and understand the vast array of products they sell. Ranging from vibrators to dildos to c-rings to an over-the-bed-cross for tying up a partner, I was absolutely amazed by how many products exist, how many products with specific functions I’d never imagined exist, and how sexuality has as many channels as Spectrum Cable’s premium package (and probably even more).

I set out to explore four sex shops around Los Angeles to get a better understanding of the sex toys favorited by Angelenos. What are women buying? What are men buying? What are couples buying? Do couples shop together or do people go solo or with their friends? In other words, are people shopping for the pleasure with the people they experience pleasure with or are they searching for supplementary solo fun?

I found is that it’s not that simple. As Jake at the Pleasure Chest said, “Everyone has a right to pleasure.” And what that means is as unique as each one of us. Luckily, the adult toy industry is as innovative as the tech industry and they are creating everything our sexy little mind and bodies could imagine (and have yet to imagine.) I’ll admit my mind was spinning and also, reeling from the fact that my exploration up until now has been very vanilla. I felt like a girl who’s only eaten burgers and fries thrust into an international strip mall with hummus, tacos, sushi, rice and beans and hybrids like Kogi.

I visited four stores spanning Silver Lake to Santa Monica, each one more different than I expected. I spoke with employees at each location. The interviews have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

The Pleasure Chest, West Hollywood

The Pleasure Chest is located on the eastern side of West Hollywood, so it is certainly LGBTQ friendly but really caters to all. The store is clean, open, and well organized. There are clear sections delineated with many of the softer products (lingerie, penis water bottles, lube) in the front with toys and fetish gear in the back. This is definitely a “one-store-fits-all” kind of vibe. I spoke with Jake, the day manager to learn more.

What are your bestselling products?

“We sell any range of products from lube to cock rings to vibrators to rainbow things for Pride. We have 50-plus different vibrators, fetish gear, crystal yoni eggs, and bachelorette stuff. Our store is organized by internal, external, vaginal owners, penis owners, couples, and kink. It’s hard to say that this is the bestseller because everyone likes to get off, sex is for everybody and what gets someone off is so personal. We can recommend brands or types of products based on specific needs. We have something for everyone. But toys are the moneymakers.

At different times of the year, we have customers looking for different things. For Burning Man, people come in for outfits, lube, condoms, cock rings and hand-held vibrators. For Father’s Day, couples come in to “spice up” the bedroom. There is always some kind of an event that brings in different types of people with different requests.”

“We have something for everyone. But toys are the moneymakers.”

Do people come in alone or as a couple?

“Both. Sometimes if someone is more comfortable they’ll come in and Facetime their partner to show them a product. Or one will scout and then they’ll come back together. Or people come in for themselves. Some send Postmates.”

What’s next in sex products?

“Virtual reality will be huge.”

What’s unique to the Pleasure Chest?

“We have a comedy night called Performance Anxiety and get some big names. We also have free classes like butt sex basics, G spot basics, anatomy, consent, pain sex play, needle sex play, fisting classes, shibari and bondage, intimate partner yoga, and lots more.”

Notable Products:

Blow Job bib, penis water bottle, watermelon flavored Sweeten’d Blow (oral pleasure gel for him), Mr. Thick Dick Penis Enlarger Cream, The Magic Wand (this is modeled after the neck massager Samantha insisted was a vibrator on Sex and The City episode “Critical Condition”), Captain silicone dildo in an array of skin colors, Fetish Fantasy Series Fantasy Swing, and Fat Boy Stretchy Cock Extender.

Secret Desires, Santa Monica

Secret Desires is located on an unassuming stretch of Lincoln Boulevard near Ocean Park Boulevard. The exterior has a romance-novel-cover vibe to it. I spoke with Kris, operations manager, who is one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve encountered. Seriously, this guy knows his stuff.

What are your bestselling products?

“Femme Funn Ultra Bullet Massager in pink and purple and the We Vibe Synch couple vibrator in blue (it looks like Tiffany blue, which is a draw because it reminds women of jewelry). Pink and purple are the best selling colors in toys. These two products make up our top five sellers in different colors.

Anal and dildos are our most shopped section. More men are getting comfortable with anal and prostate play.”

Do people come in alone or as a couple?

“We get a mix of men, women, and couples. Men will come in quickly and buy either head cleaner or pills or they will go to a specific section to buy a toy for a wife or girlfriend. Men shop a specific section and women shop the whole store.” 

“Men shop a specific section and women shop the whole store.” 

What’s the most unique product you sell?

“The Kink By Doc Johnson Power Banger. It’s a “fucking machine.” It has a rotating head with a lot of angles.” [The website description says, “…this versatile fucking machine offers variable speed to pound your holes at up to 195 strokes per minute.” Side note: this is the ultimate DIY sex product. It reminded me of one of those tennis ball shooting machines you see people use when practicing their tennis game.]

What’s unique about L.A. shoppers?

“Just like fashion trends are set in bigger cities, toys come here first and then trickle out elsewhere. Christmas is also our biggest season. You’d think it was Valentine’s Day, but that’s actually our second.

“Christmas is also our biggest season. You’d think it was Valentine’s Day, but that’s actually our second.”

We do a lot of educating. Some women aren’t aware of their own anatomy. There’s also a focus on sexual health and wellness. For example, if a woman is going through cancer treatment and loses sensation, there are toys that are better than others, like those that offer low and deep vibration. It’s really specific, but that’s what helps us find the best products for each person.”

Notable Products:

Bejeweled butt plugs (every body part deserves bling!), Lush Bluetooth remote control vibrators (used by video cam girls; their customers pay to add vibration to bring them to climax), CalExotics line of vibrators named after Southern California cities, like San Francisco Sweetheart, Santa Monica Starlet and Orange County Cutie, CalExotics street art designed vibrators, Anal-ese (to help, um, grease the wheels and lessen any pain) and China Shrink Cream (to help temporarily tighten a lady’s birth canal), nipple covers and pasties in every color, and seven-inch Pleaser platform heels.

The Stockroom, Silver Lake

I had no idea what to expect from the Stockroom. When I walked into the industrial loft-looking store, I was drawn to the latex clothing. Ranging from dresses to halter tops, it felt like high fashion, but in rubber. (It’s no surprise that they’ve made outfits for Katy Perry, Christina Aguilera, Kim Kardashian, and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman suit.) I quickly learned that the Stockroom specializes in BDSM, which stands for bondage, discipline, dominance, and submission. I’ll admit that other than breaking tension by cracking an imaginary whip when I’m being too demanding, I have little to no knowledge of this world. Lucky for me, I spoke with Madame Skin, a dominatrix (!) who was able to give me a great introduction.

What are your bestselling products?

“Our best sellers are the Tenga stroking products (they are penis masturbators), Bound-O-Round 4 point restraint system (which are restraints that can tie to your toe bedposts), ad the Bondage 101 kit, which includes cuffs for wrists and ankles, rose tickler, riding crop, and blindfold. We also sell a lot of handcuffs and leashes.” [They were all sold out of leashes.]

“We also sell a lot of handcuffs and leashes”

Do people come in alone or as a couple?

We get a mix of people shopping solo and as couples.

What are some of your unique products?

“Our latex outfits are handmade locally. We also have the Agent Noir Neon Wand, which has various instruments that can stimulate with shocks.” [I got to try this with a few different attachments, including a glass one and a two-pronged silicone piece. It felt a little like static shock, but the knob can be turned up and then it felt like a shock-shock. At the first sign of maybe a possible ache, I run for Advil so this wouldn’t be my pick for any naked activities, but I imagine it would be hot if you’re into pain.]

Notable Products:

Gags with toilet brushes, ash trays and feather dusters; gag with a real jawbreaker (which reminded me of that 1999 Rose McGowan movie, Jawbreaker); a dildo called Beowulf (which reminded me of that Angelina Jolie movie, 2007 Beowulf); a dragon dildo, (Khalessi! Also, I need to get out more); Electro Kegels, a toy that helps one do their kegels; bunny rabbit hood; fluid-proof sheets; Svakom Trysta Rolling G-Spot Vibe; Lodbrock wooden stock (like you’d see in old Westerns).

Rough Trade Gear, Silver Lake

Rough Trade has been in Sunset Junction for 20 years, long before Intelligentsia and hipsters. It’s the only store on this stretch that I hadn’t been in, mostly because I thought it was really geared toward men. I was pleasantly surprised to see that while there is more of a male focus (lots of intimate male on male artwork), there are some products that can be enjoyed by women. I spoke with an employee who preferred I didn’t share his name.

What are your bestselling products?

“We are known as a leather store so our harnesses are big sellers. We have them in a variety of colors and have expanded to these candy colors. Millennials like them.

Our leather uniforms are also big sellers. People who are into leather wear it all year round, no matter how hot it gets.”

Can women wear harnesses?


Do people come in alone or as a couple?

“Both. We had more couples come in after the 50 Shades of Grey movie. More men were interested in exploring anal vibration toys. We sell the Aneros, which stimulates the prostate that can help create more of an ‘explosion.'” 

“We had more couples come in after the 50 Shades of Grey movie.”

What are some of your more unique products?

We have items for “Puppy Play,” like a hood that looks like a dog (like Scooby!), a butt plug that mimics a tail and a gag with a bone.

Notable Products:

Tom of Finland “Tom’s Cock,” which is created from Tom of Finland artwork (it’s 12 inches!). There are also toys called “ball stretchers” where one places their balls through devices for stretching. They vary from a long silicone-looking bar to large metal “nuts” (as in bolts.)

So…what are Angelenos into?

The fact that these four stores are very distinct, cater to specific audiences and were sold out of a lot of products says a lot about our fair city. We are a mix of cultures and orientations with a universe of desires and options for expressing them. It’s hard to push us into specific categories because we run the gamut to edges on a spectrum that is probably wider than most of America.

We are also lucky to live in a place where stores are at the forefront of education and knowledge, brining in the latest and greatest for us to explore. If you are in cancer treatment and want to experience pleasure, there’s not only a toy for it, but an adult store employee who knows which ones would be best. While LA has a lot more of everything under the sun, we are also free to explore our sexuality freely and without judgment.

Explore and have fun

I learned pretty quickly that sex shop employees are some of the most welcoming people you’ll ever meet. I’ll admit I was nervous to ask my questions, figuring they might not want to speak to me. But there’s no shame in these stores. Whatever you’re into it, whatever you want to explore or experience, these employees are your guides. They are excited to help you find pleasure. If you’re curious, this is the safest place to ask your questions. Believe me.

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