Colourful New York Toy Collective dildos standing in a display. Walls of other toys are visible in the background.

Max Black: A Love Letter

I can smell Max Black from half way down the street. It’s a subtle, clean, fresh-out-of-the-box smell, and it makes me smile every time I notice it. Max Black was the first ever sex shop I visited, and I couldn’t be luckier. It is definitely a “boutique” or “high end” sex store but I strongly believe that these kind of stores should be the norm, rather than the poorly-lit and poorly-stocked “Adult Bookstores” that people usually think of when they think of adult stores. Up the fairy-lit stairs is a welcoming, curated store. My first visit in 2014 was filled with nerves, because sex still held an illicit thrill for me. I had heard about Max Black from a friend, but didn’t know much more than that it sold sex toys, specifically the Lelo Mona. At the time my only exposure to sex toys had been a few Oh Joy Sex Toy comics and a post of two from Epiphora. I didn’t know anything about body safe toys, or vibration quality, or reputable brands. All I could appreciate is good floor design and friendly staff. The first thing that sets Max Black apart from other (less appealing) sex stores is that the walls are white. It’s elegant and understated, so the focus is on the toys, but you don’t feel like you have to run anything under blacklight. The store is in a U-shape, which you follow from vibrators, to dildos, to kink, to anal toys, to strokers, with a side section for the Rubber Room. This allows you to browse at your leisure, and I was never flustered by where to look first. There are luxury modules in glass cases at the sides, for things like unique materials or for particular brands. I remember seeing the njoy module on my first visit and being amazed that they made sex toys out of steel. The now familiar Pure Wand was alien to me then, and I had no idea how it was meant to be used, let alone how amazing it could be. I distinctly remember that the sight of the Pure Plugs was frightening rather than exciting. The kink wall is full of leather cuffs, collars, and whips. At the time, kink wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye, so I didn’t spend too much time lingering there. Instead, the kink section was reserved for furtive glances when I was ostensibly standing in front of the dildos. And oh, the dildos. I found my first love in Tantus that day, with even a small selection of their range on display. They were well crafted, in plain, unassuming packaging, and I could hold a dildo in my hands for the first time.

Colourful New York Toy Collective dildos standing in a display. Walls of other toys are visible in the background.Since then, Max Black has been with me through many firsts. I got my first vibe there, which my then partner bought for my birthday. The $20 Neon Bullet XL was the cheapest toy there, and in hindsight I regret getting something so weak and cheap, but I was enamoured with the experience of buying and owning my very first sex toy all the same. The staff helped me get over my disappointment at the lack of Fuze Velvets in stock, and listened to me rant about everything I loved about the Velvet, before directing me to the Fun Factory Amor. Max Black was where I got my first luxury vibe, the first vibe I truly loved, my first paddle, my first strap on harness, my first butt plug, and my first latex piece. It took me two years to muster up enough courage to venture into the Rubber Room, but upon my meek request to “Uh… have a look at the… l-latex, please?”, the staff were so welcoming and informative. Max Black has introduced me to brands like the Australian leather company Wild Hide, and Tom of Finland’s kink range, as well as introducing me to real, printed books about sex and kink. The staff were irreplaceable during the We-Vibe Touch saga, I’ve never been yelled at when my (and I say this with love) annoying friends hit me with display dildos, and they taught me how to test-hit paddles on the backs of my calves.

Each item on sale is carefully chosen and high quality. While there are some toys I would be reticent to try (*cough* Jimmyjane *cough*), the selection is high quality and body safe. Some people I know complain about their high price point, but these toys are well-made and already expensive, plus the cost of running a brick and mortar store is expensive, especially if you have to ship products to Australia. Max Black is not just a place to buy sex toys, it’s a place to experience them and to learn. It’s an invaluable resource to the Sydney sex positive community, and I’m so glad I get to live in the same city as such an amazing store.

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