Very Intimate Pleasures (VIP) was my first experience with sex toys. One late night during my first semester of college, my roommate and I decided to run out and buy ourselves vibrators. We set off to the nearest VIP for an awkward first experience of buying a cheap, weak, beginner’s vibe. Now, eight years later and much more educated on sex toys, I set off for another visit. Oh, the nostalgia!
VIP is a pretty major chain in Connecticut. There are several locations throughout the state and they’re probably the most well-known sex shop among CT locals. This, however, doesn’t say much about the retailer itself. It’s a superstore, plain and simple. Think of VIP like the Walmart of sex shops. It’s large, easily accessible, generally cheap, and full of options. Just don’t expect anything high quality.
I spotted at least seven employees working the floor during my visit, but aside from a simple greeting from one cashier as I walked in, none of them spoke to me. One employee even spent five minutes passing me up and down an aisle while I looked through countless jelly dildos (red flag #1), without ever saying a word or offering assistance.
It’s very easy to understand how people new to the world of sex toys would feel intimidated by big stores like Very Intimate Pleasures. With possibly thousands of sex toy options and unhelpful staff, it can be a little overwhelming and confusing.
Unlike most small businesses, VIP offers sexual novelties in huge aisles and dedicated sections of the store. Some are separated by a little room off the side of the main hall, but most are just sectioned off like clothing in a superstore chain.
Lubricant is obviously an important necessity for most people. However, I noticed lots of brands with glycerin–which is basically a sugar and can cause infections in some people with vaginas (red flag #2). I also found a brand that prides itself on being “better than spit,” which just sounds like a low standard to me. While VIP does stock brands I know and love, like Sliquid, they also have a lot of…strange alternatives.
Mostly what I found was a lot of comically-flavored lubricants. These are lubricants that one would more likely purchase as a gag gift instead of an actual go-to in their toy bag. I just don’t honestly see people using Donut Flavored “Unicorn Spit” Lube or Boink N’ Oink Bacon Flavored Lube on a regular basis. (At least, I hope they aren’t.)
VIP’s sex toy selection scares me a bit, to be honest. They’re one of those stores who still carry dildos and rabbit vibes labeled “for novelty use” so they can get away with selling toxic shit to people unaware of the materials used.
Walking down the aisles, I found countless jelly dildos, PVC toys, 13″ rubber dildo swords, and some really questionable dildos that had color options like, “White King,” “Black Prince,” and “Latin Baron,” presumably for folks with a touch of a racist kink.
However, I will say that there were a lot of hard plastic options–just like my first vibrator from VIP. At the time, I didn’t know this was one of the safer cheap materials. Years later, I’m truly relieved I didn’t go for the translucent pink jelly dong. Hard plastic vibes are a decent choice for a first sex toy as they are inexpensive, low-intensity, and relatively safe. Keep in mind, however, they’re not luxury items.
I did spot all of three silicone dildos on the main floor–though I did find where they kept the body-safe toys. We’ll come back to that later.
Kink toys are imprisoned in a glass cage for you to look at, but not to touch. While I understand wanting to avoid theft, I didn’t think this was the best way to get people interested enough to purchase something. It may be especially difficult for a nervous newbie to have to hunt down and ask a wandering associate to open the case, inspect the items, and make a quick financial decision.
While my partner thought they looked nice in the display, the items hanging were clearly made of very cheap faux leather. He asked me if I know whether or not it’s the real stuff. I told him that you’d never find a genuine leather bullwhip for $15.99. To him, they were appealing, but to me they were basically shitty Halloween props.
Lingerie and Costumes
There are a lot of lingerie and costume options–if you’re under 125 pounds. For plus-size girls and guys, there’s not much I noticed here. A lot of the lingerie is pretty cheaply-made, too. Thin fabric materials, really bad faux leather corsets with plastic boning, cheap lacy panties stitched in China. None of it is going to really break the bank (except maybe the shoes, but those options weren’t half bad!), but it’s probably not going to last more than a washing or two.
The costumes and accessories were even worse. Among the options were sexy police girl outfits with hollow plastic billy clubs, metallic fabric collars covered in plastic spiders, brightly-colored acrylic wigs, and some one-size-fits-all bullshit stockings. No, thanks!
I didn’t spend much time in the porn section, but I’m not a huge fan of movies, to be fair. There were some diverse options for hetero-encounters, as well as gay and lesbian films that I was happy to see. However, most of it was typical mainstream porn with super cliche titles and what I can only assume is pretty bad acting.
Bachelorette Party Favors and Gag Gifts
If you’re looking to host a tacky bachelorette party with a heavy focus on penises and the color pink, you’ve come to the right place! Perhaps, instead, you’d like to humiliate a coworker or get grandpa an inappropriate birthday gift. There are a surplus of gag gifts and party favors to rummage through–but not all of it was packaged this century (red flag #3). Disgustingly, my partner and I kept noticing harsh discoloration and tearing on some packaging that suggested it had been in stock for years. Gross!
Pipes, Bongs, and Knives
No trip to Very Intimate Pleasures is complete without a stop in the “probably illegal” section. Here, you’ll find incense, pipes, bongs, knives, swords, brass knuckles, and stash boxes. There was a sign stating that the items were for tobacco use only at this location, to be fair. However, the pocket knives with marijuana leaf prints and Rastafarian grinders suggested they weren’t totally against your illegal business (red flag #4).
The Secret, Limited Supply of Actually Safe Toys
I found a secret stash of body-safe toys up in a glass case at the register on my way out of the store. A few glass dildos, silicone vibes, and steel Ben Wa beads were featured–and from brands I liked such as Cal Exotics and Icicles.
Again, I wonder how many people would buy the high-quality stuff if it weren’t in a locked display case. I also wonder how many people would invest in more expensive toys if they had a way to touch a display model and see the difference in quality. I was very disappointed to see everything in plastic packaging with no way to really get a sense of what you’re buying.
Very Intimate Pleasures was a lot worse than I remembered. Without a standard of what a good sex shop looks like, I had always accepted VIP as the “normal” experience. However, with hundreds of toxic dildos, more cheap gag gifts than actual sex toys, and virtually nonexistent customer service, I urge you to have higher standards. Maybe to an uneducated teenager, VIP wasn’t half bad but I’ve come to know better. I suppose ignorance truly is bliss.