Random Person: You’re a what educator?

Me: Sexuality.

RP: You work in a sex store?

Me: Sex *toy* store.

RP: What kinda place is that?

Me: It’s a nice place, actually. Well lit, very clean.

RP: And you’re a teacher there?

Me: Yes. Well, kind of. Everyone on staff is a sexuality educator. We’re available to answer questions about sexual health and pleasure.

RP: And sell dildos?

Me: Yes, and sell dildos.

RP: Is it weird? Working there, I mean.

Me: No, not at all. It’s just normal.

RP: But, like, is it embarrassing to have to talk to people about sex all the time?

Me: Not one bit. We’re all just folks having conversations about regular human things.

People often have a hard time understanding the role of a store like The Tool Shed in a community like ours. It’s true that we sell plenty of vibrators, dildos, cock rings, collars, cuffs, and condoms. That part of the work is usually pretty easy. But our work goes a lot further. The utter lack of accurate sex ed in most schools means that many people enter adulthood full of shame and fear, and quite unprepared for the reality of grown-up sex and relationships. All day, our staff is ready to answer any questions you might have about sex, gender, STI prevention, and the like. We get referrals from doctors’ offices, physical therapists, counselors, and surgeons, and that’s because we’re invested in being knowledgeable, approachable, and ready to help.

Shops like The Tool Shed have our roots in the feminist movements of the 1970s and ’80s. There was a growing front of women who wanted to know about their bodies, and felt entitled to seek out and find pleasure. Thousands of hard working activists, mothers, wives, and single women all came together and changed the entire sex toy industry. But why did they do it? And how?

Next Thursday, Lynn Comella, Ph.D, will be at The Tool Shed to talk about her wonderful new book Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed The Business Of Pleasure, which details the history of feminist sex toy stores, and the massive impact they’ve had on the entire adult industry. Comella worked on the book almost 20 years, conducting interviews and visiting stores all over the country (including ours!), and the results are fascinating. Woman-centered marketing strategies, LGBTQ inclusivity, and improvements in sex toy materials and safety are all direct results of the influence of feminist sex toy stores.

Comella’s visit to the Tool Shed will include a little history of the sex toy industry, some lively discussion about where we came from and where we’re going, and plenty of time for your questions. She will also be signing copies of her book, which will be available for sale that evening.

Please join MKE SEX at the Tool Shed for Powered by Pleasure: Inside the Sex-Toy Revolution with Lynn Comella, Ph.D, on Thursday, December 7, 8:30 p.m. This is a free event, and no registration is required.

Curious about cunnilingus? Anxious about anal? Do you have questions about queefs or problems with your prostate? Lucky Tomaszek is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee’s only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Send her a question at mkesex@gmail.com and she’ll get back to you with an answer.