After two decades in the sex-toy industry, there’s one story that still stands out in Sassy Sensations owner Vanessa Fuchs’ mind.
Fifteen years ago, a visibly uncomfortable woman came into one of her stores looking for help. But she wasn’t there for herself; she was looking for a sex toy for her daughter that would allow her to experiment with her sexuality in a safe way.
“To tell you the truth, I had tears in my eyes. The other customers who were walking around and overheard, had tears in their eyes,” says Fuchs. “I said, ‘You’re amazing. I admire that you don’t feel comfortable in a store like this, and yet you came for the benefit of your daughter.’”
That’s just one of the many examples of how Fuchs has helped improve thousands of people’s sexual health through her Sassy Sensations stores. She knows which devices are good for transitioning transgender women, and she’s helped people with multiple sclerosis figure out creative ways to stay sexually active while managing their symptoms.
“Those stories mean more to me than anything,” says Fuchs. “To have somebody so nervous coming in that door that you can see they’re white-knuckled, and then they leave with a pink Sassy bag, giggling, happy and empowered, that’s why I do this.”
Now a veteran in the adult industry, Fuchs first got involved selling sex toys when she was invited by a friend to a party soon after Fuchs’ divorce. What she didn’t know was that it was a sex-toy party. But while she was initially annoyed at the surprise, she walked away from the party with a Jack Rabbit Vibrator, a toy popularized by the HBO series Sex and the City.
“That was the first time I hit my G-spot privately,” Fuchs says.
After that, Fuchs got into the sex-toy-party business herself and now owns two stores in Southwestern Pennsylvania and another in Ohio. Her boutiques specialize in pleasure toys, costumes, games, lubricants and lotions, fetish items, books and DVDs, lingerie and shoes.
But her path hasn’t always been smooth. Years ago, when she first attempted to open a store in Robinson, she was met with public opposition and an eight-month court battle.
“I still have problems today because people have preconceived notions about what you are, and it’s really sad,” she says. “Even though things have gotten more open, people are more accepting, I still see a lot of old attitudes, because people are still nervous about sex.”
In order to combat the negative impressin many still have of the adult industry, Fuchs works to show how the things she sells can positively impact a person’s mental health and help strengthen relationships.
“Sex isn’t dirty, it’s healthy. If everyone had a healthy sex life, maybe we wouldn’t have the issues we have,” Fuchs says. “It helps partners. It helps couples. It’s amazing what it can do to take you to another level. Maybe that person’s bored and maybe you’re bored, but you don’t want to say so.”
But despite her openness, even Fuchs has her limits. She gets numerous requests every year to carry different products for her customers, but there’s one thing she isn’t willing to carry: adult diapers.
“I do not judge anyone,” she says. “But go to Giant Eagle.”
Sassy Sensations provided City Paper with the sex toys for our reviews.