Happy Valentine’s Day: Build-A-Bear Sells Sex Bears Now

Apparently Build-A-Bear has a line of "adult" products, featuring a stuffed lion in a Hugh Hefner outfit

Build A Bear
Unfortunately, this photo would appear to be proof that I did not, in fact, dream this.
Build A Bear

Last year, we politely but firmly called for an end to Valentine’s Day stuffed animal gifting. Unfortunately, it would seem that no one listened to us, and by no one, I mean Build-A-Bear, specifically. 

Depending on your age, you may remember Build-A-Bear from children’s birthday parties you either attended yourself as a young bear-building child or were dragged to by your own young bear-building children — or maybe even both, if you are a particularly unfortunate millennial. If you don’t remember Build-A-Bear from anything, congratulations, you haven’t missed much. Build-A-Bear workshop is — or was, in pre-COVID times, anyway — a colossal racket in which parents were somehow convinced to pay money so their children could spend a day cosplaying sweatshop laborers and make their own stuffed animals in some of the weirdest, saddest corners of malls across the country. Now, apparently, Build-A-Bear sells sex bears. 

In a recent Instagram post, the company took it upon itself to remind bear-builders that the workshop “is full of gifts for adults too,” encouraging shoppers to check out the “Build-A-Bear After Dark” line in an ad featuring a stuffed lion who appears to be costumed after Hugh Hefner, lying suggestively in front of a fireplace beside a rose and two flutes of champagne. 

This lion is “ready for romance,” according to his product description, and apparently he’s not alone. In fact, there’s a corner of the Build-A-Bear website devoted entirely to “stuffed animals for adults.” If that sounds kinky, it’s … not really, somehow? Aside from the Hefner pajamas, none of these “adult”stuffed animals betray any real nod to sexuality. Most of them simply signal they are above the age of consent by having a plush bottle of champagne — or, in one case, rosé — stitched to their paws, while still others attempt to appeal to adult tastes by being studded with Swarovski crystals or simply wearing a T-shirt with avocados on it. (For what it’s worth, I tend to agree: avocados shouldn’t be wasted on the young.) Also, I just realized that the lion’s clothes come off, and now I feel even weirder about this whole thing. 

This is everything that is wrong with gifting your adult partner a stuffed animal, but on steroids. As Bonnie Stiernberg wrote for InsideHook last year, a stuffed animal “ticks off just about every Bad Gift box: it’s infantilizing, it’s impersonal and it’s impractical.” Build-A-Bear’s “After Dark” not-sex sex bears are all of these things, but worse. This sexy, sultry stuffed lion clad in the infamous pajamas of one of the world’s most notorious womanizers represents a crisis at the heart of the American sexual disposition: a simultaneous obsession with and terror of sexuality, with a side of predatory fetishization of youth. Sex is inherently evil and something from which we must protect children at all costs, except for when we want to sexualize youthful innocence. Here’s a children’s toy company that’s releasing an “After Dark” line of “adult” products, but also none of this has to do with sex at all. Also, here’s a lion dressed up like Hugh Hefner who’s “ready for romance,” but who said anything about sex, you perv?

We don’t have time to unpack all of this right now. It’s getting late and I have to go take a shower and try to scrub the memory of that Hugh Hefner lion from my brain. Maybe when I wake up tomorrow, it will turn out that this whole thing was just some weird pandemic-induced hallucination and my editors will be like, “Hey why did you write this piece about a weird, extremely disturbing thing you just made up?” One can only hope. In the meantime, if you want to buy the person you’re having sex with a sexy gift this year, please, for the love of god, do not purchase it from buildabear.com.

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