I couldn’t visit this shop in Denver myself, so I asked Shanna Katz, author of the blog Sexuality Happens to do a guest review.
Hysteria has been a bastion of sex positive culture in Denver for almost four years now. Having opened its doors in April 2005, it is the only store in the state of Colorado that sells only body healthy items (all toys are phthalate free, and they actually care about the materials, where/how the items are made, etc, and of course don’t carry body harming products such has Anal Eze or vaginal shrinking cream). Hysteria’s official owners are Elizabeth Hauptman and Pete Yribia, but all the current store business is conducted by Elizabeth, although her partner Pete has been incredibly supportive of this endeavor. The entire staff is very knowledgeable, and is all women and trans.
Located as a store front in the liberal and artsy South Broadway neighborhood, Hysteria is nestled between a kebab place, a tattoo parlor, and is right next to a Pride store, with rainbow’s abound. The window contains more of the lingerie style decor, but makes not apologies about being a sex-positive toy boutique. When you walk in, the toys are all out on display (with batteries or plugged in) and the customer is encouraged to browse, touch and play. I particularly liked their “Petting Zoo” area, with information on a variety of materials, including silicone, jelly and cyberskin, with examples, so people could see why the store chose to only sell silicone. Toys are fairly evenly divided between vibrators, dildos, butt toys, kink toys, and luxury toys (metal, glass, stone, etc).
Of course, like any boutique, toys weren’t the only attraction. Hysteria also carries lingerie, a varieties of lubes, lotions and potions (many organic, vegan, etc), the menstrual sponge, the diva cup, stand-to-pee devices, t-shirts (“Power to the Pussy” and “Transbeautiful” stuck in my mind), batteries, some feminist/ethical/queer porn (Nina Hartley, Candida Royalle, Fatale Media, Pink and White, etc), and a whole upper nook of books. I loved this area, because there are two giant red chairs for browsing the erotic and educational books, as well as the big sale of used feminist books picked up at local book shops.
They have lots of small gift items as well, but unlike most sex shops that regale you with Penis Mints and Pecker Pens, Hysteria has sex flashcards, classy condom cases, snarky feminist magnets and more. During the holiday season, they offered “Pornaments” locally made by a Denver artist, and at New Year’s, they sold amusing planners from a Denver collective. Hysteria is also known for supporting/sponsoring many local feminist events, and providing space for groups such as Prax/us (sex worker outreach) to fundraise it.
*Definitely a feminist toy shop. While men are certainly welcome (and Elizabeth has a good deal of knowledge on ED), it’s geared towards being friendly towards women and LGBTQ members of the community, offering them a safe space to indulge their sexuality.
*Great toy selection (including well known brands as Lelo, Vixen, Tantus, Fun Factory, Aslan Leather, Outlaw Leather, Spareparts and of course, my personal favorite, the Hitachi), and prices comparable to other sex-positive stores and websites.
*Best selection of books I’ve seen in ANY sex toy store, and a place to enjoy them, even if you’re not going to buy them that day.
*Extremely knowledgeable staff in a variety of areas, and not pushy/sales based – they’d rather you practice healthy sexuality than have you buy something.
*Offers a variety of classes on everything from Sex Toy Basics to Relationship Mapping/Polyamory to Hot Wax to Erotic Writing. This is a great way to get the community involved.
*Elizabeth is trained in Mayan Uterine Massage, and offers sessions to client in her studio in the back, adding to full-spectrum sexuality.
*The store (and toy/lingerie/gift section) is handicapped accessible. The book section, bathroom, porn, and dressing room are all up a flight of stairs. However, the staff is very accommodating.
*Selection of both porn and kinky toys is fairly minimal, which is understandable for a smaller shop (and there IS a great kink shop down the block, which has referred me to Hysteria before, so they have a good relationship).
*Website isn’t updated very often (with sales or classes), and is sometimes hard to navigate, so it’s worth calling/visiting the store to get the most up-to-date info.
*Unlike big box porn/sex toy stores, it isn’t open very late (7 or 8pm), as they don’t have the staff or traffic to stay open later.
All in all, I’m pretty impressed with Hysteria, especially as they enter their fifth year. They’ve done an amazing job putting together a store with a great selection, friendly and informative staff, and becoming part of the feminist/sex-positive community in Denver. I look forward to enjoying them over the next 4 years.