A Toronto Visit

by Rich Moreland,  June 2012

Note: This section is from my unpublished manuscript on Feminism and Adult Film. Citations are removed.

Over a decade ago opportunity greeted Carlyle Jansen. Her sister’s bridal shower sparked an entrepreneurial idea. Having discovered the deeply personal satisfaction of her own orgasm, Jansen wanted to communicate to other women that they, too, could enjoy their own intimate pleasures. Armed with some marketing experience, she looked at the bridal shower as a perfect environment to generate a passion for her message and the erotically based products she touted. Jansen conducted an “impromptu sex toys seminar” that day in 1995; her personal enthusiasm, ease of presentation, and engaging affability impressed attendees. She soon learned that the Canadian women attending her YMCA workshops wanted more, specifically a “comfortable place” to shop for toys designed especially for them. Good For Her, a retail business located at 175 Harbord Street a short distance west of the University of Toronto campus, became their “reality” and Canadian women have not been the same since.

On April 15, 2011, I visited Good For Her, a quaint, narrow building that could step into a Dickens novel disguised as a London merchant’s shop. The small establishment is tucked away among other storefronts, aligned like a bed full of Victorian children all dressed the same and awaiting good night kisses. Unless certain of its location, Good For Her is hardly noticed. In fact, my frustrated cab driver let me out to walk Harbord Street and inquire of residents where it might be. After passing it more than once, I was drawn to the shop’s sign that hangs over the sidewalk. I climbed the short stoop and entered, amazed at the inconspicuousness of the exterior and awed by what lay within.

Upon greeting me, Carlyle Jansen summarized her point of view on operating Good For Her. Despite the liberalization of sexual attitudes, she confessed that there are people who “are terrified coming in” because of the negativity associated with the sexual. Her answer in welcoming them is to “respect where they’re coming from” and create that needed level of comfort. Once inside, the visitor is immediately put at ease. A single salesperson, on this day a young woman in her twenties, politely greets the customer then quietly slips behind the counter. The interior is incredibly compact; the shelves are well stocked with videos, toys, books, and the like.

The atmosphere is hushed, conversation is whispered by necessity. Products are gently examined like books quietly removed from the shelves of a venerated library. During our discussion, a college-aged woman came in to browse the merchandise. In deference to the shopper’s comfort level, Jansen thought it best to continue upstairs in the offices. Shopping at Good for Her is the essence of the personal; the ambiance is all about acceptance and understanding. Individual choices are honored in a discreet setting. Jansen stressed that her purpose in opening the store was to accommodate a woman’s comfort in shopping for sexually based products, assisting those women who felt ill at ease going to other venues. She wanted to create “a place where people who want to see tons of edgy sex and the biggest dildo they can have is celebrated, supported, and respected.”

Successful businesses have mission statements. Good For Her takes a revolutionary step toward liberating a sexuality that for women has been culturally circumscribed and conforming far too long. “Women and marginalized communities need access to information and products that are not always easy to find or easy to talk about,” the statement begins before moving to its central message. There is “nothing shameful about an open, honest dialogue about sex and sexuality.” It proceeds to emphasize that the atmosphere is safe, comfortable, and deferential to everyone’s right to learn about and investigate sexuality in ways agreeable to them. Accept the term everyone literally because an emphasis on gender fluidity and an inherent respect for each person’s self-identity highlights the mission of Good For Her. To accommodate all sexualities, the shop maintains some limitations on scheduling appointments and business hours in order to give everyone discreet opportunities to shop and discuss the products.

If you go to Toronto, pay a visit to Good For Her. At the very least, it will give you a unique shopping experience. Check them out at http://goodforher.com/

 

 

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