What's great about Valentine's Day is that it gives people in long-term relationships a guarantee for sex. What if, after being together for a couple of years, the majority of your sexual encounters start taking place just before falling asleep at night—your teeth flossed and your pajama top still on? February 14 is just around the corner, promising to make your sex life adventurous again. As long as you plan the entire evening in advance, that is.
We wanted to know how couples around the world are having organized sex this year, so we asked our international editors to visit their local sex shop and ask each owner about this week's best sellers.
Photo and interview by Gabriella Lewis
Last Valentine's Day, people were into kink because of Fifty Shades of Grey, but we're not selling as much of that stuff this year. Sex games and couples' toys are really popular, like the Eva Now—a hands-free couples vibrator which was actually crowdfunded by two Williamsburg girls.
We've had a lot of women who don't normally wear lingerie come in to buy some, because that's what their partners want. We also just started selling chocolate versions of Clone-A-Willy and Clone-A-Pussy—DIY molding kits that will turn your junk into an edible replica for your Valentine. I hope people will try them out!
–Sam, co-owner of SHAG in Brooklyn
Photos and interview by Tom Usher
The stuff we sell isn't usually just for Valentine's, because it's more extreme, more specialized. If it is for Valentine's and it's a couple, they tend to get cock rings or something like this 12-inch veined double header, which they can both use. With normal sex shops the guy gets what the girl wants—so things like fluffy nightgowns and stuff—whereas here it's with two guys, so the thought process is more, "I want to do that to him." Masculine sexuality is more aggressive.
Red things sell well—but then it sells all the time as red in gay culture is associated with fist-fucking, not Valentine's Day.
– BJ, employee at Expectations, a gay fetish store in Shoreditch, London
Fantastic sex on Valentine's Day is a game for two. This magic bullet is for both hetero and gay couples—it's fun for everyone! Buckle up, put it on, get it on. You can fuck for up to two hours with this cock ring. In general, cock rings sell well in Berlin. And who wouldn't like to get a ring as a present on Valentine's Day? But I also have some fantastic new condoms you should try.
Berlin says hi and happy Valentine's to you all!
—George Gorgeous, owner of Gorgeous in Berlin
In Serbia, Valentine's Day only became popular after the fall of communism. All we know about it comes from American movies, and we are a long way from celebrating it wholeheartedly. Serbians buy more sex gifts for their partners on New Year's than on Valentine's Day. I think teenagers care about it more, but our customers are mostly married couples.
Still, our most popular items are thongs and G-strings in various colors packed in the shape of flowers. It's really a lovely gift. Another hit is this female thong called Butterfly Kiss, which stimulates your clitoris and G-spot at the same time.
—Boza, manager of Your Dreams in Belgrade
José Luis Martínez Limón
We definitely sell more in the run-up to Valentine's but mostly small things like condoms, lubricants, vibrating rings... Mexicans won't really go for sex toys on February 14. When they do, it is usually a couple who wants to try something new. Our best sellers are dildos—we sell almost the same number of those on Valentine's Day as on any other day of the year.
—Manuel, salesperson at Libido in Mexico City
Wout van Gils
The stuff we've been selling most in the run-up to Valentine's Day has actually been pretty tame. In the past week we've sold a lot more lingerie than in the weeks before, and not as many dildos and vibrators as we usually sell. The red panties and bras are always quite popular, and this week is no different. We've also been selling a lot of our surprise packages, for the more adventurous types. You know, fun for him and her. They contain dildos, vibrators, lubricants—that sort of stuff. But you never know exactly what you're going to get.
—Rogier Speekenbrink, Erotic Discount Center in Amsterdam
Valentine's Day is the only time of year when the number of women who buy stuff in our shops surpasses that of men. Sales are on the rise in general, but it seems to be the only time of year when women buy gifts for their spouses. Normally, Romanian women will buy something for themselves. In the run-up to Valentine's Day they look for small, funny gifts like edibles—panties made out of candy—or vagina-shaped lollipops, which they buy to convince their boyfriends that they should eat them out more.
Those who want to really take advantage of the holiday also buy furry handcuffs (red for women, black for men) and pillows with boobs on them. Two days ago, a girl ordered a giant red dildo. She said that it is the gift she's giving herself for Valentine's Day so she needed it to be red.
—Dragos Enea, owner of Erotica in Bucharest
Valentine's Day is one of the best times of the year sales-wise—like Christmas and the summer. This week, the most popular products among women have been aromatic and lubricating oils. Men, on the other hand, have been buying technologically advanced vibrators. Luxury clit and G-spot stimulators, too. I find this really positive because it means they care for their partners.
—Adeline Aránega, owner of Kitsch in Barcelona
The ass is more on the table now than it has ever been, so this week we are seeing an increase in demand for strap-ons for straight couples. The G-kii G-spot vibrator is also a big hit.
Then there's the LELO Lyla, which has also been in high demand. It's a nifty little egg-shaped, remote-controlled vibrator that can be inserted into the vagina. It can be a couple's dirty little secret if you're at a party together or having a romantic dinner. The man can control his woman with the click of a button. It's a huge turn-on.
—Kate Lis, salesperson at Lust in Copenhagen
The We-Vibe. Photo by Aretha Bergdahl. Interview by Johannes Räihäand
I can definitely see a change in sales in the run-up to Valentine's. We get a lot of guys shopping this week—mostly buying gifts for their girlfriends. Couple-related stuff. The We-Vibe is a best seller. You insert the larger, flatter side of the toy in the vagina, while the smaller side rests on the clitoris and vibrates. The male then enters and both parties can enjoy the vibrating sensation. So it's a very fun toy for both partners. We also see a peak in the sales of high-class silent dildos. People don't mind spending a little extra to make it special around this time of the year. As for the sad singles, they usually buy sex toys at approximately the same rate, all year round.
—Anonymous shop assistant, Lovetoys in Stockholm
Photo and interview by Jake Kivanc
People come in on Valentine's Day to get gifts that are very romantic and intimate, rather than just fun or experimental. A lot of folks will come in trying to create a scene using several little items—love notes, candles, massage oils, small toys. Or they might go for a bigger ticket item like an expensive vibrator. People's favorites are things like under-the-bed restraint systems, colorful bondage tape, fun lubes, and condoms—that sort of thing. Sometimes, people come in and ask for "the best" product but there really isn't one.
With the Canadian dollar being so low, we've had to increase our prices on some of our imported products, but we're trying to put a greater emphasis on Canadian products. Happy Valley does a lot of great butt plugs and sleeves for us out of Peterborough, and we get a [cannabis-based] massage oil from out in BC.
—Ignacia Ibarra Black, employee/head of donations at the Come As You Are Co-operative in Toronto