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.