I Want Your Job finds Torontonians who make a living doing exactly what they love to do, in any field, and for any salary, and asks them how they did it.
Name: Carlyle Jansen
Job: Founder and workshop instructor at Good For Her.
“A lot of people assume that I’m comfortable discussing everything about sex,” says Good For Her owner Carlyle Jansen. “They find it really surprising that I can get really shy with my partner. It’s about intimacy and risk; I don’t have a lot of risk telling you my desires, but if I tell my partner and they say that’s really weird, that hurts. Most people think there aren’t any hard edges left for me when it comes to sex, but there are.”
Still, ever since she opened her store and sexual education emporium 14 years ago, sexual discussion has been Jansen’s business. Her role as owner and educator at Good For Her has resulted in more than a few misconceptions about her own sexuality. “Some people have the idea that people who work in a sex shop are people who will have sex with everybody and try everything,” she says. “Not the case!”
Once upon a time, Jansen was actually rather squeamish herself. “When I was younger, I was not very comfortable with my body or sex at all,” she says. “After I was dumped because I couldn’t have an orgasm, I decided to it was time to start learning about sex.” A friend gave her a vibrator, which, after she found success with it, Jansen says cemented her desire to educate herself.
The possibility of sharing her newfound sexual knowledge, however, didn’t occur to Jansen until she presented her sister with some sex toys as a bridal shower gift. “It was after she had opened all her salad bowls and wine glasses, and all of her friends freaked out—remember, this was 16 years ago!” recalls Jansen, laughing. “They all said, ‘What is that thing, and where do you stick it?’” When she explained their function and purpose, the women were impressed with her relaxed demeanor. “They said, ‘Wow, you are so comfortable talking about sex! You should do workshops.’ I realized then that women wanted a comfortable place to learn about these things.”
In the 14 years that Good For Her has been open, how has the industry changed?
Toys have totally evolved in the last 14 years. What you used to get was mainly latex toys, which were of a poor quality and all shaped like penises. Now you have a whole industry where there are options that are eco-friendly, rechargeable, body-friendly, and made of silicone. Now manufacturers recognize that some customers want something pretty, because women are starting to buy sex toys for themselves. They are now making purchasing decisions, rather than waiting for the toys to be given to them by their boyfriend or as a gag gift. Now, as women have more social and economic power, we’re also gaining sexual agency and freedom.
What were the initial challenges of owning and operating your own small business in Toronto?
The challenges that everyone has: wondering if people will walk through the door, hiring staff, finding enough hours in the day to do everything. You have to deal with customers, inventory, build a marketing strategy, know about finances, deal with the media, etc. You’re just juggling all kinds of things. I have a bachelor of commerce degree, which helped me a little bit, but I wouldn’t say that you come out of a business degree really knowing how to own a small business.
A big thing is accepting that there are things that you are good at and others that you aren’t so good at, and learning to delegate. I’ve been very lucky; the staff are all great, fabulous people. When I’m out, people always tell me that the staff are so helpful and professional, and it’s the staff who are there every day dealing with the customers, while I’m running around doing other things. They really make it such a great place.
Were workshops always a part of the model for Good For Her? What are some of your favourites?
Workshops were always a part of the store. My passion was always teaching, and it gives me the opportunity to do different types of things and have an educative moment with a customer. There are a lot of workshops that I really like for various reasons. What really feeds me are the ones where people discover something about themselves; not only might they learn how something works on their clitoris or penis, but they sometimes learn something new about themselves or their partner. One example is our Erotic Massage for Couples workshop, where people get to connect. By the end of the workshop there’s a whole new level of understanding in the partnership [about] how to explore each other, and a renewed passion and commitment. I always feel really energized after that one.
Your store also started the Feminist Porn Awards. Where did the inspiration for that series come from?
Just like how toys have really evolved, so have DVDs and films. Now it’s much easier to make films; it’s still expensive, but more people are getting behind the camera—women, trans people—and it’s not an exclusive club anymore. And now women are saying that they get off on porn and that they want porn. So porn is now made by women and people of marginalized communities and made for those groups. Originally it was thought that porn couldn’t be feminist and ethical, or that if it was, it had to be boring. Like feminist porn would be just kissing, with no one getting on top of each other. But now people realize that it can be hot!
We wanted to honour the people who make these kinds of videos, so we planned an event at the Gladstone called Vixens and Visionaries. Afterward people said that they had a lot of fun and wanted us to do it again, so it became the Good for Her Feminist Porn Awards. Six years later, it’s still going. It allows us to showcase and promote movies that are doing something a little different, so people don’t have to wade through the thousands of adult films that are made every year just to find what they want.
What are some common misconceptions you hear about Good For Her?
Because the name of the store is Good For Her and because we have women and trans hours (on Sundays), some people get the impression that we are all man-hating lesbians. But we love men! It’s not that men are bad; it’s just because of the society we live in and the way women are sexualized, some women will come into the store and wait until a man leaves, even if he’s not paying any attention to her. But I have met such fabulous men who really understand that, yes, this is important, and that women and trans people need a space where they feel comfortable. We love the men who come into the store, and we are currently getting more products for “him.”
Also, a lot of people think you have to be 18 to come in, but you can come in at any age. People can bring their kids in—we have a basket of toys. You can’t rent porn if you are under 18, but can buy a vibrator, ask questions, get condoms and lube, and talk to us. A lot of adult stores are 18+ but we aren’t, partially because we don’t have images of naked women all over the store. We have a high school across the street from us, and when the kids actually work up the nerve to come in, they find it kind of boring!
What’s the best advice you have for Torontonians about sex?
That good sex takes a little bit of effort. I think we minimize how much sex is a skill. Some people think that it should be natural, that people should just fall in love and have fabulous orgasms for the rest of their lives, and that’s just not the case for most people. If you want to have a really good sex life, it takes a little bit of work. And it’s not about how many positions you get into and how many toys you have or how many places around the world you’ve had sex. It’s hard, just like discussing finances or chores with your partner can be hard. But I think most people would find that if you put a bit of work into it, you reap huge benefits.
Photos by Joel Charlebois/Torontoist.