Work It! is a weekly interview series featuring fascinating folks who work outside the traditional 9-5, to amuse, inspire, and light a fire under your butt to start pursuing the career of your dreams.
Name: Sunny Megatron
Location: I was born, raised and reside in Chicago, Illinois.
What do you do, in your own words, and how long have you been doing it?
I do a whole bunch of odd and interesting things. Strangely, all of my work centers around two of life’s most intriguing, misunderstood and mysterious taboos: sex and death.
1. As a Chicago historian specializing in true crime and disasters, I host tours and bachelorette parties for Weird Chicago Tours.
2. I’m a freelance copywriter and social media marketing consultant for adult industry clients.
3. I’m a Sexuality Educator. Not only do I host Weird Chicago’s Red Light District tours , I also teach adult sex education/alternative sexuality classes across the country with my partner in love, work and mischief, Ken Melvoin-Berg.
4. I blog about sex at SunnyMegatron.com.
5. I work on new product development for adult and BDSM product manufacturers.
6. I help Ken run the Chicago S&M Dungeon he co-owns called The Studio.
A good deal of what I do centers around educating while entertaining so I often proudly call myself an “Edutainer.”
What was your first job?
My first “real” job was working at the record store in the mall in college in the early 90’s. I thought it was the coolest job ever… selling all those cassette tapes! Looking back I consider myself lucky as a teen. My family disallowed working while I was in high school. My job was my studies, period. At the time it seemed unfair because I rarely had spending money, however, now I realize it was a great decision. Not having a job allowed me to get involved in extracurricular activities. It also gave me the opportunity to concentrate on women’s and social justice issues so I went to my far share of rallies and volunteered at neighborhood shelters. Pursuing those interests during my teen years really helped shape who I am today.
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
My weirdest job was definitely helping out with the family business as a kid. When I was young my mom sold balloons. She owned concessions at the now defunct Old Chicago Amusement Park and later became a well known street vendor. For years she was known as “The Balloon Lady of Lincoln Park,” selling huge bundles of balloons at the corner of Lincoln, Fullerton and Halsted. Although I wasn’t allowed to work during the school year, I’d help out during the summer at festivals.
The balloon business was surprisingly ruthless! There were street fights with competing balloon vendors, and I’ve been accosted by balloon phobic hobos more times than I’d like to admit. These “Balloon Battles” would have made a great mini-series or musical stage show! Regardless, I’ve always felt like I had a little carnie in me growing up, and the balloon business is definitely why. It probably also explains my clown fetish (this article is a MUST READ- Bianca).
What led to you pursuing your current career? Did you have mentorship or special training for it?
I’ve journeyed three separate career paths that lead me to where I am today. The Historian part of me started young. My grandfather was a history professor at DePaul and NorthwesternUniversities. He authored a number of best selling historical books and did some ground breaking work on the Boer Wars. To his students he was most known for his engaging lectures on strange and macabre anecdotal history.
My grandfather practically raised me so I grew up hearing gruesome tales about things like H.H. Holmes’ Murder Castle and The Chicago Sausage Vat Murder. My interest in dark, bloody history grew as I got older, prompting me to became a serial killer/murder buff as an adult. Hosting Weird Chicago tours is a natural fit. Every one of the stories I cover used to be gory childhood bedtime stories for me!
My sex educator self started young also. When I took my first college Human Sexuality class, my natural curiosities about sexuality and psychology were finally satisfied. After agonizing about “what I wanted to be when I grow up” my entire life, I finally found my niche! I wasn’t exactly sure what types of jobs I could get in a sex related field in 1990. High school health/sex ed teacher or sex therapist didn’t appeal to me. The only other exposure I had to anyone in a sex related field was Dr. Ruth.
One day I proudly marched home and declared I wanted to be “a younger, hipper Dr. Ruth!” I was met with opposition, disbelief and “where did we go wrong!?” reactions from my sexually repressed family. I didn’t get much support from friends either.
I didn’t know then it would take me another 15 years to find my own voice and speak freely about my beliefs and sexual preferences loud and proud. Knowing I didn’t have the support of anyone close to me, I opted for another career — marketing. Of course, I still kept my Women’s Studies minor so I didn’t feel like a complete sell out! I ended up working for a large worldwide advertising agency for 17 years. Although the money was great, I didn’t feel satisfied putting out for “the man.” My work/life balance sucked and I felt unfulfilled every single day. I was too chicken to make a career change although I fantasized about it often. All that changed when the economy took a dump and I got laid off. That layoff was a blessing in disguise as it gave me the opportunity to make the career jump I didn’t have the courage to make on my own.
What projects are you working on currently?
Most of my project work revolves around the sex end of my business. I am constantly working on new classes, workshop and curriculum ideas with Ken. It also seems as if I’m always in the midst of one writing project or another, whether it be a copywriting about different types of fetishes, sexy product description website copy, or personal writing for my website or other sexuality blogs. I do almost always have my nose in a Chicago history book or two as well.
I am stoked about the TV shows Weird Chicago has been involved in this summer. I just hosted a Red Light District Sex Tour that was filmed for the Travel Channel. Being my life’s passion is helping people open up about sex, I am beside myself with joy that a Sex Tour is coming to family TV! It’s set to air in July or August. I’m curious to see how much of my dirty talk gets censored out in editing! We’re filming a few big name shows for Weird Chicago covering historical and haunted subjects this summer too which is really exciting.
There’s some really cool product development stuff I’m also working on but that sort of thing is top secret so mum’s the word!
What do you love about what you do? What do you hate?
There is so much I love about what I do. I enjoy helping people become comfortable with themselves. We’re raised in an environment that allows shame to dictate who we are and what we do. Many sexuality/BDSM educators I come across lived a pretty open lifestyle most of their adult lives. It isn’t uncommon to find educators who have always been sexually open or fell into an alternative sexual lifestyle at 18 or in their early 20’s.
I come from come from a different place. I spent the majority of my adulthood ashamed of my sexuality. That shame was coupled with dealing with abusive, sexually repressed romantic relationships. I know what it’s like to have a hard time navigating through societal messages about who I should be sexually vs. who I really am inside vs. the expectations my partner has.
I specialize in reaching the late bloomers and folks who have always been curious about alternative sexual practices but need a little encouragement. Because I’ve “been there” most people find me exceptionally approachable, comforting and able to help pull people out of their shells. I enjoy helping others find what I did and giving them that little push or nugget of encouragement I wish I had. People send me e-mails nearly every day thanking me for enriching their lives. There is nothing better than that!
There is very little to hate about how I make a living. I do, however, hate that in order to do what I love, I have to sacrifice my paycheck and insurance benefits. I make a fraction of what I did in advertising.
I also love the tour business immensely but people don’t realize how much it takes out of you. My throat is constantly sore and strained and my feet hurt around the clock. During the busy season, summer through Halloween, I feel like I’m falling apart!
What do you like to do in your free time to keep your life in balance?
Free time? What’s that!? I try to catch a peaceful moment when I can. Although I work more hours now than I did working for the man, my free time is more satisfying. I like what I do. There’s no commute, no need to get dressed up (heck, or dressed!) and I’m happier all around. I don’t have that “decompress time” at the end of each workday like I needed before. We also make time for couples date night, family date night and plan a family vacation every summer.
You run tours and teach classes in collaboration with your partner Ken. What is it like to run a business with your significant other?
It’s hard to turn off work mode sometimes. I used to have a team of people under me at my old job and it’s a challenge to turn the role of “boss” over to someone else. Sometimes I like to be the one telling people what to do so I have to seek out other outlets to satisfy that part of me. Occasionally I’ll take the lead on a collaborative project or sometimes I’ll find an ass to beat in my free time (this is where BSDM comes in handy!). Ken and I do disagree, we’re both pretty stubborn and hard-headed but it’s a real testament to our relationship that we get along and work it out every time. We’re an excellent team and feel as if sometimes we share the same brain . . . in addition to sharing the same filthy mind!
It’s a great asset to have not only two points of view on things but the ability to bring both male and female energy to our endeavors. Ken has also been a lifetime kinkster where I have only been involved for a few years which brings a wonderful dynamic to our partnership as sex educators. This especially comes in handy in the sexuality classes we teach together. It’s part of what makes our workshop experience very unique. Our blow job class, for instance, takes on a whole new dimension because both of us teach from different points of view.
Another benefit of working in a home office with your partner is pants-less workdays and (consensual!) sexual harassment on the job!
What is one of the most memorable moments from your work?
FUCKSAWGATE! (Links to video news report) Long story short— Ken brought myself and our friends Jim and Faith along to speak during one of his Networking for Kinky People lectures. He was asked to present it to the human sexuality class at Northwestern University. One fucksaw (a reciprocating saw that has its blade removed and replaced with a dildo to serve as a “fucking machine”) and a G-spot orgasm later we had news agencies from all over the world stalking us paparazzi style. It was unreal!
When all was said and done, whether they were in agreement or not, it got people around the globe talking about pleasure and g-spot orgasms. The most unlikely people started discussing sex in the most unlikely settings. I had folks telling me, thanks to the NU sex toy demo, their grandmother blurted out over Sunday supper she just had her first g-spot orgasm! Families were taking my ghost tours and secretly high-fiving me because they were in favor of our demonstration and the need for more candid sex education at the university level. Anything that gets the general public engaged in meaningful conversations about sex is a good thing in my book.
What future projects and long term goals do you have in store?
Long term, Ken and I will continue to develop new workshops and travel to various cities teaching. Ken is currently working on a BDSM book and I’m in the early stages of assembling stories and resources to inspire and assist kink curious people trying to find their voice. The new “Beyond 50 Shades of Grey” series on my blog is just a taste of that.
It is very important to me to continue growing the community of sexually empowered individuals Ken and I have amassed. Social networking/the internet has been a wonderful way to communicate with those folks so I will certainly continue to focus my efforts there. More videos and a possible podcast are also on the horizon. We’re always up to something, so you’ll just have to wait and see!
Sunny wants you to stop hating on 50 Shades of Grey! Watch her talk about it on YouTube: