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Best of LA - La Weekly

Toys R Us

Talking Hitachi wands and surgical spreaders at the Pleasure Chest

By Gendy Alimurung

On a Friday night, the Pleasure Chest is alive with color and light and movement. The vibe is cheerful, playful. Sales clerks Alex Morphew and Deven Hologram are showing me around. As a pair, Alex and Deven are yin and yang. Alex is calm, composed, Shiva-like, a rope of Buddhist prayer beads around her neck. Deven bops around the store with a boyish Peter Pan energy. His knowledge is giddily encyclopedic, like the top student in Advanced Placement Sex Ed. Both are forthright and articulate.

"The Way the store is set up is when you first walk in it's just cards and stuff, things that are nice and safe for anyone, not too offensive," Alex explains. "The futher you go, the more risky it gets. On the next level, you get your lubes, candles, massage oils, after that condoms, then dildos. Finally, in the back are things for more hardcore play like cock cages, cock rings, whips, chains - excuse me." Presently, she tends to a goth bride, in black veil and black wedding dress, who is purchasing a bottle of lubricant. "Enjoy your evening," she says, waving goodbye, "Where was I?"

There's sex, and then there's sex with a thousand and one implements, toys, attachments, lubricants, flavored lubricants, edible paint, medical devices, repurposed hardware supplies, ropes, gizmos, gadgets, and rotating, spinning, buzzing, vibrating, sparkling, thrusting and/or squishing contraptions. People frequently ask them for recommendations. Part of the job is to act as sex therapist.

"Sometimes they're a little too vague, so we have to get them to specify," Alex says, "Everybody's so different. For example, some girls like penetration, some girls only like clitoral stimulation. And there are two totally different things I would suggest for them." The most popular item is the Rabbit Pearl Dildo, of Sex and the City fame. It is Hello Kitty pink and squishy like an eraser. Inside is a shaft of pearlized beads. Alex flips a switch and the rabbit ears wigggle. Close seconds are the "Love Swing" and a foam contraption called "The Liberator." But what is this gadget that looks like an eyelash curler with fangs? "That's a surgical spreader, either to hold open the labia or hold open the mouth. It's for playing doctor. It spreads and clicks into place," Deven says. Beside it is a laryngoscope. "That's pretty intense," he admits, considering. "it works on the gag reflex, I guess...whoo!"

They take me to a glass case in the back where "The Violet Wand" (oft mispronounced "Violent") is nestled in an early 18th-century medical device but was evetnually adapted for "electro-play." It sends Alka-Seltzerish sparks fizzing up your skin. "Very pretty, sort of like Jacob's Ladder," says Alex running her fingers up her forearm. At over $600, it is the most expensive item in the store. So far this year, they've sold three.

"I'm a girl, so I like the Hitachi Wand, it's the most powerful clitoral stimulator we have," she says. "But for Deven, this probably wouldn't do a whole lot, unless he wanted a back massage."

"Oh, I don't know," he says, as we giggle. "I could probably find something to do with that!"


Deven, who has an art background, designed the whimsical mannequin displays that are integrated into the layout of the store. A schoolgirl runs to catch a bus, bus pass in hand, whiff of feathery red fur peeking out between her legs. A militant officer brandishes a riding crop, dressed in head-to-toe black leather and dog mask. In the day, bachelorette parties buy huge bags of novelty toys - wind-up penises, lollipops, games. In the early evening, couples come in. In the later night hours, the party crowd appears. As we talk, a group of businessmen in dress shirts and ties examines the cock rings. "Do you have this in one-and-three-quarters?" says one, seriously. They roll their sleeeves up. Deven roots through the bins of their well-organized library of S&M gear. "Ah, here we are."

If it were me, I would be constantly trying to guess who would buy what. "The most conservative-looking businessmen will buy up to $3000 worth of S&M equipment, and then there will be a guy with a mohawk and crazy tattoos who is embarrassed to be in here with his girlfriend. You really cannot judge a book by its cover here," Alex says. "You just never know."

Alex is pretty and wears her hair in pigtails. She grew up in Oklahoma.

I wander the store. There are artisan-quality Pyrex borosilicate glass dildos with swirls of color, and phalluses in surgical stainless steel embedded with glittering rhinestones. "the weight of those feel really nice when you insert them because they almost work themselves," say Alex, whipping by. There are restraint collars, metal stocks, gag balls, and "sounds" for urethral insertion that vibrate like tuning forks. There are foreskin stretchers, ball crushers, miniature iron maidens, teen-tiny cigarette vibrators in gold, rhodium and silver, and corsets in rubber, latex, vinyl, pleather. There are naughty cakes and items for equestrian play. Recently, they sold a pig mask.

In one corner is a phallus bigger than a tree stump. "You almost expect to wake up and find a ring of elves dancing around it," Deven says. Sex, when you get down to it, is very silly, but it's also very serioius. Couples often come in her trying to spice up there marraiges or save them.

"Some people like the stretch, some like the depth, some like thin things but they like it going in deeper, some like wide things but they don't like it going too deep... I never realized that you could break society down that way!" Deven laughs.In the background, Sister Sledge sing, "We are Family" - a DJ spins on Friday and Saturday nights, A pair of nerdy-cute collegiate girls, both in eyeglasses, interrupts to ask about lubricants, and Deven breaks down the pros and cons of glycerin - versus silicone-based. The girls nod earnestly. They are roommates, perhaps lovers. Or both.

Across they way, Alex instructs an older woman on the proper care and cleaning of her brand-new vibrator. Deven leads me to another display. "When people come in at first, they're embarrassed, but by the time they leave, they're not bunched up anymore. They feel more at ease. People stay here for hours. It's a very sex-positive environment. "Ooh! Come," he says, excitedly, "Have you seen our autoerotic asphyxia body suits yet?"