Scholar Lynn Comella, who chairs UNLV’s department of interdisciplinary, gender, and ethnic studies, and who wrote the book “Vibrator Nation,” recently joined co-host Vogue Robinson on our podcast to discuss the state of sex shops in Sin City. Three excerpts:
How would you describe a standard Vegas sex shop?
Las Vegas doesn't necessarily have the range of sex shops you might find in other cities of comparable size. We aren't really known for our feminist or LGBT sex shops. We have more of the standard sex shops that have morphed over the years to do a little bit more to cater to women, to cater to a more inclusive customer base. But they still follow a pretty standard formula. (Elsewhere in the interview she praises The Love Store.)
I find that so interesting, especially in Vegas, which sells us all of our vices.
The kind of commercialized adult fun that Vegas sells is carefully curated for those tourists from the Midwest — primarily straight men who want to have fun, but not be so scandalized that they can't go home and share their fun with their friends. Vegas has to walk a fine line between embracing that reputation as an adult playground but not being so anything-goes that it scares people off. A colleague once described the type of sex and sexuality that Vegas sells as NASCAR sexuality. That was really interesting.
What is the role a sex shop plays in a city?
One of the things I found in my research is sex shops are a malleable cultural form. They can be a site of consumption, where you go in, you get your product, and leave. But if you have the right staff, if they're well trained, sex stores can be places where adults can get an answer to a question they've never felt comfortable asking. And (sex shops) can help bring sexual pleasure out of the closet.
(Edited for length and clarity.)