Tucked into a nook of Harvard Square, Good Vibrations lies below the sidewalk and down a set of quaint little stairs.
Flanked by delicate flower pots and a dainty curved handrail, the entrance to the bright and spacious store is conspicuously welcoming.
Good Vibrations is a “pleasure boutique” founded in 1977 with the goal of creating a “clean, well-lighted alternative to conventional adult bookstores,” according to its website. The business originated in San Francisco and made its East Coast debut in 2006 in Brookline, Mass. Last month, Good Vibrations opened its ninth store in Harvard Square.
“We’re a place where anyone, regardless of gender or sexuality, can feel comfortable coming in, asking questions, and getting an education alongside a really quality product,” says Allyssa S. Prutzman, a Sex Educator-Sales Associate—SEAS—at Good Vibrations. “Pleasure is your birthright, and you deserve to feel it no matter what walk of life you’re coming from. And you deserve to feel it in a shame-free way,” she says.
As a SEAS, Prutzman went through 40 hours of orientation training in her first three months on the job. Good Vibrations is host to a staff sexologist, Carol Queen, to run training workshops for the team.
Prutzman, a self-described “Good Vibes evangelist,” emphasizes the importance of normalizing sexual health. “I think, for a lot of people, what comes to mind [regarding sexual awareness] is talking about sex positivity,” Prutzman says. “Sometimes people think that it just means, ‘Yay sex. Everyone should have all the sex.’ That’s great if that’s what people want, but sex positivity is so much more than that—it’s supporting people in wherever their journey takes them.”
A significant portion of Good Vibrations’ customers walk into the store unfamiliar with sex toys or products—a boon for Prutzman. “It’s been really cool to be in a space where we can tell people, ‘It’s okay if you choose not to have sex,’ or ‘It’s okay to be by yourself,’ or ‘It’s okay to bring toys with your partner into the bedroom.’ Whatever works for you—that’s what you should do. Not strive to meet some other standard.”
In line with promoting healthy attitudes about sex, Good Vibrations offers educational events and classes at its Brookline location. These classes include a hands-on rope bondage course, a sex toy demonstration workshop named “Harness Your Pleasure: Strap on Play for All!”, and a discussion session called “Vocalizing Desire: Turning Wants into Words.”
“I teach a polyamory class talking about open relationships and what that looks like for folks,” Prutzman says. “We do the whole gamut of classes. If there’s something that someone is looking for, it’s likely that we do it, and if not, we take requests.”
Good Vibrations also participates in Harvard’s Sex Week, hosting Good Vibes’ Sexual Health and Outreach Workshops throughout the week.
“I’ve had multiple moments where I’ve seen that light bulb go off in people’s mind,” Prutzman says. “Realizing that they’re not ‘broken’ or ‘wrong’... Realizing that everything they’re doing, as long as it’s consensual, is alright. That’s one of my favorite parts of working here.”