Upland’s Toy Box: Titillating Times or a Blast From the Past?

Dear sex column readers, 

I offer this article as a way of introducing myself, Humpfree Blowhard. From here on out, I’ll share this space with last semester’s columnist, C. Frisky. I’ll be focusing on sex culture in and around Claremont.      

This past Saturday, my partner and I decided to visit Claremont’s closest sex shop: the Toy Box, a three-minute drive from campus in Upland.       

Before going, I looked up the Toy Box on the Internet, as The Consumer feels obligated to do. When I typed in “Toy Box,” Google returned: the IMDB page for a cheap-looking horror flick from 2005, captioned “some fairy tales can be deadly,” one actual toy store for children, and a five-star Google User review that reads, “WOW THIS PLACE IS GOOD HAVE LOTS OF THINGS U DONT NEED TO BE SHY PPL THERE WILL HELP U THE GURL WHO HELPED ME OUT WAS PRETTY ENTRANCE IS A BIT WIERD BUT IT IS FUN THERE BE URSELF [sic].” My interest was piqued.

The Toy Box is open 24/7. To get the full experience, you should probably go after midnight, but if 3 a.m. sex shop runs aren’t really your scene, you can go in the middle of the afternoon between classes.     

The only entrance was through the back door.     

What struck me and my partner upon going inside was the smell. The incense was all-consuming. The olfactory flood — cinnamon-scented, I think — was apparently augmented by a lack of any formal ventilation system inside the building apart from ceiling fans.      

My eyes and ears were just as swamped as my nose. The brightest plastic colors imaginable — pink, black, white, and gold — branded each plastic package. Heart’s “Barracuda” came out of speakers in each corner. The carpet seemed taken from a combination laser tag/bowling alley, that outerspace-looking kind that hides stains well. A plethora of pliant penises surrounded the interior, which was about the size of a mall shoe store.

As a matter of clarity, I’d like to mention that there didn’t appear to be a dildo section as such. Instead, artificial male genitalia hung at different flaccid and erect angles around the store, pointing you here and there, ranging in size from bachelorette-party-sippy-straw to what the damn hell?  

The pocket-pussies, on the other hand, were in contained areas along the walls — areas that were further stratified by the name of the porn actress whose equipment had served as inspiration.  

The DVDs and porno-prints were at the southernmost part of the store, with titles that were creative to the point of being admirable in their misogyny. The vintage magazine section displayed bushes prominently. 

The celebrity sex dolls were expensive and awkward: “Crackhead Charlie” Sheen, “Just-in Beaver,” “Lindsay Blowhan,” and “She ain’t no Beyoncé,” which boasted the tagline “She’s ‘crazy in love’ for cock!” Things the Toy Box also sells: lube, pot paraphernalia, lingerie, lube, cock rings, vibrators and vibrating mustaches, S&M gear, and lube.   

There wasn’t much intermingling among customers, except between the amiable, goateed cashier and The Consumer. The cashier, who was probably the owner based on the amount of personal investment in his voice, stood above us and observed from behind an elevated display booth like a happy king. The constant reminder of “Smile! You’re on camera!” rested behind his shoulder. He helped my partner and me pick out a massage oil, noting that this brand was “water-based in case of allergy.”     

All this is to say that there was something very adult about this adult store. The carpeting, the incense, the ’70s dad rock, the allergy worries — the whole place felt like an anachronism. The Toy Box was an experience, but it was hard not to be ironic and cynical about the campiness of what I saw. It was as though, as a young person, I was too jaded to enjoy an older generation’s idea of what was sexy, or even enjoyable about sex. Going to a sex shop ironically might be a novel trend for hipsters to enjoy, but for me it was alienating. Still, if you’re looking to buy some lube, they’ve got it, and they’re nearby.

Sincerely yours,​

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