Steam up your Valentine’s Day with sex shops around the District

Media Credit: Kiana Robertson | Senior Staff Photographer

Hart’s Desires hosts educational events a couple times a month in the shop. This month’s class is called Intro to Aphrodisiacs and will be hosted Feb. 18.

Venturing into a sex shop for the first time can be nerve-racking, but it doesn’t have to be.

After exploring the sexiest shops in the District, these charming storefronts changed my impression. With knowledgeable staff and educational initiatives, these stores will surprise you and ease any sense of intimidation.

Here are some of D.C.’s best X-rated toy stores:

Bite the Fruit
1723 Connecticut Ave. NW

From 1994 to 2012, Bite the Fruit specialized in leather straps and attire – catering only to gay males, a large demographic in Dupont Circle at the time, according to owners Jim McGlade and Russwin Francisco. But when they noticed the neighborhood becoming more diverse about five years ago, they expanded their offerings to satisfy all sexual orientations.

Upon entering the shop, customers are immediately greeted by a mannequin clad in leather restraints. Venture deeper into the aisles and you are inundated with scanty garments, tawdry toys and practical tools like lube and condoms that all promise to spice up your sex life.

Towards the back of the space is a selection for those inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey. BDSM whips, chains and swings are stacked next to racks of leather jockstraps and kilts for hardcore lovers. For more passive entertainment, customers can feast their eyes on the wall of porn DVDs and stacks of old-school dirty magazines.

While the plethora of hard plastic toys and the strong masculine presence may feel gritty at first, the shop has a laid-back vibe and the same is true of the employees. If their friendly smiles aren’t enough, seek out the resident cat who can be found prowling through the corsettes or nestled underneath the display case housing vibrators and dildos.

Manager Roman Miles said he loves working with the customers, who are mostly couples but come from all different backgrounds and experiences.

“There are 50 shades of people who need to enhance their love life and we help them,” Miles said. “The operative word here is love.”

Hart’s Desires
2408 18th St. NW

The pale blue flowered walls and the sweet aromas might have you mistaking Hart’s Desires for a luxurious spa or an innocent jewelry boutique. But first impressions would steer you quite wrong.

You’ve landed in D.C.’s most charming and welcoming sex shop, complete with all the sumptuous toys you’ve been longing for.

The ceilings are adorned with ornate chandeliers and the glass display cases are dotted with rhinestones, but amid this sweet exterior is the less-than-innocent merchandise.

Past the first room offering lots of lingerie and lube, a corridor leads into a spacious and airy back room that houses more X-rated items. On one side are vibrators in every color of the rainbow and the other side hosts a small variety of BDSM toys, including pastel paddles that are a bit different than the sorority paddle you may have made.

They host educational events a couple times a month in the shop – this month’s class is called an Intro to Aphrodisiacs and will be hosted Feb. 18 for $15 per ticket.

Owners Shani and Mike Hart opened Hart’s Desires’ first location in Maryland and after initial success, expanded into the D.C. location. They began this adult adventure because they often hosted “toy parties” for friends and wanted to educate more people about sex.

“Everyone loves talking about sex,” Shani Hart said. “We like helping people realize their own sexuality and then empower it.”

Secret Pleasures Boutique
1510 U St. NW

At Secret Pleasures, employees believe vibrators, anal beads and handcuffs aren’t worth it if you don’t know how to use them properly and safely.

To remedy that, the shop attempts to provide the means for sexual liberation, while also educating customers on how to get there.

Cradled in the U Street Corridor, Secret Pleasures features two stories of merchandise suited for anyone with a desire to learn. The shop is discreet to enter, with a simple “SP” banner tacked up outside. The first floor has a variety of vibrators, prostate toys and costumes, but its most captivating piece is unconventional to say the least.

Atop an old fireplace sits a clear, glass “Science Jar,” with melted dildos sitting inside and appears to be a gooey mess of colored plastic. The jar is to educate consumers that jelly rubber, PVC and latex will start to melt when they come into contact with each other and, therefore, to take caution when using toys of these substances.

The shop also shelves guides on how to select the right vibrator or toy for you and checklists to fill out with your partner on what you do and don’t want in the bedroom.

As you continue up to the top floor, the information continues.

The stairwell is lined with posters explaining what BDSM is and how to practice it in a safe way. These signs prepare you to enter the second-story room full of fur-lined handcuffs, clamps and masks. To accompany all this kink and bondage, there are also BDSM support pamphlets scattered throughout the space.

If all of this information doesn’t have you schooled, then check out one of their workshops that occur a couple times each month. Classes take on a wide variety of topics – from dirty talk to group sex – and cost from $20 to $35 per person.

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