Self Serve Toys is a feminist and Queer-owned sex shop in Albuquerque. It opened up 17 years ago after the owner, Matie Fricker, saw a need for more inclusive sex shops nationwide.
Tiziana Friedman, the outreach team coordinator at Self Serve, spoke about love for the shop because of the experiences there compared to other sex shops they have visited.
“Self Serve is a sex-positive, education and health-focused sex shop. We believe that all bodies are good bodies deserving of love, exactly as they are. We believe that sex is healthy and pleasure is good for you,” Friedman said.
The journey to opening self-serve began when Fricker found an interest in the theory of social change during her time studying public service in Boston. Social change is “the way human interactions and relationships transform cultural and social institutions over time,” according to Southern New Hampshire University.
To support herself, Fricker took a full-time job at a sex shop and decided they were the place for her.
“While I was there, I was learning about the theory of social change as a tool, and then I was doing it. I was in a shop (where) every single day, people were coming in and being brave, being vulnerable, being powerful in their experiences and healing,” Fricker said.
Working at the sex shop, Fricker was also exposed to many of the harmful and damaging aspects of the sex industry, she said. After some conversations, she decided there needed to be a space where people and their bodies were first in mind instead of profit – especially in Albuquerque where an education-based feminist sex shop had yet to exist.
“Our expertise comes from the lived experience of doing the work that we do. It comes from the feminist tradition of learning from those who came before us, and it comes to being nerds about sex,” Fricker said.
Many toys and ingestables are not regulated by the FDA and contain several carcinogens; Self Serve works towards keeping the safest toys – and information – on shelves, Friedman said.
One of the carcinogens found in sex toys are phthalates – chemicals that work to make plastic more durable. This chemical has “reproductive, developmental and carcinogenic effects targeting the liver, testes, uterus, ovaries, thyroid and developing fetuses,” according to a study done by the National Library of Medicine. Phthalate effects on humans have not yet been thoroughly researched, however they have been deemed toxic for animals, according to the study.
Many sex shops buy their products at low prices and sell them at higher prices. Self Serve has a testing process to ensure the safety of their products, Fricker said.
“There's no reason to have so many known carcinogens in our sex lives, and it's shocking to know (carcinogenic toys) are still around,” Fricker said.
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In the shop, there are books with information about sensuality, sexuality and more, Freidman said. They hold various sex education classes and frequent the University of New Mexico to educate and conversate about anything sex ed-related.
“This week, I (had) a talk with the African American Student Services Center for Black HIV and AIDS awareness day … But we’ve also done comprehensive sex ed for adults, and that usually looks like educating those who come into the store,” Friedman said.
Above all, Self Serve focuses on maintaining an inclusive space, Friedman said. The shop has lingerie sizes ranging from XS-6X, with some styles up to 10X.
“We don’t charge more for our plus size lingerie (because) paying extra for bigger clothing is bullshit,” Friedman said.
Self Serve offers discounts for abortion providers, sex workers and students, Friedman said. It also has Plan B onsite that retails for $14.98 per pill, and has a community distribution process for less-fortunate community members that need the medication.
“Folks will buy Plan B for those who need it. Anybody can come in and get it without any question, and there’s no age limit on that,” Fricker said.
Self Serve supports the community in many ways, Fricker said. On Tuesdays, Self Serve gives 10% of their profits to Mutual Aid in Albuquerque.
“No matter what you have going on, we’re probably a good place for you,” Fricker said. “If you’re someone who loves sex and wants to have more of it, we’re great. If you’re someone who doesn’t love sex and has a lot of feelings about it, we have a lot of support too. No matter where you are, sexuality and our relationship to our bodies is a part of our lives, and throughout our lives.”
Karina Bolaños is the Culture Editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at email@example.com