3rd Ward

by Jean Scherwenka, photo by Kurt Johnson

Exactly a year ago, the March 2005 issue of the Riverwest Currents carried an article featuring a “lovely and elegant addition to the Center Street business district” – the Tool Shed, owned and operated by Riverwesters Eilis O’Herlihy and Molly Cassidy. Before the “sex shop for women” opened, Milwaukeeans had to drive to Madison or order online when feeling any urges for the real goods on pleasuring their bodies – lotions, vibrators, dildos, erotica, or candid sex education.

Well, lo and behold, the little shop on Center Street must have started the juices flowing, because manifesting from a local belief that if a little is good, a lot is better, a second female-focused sex store opened in Milwaukee! In November 2005, the Madison-based store, A Woman’s Touch, opened a branch in the Historic Third Ward. It’s located in Suite 101 of the two-story offi ce building at 200 N. Jefferson (corner of Jefferson and Chicago).

Social worker Ellen Barnard and Dr. Myrtle Wilhite had opened their first store in Madison ten years ago when Barnard realized that “the Midwest didn’t have a comfortable place for women to celebrate and explore our sexuality.” She mentioned this to her grandmother who replied, “Well, get working on it, because I can’t wait to tell my friends that my granddaughter runs a sex store!” The store opened its doors in the fall of 1996.

Barnard is interested in “increasing the total quantity of pleasure in the world,” and Dr. Myrtle believes that “sexual health and sexual pleasure can happily coexist.” For their new place in Milwaukee, the women hired and trained a staff of four Pleasure Specialists led by Store Manager and Riverwester Tobi Steinmetz.

“We all received eighty hours of sexual health training, including the study of anatomy and the process of arousal,” says Steinmetz. “We believe in the whole body approach to sexuality. Not just the parts that make you female or male, but the back of your neck, the back of your knee, the way the room smells, the way someone looks in lingerie, the earrings they’re wearing,”

Suite 101’s glass door opens into an impressive array of sexy products and information that pretty well covers the “whole body approach to sexuality.” Don’t be shy – racks of greeting cards (some hilarious originals) await you just inside the door. You can stop right there and tickle your funny bone as long as you want while you scope out the rest of the store from a distance.

Easing further in you’ll discover men’s and women’s lingerie, erotic movies to rent, books galore, gift packages, massage oils and feathers, condoms, lubricants, and of course vibrators and dildos in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Free pamphlets are available on subjects ranging from “Postpartum Recovery & Sexuality” and “Vaginal Rejuvenation” to “T Zone & G Spot” and “How to

Choose a Harness.” Ellen and Dr. Myrtle each visit the Milwaukee store once a week, and anyone wanting to discuss personal problems at a deeper level can call Milwaukee or Madison to schedule a free appointment. “We believe you shouldn’t have to pay for sexual information,” says Steinmetz. Steinmetz thinks that A Woman’s Touch and The Tool Shed complement each other really well. Tool Shed’s O’Herlihy is glad to see the city moving in the right direction. “Milwaukee is big, and most cities of this size have more than one sex shop for women,” she says.

So maybe it’s time you pitch that limp, worn out dildo stuck in the bottom of your toy box and quit hoarding your favorite flavored condoms. We now live in a place of good and plenty when it comes to enriching our sex lives. Go and shop!

A Woman’s Touch
200 N. Jefferson St.
Suite 101
Madison toll-free
Hours: Mon & Fri 11-6
Tue, Wed, Th 11-8
Sat 11-6; Sun 12-5

Riverwest Currents online edition – March, 2006