When I wrote my first dissertation on the rise of women as customers of female-led sex shops I surveyed women from across the UK. The results showed a strong negative image associated with sex shops, even though there are more female erotic shops in the UK than there ever has been - albeit mostly in London. Although the industry is growing, the old perceptions are difficult to shake off.

For the women surveyed the overall feeling of sex shops was of 'seediness', 'men in long raincoats', and being located down 'dodgy back alleys'. These perceptions were spread across all age ranges, and locations. Another issue which arose was one of embarrassment. Being seen in a sex shop, buying objects of a sexual nature caused a great unease amongst the women.

The problem then is how respond to these issues. Shops such as Myla and Coco-de-Mer have done this successfully by creating high-end luxury boutique shops that are far removed from the male sex shops that dominate the industry. With open, clear windows and beautiful furnishings the shops give a sense of openness showing women they have nothing to fear.

The research identified great interest amongst women regarding erotic shops, and their product. But the indisputable driving force that stopped women from visiting sex shops was the negative associations connected with the industry. Bringing female sex shops into the shopping mainstream is an important aspect in changing this attitude. Location is also critical. Women need to feel safe.

Sex shops of yesteryear have proven their reputation of being dismal and dirty. What with their frosted glass windows hiding a dark and smelly interior filled with a lot of hardcore porn. The sleazy men going in were of a questionable reputation. No woman with a shred of self-respect would ever be caught in such an establishment.

So instead we decided to see if going to a sex shop online would be more our style. Just the fact that we could sit together at the computer screen and look at all that was available was definitely more pleasing. Just fantasising about using this or that, or explaining to each other how we would use this sex toy on each other, in total privacy was a definite turn on.

One thing we noticed, were the prices. The toys at the sex shops online were incredibly lower. Even after taking into account the shipping costs the final purchase price is much lower than the street shops. Some of these sex toy shops online even had free shipping if you buy for more than a certain predetermined amount of dollars Sexshopping.

Once we had figured out the sex toys that we wanted to purchase, we then had the chance to shop around and find the best prices. There are some great price comparison tools out there if look around. Shopzilla and Google Product Search are some of my favourite. They allow searching for a particular product and seeing the different online sex shops that carry them and compare the prices. So getting the most 'bang for your buck' is indeed possible (pun intended!).

Many people will feel embarrassed about going into a sex shop and would not ask a member of staff for help or recommendations. So that is where online adult sex shops are perfect for searching together for adult toys with complete discretion and privacy. A good place to start is to find sex toys that you or your partner will not feel intimidated buy such as a finger vibrator, this way you can work your way up to bigger adult toys.

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