Fun fact: September is Sexual Health Awareness Month! Yes, there's an entire month to celebrate! With that said, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to publish the first ever Pleasure Parlor blog on the first of September.
Before continuing, let's check in, shall we? Does the word "sexual" contain a negative connotation to you? If you're like "NO, WHO EVEN THINKS THAT WAY ANYMORE" - that's awesome. You = goals. However, for those who associate shame with different variations of the word sex, well, I totally understand. This concept has been a long and quiet personal battle, and I didn't see a light at the end of the tunnel until quite recently. This is somewhat embarrassing and/or fraudulent to admit, because my career has revolved around promoting a sex-positive lifestyle to friends and clients for 10+ years.
I pretty much fell into the sex toy industry by chance; it's not something I thought I was destined for. Well, at least until now. This journey began in an advertising role for an industry trade journal, having no experience, through a series of random events (thanks, Joetta!). This job provided an amazing opportunity to learn and understand the adult industry at large while watching the magazine layout come together every month. This included staying educated on new products hitting the market, learning about the manufacturers who made them, reviewing products, and making connections with the movers and shakers at trade shows. From there, I went on to work for 3 product manufacturers (whips, chains, collars and cuffs, oh my!), acquiring in-depth knowledge and respect for fetish, kink and BDSM lifestyles. Again, not something I thought I was destined for, but I let the wind carry my sails with no particular destination, and just ran with it. There are enough outrageous and colorful stories to fill an entire anthology; but for now I will just divulge that Ron Jeremy was a guest at my wedding. (Hey, how many people can say that?)
These days I work with a multitude of different businesses to stock their shops with inventory, while providing product education, insight on current trends, and individualized marketing solutions based on their business model. It wasn't until recently that I decided to take this swingin' sack of expert knowledge, turn it into something tangible, and share it with you.
This road has not been completely comfortable, to be honest. I am fairly certain that family members have a vague idea of what I do, but it is not talked about. It's true though, that a furry fetish isn't necessarily something you discuss with semi-religious relatives over Christmas ham. Also, I have become a pro at reading strangers as much as possible in preparation to answer the inevitable question "What do you do for work?". Having to anticipate these reactions for such a long time has made me question my normality and wonder why I didn't end up with a "normal" job. The immediate reaction I receive is usually along the lines of, "Wow! I bet you're into some really weird sh*t!" The older I get, the less I care about who knows this information and how they interpret my career choice. Regardless, the stigma and taboos around sex are so deeply entrenched in our social systems that it is exhausting to carry the weight of this shame forever.
Getting back to work experience, last several years I have served as an account manager for two large adult product distributors. These are the companies that stock thousands and thousands of adult toys, party supplies, lingerie, bath and body products, you name it-- and supply everything to adult stores that you may or may have heard of before. This position demands a very high level of product knowledge, the ability to form and maintain genuine relationships, and help clients reach their long-term business goals. Essentially we are responsible for knowing every make, model and function of all pleasure products, lubricants, accessories, etc. in existence... not joking. Anyways, some of the businesses I work with include your traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores, as well as online stores, Amazon and ebay sellers, and independent home party business owners. (The Tupperware party comparison that you might be making is semi-accurate, although very outdated, when referring to home party businesses.) Party-based businesses are owned primarily by women - some of whom are new to the idea, some have been hosting these types of parties for 20-some odd years and now do it full-time. They all share a common interest: promoting a sex-positive approach to life and relationships, inside and outside of their personal networks. Often times, they recently attended a sex toy party and are inspired to start their own business, other times they formerly worked for a home party company like Passion Parties, and have decided to branch out on their own. This is a very empowering career choice, and many do it simply for the love of it, while holding down full-time jobs to support their families or themselves. For those who do it as a side hustle, they frequently run themselves thin, working on their businesses late at night or whenever they can steal spare time.
I enjoy staying updated on how my clients manage their personal lives; celebrating successes, commiserating on the multitude of ways we experience and manage stress. I began to notice how few women take time for self-care rituals; and started continuing this conversation with other women in my orbit, from good friends to Lyft drivers I had never met before. 90% of women answered "No" when I asked if they take time for personal nourishment, in any capacity. "I don't have the time", "I can't afford to treat myself", etc. etc. Digging deeper, we would identify the types of things they find joy and pleasure in, specifically low cost, outside-of-the-box ideas. These ideas did not have to be directly related to sex. I was really proud of each woman who spoke fearlessly on topics such as experimenting with toys, partner activities, sex techniques, educational resources, and the general understanding of the importance of sexual health.
Anyways, these conversations flipped a switch in my brain to begin exploring different services and actions that would inspire women to start prioritizing pleasure. The most enjoyable aspect of these interactions consistently boil down to one thing for me, and that is the fulfillment knowing that someone might walk away from the conversation inspired to change the way they show love to themselves and/or others.
For over a year, I flip flopped on a business name, fleshing out the business model, starting a website, letting all of those things hold me back, because fear is a killer. Once I finally said 'F it, I'm doing this", doors started opening in all different directions, and more opportunities have presented themselves in a really beautiful way. Meeting and sharing ideas with other female entrepreneurs has made a HUGE difference in my confidence. If you want to be inspired, surround yourself with a network of brilliant, ambitious women.
Circling back to the interactions with my clients...all this time, I assumed I was the teacher in the equation; in reality, I have been the student all along.
With ALL of that said.
Through humor, vulnerability, and a little bit of vulgarity from time to time (sorry Mom), I hope that my personal journey to self-love and body acceptance will create something special alongside the badass women in my community, and beyond.
Pleasure Tip: Run in the direction of your fears to chase your dream. It's scary as fuck, but it feels sexy as hell. Highly recommended.