Sexy Fun and Games

Ottawa XPress, Shotgun, September 15, 2005

My first boyfriend and me waited almost a year before “doing it” – and it was a blast. Instead of intercourse, we filled our time with tonnes of other sexy stuff and substitutes. But where to get started? The only sex shops I knew of were in Hull and I thought those were for prostitutes and strippers, not an Ottawa U English undergrad.

Then I saw the upstairs sex place right beside Zaphod’s on York Street. It was porno all the way, right down to the disgruntled, gross salesman. It had cheap, slutty clothing that I couldn’t see my punk rock sensitive-soul boyfriend really digging. Their dirty videos were revolting. But I tried. And I walked away with some crap and a dent in my OSAP.

Too bad Venus Envy didn’t exist back then.

Nowadays, in Ottawa, if you’re looking to inject some tasteful and affordable fun into your love life, in my opinion there is only one place you should go. Venus Envy. They provide women and their partners with a respectful (and did I mention FUN!!) place where you can find high-quality adult toys and friendly staff to answer questions, share experiences, and empower yourself.

Formerly on Parent Street across from another Halagonian marker, The Lower Deck Maritime Pub, Venus Envy-a Halifax-based education-oriented sex and bookstore-is now housed at 320 Lisgar Street, corner of Bank, right across from Invisible Cinema. And what digs!

Let’s go for a tour.

Venus Envy Ottawa is a welcoming wide-open space with an impressive selection of dildos, plugs, masturbation aids,
strap-ons, fetish gear and tools all showcased on tasteful displays along the walls. Prices are reasonable and product is popular. You can tell because nothing on the shelves has had time to collect dust like a lot of those toys you see faded in the storefront window of skin shops. And most items have a helpful information card attached so you know what the heck you’re fiddling with. It’s a classy aesthetic sex-shop, this place.

There are three themed tables in the middle of the store full of personal care items like organic sanitary napkins and groovy hot water bottles wrapped in fun-fur with patterns like leopard and zebra print, and my favourite-the black one with flames. On another table are the Kama Sutra and Luna Negra line of aromatic oils, and creams and chocolate body paint. Indulge in body bar cocoa butter blocks in wonderful scents ranging from vanilla and mango to chocolate mint. And novelty sex-play kits are a great way to spice up any weekend.

You have to pick up some inexpensive kitsch magnets so your Crush Boy (or Girl) can stick the cool vintage postcards or erotic note cards you’ll send them on their fridge next to a funky Venus Envy calendar. While you’re at it, why not buy my book and CD, Starfucking tales of sexless one-night stands. Or a female-directed porn DVD.

But I won’t let you leave the store without educating yourself on the bullet-sized “micro mini” vibrator. It sells for $20. These pleasure bullets fit snuggly into the base of a wide range of silicone dildos or sleeves. The helpful sales lady plugged a micro mini into a sparkly dildo for me to feel (with my hands) its effects. The apparatus vibrated from its base right up to the head. Effective.

It’s small enough to fit into the little front pocket of your jeans – the pair you’re wearing – and not the ones in your travel bag you used to hide your huge dinosaur vibrator that airport security could spot readily with their x-ray machines. How embarrassing. Thanks to Venus Envy, you can masturbate in style and with dignity.

“Only five stores in Canada have the same approach,” says owner Shelly Taylor. These are in Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax and Ottawa. Given the couple thousand sex stores, Venus Envy can be seen as a leader in education-oriented sex stores, especially with workshop offerings (

But now that you know what’s in the store, how do you give your lover a heads up of what’s in store? How do you try kinky things on your partner or with someone new who may have reservations or hang-ups?

Well, one of my friends suggested that introducing sex toys and fun in the bedroom is a lot like dancing. First, you have to ask nicely if the person is interested. Second, while you’re leading, you have to pay attention if your partner is getting your moves or, having troubles following along. You don’t want square dancing while you’re trying to put a little salsa in their step.

The best advice though is probably to get them on down to Venus Envy. Have a look around. See how they react.

You could also flog their face with a jelly-vinyl dildo while they’re mid-conversation as did an XPress colleague to me at the store’s launch party recently.

Proudly, I didn’t flinch an inch, proving I’m still in the game. Are you?

– Sylvie Hill