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December 19, 2016

Toys for adults: Shopping ideas for that naughty person on your list

Holiday Shopping
Carroll - Adult Themed Gift Ideas Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Samantha Smalls, general manager of the The Velvet Lily in Center City, poses next to a festive sex toy tree. She is wearing the Crave 'Vesper' vibrating necklace, and Gabriella Gloria patterned hosiery, and holding the Crystal Delights 'My 'Lil Pony Tail.' 'I know my stuff,' she says. 'I crossed one line, and then another.'

Time for a stimulating tingle to go with the predictable Christmas jingle? Need some naughty to balance out all that nice? Maybe your Santa Baby needs a little help either fitting down the chimney or checking off your list?

We visited  The Velvet Lily in Center City Philadelphia to get the lowdown on sexy gifts to stuff in your significant other's stocking.

The store, which also sells online, is primarily a retail sex toy store. It started as an in-home party biz, but grew “one vibration at a time” into a brick-and-mortar shop at 1204 Chestnut St. The core of its business is couples, but it has something for pretty much everyone: straight and LGBTQ, including transmen and transwomen.

So many possibilities, so little space.

Our field guide for this seasonal sleigh ride was store manager Samantha Smalls.

She’s got cred when it comes to sex and sex toys; she's been a webcam girl and a model.

“I know my stuff," she said. "I crossed one line, and then another.”

So let's get to it.

“Vanilla people” – Smalls' term for newbies – might best start with a massage oil candle, which sells for as little as $8 and comes in a small tin, perfect for stocking stuffing.

The candle provides an environment, the aroma acts as a stimulant, the oil warms the skin and stays liquid once applied to flesh, but the oil in the tin solidifies as it cools.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Personal masturbators, (clockwise): Fleshlight Renewing Powder, $9.50; Hot Octopus Pulse II, $99; Fleshlight Quickshot $35; Solo Pocket Pool male stimulator sleeves, $8.99.

“It’s an aphrodisiacal all-in-one,” she said.

The more adventurous will find plenty of options.

At the core of sex toys, there's a wide variety of vibrators, mostly clitoral or vaginal, at an array of price points, such as a golden one by LELO for $3,900, a $69 bullet vibrator called Crave, which discretely doubles as a necklace and a contourable vibrator, the "sync," made by We-Vibe for couples. The sync is controlled remotely via phone app. It is capable of syncing to music and offers a wide range of stimulation – all controlled by the app – for $199.

LELO products are reliable best-sellers, according to Smalls, and a good choice for first-time buyers looking for a new toy that will last. 

And she said the "sync" vibrator, which can be controlled from “anywhere in the world" is simply, “awesome.”

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

LELO products (clockwise): Personal moisturizer, $24.90; HEX condoms, 12 for $19.90; MIA 2 lipstick vibe, $84.90; PINO vibrating C-ring, $189; YVA 24-karat gold vibrating massager, $3,900.

She suggests talking to the staff at a sex shop about experience levels and sizing before buying. And don’t forget to inquire about the male equivalent of the G-spot – Small turns rhapsodic on this topic – and how best to stimulate it.

Dildos are available at all sorts of price points and in all sorts of materials. (Scientists found a stone phallus fashioned 28,000 years ago, making the dildo perhaps the oldest sex toy). And there are cock rings, lingerie, bondage gear, harnesses to hold an arsenal of devices, hosiery in a huge selection of sizes and patterns, masturbation toys for men starting at $9; and jacked-up condoms – $20 for 12.

In another display: stainless steel or glass butt plugs ($30 to $45), including one with a rainbow ponytail for $120.

There’s more. Much more.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Butt stuff, (clockwise): Stainless steel butt plugs, $30-$45, based on size and shape; Crystal Delights 'My 'Lil Pony Tail', $120; and Uberlube, $28.

Lily likens itself to an up-scale luxury goods department store, with clients ranging from on-air media personalities and local CEOs and their wives to secretive sugar daddies and their baby mamas and your average folks. Everybody's in the market for anything and everything, but especially “vibrators, vibrating cock rings, massage candles and lubrication,” Smalls said.

For instance, one repeat-shopper, in town from northern Michigan “where there aren’t any stores like this,” spent half an hour browsing last week. He bought a set of cock rings, a pair of lacy stockings and lube.

He put "The Womanizer" – a clitoral suction toy with an inlaid Swarovski crystal ($219) – on his wish list after following Small’s advice and testing it on the tip of his nose.

The rings and lube he planned to put to use as soon as he got home – TSA searches notwithstanding, he said, having grimaced through more than one of those embarrassing airport protocols.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The Womanizer Pro clitoral suction toy with Swarovski crystal, $219.

But the hosiery was definitely a Christmas stocking stuffer, tame enough to be unwrapped in front of the children.

Buying an insertable sex toy? You'll probably need lube – and lots of it.

“People don’t use enough lube!” Smalls emphasized in more than an hour talking sex and sex toys during a recent visit to the the store. 

Lube, available in many different types and sizes, start at under $10 and going up to nearly $30. There are dozens of brands and several formulations (water-based, organic, silicone, hybrids and more). Avoid the oil-based lubes that can gum up sex toy, said Smalls.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Toys for couples (clockwise): We-Vibe Sync, vibrator with phone app. controls, $199; Eva hands-free vibrator $105; Sensuelle Pleasure Panty with remote controllable vibrator, $79.99.

There are sample bottles and plenty of free advice at the store.

Feeling overwhelmed by choices?

The store is woman-owned, female-staffed, and pardon the pun, hands-on, with a focus on “therapy, education and anatomy,” explained Smalls.

Lily employees are comfortable sorting out how best to help folks with individual issues, she added.

It may be cold outside, but there are plenty of ways to warm up the Christmas season.