According to Jack Lamon, sex is fundamental to everyone. The worker-owner at Come As You Are (CAYA), a co-operatively-run sex shop in Toronto, explains that to express one’s sexuality in today’s society is radical.
“Sexuality is your birthright,” he says.
“Our genders are all different, our backgrounds are all different, what we like sexually is all different,” Lamon says. This is also true in terms of sex toys.
According to Kate Winiarz, toys are unfortunately often marketed for heteronormative individuals. Winiarz is the Winnipeg representative for Fuze, a sex-positive Canadian sex toy company which, according to their website, knows that “one size does not necessarily fit all.”
For example, Fuze recently introduced a line of dilators for post-surgery male-to-female trans individuals, and all their dildos are harness-compatible, with textured bases intended to give pleasure to the person wearing the harness.
Sexual exploration is “whatever one makes it,” Winiarz says. “We don’t picture (our toys) specifically being used in one way.”
Lamon doesn’t make gendered assumptions about a person using a toy.
“We refuse to gender the person … it really just messes with how people think about things,” he says. He explains that toys are simply objects whose meanings vary, depending on the context.
Lamon explains that sex retail in capitalism is dangerous, since it puts the interests of the retailer before those of the consumer.
CAYA “was founded as a co-op specifically to keep it honest, to remove the profit incentive,” he says. Lamon believes that sexuality is a source of strength in a society where people are intentionally kept detached.
Love Nest is a Winnipeg shop popular among queer folks, according to Linda Proulx, the store’s owner. The shop carries items such as double-ended dongs and harnesses.
Yet Winiarz explains that sex doesn’t have to involve penetration or genitals. Proulx cites this as the reason massage oils are gaining popularity.
“Any time that people are together and the aim of the situation is to experience bodily pleasure (counts as sex),” Winiarz says.
While Fuze has been with their current manufacturer for over three years, Winiarz explains that it has been difficult to find a reliable medical-grade silicone producer due to stigma. She believes that normalizing the industry is the best way to push back.
To aid in this struggle, CAYA advocates for a focus on education and outreach. The organization emphasizes that every person is an expert on their own sexuality.
Creating a space that is welcoming and as accessible as possible helps break down stigma as well. For instance, CAYA has no age policy and is located at street level.
“We always try to keep the space really well lit, really open … as comfortable as possible,” Lamon says. He believes that exploring sexuality is the best way to fight back against the capitalist oppression of pleasure.
“You owe it to yourself to open those doors and just take a look and not deny yourself the possibilities,” he says. “Whether or not you engage in it or not is totally your call.”
Toys are available in store or at lovenestonline.com, as well as at fuzetoys.com and comeasyouare.com. Visit CAYA’s website for trans and nonbinary folks at gendergear.ca.