The Lens, like most men, is not a shopper. I enter a store single-mindedly focused
on a purchase, like a Tomahawk missile locked onto a bunker. I’m out the
door with my merchandise before you can say "boom."
Not so when walking through Secret Desires' wonderland of silk g-strings, microscopic
panties, and leather bustiers. To the contrary, the lingerie selection in Santa
Monica's notorious sex shop on Lincoln Boulevard transforms me into a loitering,
gawking, Venusian gatherer.
If you’ve ever wondered where women get those Halloween outfits, this
is it. There seems to be an acre of Naughty Nurse, Naughty French
Maid and Naughty Cowgirl costumes.
At Secret Desires, it becomes clear that any occupation can become
“naughty” with the addition of a hot pink garter belt,
fishnet stockings and feather boa. I could swear I saw a Naughty
Crossing Guard get-up.
Unlike grittier sex shops, here you will not encounter glassy-eyed
men in trench coats leering at you over magazines. It feels, instead,
like you’ve wandered into a bachelorette party.
Jorge, the day shift manager, explains, perhaps redundantly, that the establishment
is geared towards females. “We opened two and a half years ago to create
a place that is less intimidating to women,” as opposed to Hollywood’s
There are racks offering fur-lined handcuffs and edible undies, lotions, sexy
chotzkies, and Pin-the-Balls on the Stud games.
While a shelf’s worth of literature contains serious tomes devoted to
“female sacred sexuality,” unlocking the hidden female orgasm and
Tantra, men are played for laughs. There are penis-shaped drinking straws, penis-shaped
pencils, willie-themed playing cards, cake pans shaped like male genitalia.
Basically, anything cylindrical has been turned into a cheap, plastic, Chinese-made
phallic party favor.
This is not deep kink. There is something light and romantic about
the place. It’s the kind of store in which a blushing couple
would seek out a bottle of “Hot Lips Lotion,” rather
than purchase weapons to leave stripes on each other.
Jorge says that the shop attracts all kinds, but mostly “happy
couples, looking for some fun." They often include “people
coming back from nightclubs," looking for a nightcap of sorts,
considering the shop is open as late as 3 a.m. on some mornings.
Valentine’s Day, of course, is big.
It is only until you reach the darkened back of the shop when things get a bit
heavy and the ‘70s porn “waa waa” guitar and electric piano
starts playing in your head.
Behind the massive selection of nearly indistinguishable porn CDs, there is
a wall offering female blow-up sex dolls. They are modeled on “real life”
porn stars with a penchant for geographic names: Asia, Montana, Paris, and Vienna
offer their untiring silicone orifices. A “Nubian Love Doll” can
be had for under one hundred bucks.
The face of one doll, “Tera Patrick,” stares out at
me from the cellophane packaging and the reaction I have to her
beckoning mouth is complicated and disturbing. I realize, terribly,
that she is a dead ringer for my Aunt Carol, circa the summer of
’76, screaming at me after having discovered that I just ruined
her velvet couch by sitting on it in my wet swimsuit.
Jorge states that the shop is designed to “reduce embarrassment”
among female patrons. Note to self: never again enter a female-oriented sex
toy shop scribbling into a steno pad while women shop for vibrators.
In the back-most chamber of the store I encounter two executive-looking
women. They are a couple. Each one is weighing an impressive piece
of hardware that requires two D batteries, lots of lube and courage.
They are considering their fleshy purchases with the kind of care
newlyweds consider China. All is fine until they notice your humble
observer, a bald Margaret Mead, earnestly taking notes. They bolt.
Having destroyed their buzz, I am left alone in the sanctum sanctorum. Just
me and about three hundred male appendages of various shapes, sizes, colors
When I spy the pair of rubber feet next to the selection of whips, I’m