If These Companies can Avoid Weinsteining, the Rest of the Business World Should Take Notice
Welcome to 2018. You might continue to pine for Obama, still absentmindedly scribble 2017 and begrudgingly accept that “LOL” is in the dictionary, but it’s a new day: The world has changed, and we now use “Harvey Weinstein” as a verb when referring to sexual assault or harassment in the workplace.
It’s not a compliment, Harvey. Examples include, “Ugh, he totally Weinsteined her,” and “There was Weinsteining all over that workplace.”
“Weinsteining,” although not Merrium-Webster’s word of the year (but it should be) is sexual harassment, assault or misconduct, typically exerted by powerful men over women. We aren’t trying to vilify men, but white gran’daddies seem to have taken the Weinsteining trend and run with it, judging by the deluge of #MeToo posts by women.
If you’re a banker, grocery store clerk, podiatrist or hedge fund manager, sexually charged topics should be pretty obvious land mines since selling apples or counting cash isn’t conventionally sexy, so one would imagine someone who works outside the sex industry should be able to manage to get through a work day without pulling out or sending photographs of his penis or making a grab at his female coworkers.
But how in the sweet fuck can a sex doll company owner and sex gear retailers maintain safe work environments when looking at, engaging in or talking about sex is at the core of what they do?
IS THE PENIS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD?
We aren’t saying only people who identify as male are the enemy and should all be sent to an island to tend to their own villainous garden of dicks or that you have to tape up those tits, sisters.
Sex positivity and respect begat a family-run sex doll operation.
‘PASS THE SALT, DEAR, AND REMIND ME IF WE HAVE ENOUGH VAGINAS IN STOCK.’
For Randi Ragsdale, the director of marketing and operations for Real Love Sex Dolls (as seen on “Broad City”), her company keeps it in the family — her mom is the one who got her into the sex doll game — so she’s taken taboos right to the dinner table with her father, her husband and even her husband’s friend playing roles in the business.
The bosses “set the tone” for the rest of the team, Ragsdale said. One thing she keeps in mind while speaking at work is how she would realistically talk about the subject with her parents, including her “very traditional” father who doesn’t tolerate his daughter swearing in front of him but has no issues checking on the replaceable vagina inventory.
“This is an industry where discretion and respect are very important, so if you translate that to your employees, it carries to your customers,” she said, adding Real Love Sex Dolls is zero-tolerance and anti-judgement.
“We sell to a lot of couples [or] people who don’t want a partner or someone who wants a same-sex partner and is unable to do that in their everyday life,” Ragsdale said. The dolls are also used by victims of assault as part of therapy or as comfort companions for people who have lost a spouse.
“Being a woman-owned company, we bring a little bit of a different perspective,” Ragsdale explained. “We treat these dolls and products — not like people — but we certainly wouldn’t disrespect them because they are going to be important to someone.”
She added that employees are expected to treat women as respectfully as they treat the dolls without objectification. Employees need to be comfortable with the products, respect them and their fellow humans’ personal boundaries.
While the company keeps it fun (Wig Wednesdays!), if you can’t seem to keep yourself from plunging your hands in a sex doll’s cavities or wagging your tongue at the dolls like “Wrecking Ball”-era Miley Cyrus, this workplace wouldn’t be a good fit for you.
“We clock in and out,” Ragsdale said while describing the day-to-day work at Real Love Sex Dolls. “We wear shoes in the warehouse. We package products; they just happen to be eyeballs or replaceable vaginas or full sex dolls.”
Ragsdale provided some interview suggestions for job seekers and life advice for borderline creeps:
Don’t assume their line of work means you can ask Ragsdale and her mom about their personal sex lives;
Avoid saying sex dolls are great because you want a woman who can’t say “no;”
Cut out any other nonsense that would get you kicked out of a job interview.
An “online shop for rebellious women” also has a process when onboarding new hires, which includes sensitivity training.
HOW FAR IS TOO FAR…
“In the first round of every interview, I ask each candidate why they're passionate about female sexuality,” Unbound CEO Polly Rodriguez said. “If they giggle or answer inappropriately, we know they aren't a good fit for Unbound.”
“We openly discuss sexuality at work every day,” Rodriguez said. “We keep it professional by talking about sexuality from a fact-based perspective. We don't share personal stories at work — not because we feel there is anything to be ashamed about, but because it's a lens that can alter how you view and work with a teammate.”
Let’s pretend we’re Unbound employees tasked with the homework of testing a new vibrator (oh the horror, right?).
“When testing products and providing feedback, we always ask everyone to speak to the product itself as opposed to their experience with it,” Rodriguez explained. “It may sound like a silly nuance or horrible sexual harassment video you had to watch during training for your first job, but it matters.”
An example of a good vibrator review, according to Rodriguez, would be: "The motor on the vibrator was rumbly and more powerful than the other dual purpose vibrators we carry. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give the motor a 7."
Whereas, "Oh my God! I used that last night and climaxed within two minutes; it was crazzzzyyyy!" is an emphatic "nope!"
In a business that encourages inhibitions to fall like a silk kimono sliding off your body, “everyone here believes so passionately about de-stigmatizing female sexuality that we treat our conversations surrounding it with immense respect and empathy,” Rodriguez commented. “Our mission is too important to jeopardize by being immature or disrespectful.”
…AND WHAT ISN’T FAR ENOUGH?
Sex positivity doesn’t need to divorce the workplace, according to Alex Fine, CEO of Dame Products. She said openness is the way to go and disagrees with the assumption that “sex is the antithesis of professionalism.”
“[Sex] is core to our business,” Fine said. “We let our employees know that conversations about sex, sexuality, gender and love are openly discussed and that they, depending on the position, are likely to be exposed to nudity in the office [through] depictions or in person."
"They certainly don’t need to discuss their own experiences, though many do, and we also do our best to make it clear that if they ever do feel uncomfortable, they should express it.”
She also challenges the “flawed” assumption that sharing personal experiences is going too far.
“Corporate professionalism, as I know it, is fraught with oppressive practices,” she said. “Right? Like have you ever worn heels and a pencil skirt? Have you ever been uncomfortably cold in the heat of summer due to air conditioning?
“Life isn’t about feeling comfortable. I feel uncomfortable when someone says my work is less than ideal. I sometimes feel uncomfortable giving feedback to my employees.
“I would instead focus on creating a culture of respectfulness and openness,” she continued. “What is professional is to spend time understanding our emotions and then to articulate your experience to your peers in a way that generates empathy and uncovers truth.”
Similarly to Ragsdale’s trickle down idea, the entrepreneur who started the shop bears the “responsibility to construct [an environment] where people respect each other and their boundaries.”
“I feel like companies with sexual missions are even more aware than most about the importance of boundaries and consent,” Fine said, “or that they should be.”
SHOULD I TAKE MY DICK OUT?
In most professional settings, the answer to “Is now a good time to take my dick out?” is a hard “no” (looking at you Louis CK). I can confidently say I have never once whipped my vagina out in the workplace. (I’ve compared labia size while drinking wine at a friend’s house, but that’s another article.) As a sex writer, my coworkers want vibrating swag when I return from an expo, but didn’t Matt Lauer get busted for gifting a sex toy to a coworker? I’ve pitched articles about anal sex and blowjobs to my mainstream publication’s editor, so who knows what could pop up for that grocery store clerk or podiatrist?
Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart didn’t try to define pornography in his 1964 comments on obscenity, but famously said, “I know it when I see it.” As an enthusiastic advocate of T.M.I., my sight could be different than yours or Stewart’s. And this conversation is bigger than just keeping your office’s HR goon from flying up your ass. This is the template for the next generation of humans.
Weinsteins need not apply.