CW: fatphobia, body shaming, slut shaming
This picture above is a photo of myself that I love, so I submitted it as my bio picture to a local sex store I was going to present a Tinder workshop at. After I had submitted the photo, the owner told me in her next email that, based on the photo I sent, she wasn’t sure I could cater to her “conservative, middle-aged, heterosexual women customer base.”
I showed the email to a couple of fellow sex educators, who confirmed my initial reaction: her email was slut and fat shaming, considering the amount of imagery on her site and in-store that show naked thin white women in sexually suggestive poses. Her statement was incredibly contradictory to her brand, and the only difference between myself and the stores branding is that I am a plus size woman.
I replied with a professional email, stating that I was cancelling the workshop as I don’t want to associate myself with a store that is slut-shamey and fatphobic. I never got a reply, until I brought up the subject on Twitter to a supposedly body-positive blogger, who was praising the store for their first anniversary. The store replied to my comment with the following three tweets:
Now, there’s a LOT to unpack in these tweets, but since I’ve already done that in this Twitter thread (and in my initial call out post), I’m going to focus this post on educating companies on how they can become more body positive in their own practices.
Carry plus size lingerie. There’s no shortage of fat babes when it comes to clothing and lingerie. The average size in North America right now is a size 16; no one-size-fits-all bodysuit is going to work with any plus size customer. We’ve all heard the excuse “plus size doesn’t sell that well” and that’s just inaccurate. Plus size clothing is often the most in-demand items.
Just stocking lingerie isn’t enough though. Stock a wide variety of nice looking, well-fitting lingerie too. As a plus size consumer, when I go to a sex store and I see the wall of cute thin lingerie and look towards the plus options to find a disappointingly small selection of ill-fitting and unattractive sets. Have options for your plus size customers, from slutty or classy looks, to purposefully corny costumes.
If you have a brick and mortar store, place all the plus size items in a section. No, it doesn’t make us feel segregated, it actually makes it easier for us to find things. Don’t shove the plus size lingerie in the back corner and hope we will be happy.
Carry plus size accessories. When companies do remember to stock plus size lingerie, they tend to forget about accessories. Similarly to my first point, plus size people will want and use these items too! Plus size strap-ons are a must, and you’ll want to stock hosiery items like garter belts, thigh high tights, fishnets, knee-high socks and body jewellery that fit fat bodies.
Generic kink items can also be a burden for fat folks, so choose to select brands that make size inclusive harnesses, collars, latex clothes, long rope, and chastity devices.
While body positioning cushions like Liberator furniture are already a staple in most sex stores, they can be incredibly important to the sex lives of plus-sized babes. Moving our bodies into the right angles and allowing more support beneath us can only make our sex better; Elle Chase highlights lots of great positions using positioning aids in her book Curvy Girl Sex. Liberator also carries a plus size specific line with wider pillows (although their normal ones will do the trick for smaller fat people).
Make your stores accessible! I can’t even count how many times I’ve been to a boutique store where I’ve had to walk sideways down the aisles because they were too small. Not only is this inconvenient for me, but it makes me feel hypersensitive about my body. I don’t want to knock anything over because you made your isles too small for me and my body. Plus, this makes your store not accessible for those with walkers, wheelchairs or mobility scooters. Good sized changing rooms are also appreciated; I want to feel like I can stretch my arms without hitting a wall or feeling claustrophobic. All people deserve access to sex stores and sex education, so make sure your store is accommodating.
Use plus size people in your marketing. Hire plus-size models for photoshoots when you’re doing store promo pictures (or create graphics of plus size babes). Whether you’re marketing sex toys, lingerie, or kink accessories, make sure to put out a call for plus size models. If you use stock images or pictures from product brands websites, make sure to go out of your way to find pictures that include plus-size people. If you have a physical shop, use plus-size mannequins throughout your store and in your window displays.
Hire fat and body positive sex educators, and staff. Plus size people should be represented in your staffing choices so that your plus size customers will feel represented and comfortable. Going up to a thin person with a plus size sex problem can be really intimidating, as they will not as accurately understand fat experiences. When looking to hire sex educators for workshops, do the same thing! Hire educators who talk about body confidence in their material and don’t hire educators who shame other peoples bodies.
Body-positive practices don’t stop at body size. Body hair, body functions, weight fluctuations, height, dick size, breast shape/size, vulva shape, labia size, body scents… the list goes on of ways we are shamed for our bodies. Use your sex store to celebrate all the ways bodies are wonderful!
Final tips: Just because one fat person is approving of your store and actions, doesn’t mean you aren’t fat or slut shaming other people. Just because you do one or a couple things on this list does not make you immediately inclusive. Fat people shouldn’t be an afterthought to your brand.
No body is a bad body, and every body deserves shame-frehttps://madelineneumannphotography.come sex education and sex store experiences. If you’re having a hard time navigating making your sex store body-positive, I offer consulting services.
Photo by Madeline Neumann Photography