Those involved in the adult or sex toy industry are often asked the question, “what does your family think of what you do?” In a recent article in the New York Times, this question was answered quite directly — by the mother of Ethan Imboden, founder of luxury sex toy manufacturer Jimmyjane.
Imboden’s mother, Joy Imboden Overstreet, explains in the article that her initial reaction to her son’s career was one of shock. But then Imboden explained his objective to her: to design classy, rechargeable, beautiful vibrators rather than vibrators that are ugly, break easily, and end up in landfills. Overstreet warmed to the idea, and soon she was even helping out, along with other family members:
[Imboden’s] stepfather helped construct the conference room. His sister worked on the office systems. His younger brother did market research. This formerly proper Bostonian edited vibrator instruction sheets. Yes, I did. I also flew down from Portland to help with shipping in the first pre-Valentine’s Day rush, donning cotton gloves to prevent smudging the vibrators’ elegant metal shafts as I nested them in their beautiful white boxes.
. . . Meanwhile, on my 65th birthday, an unmarked package arrived in the mail. Inside was a familiar white box. I opened it to find a gold-plated vibrator engraved “Mom” within a heart, and beneath that the inscription, “Behold the golden years.”
In that moment, with a mixture of pride, hilarity and delight, I could only marvel that my son had managed to shock me again.
We really admired this article for its honesty about the progression toward acceptance, even when something seems strange at first. We thought we’d add even more perspectives, so we asked a few of our staff what their families think about them working for a sex toy boutique.
Wyatt (sales associate and educator) said:
I feel like with all the things I’ve told my parents over the years (such as being queer and trans) they’re pretty open to just about anything. They pretty much just laughed and said “of course you are” I think I remember my Mom saying I was going to be like Dr. Ruth or something. In terms of telling others in the family (or friends) I think they just sort of laugh about it and people ask my parents things like do I get a discount or something. Once my kindergarten teacher (who has been a family friend over the years) came in to the shop with my Mom. She told my Mom after the visit that she was surprised at how calm I sounded and how at ease the customers seemed.
AJ (sales associate and in-house sex educator) said:
When I first told my mom and siblings that I worked at She Bop, they went online to the shop’s website to learn more. Once they saw how awesome and clean and friendly our shop is, they were super excited for me! They are used to sex toy stores in Indiana being a bit seedy, so I think at first they were like, “You got your Master’s Degree and are working at a porn store?! Oh, AJ, that’s kind of sad.” Once they did their research though, they were happy for me that I get to teach classes and have cool feminist employers and help people on a daily basis. My dad, who is a huge fan of Rush Limbaugh by the way, hasn’t actually talked to me since I told him what I do… but at least the rest of my family thinks it is great, so I’m not too concerned!
Epiphora (blog writer) said:
Whenever I tell people where I work, I urge them to visit the shop themselves. I think people picture something much different than what She Bop is, and I know the stylish, boutique-like atmosphere is sure to win them over.
My mom loves reading the articles I write for She Bop’s blog, and she thinks the shop itself is wonderful as well. I’ve educated her about phthalates and the importance of body-safe toys, so I was quite proud when she told me recently that she had thrown away one of her old toys that was beginning to melt. Some of my extended family has started asking me questions about toys, which I am all too happy to answer! If anyone has a problem with what I do, they don’t say anything.
My dad’s a pretty quiet guy so he doesn’t say much, but he did tell me that he likes having an exciting story to tell people about what his kids do for a living. My brother works at a medical marijuana dispensary, so we’re quite the pair!
As the years go by and more feminist sex toy shops like those in the Progressive Pleasure Club pop up, hopefully we’ll see a change in how people perceive sex toys, sex toy shops, and people like us who run such shops. No harsh lights and icky jelly dildos here; just a comfortable, fun place to buy some great body-safe sex toys.