A best friend to many Victoria residents. All photos via the author.
Let me just get out in front of this and say it: I don’t think Victorians are dramatically kinkier than the rest of us.
Not any more, anyway. When I first read that Victoria, BC had been ranked the highest per-capita consumer of sex toys, I assumed the islanders were in on some sex secret the rest of Canada had yet to discover. Balloons, maybe? Showerhead orgies on acid? I really wasn’t sure.
After hanging around a couple sex shops and chatting with a few industry wonks, though, I’ve come to understand Victoria’s higher-than-average dildo acquisition is a product of demographics and maybe weather. As one of the most elderly cities in the country—like, 113th birthday party elderly—there are naturally some folks seeking to rectify (ha) legit plumbing issues. At one sex shop I visited, couples as old as 96 and 98 have dropped in searching of means to keep their tickle trunks twiddled.
But when I tell another sex shop owner the good news, Christine Page is genuinely surprised. She says in-person sex shops have taken a hit—a few in Victoria have closed recently—which is why she’s diversifying into
Eyes Wide Shut masks and rave gear. This trend is a shame, Page said, because knockoff Fleshlights are too rampant online—which are totally not worth it, apparently. (I felt this was a PSA worth sharing. You’re welcome.)
Action shot from the Love Den sex shop in Victoria.
Women also outnumber men in Victoria, making vibrating anythings an alternative—if not a necessity—for boring heteros. Yes, I hate myself for even writing that—but this fact and framing was repeatedly pointed out to me, often accompanied by hyperbolic stats like “there’s three women for every man in Victoria.”
“I have heard over the years so many complaints from women age 19 to 70,” said Page, “no single men in Victoria.” I looked at 2011 census data, and it’s more like five women to every four men. There are 22 percent more unattached women than men, a surplus of 14,000-ish single ladies. This phenomenon has a disappointing Urban Dictionary entry: Chicktoria.
The constant, unrelenting February rain also keeps the toy business chugging/pumping/whatever semi-gross metaphor you prefer: “Our high spot for selling toy stuff is the winter compared to summer,” Page said. “In the summer people are out hiking and doing stuff, but this time of year it’s quite rainy and gloomy, the weather.” A Netflix account can only get you so far on days when it’s too miserable outside to leave the house. Victorians make sure to stock up for the season.
The kind of weather that makes you want to get hot and bothered.
If this sounds too deterministic, it must be said Victoria has some genuine sex toy fundamentalists, too. I met one 38 year old woman while she was scoping out a We-Vibe 4, in hopes of taking home a product that would vibrate inside her—under her clothes—while she goes about her day. I listened to her describe a fantasy she had about giving away the remote control, waiting all day for an impending zap.
In retrospect this seems like a perfectly eccentric Valentines activity for a soggy, Victoria afternoon. Because good vibes have to come from somewhere, and a city best known for “newly weds and nearly deads” may not deliver on its own.
To recap, Victoria likely buys more sex toys than any other Canadian city because a) old people b) single ladies be vibin' and c) rain. While these may not be the most glamourous reasons to be crowned the sex toy capital, it seems like a special, Canadian kind of victory.