Shameless Sex x Shame-Free Pleasure
We sat down with two serious industry crushes of ours, Amy Baldwin and April Lampert – co-hosts of Shameless Sex podcast to talk about how to tap into sexual empowerment as well as their own journey to experiencing shameless sex. Given flossy's vision to make the sex shop experience completely shame-free, we knew we had to talk to these two given their understanding of shameless sex inside and out.
We'd suggest you grab a snack and nestle into your cosy corner of the couch for this one because there is some seriously shame-smashing conversation that us four got into.
flossy: How did it all begin between you two?
Amy: I’m a certified sex education and sex and relationship coach. When I was 18, I took my first human sexuality class and discovered this is what I want to do – I had a lot of questions about my own body and sexuality and was like ‘what’s going on here!?’ Years later when I opened a sex shop with my mom, I realised my passion really is to help people decrease shame around sexuality and to learn how to work with shame as a teacher. I want to give people the tools to make the roles for who they are as a sexual being – what really inspires me is the listener feedback that we’re not only giving people pleasure but we are helping them really tap into their true selves.
April: First off – Amy is my spirit animal – she’s the person that cracked the code for me to join the realm of pleasure. I studied science and grew up with zero sex education in Wisconsin where sex was never something I discussed. I met Amy after I had just graduated from studying law. We were working in a restaurant together and she was talking about opening a sex shop which I thought was really bold but I loved Amy’s vision for it as a space the feels like you are walking into a spa or buying cosmetics not buying a dildo. Amy asked if I wanted to work there and I was like “I don’t even own a vibrator” after which, she gave me my first vibrator. Amy brought this education-like feel to the store – I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t opened myself up to this world and I found that I really loved talking to people about pleasure and sex. Not long after I was hired as the Director of Sales of a manufacturer in Germany and now I'm the VP of an international sex toy company.
It became both Amy & I’s mission to help people talk about sex, masturbation, and sexuality without it being shrouded in a veil of taboo – we wanted to make people feel like they were at Sephora talking about brow shadow when really, they were discussing clitoral stimulation.
April: We both share the mission to change the world for the better and to normalise sex – to show people that they can have the pleasure they’ve always wanted (as long as it’s consensual).
Amy: I truly believe you can save the world through empowering women – through women understanding how to hold their own and take control of their sexuality and reproductive health – it allows them to make choices about if they want to have family, get into leadership positions
flossy: what was the aha moment that led to the sexual wellness industry?
April: This one lady came into the shop who must have been 70 or 80 years old who had never had an orgasm. She ended up buying a sex toy and I thought, ‘I’ll probably never see her again,’ but sure enough a week later she came back into the store and said ‘I just want you to know, you changed my life.’ Now when I travel around to different stores around the world, I tell people “look – you can work here just to push some buttons on a cash register and get your paycheck or you can work here to truly change people’s lives.”
Amy: I’d say it wasn’t until my early 30s when I stepped into my most empowered sexual self. My mom and I opened the store when I was 23 and I started going to school for human sexuality when I was still didn’t feel fully comfortable in my own skin. When I took a Somatic Sex and Relationship Coach training program, I had this experience of realising that we all have this superpower to get turned on by ourselves – anytime, anywhere, should we choose to tap into it – that was when I realised that I had all the tools inside of me already there I just needed to learn how to tap into them. Seeing my own transformation make me realise I wanted to show other people they have this power too.
flossy: What tools would you suggest for people looking to tap into their own sexual empowerment?
Amy: Awareness: this means reflecting on your own sexual story and asking where the stories you hold onto about sex come from and deciding what feels true and authentic for you.
Things that may help explore this:
- Working with a sex therapist or sex and relationship coach
- Taking sex ed classes
- Listening to podcasts
- Working with therapists
Then asking “what do I do now with this information. How can this inform different decision-making? Taking the time to reflect and having this new awareness can help guide us through trauma to healing.
From there, we can explore the question “how do I make my pleasure a priority.?” What are the ways that I’m de-prioritising my pleasure that in order to keep the peace? How can I become my best self for myself first?
flossy: What are some daily practices that you both do make pleasure a priority?
Amy: This is certainly something I could do more of, but conscious, intentional, full-bodied masturbation practices that aren’t about the goal or the orgasm. A vibrator can still be part of this experience but it’s much more about discovery and reawakening. Whether it’s for people with penises or people with vulvas, everyone could benefit from taking a more spacious approach to pleasure – hanging out in the in-between rather than thinking of how quickly we can get from point A to point B. What does it feel like if we’re not relying on either other people to get us off or to get off quickly?
flossy: what’s your take on vibrators as a tool for conscious masturbation?
April: Other people are supposed to bring pleasure to me but a lot of people don’t realise that they are in charge of their own body and they can actually have control over what stimulates them and they, in turn, can communicate what they learn about themselves to their partner(s). Sex toys can a tool to activate this exploration process – they can act as an extension of your pleasure. Look, I could walk everywhere but it would take me a long time to get there – but I can drive a car and get there faster… and even better I could play some good music in a comfortable, quality car. That’s what a quality sex toy is, a tool for exploring in an alternative way to manual stimulation that also can feel really good. It’s like using a fork and knife for eating – it makes it just a little easier to cut. And while we’re at it, it’s time to drop the thoughts of “I’m going to get addicted” or “it’s going to desensitise my bits” because those are just false.
flossy: Thank you for mentioning that because we often hear people saying their partner will get defensive if they buy a vibrator or they’re worried they will become reliant on one.
April: There’s this hierarchy or orgasms, so that if you only orgasm when something vibrates and not during penetrations then there must be something wrong with you. At the end of the day, an orgasm is still an orgasm – there’s not specific way you should have an orgasm.
flossy: I wondered if you could speak to the sexual wellness industry as a whole – both the positive and negative sides you are seeing right now. For context, we’ve noticed a lot of brands claiming to be about sexual wellness when in reality, they are marking up cheap products made in China and profiting significantly off female pleasure given its recent popularity – what do you think about this?
April: I think we’ve come a long way, but it’s obvious certain brands aren’t doing any sort of research and development when it comes to products specifically for people with vulvas. I always wonder who the classic rabbit vibe is designed for because I’m like, "I’d just cut the ears off this thing and grind on it!" There are though now more women in the industry than ever before which is great but there’s definitely more research to be done about the body and what it means for sex toys to be inclusive and not just one size fits all. You can also say whatever you want on the package of a sex toy – you can pretty much put whatever you want into a sex toy meaning chemicals or materials and still say "body-safe" because sex toys are a "novelty" item.
It’s hard to convince people to invest in sex toys but you really do pay for what you get. The cheaper toys are often made of crappy rubber jelly which is like driving a shitty car that releases carbon monoxide slowly over its lifespan – not to mention you’ll have to throw it out and buy a new one in a much shorter timeframe than if you were to invest in a higher-end product. My hope is that we can have nice, ethically made products that can be afforded by folks who typically can’t afford a bigger spend.
Overall, I think there’s so much positive change happening in the industry, with consumers, sex educators and brands really pushing for change and holding brands accountable for things like blatant racialisation and objectification.
flossy: What would you say to someone who comes to you and is dissatisfied with their sex life, maybe has never owned a sex toy, and is wanting to learn more about their pleasure?
April: First and foremost, start with exploring yourself. Either with a mirror or by simply closing your eyes – it will be trial and error and certain products will work for some folks and not others. You are your own artist and you can curate your own pleasure based on your body… which is always changing.
Amy: Continue to learn. Listen to podcasts, read books, ask questions – we really can’t have too much education, especially about this topic. Learning as much as we can helps us get more clear and figure out the direction we want to go. There are more tools now than ever to learn about your body – so hopefully now self-pleasure won’t be #25 on the to-do list, it’ll be in the top 10.
flossy: What does shame-free pleasure mean to you?
Amy: Shame is an armour and it’s something that either wraps around our bodies in front of our bodies that limits us from feeling and being our fullest unique expression of ourselves and so I think shame-free pleasure would be as little to no armour as possible. It means having clarity as to who we are and the empowerment and confidence in asking for what we want and understanding what that is. It means awareness and presence with the ever-changing experience of sexuality which isn’t possible when there’s a big old shield around our bodies. It means lightness. It means getting out of your head (our biggest sex organ) and really dropping into what you’re experiencing whether it’s with yourself or with someone else.