Best way to make yourself—or someone else—pop

Peek inside Sacramento’s adult stores and see what your neighbors are buying

Illustration by Don Button

It’s a bright and toasty Sunday afternoon. My boyfriend and I are on a mission—more an adventure—to spice up our love life.

We park in front of our chosen adult store. Our vehicle is the only one in the parking lot. The windows are boarded up and the building is deteriorated. Faded handwritten signs reading “Open 24 hours” give the only hint it’s in business. We stare as the car engine hums.

“Honestly babe, I’m a bit hesitant to even touch that door,” my boyfriend offers. I agree with relief—the door looks very dingy. Although both of us have visited adult stores in the past, they remain an intimidating business.

“I think a lot of people avoid stores that look seedy, they’re in the seedy neighborhoods and that sort of thing, because they don’t feel comfortable,” explains Joseph Long, owner of Kiss N Tell boutiques, two decidedly unseedy adult stores in Sacramento.

Once a welcoming store is discovered and that first brave step is taken over the sexual-experimentation threshold, neophytes enter what seems like a labyrinth of lubes, vibrators, enhancers, porn and love swings. Where does one start?

Heating up a relationship begins with the most basic step: yep, foreplay. And it doesn’t require any battery-operated tools or extravagant costumes—only hands, lips and maybe a bit of oil.

Karen Ussery, manager of G Spot at 2009 K Street, is like the Yoda of adult-store knowledge. But even with thousands of products at her fingertips, she recommends starting with a massage.

“If you care about the person and you want to satisfy them, the best way is to know their likes and dislikes,” she explains. “The fastest, easiest and sensual way is massage.”

Massage oil enhances the experience. Ussery says Kama Sutra Oil of Love is the brand with the best reputation at the G Spot. Some varieties contain aphrodisiacs and stimulants, and some get warmer during massage and warmer still when someone blows on them. Ussery often sells the product to couples who aren’t ready for sex, but desire more intimacy. “And it’s good for older people who are in a rut,” she adds.

Kiss N Tell, with locations at 2401 Arden Way in Sacramento and 4201 Sunrise Boulevard in Fair Oaks, attracts many couples who are trying to add zest to their sex life, which often begins with a visit to the massage-oil section.

“A lot of couples tend to discover this sort of enhancement later in their relationship or marriage,” explains Long. “We get people who come in because their marriage therapist told them [they] should change things up.”

Lubricants enhance foreplay, but finding a suitable brand can be daunting. A wrong choice can have unfortunate consequences.

“Vaginal penetration with silicone can cause bladder infections [and] yeast infections because it doesn’t wash out. So it’s the worst thing in the world for ladies,” Ussery informs, comparing silicone-based gel to cooking oil that stains the sheets and is difficult to get off the body.

She recommends Liquid Silk, a water-based lubricant, for both vaginal and anal experiences. “It makes for great chapstick or for dry hands,” she adds.

Of course, there’s no better way to shake things up than with vibrating toys. Many are designed for men to wear, but also give clitoral stimulation, such as Erection Masters—a type of vibrating penis ring. But one toy, growing in popularity, is made for women to wear—the remote-controlled vibrating egg. The woman slips the egg into her underwear, her partner takes the remote and they head off to the company picnic.

“Think of the fun couples can have at that company dinner they have to go to, [or] on a cruise. He controls the remote and she gets the enjoyment,” Ussery says.

For couples who spend a lot of time apart, the Clone-A-Willy Kit makes an exact replica of a penis and comes with a vibrator. “According to the guys, the hardest part is keeping the erection while you’re waiting for the mold to set,” Ussery says. (The process takes seven to eight minutes.)

Like a sneeze, only better: SN&R calendar editor Jenn Kistler tries the nose-to-vibrator sensitivity test under the guidance of G Spot manager Karen Ussery.

Photo by Shoka

In the past, women often visited adult stores only to stock up for bachelorette parties. While stores like Kiss N Tell and G Spot still sell phallic cake molds and party favors, most women customers are now looking for that holy grail of self-pleasure: the dildo. The most popular seller in Sacramento, by far, is the Rabbit Vibrator, which stimulates the inner and outer areas simultaneously. Television programs, such as The Oprah Winfrey Show and Sex and the City, played their part in its growing popularity.

“People would come in, seven years ago when I first took over, and they’d ask, ‘Do you guys have that toy that was on Sex and the City?’” Long says.

Ussery adds that some vibrating parts can cause irritation. And since such toys cannot be returned or exchanged, there’s a simple test. “Put it on the tip of the nose, because the nerve endings are very similar to those in the vaginal region. And that’s how you tell that it’s going to feel good.”

Vibrators aren’t just for the bedroom anymore. Ussery sells a lot of Classix Butterfly strap-ons, a hands-free clitoral stimulator, to ladies who work for the state or at the Capitol. They wear it during the day and, at the push of a button, can turn it on and off as they please.

“When the boss is becoming a real jerk on Friday afternoon and demanding all this work, they just turn it on and smile. And he doesn’t have a clue what’s going on,” she says.

Before purchasing any toy, lube or sexual apparatus, Ussery urges customers to ask questions: of the adult-store employees, their partners and themselves.

“Start small. Know your own body, and know what you want and what you like,” Ussery says. “Really the best way to do it is learn about your body.”

With this new knowledge, my boyfriend and I embarked on another voyage into the adult-store world. This time, we visited a clean, well-lighted Sacramento business. We examined different toys, laughed at product names and discussed our relationship.

Truthfully, you don’t have to purchase anything to initiate more intimacy—conversation possesses its own magic. But, of course, we couldn’t leave without buying some supplies.