Adult novelty stores open because there's a demand for them, according to Joseph Neuhaus, owner of Tip Top Magazines.
"The adult industry made over $40 billion worth of business last year," Neuhaus says. "If the stores are around, people will patronize them."
The offerings available at adult stores run the gamut of human sexual experience. One area that seems to be growing in popularity is bondage.
"Bondage happens more and more because people want to try new things," says Joe Collier, manager of the Pyramid Leather Crypt and Gallery in Northside. "It's an acquired taste."
For persons who have already acquired the taste -- or want to see if it appeals to them -- the leather fetish store has live demonstrations once a month, featuring bondage, electrical play, flogging and other adult activities.
Electrical play involves a small light bulb that administers a shock when the body and electrical current meet. Cock rings and butt plugs can also be electrified, Collier says.
"A device called the 'violet wand' was originally used for curative purposes, such as arthritis," he says.
Beginner suggestions for bondage in the bedroom include handcuffs, blindfolds and light spankings, Collier says. Intermediate levels of adult play include being tied up with rope, a heavier paddle spanking, hot wax and nipple clamps. The more adventuresome might try the Sling, the Bondage Chair, mummification and heavy scene play.
"The Sling is a wonderful thing," Collier says. "You can adjust the straps into various positions. It's very versatile and pretty comfortable, too, for watching TV."
Sexual freedom doesn't come without a price. The Sling costs $246, and the Bondage Chair is $375.
"I think that there is a great deal of repression in Cincinnati, and stores like this are trying to heal that repression," Collier says. "One of the big things that we want people to understand is that sadomasochism (S&M) is different from abuse. S&M is a deeper avenue for people to express love, and it doesn't have to deal with abuse at all."
The Leather Crypt also sells leather restraints, bondage leashes, rope, bondage collars, paddles, whips, floggers, penis rings, testicle stretchers, erotic underwear and arm bands studded with the words "Daddy, "Mistress," "Dominant" and "Submissive." Collier says the majority of his customers are women. But owner George Vanover II, who also owns Pink Pyramid downtown, says the stores draw a lot of different types, mainly catering to the gothic fetish crowd.
Pornography and obscenity, of course, are not synonymous. Obscenity is a legal determination, using community standards. The Hustler store on Elm Street downtown doesn't sell adult videos because of aggressive enforcement of obscenity laws in Hamilton County. The company's new store in Monroe, however, does sell adult videos.
"We always get so much attention drawn to our store, but there are so many other stores that sell adult videos in Hamilton County, so it's all pretty much bullshit," says Jaime Revis, a clerk at the downtown Hustler store. "The adult video sales are big in Monroe."
Tony Williams recently purchased adult videos at Tip Top in Corryville.
"We need to be more like Las Vegas and California, where this stuff is on every corner," Williams says. "They should have these videos at video stores and we show our IDs to get it."
Obscenity prosecutions are themselves offensive, according to Neuhaus.
"It's obscene how we're being treated with the videos," he says.
Elyse Metcalf, owner of Elyse's Passion in Over-the-Rhine says it's difficult to sell adult products in Cincinnati.
"We live in an erotically-challenged society, and people are carrying a lot of shame," Metcalf says. "My emphasis is on eroticism and the respect for the erotic imagination, education and enlightenment."
Metcalf focuses on the intellectual, spiritual and philosophical aspects of sex.
"My shop is for people who like to think about sex, from horny people to people who think as deeply as I am," she says. "We get a mixed clientele, which includes professionals. Everyone is sexual. We are very gender-neutral here."
Elyse's Passion sells adult films, sex toys, novelties and books. Her collection has many books that have been banned or prosecuted for obscenity.
While adult stores are gaining in popularity, many of their customers pursue their pleasures in secret.
"The large sexual liberating scene in Cincinnati is underground, because we are such a sexually repressed city," Vanover says.
The Pink Pyramid is a gay bookstore and gift shop with an over-18 room in the back that sells adult novelties.
"We sell to about 85 percent gay and 15 percent straight people," Vanover says. "We get the office crowd during the day and the out-of-downtown people at night."
Items for sale in the Pink Pyramid range from books, shirts, puzzles, cards and travel guides to dildos, vibrators, condoms, penis rings, lubrications and adult magazines.
In matters of sexuality, just as in politics and religion, freedom of choice is paramount, according to Collier. After all, being bound and gagged is supposed to be fun.
"If it's not safe, sane and consensual, it's not S&M," Collier says. ©