Inside A Woman’s Touch – photo: OnMilwaukee.com
Recently, I had the honor of attending, presenting, and receiving an award at the American Association for Family and Consumer Sciences’ annual conference in Milwaukee. When I travel to larger cities, I always make a point of finding and exploring any independent sexuality boutiques, bookstores and related shops. Such locations are truly the lifeblood of progressive movements to recognize sexuality as a healthy aspect of relationships and individuals throughout the lifespan. Not only do they provide high quality products in respectful environments, but they can also offer education, social outlets, and galleries for local artists. A Woman’s Touch of Milwaukee fulfills all of these efforts with a beautiful store, excellent prices, and fantastic outreach and educational materials. Should you find yourself in Milwaukee or Madison, be absolutely certain to visit them. They’re worth saving space in your carry-on for!
We originally planned to visit the Madison location of AWT; however, the terrible flooding had made it difficult to drive out there. I was thrilled to discover that there is also a Milwaukee location, but almost didn’t make it due to a nasty case of food poisoning from a meal I ate shortly before boarding my plane. Even with all of this, we made sure to go, and it was well worth it. We found on-street parking immediately in front of their door, drooled at their window display, and walked into the brick business-type building. Turning left, we entered AWT to find a well-lit store with a delightfully open and welcoming layout. Nearly all the areas of their space are visible at once, with no dark or hidden corners, or any other trademarks of the all-too-common smut shop. Now, when I say “we” I’m not talking about my partner and me. No, this time I’m referring to my father and me. Yes, my dad. When you’re a sexuality educator it’s nice to be able to keep your parents informed of what you do for a living, after all. At any rate, just inside the door we were greeted pleasantly by an employee and found ourselves surrounded by tasteful and flirtatious (but not explicit) gifts including candles, CDs and massage oils actually intended for massage. To my left was the (men’s & women’s) lingerie section, and further to the left was the PG-13 and R book corner. Ahead lay the lubricants, then a lovely display of sex toys. Ahead and to the left were couples’ videos, explicit books, and fetish items. Throughout the store, customers were greeted by informational pamphlets and works by regional artists were featured, from vulva sculptures to miniature watercolors reminiscent of wooded landscapes. I will briefly describe each section.
The section of sensual gifts makes a tasteful opening to the store, as the products are unintimidating yet of a high quality; I recognized most of the brands as mid- or premium-level products. From the start, customers are aware that they’re in a place that values sexuality instead of viewing it as a novelty business. I then turned toward the lingerie. This section was nicely laid out with offerings from sensual to just a bit trashy. Like all other sections of AWT, informational signs and brochures were discreetly made available. For example, I was able to learn the difference between a corset and a bustier. I could quickly and easily locate women’s sizes S-3X and men’s sizes S-XL. It’s hard to find men’s funderwear, so I was pleased by the rack of colorful briefs, shorts and other styles for guys. Moving past the lingerie I found myself among a display of playful couple’s gear and sexuality reading for a general audience, plus some fun games and a case of bachelorette items. I cannot tell you how happy I was to see the party/bachelorette junk nicely tucked away in an attractive antique armoire! This sort of stuff is great when you are planning a party, but is also reminiscent of a smut shop mentality. They sold it, but they didn’t flaunt it. Good choice, AWT.
Moving on, I wandered to the lube section and was awed by the selection of both products AND information. AWT clearly has a mission to inform and serve her shoppers, and succeeds in this beautifully. Dad was hanging out on a chair with a book, so I ventured to the back of the store where high quality, non-toxic toys are laid out on shelves for customers to pick up, turn on, and chase each other with. No, no! No chasing or pretending to be unicorns here! But you can look and touch items without being bombarded by noxious smut packaging. Again, information abounds without intruding.
Finally, I checked out the fetish and video areas. By this point I was very much a pampered shopper and so I was not surprised to find more excellent books and a decent selection of better quality leather gear. However, I was downright shocked by the video collection. No, my dear reader, it was not the presence of hardcore that raised my eyebrows, but the depth of the selection. Saucy, smutty, and educational are all found there and at GREAT prices. I even found videos of older lovers, and films designed for survivors of sexual violence seeking to increase their sexual well-being. I glanced around, feeling a strong desire to wave the cases of these video treasures at anyone who would look, but instead, my eyes fell upon framed three-dimensional vulva sculptures. Clearly, AWT knows that people will want to wave the video cases at strangers, and so picked that wall for their gallery in order to distract excited feminist porn lovers. It worked, and I replaced the cases in order to wander over and make my best academic face to hide my gawking.
By the end of my trip, I chose the Rosebud (small), a small Vulva Puppet (to keep my full-sized puppet company), a mini watercolor painting, and a do-it-yourself gyn exam kit complete with plastic speculum! Wow! The Rosebud and speculum came with packets of Maximus lube (impressive). As the wonderful sales person wrapped my Rosebud (teehee) she pulled out a little leaflet and briefly informed me of how to care for it, wash it, and lubricate while clearly marking the appropriate directions. What a great place!
Is it worth flying to Milwaukee just to visit AWT? Luckily, it’s an area full of fantastic attractions for nature lovers and urbanites alike, so there is no need to ask such a question. If you’re unfamiliar with Milwaukee, I recommend planning a trip. As Wisconsin is my birth state, it is clear that some of the best stuff comes from The Dairy State. While you’re there be sure to drink some beer on the waterfront, nibble some squeaky cheese curds, pick up some fresh spices, shop for plus sized lingerie AND treat yourself and your sweetheart/s to something special at A Woman’s Touch.
Article on A Woman’s Touch coming to Milwaukee from 2005 – here