I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect going into my first sex shop visit to Patricia’s. It wasn’t long before that sentiment was completely thrown out the window once I came face-to-face with a DIY glow-in-the-dark penis molding kit “Clone-a-Willy” and a 19-inch dildo.
Patricia’s, located on 2208 S Neil St. in Champaign, is an adult entertainment store that sells a wide variety of lingerie, sex toys, novelty items, lubricants and sexual health products.
There’s often a stigma that comes with going to sex shops. After being light-heartedly questioned by my Uber driver once he realized where he was dropping me off, I felt my face turn red as I stepped out of the car, laughing at the whole exchange.
“Do you work here?”
“Oh, no, I’m actually here to report for a story.”
I don’t think he believed me.
However, once I entered Patricia’s, I was greeted with a smile from the cashier and any tension I felt during the car ride melted away. I was fully entranced by the wide selection of the store.
The store itself stands front and center and takes up its own lot in the shopping plaza. It’s hard to miss. Natural light filled the store and items were neatly hung along the walls and displayed on shelves — a sharp contrast to the infamous sex toy section of Spencer’s that’s often pushed to the back corner of the store.
Tyla Robinson, a cashier at Patricia’s who grew up in the Champaign-Urbana area, said before the store opened in 2015, she only knew of Spencer’s as the place to find sex toys. She said she’s glad a place like Patricia’s exists which focuses more on sex-positivity and sexual health.
The gag-gift section caught my eye immediately. I was most intrigued by the “Dick Head” ring toss game, the “Where’s Dildo?” scavenger hunt game spin of “Where’s Waldo?” and the penis-shaped pasta.
This novelty section, in particular, felt like a necessary ice-breaker for the store to have, as it takes a silly spin of the taboo topic of sex and the human anatomy, acting as a reminder that sex can be fun whilst making the rest of the store easier to swallow.
Robinson said a part of her job is “helping making people feel comfortable” in the store. Sometimes she encounters customers who are initially embarrassed about being in the store, but after helping them learn about and touch the products, they end up happily purchasing an item.
Removing the stigma of sex stores is “all about conversation,” Robinson said. After helping customers feel comfortable, she ensures to not be too personal, but not too sheltering either. She said she believes it’s important for people to know about their bodies, and that talking about these personal matters can still be handled in a professional way.
The store has a wide variety of dildos and vibrators, ranging in color, size and material. The center of the store featured a display case for customers to feel the vibrators outside of the box and also test the lubricants.
I picked up a hot pink vibrator which featured three different settings that controlled the heat, the type of vibrations and speed of the vibrations. The technology is unreal. I also had a mini-freakout session when I ultimately found myself with a vigorously shaking vibrator that I couldn’t figure out how to turn off. (Don’t worry, I eventually figured it out).
Once you get past the vibrator and dildo section, the products only seem to get kinkier.
There was an entire wall dedicated to anal toys, including some bunny and fox tail butt plugs. I also appreciated the sections titled, “Whips & Paddles & Crops… Oh My!” and “Irresistible Restraints” which featured fuzzy handcuffs and nipple clamps.
Seeing the types of bondage products that were available helped put into perspective the different kinks people can have, and stores like Patricia’s help people fulfill their sexual needs and fantasies. Being open minded is key when stepping into a sex shop.
With that being said, the sex swing looked really fun.
I also spotted some sex dolls and vagina masturbators, more commonly known as “Fleshlights.” The wide assortment offered showed how the store attempts to cater to people and their different needs.
I was impressed that the store was also LGBTQ-friendly. There was a selection of rainbow-themed sex toys in addition to a wide range of strap-ons and cock rings. Inclusivity is an important part to the store, Robinson said.
During my visit, I also gained insight on the importance of sexual health. The store sold penis pumps which is a treatment option used for those with erectile dysfunction. I also sighted some Ben Wa balls, or Kegel balls, which are vaginal exercise weights that help strengthen pelvic muscles.
Robinson is planning on studying physical therapy. She said working at the store has broadened how she views sex, and she found herself doing more research on topics like G-spots and prostates.
“Knowledge is power,” she said. “It’s very versatile when it comes to your body and sex.”
With sex often being viewed as a controversial and forbidden topic, it was extremely refreshing to go inside a store like Patricia’s. The store permeated with sex-positivity and hospitality. It felt almost liberating to talk about sex openly, get my questions answered and explore the different options that are out there. Patricia’s helped facilitate an environment that removed the stigma of learning about our bodies and about our sexual health, and most importantly, created an environment where sex is normal.