Work It! is an interview series on MsBehaved 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.
Location: Chicago, IL
What do you do, in your own words, and how long have you been doing it?
I own and run a feminist sex shop called Early to Bed. I opened in 2001
What was your first job?
My fist job was working in a foreign language bookstore writing out checks in German when I was 14.
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
Probably that first one where I was writing out checks in German. Or this job. Which I hope is my last job!
What led to you pursuing your current career? Did you have mentorship or special training for it?
I was a frustrated sex toy consumer and had no special skills except the passion for the product (ahem) and a great comfort talking about sex to people. Pretty much all of what I know is self-taught.
What projects are you working on currently?
Well the day-today operations of the shop take up a LOT of time and energy but we are working on planning a Queer Porn Film Fest for the Spring and I just opened a non-adult website for trans men called FtM Essentials.
What do you love about what you do? What do you hate? Do you face any specific challenges in your industry?
I love most of what I do– interacting with customers, BUYING SEX TOYS!!, coming up with ways to spread the word about what we do. etc. The only thing I really hate is dealing with the money aspects and the stress associated with that. Being an adult shop does have some special challenges. Our insurance rates are higher, we’ve been dropped by our credit card processors because of the products we sell, we are still seen as something devious in many respects so some avenues of financing are unavailable to us and there are folks who just flat out won’t work with us (I’m talking about you, Groupon!). Then of course there is a amazing amount of time we have to spend dealing with men who call the to try and swindle free phone sex from us. Ugh.
I have a two year old kid which makes everyday a joy. Coming home to him and my awesome girlfriend balances the stress and sometimes ickyness of this job perfectly. I also love cooking and forcing my friends to come over and play games.
What advice would you give to a person shopping for their first sex toy?
Start small! If you are not sure what you are looking for, go for something that is affordable, versatile and easy to use. Then once you know more what you like and want we can help you find the perfect toy for you.
What are your three desert island sex toys or other products you sell?
Sliquid LUBE! And lots of it. Silver Bullet vibe and the Hitachi Magic Wand (if there is an outlet).
What kind of responses do you tend to get from people when you tell them about your business? Do you think more people are becoming more comfortable with sex toys, or do you still think there’s a strong stigma or shame around them?
MOST people are excited by the idea and think what we are doing is great. My mom is a huge supporter and the very first item we sold on our opening day was to a friend of hers from church! I think I am lucky that in my life I do not encounter too many sex-negative folks. And yes, for the most part people are getting more and more comfortable talking about and using sex toys. I credit Sex in the City with a lot of that! That said our country is still all over the map about sex and lots of folks are still horrified by the words vagina and clitoris so we still have a ways to go.
What is one of the most memorable moments from your work?
Oh gosh. There are so many (and not all great). But focusing on the good, a person came back to the shop years after their first visit and told me the toy I sold them was their first and helped them have their first orgasm, changing their sex life forever. That was a great day. I am so lucky that I hear similar stories often enough to make dealing with the stress and creep entirely worthwhile. Most of the time it is like running any retail store, but then I have moments that are so absurd (like troubleshooting when someone had an object stuck in her vagina) or heartwarming (the dad of an adult with cerebral palsy consulting with us on ways to help him masturbate) or joyful (couples picking out their first toy together that are clearing incredibly excited) that I remember I’m in a very special industry.
What future projects and long term goals do you have in store?
I’d love to keep doing what we are doing for the long haul: having a safe & friendly space for folks to explore their sexuality. I’d also like to find ways do more outreach in communities spreading the good word about loving your body and respecting and honoring your sexuality in whatever form that means. If I was magic, I’d make a federal law requiring that copious amounts of lube always be used during anal sex and Anal Ease be outlawed.
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