Last night I had a rather unpleasant interaction with a customer that left a really bad taste in my mouth. We were getting ready to close the store when a guy comes up to me and asks if we have any bondage rope. I show him where it is and as I’m measuring out 9 feet of red and black rope for him he says, “Can I ask you something off the record?” Instantly my alarm bells go off because I know that this could very well be something super personal or inappropriate, so I pause before hesitantly saying, “Sure.” I was definitely not expecting what I was about to hear. “You know, you don’t really seem like the type that’s into alternative sex.”
My psyche instantly bristled. The English nerd in me wanted to shout, “Son, that is not even a freaking question!” but mostly I was peeved by the fact that he had the nerve to assume he had even the faintest idea about my sexual preferences based on interacting with me for a mere two minutes. The fact that his statement sounded more like an accusation added more insult to injury. So I continued to measure the rope and replied, “I’m not comfortable discussing that.” He went silent. I added, “But I can help you find anything else you need. Are you looking for anything else?” He listed off some other items, like handcuffs and wax play candles, and I pointed him in the right direction. When he returned to the counter he said, “I think that you misinterpreted what I was asking before.” I just looked at him, equal parts annoyed and dumbfounded, thinking, “What the what? You really think I want to get into my personal shit with you?” But I replied, “Well I’m sorry if I did, but I don’t feel comfortable talking about that with you.” Because for starters buddy, I don’t even fucking know you. He looked at me, visibly put off and said, “Well how can you sell this stuff if you don’t know about it yourself?” Jesus fuck. I couldn’t believe the nerve of this guy. It was the end of the night and I wasn’t in the mood to launch into a debate with him so I said shortly, “Well if you have any questions about the items you have here I would be happy to answer them for you. ” And maybe instead of being a presumptuous prick you could consider asking a real fucking question. He didn’t seem to have any though, because he gathered up his stuff, went to pay for it and left. That ignorant exchange left me reeling for the remainder of the night.
There were several things about what he had said that irked me. First of all the way he started the conversation was completely pigheaded. If you have questions for someone about bondage, pain play, sensory deprivation or kink in general you don’t start off by assuming that the person doesn’t have a fucking clue what they’re talking about and say as much, just because they don’t look the “type.” Which suggests that kinky people all look the same. Now I’m aware that there are a lot of lame-ass stereotypes about the kink community. For instance, the one that brands every sadomasochist or submissive as being physically or emotionally scarred (Thanks for your contribution, 50 fucking shades). But working in a sex shop I’ve encountered others based purely on appearance. Like you need to be tattooed, have visible piercings, goth makeup/clothing, dyed hair, etc to fit the bill. And I really don’t fit that description. I’m pretty au natural when it comes to body modification (I barely even wear makeup) which isn’t to say that I’m knocking it. I think ladies with tattoos, half-shaved heads and facial piercings are incredibly hot, but it’s just not my style. I just find it both funny and infuriating that people think that you have to look a certain way to work in a sex shop, or you have to possess a certain “alternative” aesthetic to be kinky. In the words of Whip It’s Bliss Cavendar,“alternative to what?”
I don’t look anything like this, even when my outfit consists of electrical tape.
I’ve run into this ass-backwards attitude once before. I was at a greasy fast food chain after work and I forgot that I had left my uniform on. It was late at night and a guy standing beside me at the counter looked at me and said snidely, “You don’t look like you work in a sex shop.” His ignorant words pissed me off big time. More than anything, working in a sex shop has taught me that you can’t judge someone’s kinks or sexual desires by the way they look. You can’t tell that someone is into being slapped, choked, tied up, called a “dirty little whore” or double penetrated just by looking at them. I’ve learned that trying to judge someone’s sexual tastes based on how they carry themselves in the world is utterly futile and moronic. It falls into the same category as trying to classify certain sexual acts as normal and others as “freaky”. First of all, nothing is “normal”, it’s all subjective. Second of all, if you think that way then you probably go around judging every sex act that you don’t like or understand as disgusting or deviant and you’re probably an asshole.
I realized something else about his assumption about me. While he may have had a point about the fact that you can’t sell or educate a customer quite as well if you have no personal experience with the product, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have any valuable knowledge about it. I certainly haven’t personally tested or tried every single item in my store (mostly because that would take years, would be insanely expensive and impossible in many cases since I can’t magically sprout male genitals or a prostate), but that doesn’t mean I can’t tell you the basic ins and outs of it, how to use it safely, what it’s made of, or how to clean and care for it. Someone who has used it first hand can offer a depth of knowledge that I can’t, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still educate. That’s my fucking job. I’ll always try to answer any questions that I can. Just make an effort to actually ask me one instead of assuming something about me based on your own ignorant stereotypes about kink. Because then you just make an ass out of you, not me.