It's not as if Tucson has a lack of sex toy shops or that there aren't millions of online options to shop for things like dildos, vibrators, cock rings and the like, but Ally Booker kept hearing from friends that if there was a woman and queer friendly sex toy store in town, they'd be regular customers.
Booker, proprietor of Jellywink Boutique, a new sex toy store and resource center at 418 E. 7th St. east of Fourth Avenue, officially opened in October during Pride, and has slowly been figuring out an inventory that fits her customers and how to continue to take the mystery out of sex toys by answering lots and lots of questions.
What made you move to Tucson from Chicago 10 years ago?
A number of factors. Every winter in Chicago I swore was going to be my last and I had a community of friends who moved out here ahead of me. Part of it was being assured there was a place there, a community.
What have you been doing in Tucson?
I've always been very community minded. On one level or another, many activist activities, and I've always been both a very strong advocate for sexual self-determination in the context of sexual orientation, gender expression or sexuality period. Also a promoter of sexual consent and anti-violence. I worked as a volunteer for SACASA on their sexual assault hotline for a year and a half. And on a non-activist related note, however, I think, lifestyle can be a form of activism.
On some level or other I was pretty immersed in the queer community in Chicago from my late teens and early 20s and more so now in various BDSM communities, and I've been a sex worker ally for quite some time.
Why Jellywink Boutique?
As far as the type of store I have, I wish I was doing something brand new and pioneering. There have been queer and women-friendly sexual resource centers and shops. Good Vibrations in San Francisco comes to mind. And a lot of my friends where saying, "Where is that store here?" And it's not like I rolled into town and said this is what I am going to do. I've been around 19 years, doing other stuff, and things fell into place.
How did the first store opening go?
It was very heartwarming. I didn't realize how deep of an impact it would have on certain people. I opened during Pride Week and a lot of people came down for those events. We heard lots of expressions of excitement. For some people it was almost relief and I honestly don't like bashing any other businesses at all.
But not everyone feels comfortable going into a sex toy shop, right?
While I may not have a problem going into a sex toy environment, I know a lot of people coming in the door would express anxiety going into other stores and feeling alienated or not understood. So I got a lot of expressions of gratitude.
One thing I noticed is that you don't seem to be fazed by people's questions. You get everyone in this store, so that means a variety of questions and concerns. How do you do that?
There's not really one answer to that, but a confluence of various things.
Ultimately, it comes down to, if it's truly safe, sane and consensual, and I mean truly, then it's okay by me. Sometimes, I even get turned on to fun new things to try based on what some people tell me. Also, I'd really like to add that I am oftentimes really touched by what people feel safe to talk to me about. For many people, it takes courage to discuss their sexual problems and needs, or even just the technicalities of masturbation. The fact that they open up to me, and the fact that I can provide an environment that people feel non-judged, and maybe even facilitate some problem solving, is extremely touching and fulfilling.
Who are Jellywink's customers?
While I am specifically woman and GLBTQI-friendly, I am trying to cater to everybody who wants to explore, learn and shop in an environment where they don't feel judged and feel safe asking questions and figuring things out; people who care about the safety and quality of the products they use; or people who are simply feeling a little adventurous or curious, but respectful. As they say, "Don't yuck somebody else's yum!"