If you’ve ever walked down South University Avenue before, it’s likely that you’ve seen the Safe Sex Store. Although its neon sign has become a common stop for scavenger hunt participants, S3 Safe Sex Store has a lot more to offer than outlandish novelties for sexual pleasure.
According to the store’s website, owner BethAnn Karmeisool was inspired to start the business after volunteering for children infected with the AIDS virus through the Rainbow Connection, a Michigan non-profit organization that works with children with life-threatening illnesses. The purpose of the store is to provide correct, consistent, sexual health information.
Safe sex educator and retail clerk Jeannie Hahl aims to deliver this message and offer her “big sister” help.
“While going to college, there are so many opportunities for sexual experimentation,” she said.
Hahl said the information available to students about sexual opportunities doesn’t always come from reliable sources. And that’s where S3 comes in.
“There’s a resource like this around that tells you what condom is most reliable,” Hahl said as an example.
In addition to educating the student body about sexual health and helping to stop the spread of sexual diseases, S3 has other objectives.
“The store is also very female-centered,” Hahl said. “We want to empower women with sexual information rather than repressing them. We want to make them confident.”
In fact, Hahl said S3’s best selling product is the “silicone-based, super female friendly ‘ID Millennium’ lube.”
Hahl had a friend who was HIV positive, motivating her interest in sexual health. She began studying child maltreatment and then shifted her focus to Planned Parenthood. S3 was a perfect springboard in that department. She said she has been working there for two years.
Hahl is aware that many people are intimated to cross the threshold from the sidewalk of South U to the store, but she offers kind words of encouragement to ease their trepidation.
“I usually say, we’re nice in here, you don’t have to be afraid!” she said. “The staff is so warm and inviting. It’s not scary, it’s actually just a cute store.”