Last year, I wrote a post detailing 7 commitment sex toy companies can make in 2017. I called on companies to actively work to defend and expand human rights, stop asking for unpaid labor from sex bloggers and educators, and diversify advertising to center marginalized and oppressed people, among other things.
This year, I’m expanding on the basics and digging a little deeper into what sex toy companies can do to center feminism, ethics, equity, and justice in their business practice. Enjoy!
- Get rid of the abusers and harassers in your ranks. Just like any other career field, the sex toy industry isn’t immune from harassers, abusers, and perpetrators of sexual violence. Sex toy companies must hold predatory and violent owners, staff, consultants, and spokespeople accountable for their actions. Whether a person’s abuse is widely known or kept hush-hush as a company or industry “secret,” their time in the sexual freedom movement needs to come to an end. Companies cannot turn turn their backs on survivors just to uphold the giants in our industry, no matter who they are or the influence they’ve had on the field. And for fellow educators and bloggers: it’s absolutely okay to stop supporting companies that protect abusers, even if they’re considered high-ranking in the industry. You don’t have to do anything that doesn’t align with your ethics.
- Stop selling sex toys made by unethical manufacturers. Place ethics over profit and clear out questionable sex toy stock. Want an easy example? A number of feminist sex shops like Vibrant, Sugar, and Smitten Kitten refuse to carry LELO toys because they hired an abuser to promote their faulty, unsafe condom. Follow these shops’ lead and show consumers the incredible breadth of ethical manufacturers in the industry instead of sticking with anti-feminist companies. It’s completely possible to thrive in the sex toy industry while leaving unethical counterparts behind!
- Hire social media managers with knowledge of the industry and an understanding of sexual freedom. If sex bloggers and educators had a dollar for every time a sex toy company’s social media manager stole our content, promoted harmful and offensive advertising, or made racist, misogynistic, or fat-shaming “jokes,” we’d have enough money to buy out the biggest unethical sex toy manufacturer and turn it into our own feminist body-safe sex toy haven. Social media can make or break a company, and you shouldn’t hand over the reigns to someone who doesn’t have a clear picture of the intersections of social justice and sexual freedom. Meaningful, educational content and thoughtful, respectful interactions with community members are some of the keys to a successful social media feed — no harmful “jokes” or creepy advertising needed.
- Stop fighting sex bloggers and educators on our rates. If 2016 was the year of companies asking for my unpaid labor, 2017 was the year of companies haggling me to drastically lower my rates. One company even tried to get me to agree to a rate of just one-tenth of what I quoted them for a sponsored blog post. This isn’t just laughable, it’s downright disrespectful — and it happens all the time. About one-third of all payment negotiations I had with companies this year ended with the company trying to finagle their way out of paying me a fair and decent rate. I know my work is worth it: I’m a smart consultant and a good writer. Sponsored links and blog posts on my site are valuable. Companies know this, too, or they wouldn’t come calling. In 2018, I don’t want to fight with a single company about my rates. My rates are my rates are my rates. Pay them or show yourself out.
- Give up marketing your sex toys “for women” and/or “for men.” Gendered marketing is archaic and it’s many years beyond time for sex toy companies to give it up. Sex toys don’t have sex or gender. (They don’t have sexual orientations, either.) People of any and no gender use sex toys, not just cis men and cis women. Gendering sex toys isn’t just inaccurate — it shows that your company has a wildly problematic and dangerous understanding of sex, gender, and bodies. Instead of assigning sex and gender to toys, just call them what they are: naming something a “vibrator” instead of a “female vibrator” never hurt anybody.
- Invest in sex bloggers to make your company the best it can be. You know how I said earlier that companies should hire social media managers with knowledge of the industry and an understanding of sexual freedom? That pretty much describes many sex bloggers to a T. We have a unique understanding of the sex toy industry and an incredibly strong, supportive network. Many of us work as consultants for sex toy companies looking to improve their products, marketing, and business standards. After seeing the inevitable weekly sex toy company marketing snafu or tweet gone awry, one of my first thoughts is: “Ah. Should have hired a sex blogger.” Sex bloggers aren’t a one-stop shop to fix all of your company’s problems — you need to take our advice into serious consideration and be open to make changes — but in many cases, we can help. We get the job done and we do it well.
- Stop ghosting people you’ve promised payment to. Imagine you scored a brand-new job, negotiated a salary, and had your start date for work. All that’s missing is your contract. And then… you never hear from your supposed employer again. This is exactly what it feels like when sex toy company reps drop off the face off the earth after negotiating payment for sponsored content, advertising, or consulting work with bloggers. I wish I could pay my gas and electric bills and buy my groceries with emails promising $150 in my PayPal account by Tuesday, but I’m not superhuman. Just be decent and let us know you’re moving on. It’ll be a blow to my finances spreadsheet, but not as detrimental to my livelihood as being kept in the dark about work and payment I was promised.
- Overhaul your entire company. Saved the biggest one for last, right? This goes miles and miles beyond any individual suggestion I’ve made in this post or last year’s commitment post. Put plainly, this is about getting your shit right and putting marginalized and oppressed people front and center. We deserve to be running your company, designing your products, and directing your marketing campaigns — not just included in these facets of your business for appearances or for the sake of diversity. True inclusion requires direct action. Keeping us on the sidelines is not acceptable. In 2018, I want to see more opportunities for people of color, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, immigrants, sex workers, fat people, and people of marginalized genders to run the show. I hope you do too.
If your company would like to discuss any of these points further, please email me to discuss my consulting fee.