Supporting Feminist Sex Shops Under the Trump Administration

The checkout desk at Sugar, a fab feminist sex shop in Baltimore, MD. (Photo credit: Jacq Jones, owner of Sugar!)

It’s been over a year since the 2016 presidential election. I imagine that night will be forever burned into my memory: hosting a a victory party, watching the food I’d made grow cold as results started to roll in, seeing my friends walk out the door as the night took a darker turn, lying on the floor screaming into my empty apartment in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

In January, we’ll reach the one-year anniversary of his inauguration. Since then, Trump has capitalized on having an official place in government to amplify white supremacy in the next chapter of our country’s violent history. He targets marginalized people and egregiously violates human rights at every possible opportunity through executive orders and collaborations with Republicans in Congress.

But the impact of Trump’s administration goes beyond sweeping policy changes, more than proclamations and pen strokes. The reality of his administration’s influence on the country (and the world) is much more insidious: whether Trump has legislated on an issue or not, he’s made his political views exceedingly clear. He’s a rapist and perpetrator of sexual violence. He’s queerphobic, transphobic, and misogynistic. He endlessly terrorizes Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. And he certainly has no regard for human rights and freedoms, sexual freedom included.

Even issues Trump hasn’t specifically, directly addressed are still in jeopardy thanks to the culture of shame and stigma he’s helped to strengthen — and one such issue is independent feminist sex shops. Trump has never issued an executive order about sex toys and he didn’t have anything in his campaign platform about decrying and regulating feminist sex shops, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t impacted by his administration.

It’s pretty easy to infer Trump’s views on feminist sex shops seeing how he wants nothing to do with advancing sexual freedom. Trump is vehemently anti-abortion, a proponent of abstinence-only sex education, and a rapist. He works to roll back (the very sparse) protections for queer and trans people in the United States. He views women as objects for his taking. Feminist sex shops are the antithesis of everything Trump stands for: places where autonomy, agency, consent, and comprehensive, trauma-informed, pleasure-focused sex education reign and marginalized people are affirmed, celebrated, and centered.

With this in mind, in August I issued a call for independent feminist sex shop owners and toy makers to let me know how the Trump administration has impacted their business — and their answers weren’t surprising. Across the board, both feminist sex shops (brick-and-mortar and online stores) and small manufacturers I talked to have seen an overall downturn in sales since the election.

Even if this isn’t true for every single shop and maker out there, it’s a concerning trend nonetheless. There has never been a more important time to support feminist sex shops — and here’s why.

Buying From Feminist Sex Shops Puts Our Ethics Where Our Wallets Are

By giving your business to feminist sex shops, you are almost always directly funding labor of marginalized and oppressed people. Independent, ethical shops are most often staffed and owned by people of marginalized genders, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, and sex workers. Many pay their staff a fair and living wage and prioritize workers’ rights.

If you want to financially support people most severely impacted by the Trump administration, spend your cash at a feminist sex shop. (The same goes for any small business owned by marginalized people!) For those of us in an economic position to do so, we can put our ethics where our wallets are and shop local, shop independent, and shop feminist.

Shopping at feminist sex toy stores also helps fund the sexual freedom movement. Too often, sex and pleasure are left out of mainstream calls for “resistance” — and many feminist shops are putting in the work to ensure sexual freedom has a place at the table. When we advocate for equity and social justice, we can’t forget sexual rights, too.

Supporting Feminist Sex Shops Keeps the Door to Sex Education Open

Whether brick-and-mortar or online, feminist sex shops are places of resistance and resilience, education and empowerment. Brick-and-mortar shops are sometimes the only place in a city to receive truly comprehensive, pleasure-focused sex education — sex education that supports sex workers, centers queer and trans communities, is kink-affirming, highly values sex toy and lube safety, celebrates all body types, and is informed by trauma. Even online shops often have blogs and share affirming, pleasure-focused content on social media, making sex education accessible to people no matter where they live.

Further, feminist sex shops endlessly support the sex blogging and education communities and the sex industry at large. I would not be the educator and writer I am without the independent feminist shops and companies that sustain and affirm me. My relationships with them are treasured and beautiful. By supporting these shops, you’re not only aiding their in-house education — you’re helping lift up a community of sex educators, writers, bloggers, and speakers across the world.

Feminist Sex Shops Give Us Space To Celebrate Our Pleasure

Feminist sex shops affirm that we deserve to focus on and celebrate our pleasure. They remind us that self-care isn’t selfish, orgasms aren’t frivolous, and sex and masturbation don’t have to be afterthoughts, even in dark political times. Trump and his administration are trying to violently rip our rights and our joy away from us at every chance, but we deserve to seek and feel pleasure.

It is our birthright, after all.

It’s not difficult to translate the “why” into “how”: there are numerous ways to support feminist sex shops, and they don’t all involve spending money. Feminist sex shops (and ethical indie toy makers and small companies) always deserve your business, but that’s not an option for everyone. In addition to spending your cash, you can write good reviews of feminist sex shops and apply for jobs with them. Tell your friends about the fabulous sex toy or lube or book or lingerie you just bought and encourage them to check out the shop, too.

If you’re an educator, consider reaching out to teach a class at your local shop — it’ll bring in revenue and a new customer base for the store and you get a cut of the profits, too. Show up for charity events your local shop may partner on. Boost their profile by including them in movements like Small Business Saturday and help bust the stigma that feminist sex shops are unlike any other small, independent business in your town.

Feminist sex shops do so much good for communities all across the country and for the sexual freedom movement in general. We can put in the work to support them, too.

For online shopping, check out my two favorite ethical, independent retailers: Vibrant and SheVibe. To find a brick-and-mortar feminist sex shop near you, take a look at JoEllen Notte’s Superhero Sex Shop List.

My Abuser Is Dead and I Still Don’t Forgive Him

Photo: me, on a deserted road in Nevada.

Content warning: trauma, abuse, death

I’m exhausted.

I wake up and feel exhausted. I read the news and feel exhausted. I go to work and feel exhausted. I try to write a blog post, or an email, or simply a tweet, and feel exhausted. I’m exhausted all over, from the tips of my painted fingernails to my skin that hurts to touch. I’m exhausted in my bones, deep and aching.

I’ve been reliving my trauma more days than not. Words come tumbling out of my mouth, jumbled, uncontrollable, mashed and bent, and the only cogent thing I can come up with sometimes is “I’m exhausted.” It’s true, and I am, and it still doesn’t feel like enough. This exhaustion is miles wide, unrelenting, unforgiving.

I’m exhausted from many things: being constantly reminded of the trauma I carry in my body, my social media feeds filled with survivors’ stories without any content warnings, not being able to escape this barrage of abusive men wherever I turn.

But right now, I’m most exhausted from the expectation that survivors should be thankful that abusers are starting to “apologize.” That we should be endlessly grateful. That we should see all of this as a step in the right direction. And to me, the worst one: that we should forgive them.

I’m exhausted. But I am not thankful or forgiving.


I have a complicated relationship with forgiveness. I do not forgive my abuser. I do not particularly care that he died after our relationship ended. But it wasn’t always this way, staunch and unforgiving. It was excruciating and confusing and frustrating for a very long time.

I was with my abuser for four years. When it ended, I knew something bad had happened to me, but I didn’t yet have the language to name it as abuse. Sex education had failed me: I only knew abuse as physical, not emotional, sexual, or financial, and only knew sexual assault as rape, not coercion. How could I know myself as an abuse survivor if my story didn’t fit the narrow narrative I’d been taught?

Fast forward a year and a half. I was in college, thriving in feminist and queer circles, beginning a deeper dive into social justice, autonomy, and consent. I was in a museum in Washington, D.C. when I got the call: frantic breaths through the phone. Car accident. I needed to call you first. Where are you? He’s dead. Are you coming home?

The hours, days, and weeks following that phone call are blurry. I only have disjointed, underdeveloped snapshots left now. Images of my body, tactile sensations: what my hands touched, who I gripped tightly, how it felt. My body, crumpled on the museum floor. My hands, glued to the steering wheel. My arms, wrapped around my mother as we cried. My fingertips, touching the casket. My feet, stepping lightly on the grass in the graveyard in the cool November air.

Only one thing from that time is still exceedingly clear: all the progress I made in that year and a half vanished. The small steps I had taken to heal were buried with his body. I’ll never know for sure, but I think I may have been close to saying “That was abuse.”

I felt exposed and vulnerable and scared.


Two years later, I actually said “That was abuse” for the first time. I was sitting in my therapist’s office, talking about how a new relationship I was in was drastically different from my old one.

In the few weeks I had been dating this new partner, repressed memories began flying to the surface: things my abuser did, things he said, what he would and wouldn’t let me do, how he manipulated me, the ways he used my queerness against me. Both with my therapist and on my own, I started to explore the trauma my body remembered, the collection of painful memories sitting on my chest like an invisible, menacing lump, frozen in time since my abuser’s death.

I began to realize that the healing progress I lost after my abuser’s death wasn’t simply because I was mourning. I was devastated and suffering because I was having a trauma reaction. I was immediately thrown back into what felt like our relationship, just without him. I saw his family and his friends, all of whom shared he “never stopped asking about me” even after we broke up, which to them was an indication that he still cared about me until he died. Everyone expected me to go the funeral, to the family gatherings, to go into his house and retrieve gifts I had once given him, to bring flowers to his grave, the list goes on and on. And I did. I did all of those things.

One repressed memory snowballed into a dozen repressed memories, and that massive snowball turned into an avalanche. Suddenly, I was dealing with this giant trauma monster, trying to figure out what was what: is this trauma from the abuse, or trauma from his death? Both? Neither? Something else entirely? How do I heal? Where do I even begin?

Very quickly, I grew cold toward any memory of my abuser. I decided that I do not forgive him, and while it’s not his fault he’s dead, I don’t care too much about that either. I don’t believe he deserves my forgiveness and I am simply unwilling to invest any emotional energy into getting a single bone in my body to think otherwise.


Survivors never need to forgive our abusers. We don’t need to accept any apology, no matter what others think about its strength or veracity. We don’t need to be thankful or grateful or appreciative. We can be as angry and disgusted and unforgiving as we want to be.

Not forgiving my abuser is simply not forgiving my abuser. There’s no hidden meaning here. I’m not stuck, I don’t “need help,” I’m not holding onto a mountain-sized amount of resentment—all things people have said to me when I told them I didn’t forgive my abuser. (If you’re stuck, needing help, or holding onto resentment, that’s okay too. Everyone’s path is different.) I’ve done nothing wrong. My abuser is the one who did something wrong.

Healing from trauma and abuse is not one-size-fits-all. Forgiveness can absolutely be an important part of some people’s healing journey. It’s simply not part of mine, and it’s certainly not required.

I am exhausted. I am unforgiving. I am a survivor. My journey is valid.

If you are a survivor, you are not alone. Please know that you are loved and supported. You matter because you are here in this world, and you matter to me.

How Social Media is Silencing the Sex Industry

Four of the culprits: Patreon, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Every morning, I expect to wake up to news that yet another social media platform is demanding that content creators in the sex industry censor ourselves and our work to their liking.

Whether it’s the creation of a new policy, like the still-murky Patreon guidelines that affect “adult” accounts, especially porn performers and producers, or the enforcement of an existing one, like Facebook ads denying any kind of paid promotion for posts that have to do with sex (even educational events), at this point I expect social media corporations to fight me and my community at every turn.

This isn’t an exaggeration. The truth is that content creators in the sex industry — writers, educators, performers, producers, bloggers, podcasters, photographers, etc. — have no supportive social media platforms to turn to any longer. And the platforms we do utilize, like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Patreon, are becoming more hostile every day.

Chip by Chip, Block by Block…

Comparatively speaking, this social media silencing is happening slowly. It’s not like these platforms decided on some all-at-once, coordinated effort: “Okay, on Tuesday, September 19, 2017, at 1:30 PM Eastern time, we’re rolling out new guidelines and regulations on adult content. Everyone who talks about sex will be banned forever. Go team!”

What’s actually happening is much, much more insidious than that.

This is about the seemingly small things, the things that really aren’t small at all, that add up over time. A Patreon policies change here. A minor adjustment to Twitter Terms of Service there. Yet another sex educator unable to promote their event on Facebook in that corner. Instagram deleting user accounts because of pictures of dildos and strap-ons in another corner. Twitter shadowbans here, there, and everywhere. Facebook’s “real name” sweep that weeded out, and in some cases even outed, sex educators and bloggers doing work under a non-legal name. The list goes on.

Looking at these examples individually, it could be easy to explain them away: “Ah, one new guideline isn’t too bad.” “That website sucked anyway!” “Hey, at least you’ve still got (insert other social media platform here), right?”

Wrong. We don’t have that other social media platform anymore — there’s some kind of stigmatizing, anti-sex policy in all of them. And the combined effect of all of those policies is staggering.

We Shouldn’t Need to Start from Scratch

Sometimes I daydream about creating a new adult content utopia where we’re free to share our work without restriction — but we shouldn’t be forced to start over. We shouldn’t be pushed out.

I am all for tearing down oppressive, capitalistic, sex-shaming structures and systems in favor of creating a better world. However, the heart of the matter here is that we shouldn’t have to create something new. We need our current social media platforms to work for and with us, to drop the stigma, to recognize that working in the sex industry is just as valid as any other career, to allow us to promote beyond our networks to reach new people.

Many of us have spent years crafting our brands and amassing online followings. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Patreon are where our followers, listeners, and readers are. To start from scratch and rebuild our audiences would be an exhausting, massive expenditure of time and skilled labor that most of us need to put towards making money and surviving.

What’s more, our work deserves to be seen on popular, mainstream platforms. We should be front and center, affirmed and celebrated for the life-changing work our community does every day.

This Is How Censorship Works, Plain and Simple

The truth of what social media corporations are doing to people in the sex industry is terrifying.  Platforms are effectively pushing adult content creators out, and that should worry everyone, no matter what field you’re in.

We’re literally being punished for talking about our work. Punished for choosing a career in sex education, sex blogging, sex work. Punished for trying to promote our work like anyone else in any other career field is allowed to do. Punished for showing our bodies. Punished for existing.

This doesn’t just affect us as content creators — it also renders our work invisible to new people. Sex-related work, be it education, blogging, vlogging, podcasts, porn, photography, you name it, benefits everyone. When we’re shuttered out from being able to share and promote our work, we can’t reach people who may need it.

This is not a small thing. This shouldn’t be business as usual. This is silencing, this is censorship, and it calls for intense pushback. We deserve much better than this.

It’s more important than ever to support your favorite sex-related content creators. If you’re able, considering supporting us financially. You can also participate in Share Our Shit Saturday to get the word out about posts you loved, appreciated, or resonated with each week.

You can support me financially here.

A Room of One’s Bone: Paddles, Dildos, and a Wine Rack

Last month, my long-distance sweetie and I finally closed the gap! After months of traveling back and forth between North Carolina and Massachusetts, we were both thrilled to start planning what our home would look like. Gone were the days of solo apartments, chatting folks up on dating sites like Tinder or localbangs.com/us/local-fuck, and cooking for one: we were going all-in and committing to each other, a new city (for me), and creating a home together… and what sex blogger’s new home would be complete without a freshly designed sex toy nook?

When we officially decided to move in together, one of the first things my partner and I discussed was what to do with all of our sex toys. I housed the bulk of our collection, but my partner had some too — so we revisited our sex toy inventory and came up with ideas for what to leave in North Carolina, what to get and how to design our new space, and how we wanted to build our collection out in the future.

What We Trashed

I’m not exactly known among my friends and family for being the most organized person in the universe, so I knew diving into my toybox (more like my walk-in closet, where my toys were housed haphazardly in plastic bins with even more strewn across the shelves and on the floor) would be a daunting dask.

In my three moves since becoming a sex blogger, I hadn’t tossed anything out except the sweaty jelly rabbit vibrator I bought when I was a sophomore in college and the LELO toys I destroyed when their company descended into Hell. I still had all of the strange, shitty toys I received when I first started sex toy reviewing, the weak wand vibrators I tested for my #WandQueen series, and a pile of dildos I only touched once and never looked at again.

So… what did we say goodbye to? My goddess, so many things. SO. MANY. THINGS. Every time I thought I was done combing through my closet, I’d find a bullet vibrator buried in a pile of clothes, an old bottle of lube hiding on my top shelf, or a rock-hard dildo under my foot. (Of course the dildos I tripped over were glass or single-density silicone. Squishy dildos, why couldn’t you have saved me in my time of need? I thought we were friends.)

All in all, I got rid of over half of my sex toys — enough to fill a double-bagged garbage bag. Do I miss any of ‘em? Not a one!

What We Treasure

With my sex toy closet cleaned up and the rest of my belongings packed into my car, I began the trek from North Carolina to Massachusetts. I ended up keeping enough toys to fill a small hard-shell suitcase, with vibrators and dildos on one side and strap-on harnesses, restraints, impact toys, and lube on the other. I kept my essential favorites, as well as a collection of sex toys I don’t always use, but keep around for their aesthetics, uniqueness, or sentimental value.

Of course, I brought all the toys and kinky implements I could never bear to part with: the JimmyJane Iconic Wand, PalmPower Wand, Vixen VixSkin Mustang, New York Toy Collective Shilo, Twisted Monk rope, a couple of generic riding crops, and our SpareParts Joque Harness, to name a few. Even though I’ve amassed quite the collection over the years, these toys have been classic favorites since the beginning!

And what’s the point of cleaning out your toybox if you don’t make room for more? One of the most exciting parts of paring down our collection is the room that left for new toys. In the past two months, we’ve accumulated quite a few new bondage and impact toys: namely, our purchases from indie impact implement maker LVXSupply, which are proudly displayed on our wall. We’re also trying our hand at vegan bondage and hogties, bulldog chest harnesses, and spreader bars! Alllll the kinky things.

What We Display

One of my favorite parts about our new home is our sex toy nook. We knew we wanted a fun, creative, artistic place to house and display our sex toys, and we made it happen! There are two main components of our nook: the wall and a set of drawers. It’s adjacent to our bed, which makes it easy to grab a paddle off the wall, a wand off the wine rack, or a dildo, harness, and lube from the drawers during sex. 

On the wall, we display some of our favorite wands in a wine rack (inspired by fellow wand queen JoEllen Notte) and hang the impact toys we use most often, with paddles on one side and riding crops and canes on the other. On top of our drawers, we have a turntable with a variety of handcuffs, rope, and other restraints. Inside the drawers, we keep our top toys — the vibrators, dildos, lube, and harnesses we use often and want quick access to. Under the bed, we have a large plastic bin filled with the rest of our toys.

In the future, we plan on adding kinky art, strings of lights, and decorative flowers to the space. I imagine it’ll be dynamic and ever-evolving… just like sexuality!

What’s to Come

When we first started dating, my partner and I made a sex toy wish list. As you can see, we’ve started checking things off that list, but there are still so many toys we’d love to try! So what’s next for us and our sex toy nook?

New York Toy Collective’s Carter has been on the top of our wishlist for months — I know that’ll be the next dildo we buy. I’m also really into Wild Wolf Leatherwork’s beautiful, body-positive, inclusive designs, and would love to place an order with them for a body harness in the near future. I’m excited to keep discovering new artists and sex toy makers and support small, ethical, independent businesses in the sex industry. And hey, if our sex toy nook gets too crowded…  we’ll just need a whole room!

This post was written in conjunction with other bloggers who moved at the same time I did! For more, read Kate Sloan’s post on the sex toys she brought with her when she moved. (Also, many thanks to Kate for inspiring this post title!)

This post was sponsored. As always, all writing and opinions are my own.

Pleasure as Resistance

Image of Magic Wand and Doxy that reads "These machines kill fascists"
Truth.

Almost three years ago, I sat in a conference room and heard the words “pleasure is your birthright” for the first time. I was in a daylong sexuality institute at an LGBTQ+ conference, surrounded by advocates, activists, and educators who were seamlessly weaving sexual freedom into social justice.

Those words stuck with me, both as someone who had had a lot of sex but little pleasure, and as a budding sex blogger (even though I didn’t know it at the time). I can’t find my notes from that talk anymore, but the overarching principles remain: we have a human right to feel pleasure. Our pleasure is radical. Our pleasure is revolutionary.

Since that conference three years ago, I learned something else: pleasure is not only radical and revolutionary. Pleasure is a tool of resistance.


For much of this calendar year, it’s been hard for me to access pleasure as readily as I had before. I don’t masturbate as much as I used to, and when I do, it’s often to relieve pressure building in my body, be it emotional or physical. It’s more out of obligation, habit, or routine than desire to feel pleasure; always quick and with the same vibrator. Underwear off, lift dress up, grab some lube, turn on the wand, come, grab some more lube, come again, wand off, clean up, underwear on, dress smoothed back down. Repeat only when needed, not wanted. It’s like my orgasms come straight from the directions on the back of a goddamn medicine bottle.

I’ve found all forms of pleasure harder to access recently, not just sexual pleasure. Blogging brings me pleasure, too, just like reading and exploring new places and sitting outside on a sunny day do. But any scroll through my archives comparing my blogging activity pre-January and post-January will tell you something’s up (and I’m not the only one).

In this era of Trump and his white supremacist, misogynist, queer-and-transphobic companions, pleasure feels far away, even inaccessible at times — and not just because my mental health is suffering. There’s an incredible amount of pressure in activist culture to keep going, going, going until you inevitably burn out (or worse). And going, going, going means there’s rarely any time for desperately needed relaxation or leisure or pleasure.

I firmly, wholeheartedly believe we must do all we can to resist and persist in this political moment. What we are dealing with isn’t new—the United States was founded on white supremacy. Systemic oppression of marginalized people is written into our history at every single turn. To think the Trump administration’s human rights violations are “out of the ordinary” given the violent, genocidal history of this country would be a mistake. This is a long-haul fight, and if we’re going to not only survive, but thrive, we must allow ourselves to practice self-care and see pleasure as resistance.


Since Trump’s inauguration, “resist” and “resistance” have become wildly common when talking about political dissent, and with them, the expectation that “to resist” means doing something actionable that takes a concrete step towards liberation — calling your representatives, attending and organizing protests, taking down fascists in the street. Whether or not you prioritize working within government channels as a path to liberation (I don’t), people’s methods of resistance come in many forms.

What I do see missing from the a large part of the resistance “movement” is an affirmation of sex and pleasure as a path to liberation. For marginalized people, pleasure is actionable. Pleasure is resistance. Pleasure is a concrete step towards liberation: our liberation.

Claiming our bodies as our own and allowing ourselves to seek and feel pleasure in the face of violence and oppression is radical. Pleasure flies in the face of our oppressors — it is a direct “fuck you” to the people who want us to stay silent, to stay (politically) submissive, to be broken down slowly day after day by the hatred and violence they direct our way.

As a queer femme, pleasure as resistance is especially poignant for me. Queer intimacy is revolutionary. Joyfully reveling in ourselves, each other, and our pleasure is revolutionary. We’re not “supposed to” talk about our pleasure, much less show it or take pride in its beauty. By claiming our pleasure as our own, we’re subverting norms and resisting with the very things we were taught to hate about ourselves.

For marginalized people, our pleasure shouts “I see your violence, but you do not get to take THIS from me. My pleasure is mine, and mine alone. I will revel in it, defying your crusade to strip me of any joy. I am in charge now.”

No matter the political landscape, we all deserve to feel joy, experience pleasure, and take time for ourselves — something I would obviously do well to remember, too. We are allowed to take comfort in our bodies, in each other, in our communities. Pleasure is our birthright.

For more on sex and sexuality under the Trump administration, check out “Advocating for Sex Toys in the Age of Trump”. For more on self-care, check out “Surviving the Election: Self-Care Methods that Don’t Require Access to Money”.