By Hannah Steinkopf-Frank
Kim Marks loves to talk about sex. That’s why she decided to open As You Like It — The Pleasure Shop, Eugene’s first eco-friendly sex toy shop. As You Like It is not a sleazy, back alley sex toy shop. The store sells products that fit a wide range of sexual needs and desires.
“We are really here for everybody and every body,” Marks said.
After moving to Olympia, Washington in 1994 to attend Evergreen State College, Marks was surprised by the lack of gender-inclusive sex shops in the region. She studied forest ecology and worked as an environmental activist. She’s well-educated in the negative effects of various toxins to both the environment and to humans. In 2003, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
“The cancer made me a little more reflective about what we’re putting into our bodies and really made me think about, with my skills and background and interests, what I could do to help my community,” said Marks.
Marks realized that she could her environmental activism work and create a sex positive space by opening up her own sex toy shop. In 2012, she started As You Like It as an online store.
The journey to opening a physical shop turned out to be more difficult. Marks went through seven landlords before finding one who would rent to her. She had similar challenges getting bank loans.
“There are a lot of biases, and it’s not that what I’m offering is unsafe, it’s that there are a lot of people who are not comfortable talking about sex,” Marks said. “It costs more money to insure this type of business than a gun shop because my products are ‘unsafe.’”
Ironically, that is exactly the mission of As You Like It. For Marks, educating customers about how to have a healthy sex life is just as important as selling them a new vegan flogger or locally made glass butt plug. That’s why Marks made the decision to hire a staff with a background in sex education.
“If there is something you are wanting in your sex life and not getting, if you walk in not knowing what any of these things do, you’re not going to pick the right thing,” said Janet Hardy, the founder of Greenery Press, an internationally acclaimed publisher of alternative sexuality books. Hardy is working with Marks to provide monthly classes on everything from how to find your G-spot to sexual boundary setting.
“I think my experience as a therapist and communicating with people and being really comfortable talking about sexual health creates an environment where people can feel settled in and excited, rather than shy,” said Oblio Stroyman, a sales associate who has been a relationship therapist for eight years.
For Marks, there is no separation between providing a body positive and a body safe store. Education and giving back to the community are huge parts of that mission. In a society where rape culture is a prevalent issue and sex is still taboo, Marks hopes to change the dialogue around sex because, as she says, it should be “as you like it.”