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Toronto sex shops are fighting to have sex toys recognized as legitimate medical supplies

The benefits of sex and sexual pleasure are no secret, which is why a few Toronto-based sex shops are teaming up to argue that sex shops should be able to stay open during lockdowns as they sell essential medical supplies.

College Street's The Nookie has joined forces with Stag Shop and filed a motion to have a judge interpret the legislation as it applies to both safety supplies and medical supplies.

Should they be successful, sex shops could be classified as stores that sell essential medical supplies and will be able to stay open regardless of any lockdown.

This began after Veronica Kazoleas, founder of The Nookie, was ticketed for opening her store during lockdown despite having consulted with the province and Toronto Public Health. After calling around, she found that the Stag Shop was willing to join the fight after the city had also shut them down.

Now the two businesses are making their case that sex shops should stay open because of the mental and physical health benefits their products provide.

"The reason we can stay open is that businesses that sell medical supplies or devices are considered essential and that is what sex toys are. There are conditions for which sex toys are the only treatment," Kazoleas told blogTO.

"The pure pleasure aspect has been validated by Dr. Tam, it's been validated by the CDC and Toronto Public Health themselves. It's good for stress relief, it's good for treatment of anxiety, it's good for helping people sleep. That would be purely the pleasure based thing."

Not limited to just sexual pleasure and mental health, Kazoleas also shared the medical benefits of many products sold within her store. Everything from products that help with gender reassignment surgery and erectile dysfunction to issues such as postpartum incontinence. 

"These are independent of using vibrators, these are all products that sex shops are the only game in town for. These products  are medically necessary for people if they're going to heal from these conditions," Kazoleas explained.

As someone with a Masters degree in psychology, Kazoleas is no stranger to research. As part of her case against the city, she prepared a 28-page document that outlines over 200 products she carries broken down by category with literature from 44 different medical publications explaining all the uses of these products as medical supplies.

"This isn't some radical argument, there are entire research journals dedicated to this," Kazoleas explained citing New Zealand, the United States, and various European nations as countries which have already acknowledged sex shops as selling essential goods.

The argument also exists that keeping sex shops open allows people an outlet to find sexual relief while distancing themselves from others. Kazoleas shares that several new customers have visited her store for the first time as a way of staying safe and avoiding close contact with others.

"People have said they're coming into our stores because they can't handle not getting laid anymore but they don't want to hook up on Tinder so they're coming in to buy sex toys to keep themselves at home."

The shops also hope that being labelled as essential can help remove some of the stigma around using sex toys. The desire for sexual relief is something nearly everyone experiences and those people shouldn't be shamed into thinking seeking out sex toys is something they should feel guilty about.

According to Kazoleas, the stigma exists from both the province and city governments who have each suggested her promotion of pleasure seeking, especially for women, is shameful in nature. Her Instagram tagline of "Women Like Sex Too" has on more than one occassion been used as evidence in legal documents.

"That to them is proof that I'm doing something wrong," Kazoleas says. "Both the province and the city make mention of this Instagram bio that I couldn't possibly be providing any sort of legitimate health support because I advocate for women having orgasms."

The next hearing for the case is currently scheduled for April 7th. Should the sex shops be successful, it would set a new precedent in the city for what is and can be deemed essential.

While it's been a stressful year for all, it's hard to argue against a store looking to bring some pleasure back into people's lives.

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