ANME/XBIZ: Adult Retail Execs Discuss Importance of Promoting Inclusivity

ANME/XBIZ: Adult Retail Execs Discuss Importance of Promoting Inclusivity

LOS ANGELES — Inclusivity awareness goes beyond the limits of gender and race to include as many layers as there are people in the world. Looking at how this can be applied in the adult retail industry is what last week’s Retail Inclusivity panel was determined to tackle during the ANME/XBIZ show.

Moderated by Nenna Joiner from adult retail boutique Feelmore510, the panel included Raven Faber, founder and CEO of EngErotics; Josh Ortiz from XR Brands; Andy Duran, education director of the nationwide chain Good Vibrations; and Carly S., from online seller Spectrum Boutique.

Together, they represented almost 50 years in many facets of the pleasure products industry and their own personal stories of bringing diversity into the adult market world.

Carly shared how Spectrum Boutique is amazing to work with because they keep their products gender-neutral and explain how they can be used as opposed to who they are meant for. “Stop gendering your websites,” Carly pleaded at the beginning of the panel. “Toys are inanimate objects, with no gender or sexuality. The question should be asked 'What is this tool for?' Function and sensation should be stressed as most toys can be used for anyone."

Carly’s approach involves posting products to the website, writing the description and including notes of what she would say if she were in the store with them. “We are education and gender neutral-based, making pleasure accessible for everyone," she said.

Ortiz proudly stated he is one of the only trans persons on the manufacturing side, so if that’s considered, then the industry is within this context. “We’ve been doing a lot of sex-ed on social media platforms since we’re not on the road and it’s opened more, now that we’re teaching the general public.” He continued, “My goal is to make inclusive sex education, gender-affirming, identity-affirming, sexuality-affirming, basically, sex-ed for anyone who wants it. They tune into my sessions on IG and FB, and we have strived to create a shame-free and judgement-free zone.”

Faber was the most animated when talking about racial inclusion. “As a brown person, what do I see that’s missing? Where do I start? All the times I’ve walked into a retail store and they haven’t seen me: I’m brown, have two kids, and we’re glorifying the white standard of beauty: historically cisgendered, white, airbrushed; tits aren’t up here anymore, the titties landed where they landed! That’s not marketed as sexy. With EngErotics, our clients are mommas, minorities, disabilities, trans or maybe born with a deformity. When you walk into a sex shop, they’re not represented because they’re not 'sexy.' Whether you’re in a wheelchair, brown and so on, it doesn’t mean you don’t have needs or don’t want to feel seen.”

Joiner brought up that many company reps travel around the country doing training and visiting stores. She specifically asked Ortiz about starting conversations in different areas of the country in regard to racial inclusivity.

Ortiz responded, “I go around stores first to see how people of color are displayed; is it in a fetish section? If it’s a trans item, is it in a ‘token’ section? I have found that in more of the southern part of the country, there are a lot more ‘colored’ items in the fetish section, not in the ‘regular’ dildos, with trans items in the fetish section, and not integrated with regular product. I know we can do better, we must do better with packaging, especially. Representation matters! In Portland and in Nenna’s store, in San Francisco, I’m floored. It’s very different because you feel so warm and welcome with gender [and] colors."

He continued, “In Alabama or Louisiana or Tennessee, you feel like you’re in a gay white store or in a white couples’ boutique. Open up conversation with the store; it’s not just white folks who enjoy pleasure!”

Duran spoke passionately about staffing and management, noting the stores should be a reflection of the company. “Look around: Are there women, POC, marginalized communities represented in the room, making decisions or part of the hiring process? You may have all the intentions, but without hiring POC, disabled, with skills and abilities or making these spaces [for them], are you really taking [them] into account? I have had opportunities to climb up the ladder, and that helps to bring people into positions of power. I’m at a place where I can be a dude with a ‘fro talking about sex education and I’m on the panel with people that can influence the word.”

Joiner felt strongly about retail inclusivity. “Racial is one aspect. Body positivity, gender identity, sexual expression, political expression [are others.]” Asking the panelists, she queried, “How do you infuse politics so people know where their dollars are going?”

Carly mentioned how Zoë Ligon is the face of the company. “Allowing the platform to make spaces to post articles about how pleasure is political and let marginalized voices talk about politics and letting them talk about that narrative. Let POC, trans, disabled [people] speak for themselves.”

She continued, “After the murder of George Floyd, black people started to shop and buy in black-owned businesses. We have a large platform we like to share with folks of color. Everyone has been very welcoming about sharing companies that need visibility. We have a list of black-owned businesses and add folks that are creating toys, or anything that will support sexual health. Really, it’s a matter to have them amplify their voices.”

An audience member asked about cultural “macho” issues when men feel like they are going to be replaced by a toy. Others felt it was an example of “hyper-masculinity” which is brought on with cultural history.

Ortiz shared, “It’s not necessarily toxic, but what you’ve been taught by family. Breach by conversation with the men so they know they’re not being replaced; it’s enhancement. By normalizing conversation around solo and mutual masturbation, they get to have a little say as they watch their partner later. If we can normalize masturbation as an enhancement for us to feel better and if they can see that, it’s enough.”

Joiner asked the panel to share examples of packaging that stands for inclusivity. She immediately mentioned the Cute Little Fuckers line of toys, which are made by artists and “really impacts the design of their toys. They’re queer artists and it’s a toy; it’s an inanimate object, not any one gender. They give examples where the toy can be used, in all different sizes and shadings of bodies. There are pronouns on the side of their packaging — everything on there is a representation that sex is fun, toys are fun, lots of people are fun.”

Carly suggested what a new retail store should do. “Start with all skin tones right off the bat. Offer size-inclusive harnesses [and] lingerie for a wide range of budgets, skin tones, sizes and abilities. Think of a range of people and costs and fits.”

Duran stressed that how you talk about who you are as a person bleeds over in your business.

“Companies are testing the waters with COVID, showing humanization of their companies, posting about the George Floyd protests,” he said. “I never show my face on the Good Vibrations social media account, even though I am the person that runs if. But I feel it’s important to start to let your customers see what you are about.”

Carly feels that sex toys can be healing and life-changing for people and are all about self-care. Her hope for the future is that pleasure product companies offer a more inclusive selection of sizes and skin tones, and are more accommodating of different budgets. The future is more mindful thinking of the needs of the customer instead of being reactive.

According to Ortiz, the future of adult retail looks like “who you’re looking at right now!"

“My role with manufacturing is that I’m forcing the hand to look at the end-consumer,” he said. “If my face is associated with it, I want it accommodating for all skin types. We used to say ‘male-bodied and female-bodied’ and now we say ‘penis-owners and vulva-owners.’”

Faber encouraged everyone to leave stereotypes behind.

“Crass, rude, typical, tired of people thinking, ‘This must be what it’s like to be with someone trans, Asian, Black,” she said. “I’ve been told, ‘You’re so well-spoken for a black woman,’ like we’re monolithic. We’re leaving these racist tropes in the past.”

The session ended on a high note, with each panelist conveying their experiences, thoughts and demands for a better environment for inclusivity in the pleasure products industry. Joiner, a superlative moderator, felt that a lot of racial inclusivity rested on “talking to our local officials to influence the outside mindset that comes into our stores. If we can’t get local policies to support trans people, be different on policing, where we can put our stores, it won’t matter. Be sure to continue to be your local person for your community. Happy 2021!”

Copyright © 2024 Adnet Media. All Rights Reserved. XBIZ is a trademark of Adnet Media.
Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission is prohibited.

More News

XR Brands Releases 'Pup Teddy Bear' BDSM Plush

XR Brands has expanded its Master Series collection BDSM-themed teddy bears with the Pup Teddy Bear Plush.

Sexperts Business Community Launches Platform for Promoting Counseling Services

The Sexperts Business Community (SBC) has launched a new platform for sex and relationships experts.

SexToyDistributing Now Shipping New BDSM Sets From Bedroom Bliss

SexToyDistributing is shipping three new BDSM sets from couples-centric pleasure brand Bedroom Bliss.

Foxxy Stars in Latest From TransAngels

Foxxy stars with Josh Rivers in "Getting D in Detention," from TransAngels.

Wicked Sensual Care Launches Sexual Assault Awareness Campaign

Wicked Sensual Care (WSC) has launched its annual campaign for Sexual Assault Awareness month.

Orion Wholesale Debuts 'Eternal' Collection

Orion Wholesale has introduced the new Eternal collection of vibrators from its You2Toys line.

Wicked Sensual Care Launches 'Menopause Hub'

Wicked Sensual Care (WSC) has launched its new Menopause Hub, dedicated to sex and intimacy during perimenopause, menopause and after.

Eldorado Partners With Pipedream for Next Facebook Live Event

Eldorado and Pipedream are partnering for the next edition of the "Eldorado Presents" Facebook Live series on Tuesday, April 23 at 10 a.m. (PDT).

Adam & Eve Reveals Results of Sex Toy Survey

Adam & Eve has released the results of a new survey asking the question, “How many Americans own a sex toy?”

'Aneros Is...' Global Marketing Campaign Launches

Aneros is rolling out the three-month-long global marketing campaign “Aneros Is..." to highlight the brand's history and role in the sexual wellness industry.

Show More