opinion

The Educational Responsibilities of the Sex Toy Retailer

Mark Espinosa

I’m pretty sure that when I first started watching the second season of “Orange is the New Black,” the sun had just risen and I had an entire weekend to accomplish an encyclopedia sized list of chores. My Saturday was young and full of such potential. It was Sunday night that my partner and I found ourselves in the same spot on the couch, eating leftover Chinese food and still wearing the clothes we woke up in a day earlier. (I regret nothing!) If you also fell into this Netflix trap, you’ll probably remember a scene that involved a few of the female prisoners shocked to discover that they had a “different hole” where their urine came out of and that it all didn’t come out of the one “vagina hole.” I chuckled.

Skip ahead to a couple days later. I was having coffee with a friend and that scene came up in conversation. We laughed about it and eventually, my friend said to me “Are there really people out there who don’t know the basic workings of their own genitalia?” I took a long sip of my coffee, looked longingly into the distance and quietly said “yes.”

One of the most important realizations I had while working the sales floor of a sex shop was that nothing good ever comes from making assumptions about a customer.

Listen, I’m not a genius when it comes to the basic workings of the human body. I have no idea where my tears come from. I do know that your fingers get “pruney” in water because of an evolutionary reaction to give your fingers more grip. Actually, I read that online. I’m not entirely sure that’s true either. The fact is that we live in a world where a large portion of the population is comfortable just knowing how to work something and not so much interested in how it actually works. I rub a vibrating thing on my crotch and it feels good. I’m not blowing the lid off of a major conspiracy by saying there is a debilitating lack of accurate sexual education in our society. On top of that, the little information that does make it to the mainstream society is often staggeringly outdated and extremely limited in its range. Realizing this really made me take a real hard look at the adult novelty industry and the educational requirements expected of us. Considering that such a large portion of the adult industry deals with the clockwork of human sexuality, it is only natural that retailers and manufacturers would have a higher than average understanding of sexuality and of the anatomy. Now, all we have to do is get that information to those who desperately need it!

One of the most important realizations I had while working the sales floor of a sex shop was that nothing good ever comes from making assumptions about a customer. (Assuming gender and orientation being two of the most damaging assumptions one can make.) I had to often remind myself that the education I received in my job training was more extensive and thorough than the education most medical practitioners receive. I’m going to go grab a cup of coffee while that sinks in. When it comes to sexuality, it’s an issue that our culture tells us that we must all be experts on, but shames us when we openly admit that our education is lacking. It’s important to remember that the knowledge and information we have, however basic it may seem, should always be treated with the utmost respect. I think it’s important that all retailers have a better than average understanding of the human anatomy, an awareness of the social stigmas regarding sexuality, and the proper resources available for customers to continue their education in their own way. These are excellent first steps, but, they are not the complete journey.

So, what are the educational responsibilities of the modern sex toy retailer? That’s a really difficult question to answer. On one hand, we can’t be held to the same standard as an official medical practitioner. On the other hand, considering the severe void of adequate sexual education, even in the medical field, don’t we have an obligation to help those who are unable to get proper education elsewhere? Seriously, OBGYN’s rarely make the link between yeast infections and the types of lubes or condoms being used. I’m not saying that we need to be the masters of the human bodies. No. There is definitely a line and it’s clear when we are walking too close to it. But, we definitely need to pick up society’s sexuality slack. Establishing your shop or site as a resource for informed sexual education will not only establish a strong bond between you and your customers, it will likely increase the probability of your customers referring you to their friends. Education is beneficial for sales. Education is beneficial to humanity. So, let’s make some money and make the world a better place in the process.

As National Sales Manager of Pleasure Works Wholesale, Mark Espinosa believes that as the industry progresses alongside communications technology, it’s important that we always remember that we get to say that we “give people orgasms for a living!” So, why not have a little fun in the process?

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