Sex Shops and the City: Essential Businesses?

Recently, many Toronto sex shops have filed an application to be considered essential businesses in order to remain open throughout the COVID-19 induced lockdowns. While it may seem laughable at first for sex toys to be considered “essential,” Veronica Kazoleas, who owns The Nookie, a sex shop located on College Street— has brought to light that many of the products she and other sex shops carry are often prescribed by health professionals to treat various conditions, which contribute to the improvement of one’s overall health.

As defined by the World Health Organization, sexual health is “...a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity.”

At a time where maintaining one’s health holds an especially high priority, why is it that sexual wellness is not also being recognized as a way to contribute to one’s health?

In an interview with the Toronto Star, Kazoleas states that what’s considered “essential” by the government is far too narrow, meanwhile big box stores continue to remain open despite selling a plethora of non-essential items.

As a taboo subject, sex or sexual wellness can come across as inappropriate or even crass to publicize, but this can become harmful when we forget that it’s actually linked to our overall health. The media has fed into the shame and negativity surrounding sex, creating ill-defined definitions of what sex and sexual wellness are. This is something worth recognizing to create a sense of openness surrounding sexual health rather than continuing to silence or misrepresent it.

If sex shops supply goods which maintain and improve one’s overall health, then why shouldn’t they be recognized as “safety supply stores,” especially when several items are often prescribed by health care professionals? Confining our views surrounding what does and doesn’t contribute to one’s health and wellbeing stigmatizes less “traditional” ways of achieving a healthy mind and body, doing a disservice to ourselves and others. 

Whether or not you feel comfortable addressing your own sexual wellness, we need to allow the space for others to unimpededly do so.