Holiday shopping at Come As You Are

About a month ago, four female friends of mine, who share a house together, decided to do something a bit different for Christmas presents this year: instead of buying separate $20 gifts for each other, they would pool all of the money together into a big pot and go on a spending spree at Toronto's world-renowned sex toy, book, and video store, Come As You Are. I think they're onto something.

I tagged along as the group's sole male representative. Based on tonight, I'd say that turning a bunch of friends loose in a sex toy shop, with cash in their pockets and a commitment to buy, might just be the best answer to the holiday blahs that you'll ever be able to think of.

The ladies were in it for the vibrators. CAYA sets itself apart from some of the smarmier sex toy shops around the world by keeping the lurid, porny toy packaging out of view of the customers, creating a more welcoming environment for everyone. The staff are also rather unsually good at casually approaching you when you need help, but leaving you alone the rest of the time, and all without giving you the "YOU'RE IN A SEX SHOP" googly eyes.

(This kept things from getting too strange when a Kid in the Hall popped in during our visit, made a few friendly inquiries, and went on his way untroubled by fannish employees... or customers.)

My posse had a fast and furious debate about the merits of the Pink Passion versus the more sedate Power Rabbit; both are fairly large and enthusiastic vibrators, but with some significant aesthetic differences. Does "pretty" matter in sex toys? Apparently so; "You have to like it in order to do it," one of my friends was heard to say.

The Splash, another vibrator, offers a gorgeously-designed, low-key alternative to the more aggressive toys. On the other hand, one has to wonder exactly what the designers of the Thunder Cloud were thinking - the gigantic (and expensive, at $155!) vibrator swivels like a crane arm and has lights inside it, looking for all the world like an evil space robot. (A real evil space robot, not Stephen Harper.)

In addition to its large collection of vibrators and dildos, CAYA offers an authoritative collection of peripherals - insertion toys for the boys, harnesses and g-strings for the girls (and boys), and specialty lubes and condoms for everyone. There's also a library of sex-related books, from erotica to help manuals, that I've yet to see rivalled anywhere else in the city. I was sorely tempted by The Straight Girl's Guide to Sleeping With Chicks, just because it looked so gall-darned fun, as well as by some of the finer alterna-hot photo books behind the desk.

Our Christmas money happily spent on a surprisingly broad variety of toys and gear, we stumbled out into the longest night of the year and went our separate ways. I'm fairly sure we've started a new holiday tradition here.

Come As You Are for Christmas: an inspired combination. There's still a few shopping days left; why not see if you can find something fun for someone you love - even if it's just for yourself?

Come As You Are is located at 701 Queen Street West in Toronto, just west of Queen and Bathurst.

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