BROOKLYN, N.Y. – In the p.c. enclave of hipster Brooklyn, N.Y., residents are hardly batting an eye over the opening of a new kind of sex shop.
The high-design Babeland shop, which sells itself as being "kid-friendly," doesn't exactly scream sex though.
Unlike the older sex shops, which are dark and dingy, the Babeland store has upbeat music, well-dressed saleswomen and infant changing tables — marketing itself as a fun place for couples to shop. It's part of a growing trend that has been spreading from Louisville to Los Angeles in an attempt to take the sleaze out of this part of the sex industry.
“If you walk into a mainstream sex store, you’ll probably be greeted with explicit imagery and a sort of artificial sexuality, like a woman with blonde hair with her head thrown back, something that’s meant to titillate in the moment,” said Babelands's owner Claire Cavanah.
This store, which officially opens its doors Sunday, is the fifth Babeland for Cavanah, who opened the first store in Seattle, Wash., with friend and business partner Rachel Venning in 1993. Since then, the two have opened shops in New York City and one in Los Angeles, which closed this year.
Even its unobtrusive window displays — looking out over the stroller packed streets in family-friendly Park Slope — is so low key some residents don't even know it's there.
When asked for her opinion on the store’s location, Lisa — who declined to give her last name— didn’t know the store’s name or what it sold, but deposited her young son on the front stoop so she could take a quick peek inside. She declared it “tastefully done” when she came back out.
Despite all the window dressing, not everyone is excited by the store’s arrival. “It’s completely unmoral, it’s unclassy — it shouldn’t be here,” said Brooklyn resident Anthony Vedetta.
In other towns — such Forest Lake outside St. Paul, Minn., or Avon outside Indianapolis or Jefferson near Charleston, W.Va. — local government have been fighting pitched battles to try and restrict such businesses.
Cavanagh agreed this shop wouldn't fly just anywhere.
It’s all “a part of fitting in,” said Cavanah, a Brooklyn resident herself and a mother who looks more like a PTA president than the proprietor of a sex toy shop.
Sandwiched between a maternity clothing store and an organic coffee shop, Babeland tries to blend into its environment.
“It’s a diverse, pretty accepting open community of people in Park Slope. It’s in the perfect location,” said Natalia Zukerman, a Park Slope resident, who is an enthusiastic supporter of the store.
And at least for now, the shop has been met with mostly positive reviews.
“I think the ladies are going to be pretty excited about it, and I’m sure there are some gentlemen who will be as well,” said Zukerman.
Cavanah and staff aim to make women feel empowered, not embarrassed, they say. A sign in the front of the store implores customers to “relax, take a look around, and enjoy,” and the employees “try to have a sense of humor and be intelligent and warm,” said Cavanah.
“Here we’re really trying to sort of greet everyone where they are sexually.” This means everything from a “Sexy Moms Series” for mothers looking to spice up their sex lives to plenty of products for those looking to experience some bonding — or bondage.
It's too early to tell if some of the open-minded Brooklyn residents would in time object to some of the more colorful of Cavanah's past clientele that may be traipsing through — like one man whose reported fetish was to come to her other store dressed as an infant wearing a cloth diaper, sucking on a pacifier and clutching a rattle.
But Amanda Asrelsky, an employee of the neighboring maternity-wear store Bump, said sex is a natural thing that should be fun.
“Where else would you put a store like this? It seems wrong to put it in a bad neighborhood or a dirty neighborhood,” she said.