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WIA Profile: Zoë Ligon

WIA Profile: Zoë Ligon

Each month, XBIZ spotlights the career accomplishments and outstanding contributions of Women in Adult. WIA profiles offer an intimate look at the professional lives of the industry's most influential female executives.

As a boutique owner, sex educator, sexuality influencer, author and sex toy co-designer, Zoë Ligon is as trendy and widespread as the air pulse clitoral stimulators she sells online. There isn’t a single sector of the sexuality space in which Ligon doesn’t currently have a hand, and her career has been a series of bull’s-eyes.

Discovering my own body and ability to orgasm was a really difficult thing for me, and I think helping people become orgasmic is one of my favorite discussions.

Ligon worked her way from the retail floor to the digital pages of magazines like VICE and Bustle, all of which solidified her interest in preaching the gospel of sex. She then built a social media following by creating a more inclusive, comfortable atmosphere for sex-ed seekers while showcasing her playful, silly personality. In 2015, after amassing enough followers to support her unique and forward-thinking approach to sex toy retail, she launched Spectrum Boutique. Once that venture was rolling along smoothly, Ligon also found time to co-author a book, “Carnal Knowledge: Sex Education You Didn’t Get in School,” with photographer Elizabeth Renstrom, and to collaborate on proprietary product designs with Chakrubs, The Stockroom, Pelle and b-Vibe.

This month, Ligon joins the illustrious ranks of other influential women in the industry by being spotlighted as WIA’s Woman of the Month.

XBIZ: How did you get your start in this industry? 

Zoë Ligon: Before either of those titles, I was making collage art out of porn mags I collected for fun in my spare time! I lived in New York City at the time, and a friend who worked at a sex toy shop suggested I consider applying to work at one too, since I was already playing around with sexual imagery and putting myself out there as someone making sexual art. Prior to that, I had only been a hostess, bartender and cashier while also studying psychology at Fordham University. So, I applied to work at a popular sex toy shop, got the job, and I knew immediately this was my field. Talking to customers day in and day out inspired me to write about all the things I learned from my interactions — like how many people shuddered at the suggestion of lube despite it being so important for pleasure. A friend pitched me to a few different publications, and I began writing articles for Refinery29, VICE, Bustle and similar media outlets in 2014-2015.

After gaining some traction from all my “hot takes” online, I gained enough of an online following that I wanted to start my own company and felt confident that I could offer something unique to sex toy shoppers. So finally, in late 2015, Spectrum Boutique opened up shop. We only sold one lube that first day!

Now I’m happy to say that Spectrum is so much more than just me and some vibrators on Instagram. My team is absolutely amazing. Carly S., Valentine T. and Dirty Lola are all amazing educators who have taught me so much, and have helped Spectrum Boutique become the well-lubed machine it is today.

XBIZ: As you navigated the beginnings of your career, which came more naturally to you: running a retail business or acting as a sexuality influencer and educator?

Ligon: Since my sex-ed content gave birth to the business, I’d have to say being an educator comes far more naturally to me. It is in my nature to be goofy and silly! Not that you can’t run a business and be a little silly, but it certainly requires a bit more of a serious mindset than is natural for me. I am currently 30, and it took me a while to figure out the ropes of running a company and being a leader since I threw myself into it in my early 20s.

XBIZ: How would you describe yourself as a sex educator? Do you feel that you fill a particular niche for your audience, a specialty or maybe a certain “flavor” of sex ed?

Ligon: I call myself a peer sex educator, or a sex edutainer. I am not “certified” in anything! I just love gleaning all I can about sex, and attempting to present what I learn to others in a way that is hopefully helpful and entertaining. Much of what I know is learned through books, conversations, other sex educators and my own experience.

Discovering my own body and ability to orgasm was a really difficult thing for me, and I think helping people become orgasmic is one of my favorite discussions. It is so tricky for many of us, and such a unique path for each individual, and it feels like just yesterday I thought I must have been born without a G-spot. So I like getting down to the parts that are difficult and uncomfortable to talk about and making that a bit more relatable.

XBIZ: You also recently authored a book with photographer Elizabeth Renstrom, “Carnal Knowledge.” Can you give us a peek into what’s inside the pages?

Ligon: Yes! It’s one part visual art, one part sex-ed PSAs. Liz is one of my best friends, and her talent behind the camera really elevated the subjects I chose to discuss. She does such a great job of bringing beauty with a sense of humor to her images. It can be read cover to cover, taken in smaller doses or left out on a coffee table for curious minds. It covers a broad range of topics and is a great sampler of the subject matter that comes up most often in my discussions. Everything from anatomy to sex toys, to more emotional things and relationship stuff and how we connect with others. It’s the sex-ed book that I wish I had when I started having sex!

XBIZ: Tell us about the goings-on at Spectrum Boutique these days. What’s new over the last year or so? Have you grown or evolved in any ways you’d like to share?

Ligon: This past year, we launched our Lover’s List loyalty rewards program, which lets you earn points with every purchase that can be traded in for cash off a future order or free gifts. It took a lot of time from a development standpoint, but it’s been worth the wait! I basically just want to make the shop into my dream store and I am a sucker for points programs, so we had to.

I’m enjoying letting my team take the lead on our partnerships, marketing, product selection and all the things I used to do alone back when we opened. It makes it so much easier for us to accomplish more, and I truly couldn’t ask for a better group of folks to be a part of Spectrum.

XBIZ: Which industry women do you really look up to? Have you had any mentors or even just really close friends who have helped keep you inspired?

Ligon: Honestly, a wide range of sex toy bloggers, performers, educators and business people come to mind. It’s impossible for me to choose, but I will try!

Midori is someone I have looked up to for a very long time. I absolutely love the way she talks about kink. Her abilities in storytelling, writing and being such an engaging teacher are just a few of the things that inspire me about her work.

Alison Boden’s work also inspires me. I appreciate her bravery and leadership of the Free Speech Coalition, and I think she does such a great job of uniting many of us in the industry across all the different types of work in the world of sex.

Phoebe Grott and I have also had a chance to work much more closely recently since she’s begun working with Nalpac, which manages our fulfillment and inventory/shipping operations, and she truly makes our partnerships with brands so easy and effortless. She’s definitely someone whose opinion I look towards when it comes to toys.

XBIZ: What’s in the near future for Spectrum Boutique and your career as a sex educator? Do you have any big goals you’d like to hit this year?

Ligon: I have begun working on an installation art project that involves upcycling defective and damaged toys, and toys otherwise destined for the landfill. While it’s a Spectrum Boutique project, there have been many individuals and shops who have helped me collect materials. Basically, it’s going to be a small structure made out of dildos!

I’m sick of having no answer to the question, “How do I properly dispose of my sex toy?” — especially the things with lithium-ion batteries. There are simply no concrete resources for us as consumers or distributors of these products. Partly because our industry is taboo, but also because the size of our industry is underestimated, I think, and therefore so is our waste. I’d like to start a conversation about how this can change.

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