So a girl walks into a sex shop. . .

Lisa Robertson

I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret. Buying condoms and lube and sex toys and pornography does not make you a pervert.

It just makes you like the rest of us who are buying condoms and lube and sex toys and pornography.

You know, average people who like to have a good time with consenting adult partners.

Unfortunately, America is still living with the leftover guilt of those crazy Puritans who gave us the lovely combination of associating sex with shame.

I want to begin by discussing the great little invention that is the condom and how buying it can be embarrassing.

I still find it awkward to walk into a store without a self-checkout aisle and buy condoms, and I’m 25 and enjoy staring down anyone who judges my unwed self for practicing safe sex.

I recently paid a visit to the Walgreens and CVS in Kent to see where condoms are placed in the stores and how that might affect the comfort level of buying them.

In Walgreens, condoms are surrounded on one side by tampons and on the other by pregnancy tests. As a further reminder of what could happen as a result of sex, across the aisle are diapers and other baby care products.

The store, or whoever arranges its products, is not subtle.

CVS stocks condoms a few aisles safely away from the feminine hygiene products, but with pregnancy tests still right next to them on the shelf.

Why are the pregnancy tests not by the rest of the lady-helpful products? I suppose as another reminder of the “consequences” of sex.

If I’m embarrassed to buy condoms, I can definitely see how guys might feel uncomfortable buying them, surrounded by tampons and pregnancy tests, as they often seem to be.

Though, guys, if you’re not embarrassed, kudos to you. Spread that confidence to your friends.

To my lady readers, I implore you to proudly walk into a store, grab that type of condom that you know will help hit all the right notes and feel happy with the knowledge that you’re taking good care of you and your partner’s health.

I guarantee it’s more embarrassing having to treat that nasty case of chlamydia you picked up than it is buying a box of latex protection.

Oh, gents and ladies, be realistic.

Get condoms to fit, not to impress or inflate self-confidence.

If you think buying condoms is embarrassing, walking into a sex shop won’t make you feel any better.

However, sex shops amuse me.

The people who work in them are some of the friendliest I’ve ever met. And never has there been a more entertaining spectacle of human theater than watching someone walk into a sex shop and try to look inconspicuous.

It can’t be done.

Accept that now, and you’ll have a lot more fun going into one.

I went to a local adult-oriented business called Ambiance (the Cuyahoga Falls location) Thursday, Oct. 7, a day after speaking to company president Jennifer Downey.

The store does not sell pornography, so you don’t have to be 18 or older to enter. I will admit I took two friends with me, because I find there is safety and less embarrassment in numbers.

Downey said Ambiance was opened to help women “not feel the stigma of walking into an adult book store.”

This is a goal I can appreciate, as I’ve seen adult bookstores that should really just have giant, bright red ‘DANGER INSIDE’ signs floating above them.

Though Ambiance’s founders had women in mind because they’re usually the ones less comfortable with sex, Downey stressed men are just as welcome to come in, with or without their partners.

Ambiance also caters to both straight and gay couples, so there really is something for everyone. Toys. Sex swings. Penis-shaped cake pans for your friend who loves to bake.

And the store’s best-selling item? “Batteries,” Downey said, without a moment’s hesitation.

If an adult-themed store is not really your style, but you still want to learn more about sex toys and other items, there’s a company called Pure Romance that holds parties for women that are a ridiculous amount of fun.

It’s been a little over five years, but a friend of mine had a Pure Romance party as her bachelorette party. I was initially embarrassed to be in a room full of virtual strangers passing around dildos and lubes, but you get over that pretty quickly.

Carol Predragovic, a Canton-based Pure Romance consultant who has done parties in Kent, assured me that all ordering is confidential.

Since she brings some items with her for immediate purchase at the party, she said she even helps guests hide items in their purses in case a curious hostess wants to know what they’ve bought.

“It’s all about empowering, educating and entertaining women,” Predragovic said.

Gentlemen, I’m sorry to have to inform you, but Pure Romance parties are not an option for you. Apparently, according to Predragovic, presenting a phallic-shaped item with a man present is considered a form of solicitation in some states.

And solicitation charges are not a great way to have your business publicized. But I have it on very good authority that just because you can’t go to the parties, it doesn’t mean you won’t get the benefits of the products.

Both Downey and Predragovic encouraged everyone not be afraid to try something they’ve never done before.

Don’t be afraid to be safe by buying condoms. And don’t be afraid to grab your partner and drag him or her to your local sex shop for some fun shopping.

Contact Lisa Robertson at [email protected].