|"We're a small store, only six people. We literally couldn't do it without help."|
We were at Self Serve in Albuquerque, an inventory-rich store, helping co-owners Matie (purple v-neck) and Molly (aqua and tan striped v-neck sweater) to comply with the NM sales tax requirement to conduct a comprehensive semi-annual stocktaking. Every little pillow packet of Sliquid Sassy had to be accounted for. “Accuracy is all” were the watchwords of the day!
|It's illegal in the State of Alabama to sell a vibrator--an offense punishable by fines of $10,000.|
Store Manager, Hunter Riley had put out a call for help on Self Serve's very informative and fun Facebook page, promising lunch and $50 gift cards in exchange for five hours of participation, 12-5 pm on January 2nd. And we all came running to count and double-count products like Gun Oil, for example--which comes in bottles of 4, 8 and 16 ounces (though there were none left in the big size). Tedious tasks to be sure but broken up by the kind of frank adult talk one doesn't get to enjoy very often.
|Tazz says, "Never feel pressure to do anything you don't want to do. Be safe and have fun!"|
Tazz, a self-described regular at Self Serve, knows her way around the store. “They have a little bit of something for everyone here. That's why I'm here today,”she explained, “because they always help out the community. I'm into radical stuff, I'm down to meet new people, and the shop has a great message--sex positive.
“I don't think sex is taboo, no matter what you're into, everything should be okay. And there should be a safe space to make people feel like that. This is one.”
Tazz told me that she's come in with partners or friends who have never before been in a store like Self Serve. “The staff is amazing, they make everyone feel comfortable to shop. Safe sex is really, really important. A lot of times people want to have safe sex, but they don't know how. It's really important to get more education. That happens here.”
I asked Tazz what should be in everyone's Safe Sex toolkit and her answer surprised me. “Condoms are a definite. Dental dams. And choosing clean partners, people with whom you can have open conversations.”
|Stevie has a masters degree in Adult Learning and has been a sex educator for eleven years.|
“Why take a blow job class?” I asked Stevie, the instructor. Her answer inspired confidence. “To feel comfortable navigating the whole cock region. I have a vulva,” Stevie explained, “and that makes it hard to understand how male sexual response works. It's a total unknown.
“A lot of people don't like giving blow jobs. I focus on making it less of a chore. They don't feel like they know what they're doing, or it takes too long. If you don't have a good position it can be physically uncomfortable. A lot of people haven't had a good partner—they shoved or were overly aggressive. The way to handle that is to have a conversation. If you can't talk about it, that is not a person you want to be in bed with.
“Look, you would never want to suffocate anybody with your vulva and yet people are choked with the penis, to the point of vomiting a little, or crying.”
I asked Stevie if there was such a thing as “a bad blow job”?
“There's a bad everything. There can be biting, for instance, or not enough pressure. I think it's also important to know there does not have to be ejaculation for it to have been a really good blow job.”
|Stevie said: "Self Serve is like having that friend you can ask that weird question.”|
What do you do if your partner's genitals smell bad?
Matie, who teaches the Cunnilingus class chimed right in, “Take a sexy shower. I always tell my students, anything that needs to be changed and that's easy to change right away, change!”
Stevie added: “Make sure you have enough room, that special stool. A stool gives you better access. Throw a towel on the ground first. The towel gives you better traction. Sit down. I call the position The Seated Lady.
“Flavored lubes are great. Lube for the hand portion, a tight pressure on the cock. You're lubing for the hand portion so you can suck the head. In my class, you will practice with a sterilized dildo. People say I'm like a stand-up comic. I make it funny. But I'm teaching real skills they can really take home and actually use.”
|"No, I didn't plan to be a single mom," Lexie told me.|
I asked teammate Lexie why she was spending the day on Central Avenue adding up dildos on a tally sheet on a clipboard.
“I wanted to step out of my box, experience something new. It's my first time in the shop. One of my resolutions is to do things that make me feel uncomfortable.”
Lexie is a new single mom, her baby's 9 months. She became pregnant when the condom broke but her partner didn't tell her, so she couldn't take a Day After pill, which she would have been fine with. He only told her about the mishap when she told him she was pregnant. Something like, “Oh yeah, I guess now's a good time to tell you, the condom broke that time.” Because of her experiences she wants “a whole new change around sex.”
|"We love supporting the community," said co-owner Matie Fricker, "and we're so grateful that the community supports us when we ask for it.'|
“Before I had my son, sex was important to me. I had to have it. Now, it's mid-list for me. I'm focused on schooling and raising him so he doesn't turn out like his father. I won't pursue his father's involvement. I can do it on my own, and I've been doing a good job. I prioritize my son. This or that guy may not be around forever, but your kids will.”
“Every toy is different—different speeds, size, texture. I have different vibrators for different moods, partners, for whatever you're into. You never know what may come up!”
What would you say to the people who haven't found the store yet?
“To anyone out there who hasn't shopped at Self Serve...come in with an open mind, don't be afraid to ask a question.”