By Clare Jacky
I often tell people that the majority of my job is the “unsexy stuff.” Most days are spent with bookkeeping, inventory management, event planning meetings, and a constant stream of paperwork. I spend a lot more time brainstorming about our point of sale system than erotic fantasies. In place of fucking my brains out every night, I am most likely answering my email or making to do lists for the next day. I make them on note pads I have taken from various hotels in Vegas (I wasn’t gambling but attending conferences). Small business management, no matter the industry, is a practice in plate spinning, prioritizing as best you can, and occasionally putting out some fires. Most of the time, it’s business like any other. Well, except I get paid to watch porn.
In my experience, working in a sex toy shop is multi-dimensional: porn and excel sheets, lube testing and paper filing, blow job workshops and staffing issues. This dynamic makes it constantly interesting. But, it is these nuances that outsiders often forget, focusing entirely on the oral sex and “porno.” Do people think I get paid to do nothing but sit around and think about sex for 40+ hours a week? Who would do the bookkeeping? Sometimes, the assumption that my work is so one sided is funny; other times it is exhausting. My brother once called me a whore after I spent the majority of my day doing the important yet incredibly unsexy and non-sexual task of staring at and evaluating a balance sheet. There were so many issues to address with this comment that all I could muster was “fuck off.” We really bring out the best in one another. The day after, I was off to California to take photos of porn sets. I was so excited but I didn’t tell him about it – my works makes him uncomfortable so I have stopped sharing.
I remember once spending the afternoon trying to fix a computer, which had stalled out with a virus. The PC nearly ended up across the room in pieces. That evening I practiced dislodging a plum pit with my tongue in a cunnilingus workshop taught by a world-renowned teacher. I was face deep in fruit, plum juice running down my hands, computer running like normal, and I thought, “this is the best gig in town”. That feeling is what makes me trudge through the derogatory remarks and hushed silence at family gatherings. My parents have both been to the store and think it’s lovely. “It is so well lit and approachable,” my mother said. They are concerned though, mostly about the outward appearance of my work. That MD is waiting for you, they say. I wonder if we will ever stop circling back to graduate school.
Their reaction is to be expected – to them, academic accomplishment is life. I tell them The Smitten Kitten has changed mine, and I’m not sure if I can go back. It wasn’t just the subject of sex that made me feel stronger and smarter, although that was a big part of it. It was also learning to keep the plates spinning, hustling for an event, and understanding a profit and loss statement. All of these things are part of what being in the sex industry looks like for me. And it is not an exercise in rebelling against my career driven, liberal upbringing or because I’m queer. I’m not misdirected and this isn’t a phase. I get free sex toys and health care in my benefits package, and the work can be hard as hell. Occasionally someone will respond to my job description with awe, with an excitement in their eyes that is the same as the excitement in mine. Part of me hopes that my family will have that twinkle someday. In the meantime, you can find me on Quickbooks or reading up on latex care.
Clare Jacky is the Business Manager at The Smitten Kitten, a high quality sex toys and equipment retailer based in Minneapolis MN. Clare started at The Smitten Kitten 4 years ago and instantly felt at home. She enjoys the complexities and freedom of working in both the sex industry and small business. She loves discussing porn and cooking, sometimes in the same conversation. You can follow her on twitter at @SmittenBusiness and can find The Smitten Kitten.