Sex in the Cities

A tour of the kinky, classy and tassle-vending shops around town.

Oh hi, Mom and Dad âÄî you might want to avert your eyes, ’cause this is a story about sex shops. And forget all those skeezy, sleazy stereotypes like the shifty-eyed dude creeping in the aisles, the porn-star prototypes and the legions of polyester âÄúsexy copâÄù costumes. A&E has chosen several standout shops here in our very own metropolis that manage to do away with that âÄúden of icky iniquityâÄù feeling. The Cockpit Project 23rd & Hennepin (Uptown) With a helpful staff that tells you when you’re admiring a leather cuff that subliminally codes you as a âÄúfisting bottom ,âÄù racks of leather goods like chaps and bra tops, tight denim, gags, heavy silver penis rings and giant paddles, the Cockpit Project sounds like it might not be for the faint of heart. However, stepping inside the store might change your mind. The store is clean and trendy with a boutique vibe. The racks are neat and well-selected so that the fashion-conscious among us can stop by to pick up aforementioned bra tops to wear in the style of Alexander Wang and the studded leather cuffs are quasi-Hermes. âÄúI want the mesh dress!âÄù yelled out a girl in the dressing room, who later emerged in a tiny miniskirt. The Cockpit Project recently moved from its prior location on Lyndale, where it had been housed since June of 2001 . The Hennepin location has only been open for a few days. âÄúIt’s the only place in town where you can get high-end leather and fetish gear. We do custom fitting for certain items,âÄù employee Justin Fowler said. Even if your preconceived notions of S&M and leather culture are what youâÄôve seen in movies or worn by Tobias Fünke (âÄúArrested DevelopmentâÄù), the Cockpit is chic and discreet enough to impress you into flirting with the idea. Smitten Kitten 3010 Lyndale Ave. S. (Uptown) The Smitten Kitten, comfortably housed within the snug embrace of Lyndale Avenue, plays a more female-friendly counterpart to the Cockpit Project. It’s become a legend in the Minneapolis sex-shop oeuvre for its relaxed atmosphere and focus on sex education, ethical, earth-friendly and responsible sex toys. Its employees are more than willing to help out either in-store or over the phone. They appear focused on making you feel comfortable, sort of like a sex party in the living room with your best girlfriends. They even give you coffee and tea when you visit, and if free coffee and tea don’t make you want to buy a vibrator, what does? Besides their friendly staff and chic backdrop, the Smitten Kitten also founded the Coalition Against Toxic Toys (CATT), formed to keep sex toy sales environmentally friendly and socially responsible. (Visit their website, badvibes.org for more information.) CATT hopes to keep sex toys manufactured ethically and safely, which means non-porous, odor-free and chemical-free. On Earth Day, April 22, the Smitten Kitten will give 40 percent discounts to those who dispose of a âÄútoxic toy.âÄù Smitten Kitten has an impressively user-friendly website and a blog where its employees, called âÄúKittens,âÄù get to spout off their opinions on things like a fundraiser called Dildo Bingo and the Amazon.com rank controversy, wherein GLBTA-affiliated books werenâÄôt ranked according to their popularity. On the main site, products are organized by category: BDSM and Strap-On Harnesses are two examples, and the Dildos category houses everything from g-spot massagers to those made of glass and metal. The Smitten Kitten is tasteful âÄî the kind of sex shop customers wouldnâÄôt be ashamed to tote a bag from. Sexworld 241 2nd Ave. N. (Warehouse District) Okay, this downtown bastion of pleasures merits a mention. It’s a rite of passage during freshman year, venturing to Sexworld after a few too many Karkov cocktails to gawk and giggle. Diablo Cody immortalized Sexworld in her book âÄúCandy GirlâÄù as a 24-hour hotbed of cuckoos âÄî and perhaps it could be. But if youâÄôve lived here more than two years and you havenâÄôt stopped in, go! ItâÄôs open 24 hours a day and has three whole floors of amusements, from the girls in the peepshow to the ladies dancing next door at Sinners. And free popcorn! What more could you ask for? Honorable mentions/Worthwhile stops: Rainbow Road (109 Grant St. W.) – This gay-centric shop is half sexy, half gift-friendly. Here you can pick up dance CDs, stationery and lube. Stiletto and Venus (909 Lake St. W.) – Stiletto sells crazysexy shoes in the realm of $50, and its neighbor, Venus, hawks costumes and platforms that feel as appropriate in the bedroom as they do onstage at DreamGirls.