Q: My ladyfriend and I were in a sexy toy shop last week, when in walked two younger women and what looked to be a 7- or 8-year old girl. It takes a bit for us to go to a store like that, and it seems like it would be common sense to keep a child out of a store like that. Not only did they bring her into a place that has products like Liberators with graphic images on them, but they ignored her altogether as they giggled and poked each other with the vibrators.
One problem I had was that the employees treated it like it was nothing. In all honesty, I don’t know how I’d react in the same situation. I like to think it’s within the business’ right to ask them to watch their kid a little more closely or to please come back later without the little one. Would it be appropriate to say something to the staff, or should I just keep it to myself? Ben, 34
A: That depends on where you were shopping. I called four different sexy toy shops in the Twin Cities area to find out what their policies are on children in the store. Both Sex World in downtown Minneapolis and Fantasy Gifts (10 locations around the metro) have a strict 18-plus policy; no children are allowed. Touch Boutique in Eden Prairie has no specific policy, but the woman who answered the phone — wassup, Kitty! — said that sometimes parents shop with their babies, but no kids have ever tried to come into the store, so it hasn’t been necessary to establish a policy. Smitten Kitten in Uptown has no minimum age for being in the store or for buying their wares, save for porn. State law requires that buyers of porn movies and magazines be at least 18, so they will check IDs at the cash register for those items.
You mentioned that the store sold the Liberator line. Of the four places I called, only two stock the iconic sex ramp furniture: Fantasy Gifts and Smitten Kitten. If you were shopping at Fantasy Gifts, then I would suggest calling the management of the location you visited and informing them that one of their employees had dismissed company policy and allowed a child in the store. In the case of Smitten Kitten, there’s no cause for alarm unless the child successfully procured a DVD of “Tristan Taormino’s Expert Guide to Advanced Anal Sex.” If you were shopping at some other adult store, then call them up, ask about their kid policy and let them know if protocol was broken. Either way, ask management to remind their employees that children should never be left unattended, and that it’s their responsibility to enforce that rule with parents. A sex shop is not your average retail environment. Customers require a higher level of comfort, and a wandering child will compromise that.
While I won’t be so bold as to instruct any parents out there on how to raise their kids, I will say this: There’s an appropriate time to expose your kid to the weird, wonderful and scary world of sex, and that’s when they start asking about it. That being said, the question, “Mama, where did I come from?” warrants an age-appropriate chat about the birds and the bees, not a family trip to the nearest purveyor of butt plugs and nipple clamps. Even stores that promote a female-friendly, sex-positive environment will have products and packaging that would not only confuse the hell out of a 7-year-old, but expose her to some sexual subcultures she is in no way mature enough to see. There’s nothing on the store shelves that can’t wait until the next time you’re kid-free.