Lube, Butt Plugs, and Bondage, Oh My!

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Just another day at your friendly neighborhood sex shop

By: Emma Chekroun

Having a part time job in college isn’t uncommon. Some students wait tables, others have jobs through their university, and some, like Haydin Wellens, a junior at the University of Minnesota, work as a cashier at a sex shop. Similar to other students, Wellens goes through his week’s worth of classes before working eight to nine hours on the weekend. Wellens fights exhaustion and tries to keep up with homework while working his late night shifts. The highlight? Much better party stories.

Wellens revels in the opportunity to talk about his job. “People will be talking about their jobs, and I usually start out with I work at a sex shop and…” pause for reaction. What usually comes next is smiles and stares of anticipation.

That anticipation lingers. There is something exhilarating in talking about and going to sex shops. Staring wide eyed at all the toys and tools that decorate the walls is enough to make anyone feel eager and anxious. 

While customers may only dedicate a few hours to browsing a sex shop, for those maintaining these glimmering palaces of self-love, it’s a lifestyle. 

Not Just a Job

Vincent Valcroft, assistant manager at Bondesque near Uptown, said he loves building people up through his work at the BDSM and fetish wear specialty shop. “I get to contribute to something that helps people,” he adds, “to bring greater wellness, meaning, and pleasure into their lives and relationships.”

Wellens, cashier at Lickety Split, and Cat Charles, website manager at Smitten Kitten, both said the best part of their jobs was answering questions and giving customers a safe space to ask them.

Charles said it’s “delightful and fun” to have sex as the subject manner of work. They enjoy making sex a normal and comfortable topic for shoppers.

Education also takes an important role in working at a sex shop. At Smitten Kitten, every employee is trained in the store’s sex ed curriculum. The shop also holds periodic free sex workshops, such as “Anal 101.”

Bondesque also holds workshops centered around BDSM, which Valcroft hopes contributes to a “holistic kink experience” in the store. Meanwhile, Wellens takes on an informal education outside of work, utilizing the internet to be better informed.

“I love figuring out how the different toys and interests work,” Wellens said. “Doing research into products on my own time doesn’t really feel like work.”

Education is a major way these sex shops pay it forward to the community. A shop’s attitude also has a big impact on its workers and the community. Wellens described how his manager created a position for him when he applied to Lickety Split back in June of 2018 and how that contributed to the family-like workplace he enjoys so much.

Valcroft went as far to say at Bondesque it’s “not a sale, it’s a celebration” and described the fun and explorative setting he strives to achieve at the store. When the community you and your store are a part of branches off into a spectrum of gender identities, orientation, and age groups, it’s important to “celebrate people,” Valcroft said.

Funny Moments

Even a community saturated with pleasure and support has its occasional negatives. From drunken shoppers to more dangerous exchanges, it’s not always easy being the purveyors of pleasure.

Wellens has had his fair share of run-ins that range from hilarious to horrifying. One particularly frightening story involves a knife and customer named Jelly; “we learned he was called Jelly after the fact,” Wellens clarifies.

Jelly became irate, yelling slurs at Wellens’ co-worker. Wellens went on to say, “He got super frustrated and pulled out a knife.” He adds, “It was more funny after the fact,” although that seems hard to believe.

Wellens’ stories only get wackier from there. At one point, a man came in waving around a sizeable chunk of marijuana for no apparent reason. Drunk frat guys have played leapfrog, Wellens added. “One time a guy bought a cock ring,” Wellens continues, “and tried to put it on in the store.” This patron wasn’t drunk or high—just “very excited,” Wellens clarified.

For Valcroft, there hasn’t really been one defining hard part of his job, except maybe when “the gimp gets loose,” he explained, only half kidding while a devilish smile spread across his face.

But all laughs aside, the world of sex shops, is just that: a world.

There’s a Whole World Out There

Even sex shop workers encounter kinks they’re not familiar with. A resounding response from all three sex workers, no matter the kink, is that sex shops are a judgment-free zone. Don’t be afraid to have questions, just leave the nitty gritty personal experience out, according to Wellens.

Your kink isn’t that weird, Charles assures. They also encouraged beginners to be open to new experiences and not be discouraged if something doesn’t work out for you.

Valcroft described BDSM and fetish as a “journey,” which the other sex workers agreed with—it’s a journey to find what you like.

Lots of communities are included, so there is a good chance you can find what you are looking for. Smitten Kitten specifically identifies as “queer-centered.” Every shop mentioned here has some form of gender expression or cross dressing inventory, gender expression involving toys, and other items for persons in the transgender community to express their identity. This can include strap-ons or realistic artificial penises.

A tour of Bondesque illuminates several kinks that fall under the radar of popular culture, such as sex toys for electrosex, which involves electrostimulation, and is surprisingly safe. There are also tools/toys for medical fetishes and latex fetishes.

And yes, for those interested in feet, Lickety Split sells silicone feet, according to Wellens.

Aside from kinks, a few new things discovered this week through interviews, an anal workshop, and a sex shop tour: silicone lube is not good for silicone sex toys, fetish parties are like raves mixed with fashion mixed with latex, and there is something out there for practically everyone. Most importantly, sex shop workers make a rewarding career not only out of selling toys but also out of making comfortable environments for sexual deviants and newbies alike.

Complete Article HERE!

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