A Day in the Life of a Sexologist

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Nov 4

BIG NEWS: Feminique is closing

Yes, I will be closing Feminique on November 30 or whenever I sell off all the contents of the store; whichever comes first.

Why?

Here’s the short version: You know that scene in Back to the Future when Marty is playing Johnny B. Goode at his parent’s 1955 Enchantment Under the Sea dance? He’s rocking out on his electric guitar when he realizes that none of the students are dancing. Rather, they are just standing there staring at him, confused, slightly disgusted, and an adult chaperone is holding his hands over his ears. When Marty notices, he stops playing and says awkwardly, “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet…. But your kids are gonna love it.” That’s how I’ve felt every day for the last 5 ½ years trying to run a feminist, pleasure-positive sexuality education center and high-end retail store in a prissy uptight one-horse town*. I’m rock n’ roll, and West Chester is an adult chaperone in 1955; they’re just not ready for me yet. And while their kids are gonna love me, I’ve run out of the patience to stick around and wait for that social change to happen.

(*It’s obviously not everyone in West Chester. If you’ve been a Feminique customer, I’m not referring to you of course!)

Before I get to the longer version, I want to make one thing perfectly clear:

Feminique, my retail store, is the ONLY thing that is closing. Unless you live in West Chester and walk into my physical location at 104 N. Church St. on the regular, your experience with my work is not going to change. YES, I’m still going to travel nationwide doing Fellatio 101, The Female Orgasm, and the rest of my in-home parties. YES, I’m still going to sell sex toys, clit cream, lubes, and the other products online and at in-home parties. YES, I’m still going to do college workshops, I’m still going to manage my online presence, be a voice for women’s and sexual rights in the community, etc. So don’t wonder, “where am I going to get my sex goods from now that Feminique is closed?” And don’t wonder “Now who will do my birthday or bachelorette party?” because the answer is STILL me!

Now that I’ve cleared that up (Dr. Jill, Sexologist LLC is STILL IN BUSINESS!!), let me tell you how the closing of Feminique Boutique LLC will work:

I’m liquidating everything in the shop. I’m selling off all the fixtures (IKEA shelves, lingerie racks, mannequins, satin hangers, tables, glass cases, etc.), I’m selling the rest of my office supplies (printer, cash register, credit card printer rolls, plastic carry out bags, a flat screen TV, binders, file organizers) and I’m selling off random odds and ends I used for decorating and organizing the shop (glass jars, artwork, pillows, baskets, throw rugs, shadow boxes).

I’m also selling batteries in mass bulk and fantasy costumes for $10 each or two for $15. I’m selling my professional portable dancer pole and stage that I used to teach pole dancing parties on for $500 (it’s $979 new with shipping) All merchandise (t-shirts, lingerie, shoes, panties, stockings, whips, condoms, lubes, gift baskets, massage oils, vibes, including beautiful glass dildos and LELOs) marked down a minimum of 15% although most items are 30-50% or more off, and I have a huge $5 bin and $1 bin. So come and get it!

I’ll personally be in the shop everyday this month until it’s closed. Because I’m still working as a sexuality educator (because Feminique is the ONLY thing that is closing!!) and I have 4 speaking engagements this week in 3 different states, and 3 speaking engagements next week in 2 different states, I’ll be opening the shop around my speaking schedule. Thus, the hours will be different each day for however many days it takes to sell everything off (or November 30, whichever comes first). I will post the hours every day on facebook and via a sign on the door. Today (November 4) I’ll be open 9am-1:30pm and tomorrow (November 5) from 11am-9pm. If you email me at jill@thesexologist.org I’d also be happy to meet you by appointment to shop my liquidation sale.

Now that I’ve explained the logistics of Feminique’s closing, more on why.

As I’ve written about extensively over the past 5 ½ years, I believe officials in the borough of West Chester, where Feminique is located, have singled me and my store out for relentless harassment, and different unfair treatment.

You may recall how they advertise every single event and sale happening at every single West Chester business on a website we hall help pay for, but they refused to advertise my Sex Week workshops including a workshop for men on standing up against sexual violence against women.

You may recall that they refused to issue me a business permit to open in the first place until I paid an attorney to tell them they had absolutely no legal ground to deny me the right to operate. The borough relented, but after a neighboring Catholic Church complained about having a “sexuality something or other” 3 blocks from their school, West Chester revoked my permit until hundreds of angry members of the community called and wrote letters on my behalf.

Remember the time I wanted to do a lingerie fashion show to raise money and awareness for slut-shaming and victim-blaming? (It was an early version of the idea behind SlutWalk but a few years before that happened; the idea being walking around in sexy undergarments with the message that such attire does not justify rape.) They put such restrictions on it (clothing must be completely opaque, no lace, no underwear that shows any butt cheek, etc. etc. it was practically impossible to find lingerie that would fit the rules. My fear that someone would come dressed in an outfit that wouldn’t perfectly fall within their strict guidelines and I would get fined made me decide to just scrap the idea altogether, and it never happened.

I’m sure you didn’t forget the issue with this sign.

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The heart on the logo was deemed “pubic hair” by a member of the review board and thus they denied my permit to hang the logo on the sign. The issue went through multiple appeals and went before 4 public town meetings where members from the aforementioned Catholic Church and others spent two hours at the microphone arguing to borough council that my sign is obscene, I’m obscene for even suggesting it, and that I should be arrested. Only after these 4 town meetings, and paying an attorney again, who threatened a Federal lawsuit (because, turns out, the government can’t tell people what words or pictures they’re allowed to print. You know, the 1st Amendment and all) did they give me the permit to hang the sign.

Did you come to our Valentine’s Day wine, chocolate, and edible sex product tasting event? If so, you did without the wine. That’s because even though PA state law says businesses can serve complimentary alcohol, West Chester has written an ordinance specifically for my business alone saying that I cannot. Other shops in West Chester are allowed. In fact, they even advertise this gallery’s margarita night, or that boutique’s women’s night out with free champagne on the aforementioned website in which they wouldn’t post about Sex Week, but a (law? ordinance? I don’t know the jargon) was written specifically that Feminique Boutique was not allowed to serve alcohol and they enforced that rule at the Valentine’s Day event. (PS: It’s totally illegal to apply the same law differently to two people. See the 14th Amendment.)

This summer was one “little” issue after the next. First I got in trouble over a mannequin in skimpy underwear. It’s utterly Victorian at this point. Oh no! A plastic ass cheek! The children! Then I got in trouble for the “clit is the shit” shirt and having a product called a “Doggie Style Harness” in the window. Borough officials sent a police officer to ask me to leave a street festival because of the shirt and I was going to be charged $500 a day every day that the display was in the window.

After the latest incident over the “clit is the shit” shirt, I just decided I was done. I was going to sue them in Federal court for 1st and 14th Amendment violations, and my attorney drafted them a letter informing them of this, but upon further contemplation, I decided that a year of my life that would be spent on a legal battle and the $10,000 in legal fees would be a total waste. I’d win, and then what? I’d get to keep running my business in a town where people picket the Planned Parenthood with vulgar signs of Holocaust victims and storm town meetings calling for my arrest on obscenity charges because of a heart. I’d get to keep running my business until the next time they want to restrict me and I have to sue them again. It would never end.

There is a LOT more behind the scenes to this story, but I think that’s going to be Fighting the Crusade Against Sex: The Sequel.

Speaking of my book, it helps explain a lot about the other nuanced reasons for deciding to close. If you’ve read it, you know I never wanted to own a “sex shop”. That was never my dream. In my book, I described my college career goal as follows: “I wanted more than anything to be a sexuality educator. I dreamed of someday traveling the country on speaking tours, giving seminars and motivational speeches on sexual empowerment at colleges, conferences, and other venues. I wanted to pack auditoriums with a fun and quirky sex education comedy show or stage show.” Well, now I’m doing that! Feminique was a vessel.  Feminique was a vehicle to help me reach that goal. And that mission was successful. Feminique gave me a platform, a voice, a community, a home base from which to educate, spread my message, make a name for myself, all while earning me a salary and putting me through graduate school.

But now I don’t need it anymore. It served a very important purpose in my life, but a purpose that no longer exists. Last year after I finished my Ph.D., I felt “done”. I felt ready to move on and focus solely on my Dr. Jill “brand”. But I decided to keep Feminique going too, but only if it could sustain itself without me, which is why I have had a general manager running Feminique all of 2013 while I managed my speaking career full time. After the “clit is the shit” fiasco taking time and energy away from my speaking business, the answer was clear; Feminique had become more of a headache than a help to my career.

The TV sensation Seinfeld went off the air when it was one of the most popular shows on television. I remember Jerry Seinfeld explaining in an interview in response to very upset fans that he wanted to end at its height so that people always remembered it fondly, instead of remembering it as that once awesome show that ran for one season too long. When the idea started percolating to close Feminique, I first tried to sell it. But not surprisingly, no one wanted to buy it. You’d think a profiting boutique in an affluent college town would sell quickly, but I have a metaphorical meth lab in my basement called West Chester Borough, and no one wanted to come near that mess, leaving me with a six figure asset I worked my ass off to build but couldn’t sell.

By the time I came at peace with cutting my financial losses by deciding to liquidate instead of sell, I feared that Seinfeldian moment of “go out at your best” had passed. I felt that way because on the very day I made the decision to liquidate, three different people (all strangers) coincidentally messaged me to say, “I hope you don’t take offense to this, but have you ever considered getting rid of your store? It seems like a ball and chain. You’re big, you’re going places, and I feel like this little store in that little town is really clipping your wings.” I let it drag on long enough that people could see that Feminique had become the Destiny’s Child to my Beyonce. The time was past ripe.  

I’m going to preemptively answer two questions I suspect you might have:

1.       No, I’m not sad. I’m proud of what I’ve done with Feminique, and even though this is a scary moment and a massive life change for me, I’m proud that I’m smart enough to see that it’s time to let go. I started Feminique on a credit card with an $8,000 limit and a dream when I was 21 years old. In the time since, I’ve met countless amazing people, made priceless memories, changed lives, changed a community, and ran a profiting company during a recession while simultaneously publishing a book and earning a Ph.D.

Running a small business as a young adult taught me to be self-sufficient in a way that no other experience could have. Website down? I learned how to write code. Only have $75 in the business bank account? I learned how to do my own graphic design for print advertisements to save money. Time to pay Uncle Sam? I learned how to file and navigate payroll taxes. Need a night off? I figured out how to hire, train, motivate, and manage a team of people, and submit their workers comp insurance, social security taxes, etc. I learned how to navigate municipal codes and ordinances. I learned how to handle the media, lawyers, accountants, venders, and business bankers. I never took a business class. No one ever taught me, or helped me. Not to get corny, but I know there is nothing I can’t do. If I face a challenge, I know I can figure it all by myself out because that’s what I’ve done every day as a small business owner.

I can’t be sad because there is no way to look at my experience at Feminique other than as a massive success.

2.       I don’t find “but this is where your work is needed the most” as a valid argument at this point. I’ve paid my dues and dealt with the bullshit for 5 ½ years with very little support (not to undermine the efforts of people who did come out with me to town meetings, who did donate to a legal defense fund, who did write emails to borough council on my behalf, but for the most part, yeah…).

Again, I will still be doing in-home sex education parties and classes, blogging, writing, speaking, etc. so I will still be doing the work and getting out my sex-positive message in this community. But I don’t think it’s fair that I keep being asked to martyr myself and sabotage my career, which is what happens anytime I have expressed exasperation with West Chester over the past 5 ½ years. I have already spent thousands of dollars and thousands of headaches just to make a point (did I really *need* to have a shirt that says “the clit is the shit” in the window? No. But I wanted to have that conversation. I spent a thousand dollars in legal fees just to start a conversation about clitorises on the streets of West Chester. I could have just taken the shirt down, but I spent the money to draw attention to the cause. That’s frankly doing more of the work in this field than I’ve seen anyone do.) But now, I’m done. If anyone feels that passionately that West Chester needs someone to keep being a thorn in their side, I will gladly pass you the torch.

So that’s why I’m closing. As I’m sure you can imagine, there’s so much more to it, but I think I’ll save that for the book. The summarized version is; West Chester is a sucky place to run a sexuality business, and even if it wasn’t sucky, my dreams have gotten too big for this place, so come buy the rest of my stuff so I can move on to bigger and better things!   

Thanks to all the wonderful people who have supported me, spent money at Feminique, came out to events, spread positive word of mouth, and became a friend of the store. I appreciate your business and your friendship these years and I’ll never forget it!

What’s your favorite Feminique memory? Be sure to leave your comment here because I’d love to hear it: