“I show up and transform their living room into a sex toy store. Lots of samples, lots of testers,” Kim Marks says. Marks is the proprietor of Oregon’s As You Like It – The Pleasure Shop and she devotes many of her evenings to putting on PleasureWare Home Parties, showcasing the store’s many ecofriendly and ethical sex toys and products, from glass dildos to phthalate-free vibrators.
Marks has put on her body-positive sex toy parties from Eugene to Montana, and while her nights are often spent showing the merits of a vibrator made without sweatshop labor, as a long-time activist as well as a purveyor of sexy goodies, she spends her days putting on “know your rights” and strategic campaign training for environmental activists. While As You Like It is currently online only, Marks hopes to open a storefront in Eugene or Portland and employ environmental activists as sex educators.
When it comes to setting up a house party, Marks says she has found that “talking about sex is so taboo the host doesn’t know what her friends are OK with talking about.”
Parties often start off with an “icebreaker” game, Marks says, that she devised from her years of training in the environmental movement, which “allows me to tailor the house party on the spot.” She adds, “I don’t want to assume that someone knows where their labia is, where their clitoris is.”
Party guests write a question they’ve always wanted to have answered about sex toys and sexual health on a piece of paper, crumple it up and have a snowball fight with them. They read aloud the question that they pick up, and Marks facilitates an answer.
“My parties range in age from 19 to women in their 70s,” she says. She tells of one party where the youngest woman was 64: “One woman walked up to me and said ‘I’m not talking to you about sex; you are a stranger.’”
So Marks started off with the icebreaker game and soon the women started answering their friends’ questions before Marks could say a word. “They are older ladies; they’ve been there,” Marks laughs. “Next thing I know they are on the floor pushing vibrators on each others’ arms, saying ‘Check out the power on this one.’”
Marks says most people don’t have a comfortable way to talk to each other about sex and get advice, but “If you are having problems or about to launch into something new, chances are someone you know has been there, but we don’t have a healthy way in our communities to talk about it.”
The parties showcase Marks’ products, which are for sale at the end of the night, but also create a space that allows friends to help each other problem solve and get their sexual questions answered.
“Sometimes at these parties people still need to be told it’s ok to say ‘No,’” she says. Discussing anal sex is still taboo for many people, and couples are often looking for a way to negotiate that conversation. “Porn does a disservice” when it comes to anal sex, she says, and it’s important for someone to be able to say, “We are going to try, but if it doesn’t feel good, we are going to stop it.”
The PleasureWare parties are not limited to women, Marks tells EW. “A lot of my parties have been very gender mixed, cisgendered, trans men, trans women; most have been cisgendered women except for during Pride Week. Some states don’t allow men to be present at sex toy parties; Oregon is not one of them.”
Cisgender is a term used to refer to people who identify with the gender they were born with. As You Like It is gender inclusive, Marks says, with products for anyone from straight women to transgender men.
Many of As You Like It’s products are Oregon made. “My glass is made in Hood River; a lot of my leather and crops are made in Eugene by Painful Pleasures.” She sells lube products made by Eugene’s Good Clean Love and she recommends vibrators and erotic toys from Fun Factory, which are made in Germany and not in sweatshops.
“Most of my products are rechargeable, and completely submergible in the bathtub,” she says.
As You Like It sells leather and nonleather whips, and its website marks products that are vegan. Not all condoms are vegan, Marks says, and the ingredients in both artificial and natural flavors can raise some eyebrows. “Some of the natural flavors come from body parts of animals that you don’t want to be licking off someone else,” she says.
Want to have a pleasure party? Marks recommends leaving the words “sex toy” out of the description because “people hear sex toy and think orgy,” she says. She recommends starting off with a question like, “Hey, did you know that not all sex toys are body safe?” and keep the focus on “education and being comfortable and safe like a Tupperware party.”
For more information go to asyoulikeitpdx.com