Interview: Narelle From The Slinky Minx

If I ever made a shrine to kick-ass inclusive adult retailers then The Slinky Minx logo would be the halo floating above the central area.

Believe me when I say that The Slinky Minx is one of my favorite adult retailers when it comes to indie brands and body-safe products, so much so that I’ve actually purchased items from the lovely Narelle. Such is the wonders of the internet, that a Brit can shop in an Australian sex store, spurred on by inspiration and sex-nerd glee.

But enough of my fan-girling. We are lucky enough today to have Narelle herself here to tell us a bit more about her store and her approach. This is one HUGE interview full of so many wonderful insights and empowering words. I hope you all love it just as much as I do.

Hello, my lovely Minx, it’s so nice to have you here on my site!

You’re more than welcome. I’m happy to be here Miss Peach (insert broad smile here). I’ve been a fan of yours from afar for quite a while now; it’s rather surreal being the interviewee, so thank you for having me.

It’s clear to me that The Slinky Minx is a total labor of love for you. How did such a passion first emerge? Not everyone has the gusto to start up their online adult retail store, after all.

Very true, and if anyone has doubts about entering the sex field, I can’t say I blame them. As with any socially questionable job, it has more than its fair share of problems and feels like I’m fighting the proverbial uphill battle daily, I suspect yourself may have experienced such things as a sex blogger. But I do love it, and my embedded passion for it won’t allow me to stray.

That passion fuels and drives me to keep going through the tough times. The problems have varied from being a cis female in this field, ahead of the times with my ideas, wanting to educate as opposed to just selling toys, and having children (I’ve faced a lot of backlash from people ‘you can’t do that, you’re a Mum!’).

But learning about sex has been part of me for as long as I can remember. It began from about nine reading my mum’s copy of Every Woman by Derek Llewellyn-Jones. I would have read it hundreds of times. As the years went by, besides books, I watched any sex ed documentaries I had access too. My assignments in high school always swayed towards sex. I was and still, am fascinated by it. It’s in my blood, I have no choice but to follow it, and I love it.

Narelle defies the expectations of those around her and strides forward with sexual and professional confidence.

The style of your site is amazing! The brilliant whites contrasted with light, almost aqua blues and a written style that is equally informative and welcoming. I could gush about it for ages! How did you settle on your chosen design and approach?

Gosh, that’s a hard one to answer. I guess I don’t see it that way. I just wanted to mimic, as best I could online, the type of sex shop I’d love to visit. Clean, welcoming, presenting a neutral, and open, honest tone, a safe space that truly celebrates diversity, and tries to normalize sexual pleasures rather than shaming them.

Also, I wanted to show people there is a person behind all this, it’s not a bunch of money hoarding people. It’s me; A woman, just wanting to help provide people with genuinely help people have the most amazing sexual experiences they possibly can.

It did take me a while to have the courage to put myself out there. Initially, I was desperate to fit in and be accepted. Based on past experiences, different doesn’t bode well, here in Australia anyway. I felt I had to be like all the other sex shops: heteronormative, full of products, cluttered and focusing on the mega cheap. But deep down, I knew it wasn’t for me. I wanted to be safe, inclusive, support indie brands, welcome all and embrace individuality. In the end, I just had to accept I was different, and always will be.

As for my writing style, that’s been a long process. Again, I copied and pasted descriptions to fit in, because I didn’t know my voice. I wanted to sound professional, but inclusive, informative yet fun. I was confused how to get that across. That’s confusing!

As I’ve become more confident in myself, my abilities, my training, and my desired career, I’ve been able to be me. To have my open, clear, and natural voice shine through, along with the odd pun and bad joke. I’m learning my personality is what people enjoy about my business. Oh! And that mistakes are ok. I realise that’s also something which helps me stand out from other adult businesses. I make a lot of mistakes, but I share them with the world too. I’m human after all.

On your About Page you make it clear that you’re trying to provide a safe space for sex education and the exploration of one’s sexuality. A lot of sites promise this but not all of them deliver. How do you go about this with your site?

The difficult hurdle to cross in an online business is the removal of face to face interaction. I do miss that, I’m a people person at heart and have been in retail all my life. But I guess with The Slinky Minx; I wanted to create something I felt was lacking in other shops.

I’ve just created something I would love to receive in a shopping experience. It perhaps sounds a bit selfish of me, Again, though, I hadn’t given too much thought about creating a safe space, because I just looked at what I would like to receive in an online adult shopping experience.

But if I have to dissect it, I guess it’s my inclusive language (always a work in progress), my openness and honesty approach to business, be it a product right up or opinion. I’m very specific and particular about my product choices and brands. I refuse to sell products which are unsafe for bodily use, use outdated and sexist advertising, who do not embrace a sex-positive culture. I do a lot of research before I support any brand, I don’t bring brands in because they’re flavour of the month. I don’t stock a lot of big brands for that reason. I’m trying to build a sex positive and welcoming community here, and I won’t have brands who don’t support that. Simple – sorry a mini rant there – but it’s important to me that people do feel safe, and know my brands are too.

Learning about sex is a passion for Narelle.

Another key aspect for me is to encourage people to ask questions, if not to me, to whomever they purchase from and direct to the manufacturers. It’s important for consumers to know it’s okay to ask questions. I do let my customers know my door is always open, via email, contact page, Skype or even in person over a coffee if they live in Adelaide (latte, no sugar by the way!)

The Skype sessions have been a breath of fresh air to those unable to leave their home for whatever reason, and for people who’re anxious walking into a regular sex shop. I’ll just add here too this has been invaluable to many parents of young trans male children, who’re unable to take their child to a sex shop, not that any sell trans products here.

Your packaging is, without a doubt, the most gorgeous I have ever experience from an adult retailer. Could you tell us a bit more about why you chose the packaging methods you did and what they mean to you?

Ahh, yes the packaging. I’m rather surprised it’s caused such a stir throughout social media. Again that’ my normal, I love wrapping, and I’m just doing it in a way that would please me if I received it in the mail. To give me an additional ‘I’m special’ boost’. I’m just trying to continue my quest to help the customer feel welcomed, and safe in their purchase, joyful even. I know people have likened my wrapping to the Love Actually scene with the lovely Rowan Atkinson is gift wrapping the necklace. But I don’t care I love wrapping lol.

If I can also help the environment or wider community, at the same time as offering my customer’s the best shopping experience I can give them, than wahoo!

But I have incorporated a few hidden meanings. I use recycled papers, (brown, coloured tissues, ends of rolls) and twine. I’m trying to subliminally send a message of ‘natural’, hopefully adding a gentle reminder that sex is a natural part of our expression, and it’s ok – another attempt at helping to reduce sexual shame.

I’m also an environmentalist, so using natural fibres feeds that passion also. On that note, I reuse my bubble wrap from other packages I receive. It’s a bad for the environment, and if I can keep its life going before it’s thrown, then great!

I finish it all off with a silk/satin bag hand made from recycled saris by groups of Indian women who’re unable to work in regular jobs, They buy up ends of rolls, or old saris and at home, make the bags.

I haven’t written these up in big lights, or even talk about; I do it because I want help the wider community and planet too. With most things I do, I always ask myself, how I can be more socially responsible, ethical and sustainable. They’re part of my core values, and I’ll keep on living and doing business with them in mind. ‘You can’t change the world, but you can make a dent! – Sheldon Mopes (Death to Smoochy – Highly recommend )

Looking through your site it’s clear that you are a strong advocate for trans awareness. Do you think the adult industry at large is doing enough to represent and normalize trans visibility and, if not, what could be done to improve this?

Hmm, I want to feel change is happening in the adult industry, but I don’t believe it’s changing much through the mainstream adult industry.

The majority of change is occurring via the trans community itself, and their allies and advocates – independent and indie businesses – be it in pornography, sex shops, or products. There are amazing shops globally (Come As You Are, Self Serve Toys and The Slinky Minx of course!), fab porn sites, (Crashpad) new products produced which are thoughtful to the needs of trans people (the B.J dildo). Yay!

However, at large, I still feel the majority of the adult industry (particularly sex shops and porn sites) either ignore the trans community or profit by support a community who’ve been fetishised by the hetero market. In a business that makes sense to stay that way, that’s where the money is. But it doesn’t make it fair to a community.

But where does the change begin? All over!

I think sex shops need to remove the heteronormative approach. Not support brands who ignore the trans community. Stock products which support the trans community.

I think the adult industry needs to stop profiteering from a community fetishized by the hetero cis male market and create material respectful of the trans community for a queer community. Or just don’t go there at all, and leave it up to the people who know how to do it.

I think consumers need to open their hearts to the trans community. To begin supporting inclusive businesses, makers and indie filmmakers, and writing letters to the heteronormative business and ask they become trans-inclusive. Fight for social justice!

At the end of the day, it’s the wider community which has the power to create the change necessary for the wider adult industry to listen. It may be a little dreamy of me, but I truly believe in the power of the people to create change.

Who says that being the change you want to see in the world is cliche? I for one love Narelle’s approach to life.

As part of your site you create and sell your line of badges. What motivated this choice and what badges can we expect in future?

I’m not sure if I should reveal my motivation *laughs*.

I decided to make them out of pure selfishness and fear. Selfishness because I love badges, and wanted some for me. Making them out of fear was because I was participating in a market and feared no one would go to my stall. I though badges would solve that problem – people will always head to a stall with badges lol. I mean, cheap, small, and fun. Who doesn’t want a badge?

I did also want to add an affordable, fun product line to my shop, and more importantly be able to give people an accessible way for people to indulge their activist side. Not that all the badges are political, but we do have the odd ‘pride’ badge for people to show off proudly.

As to what to expect in the future, my gosh! Where do I begin? Or should that read end?

I’ve been creating badges to promote body positivity, vulva love, free the nipple, reclaiming the words slut and cunt, ending sexual shame. I don’t want them all to be serious, for example, I’ve designed some with movie quotes from offbeat movies, purely to see how many people understand the reference. Not an excellent business idea, but I can’t resist lol

There are so many planned; I need another business just for that I think.
I think I’d like to open it up to the public once a month and do a monthly (OMG that’s another badge right there ending period shame) badge, and it’s limited to that month, never to be repeated, for at least a few years at least. I think that would be fun and interactive.

These badges are to die for!

What a great idea! In general your site is full of so many wonderful items from creators that could be considered as either independent or niche. I know first-hand that this is very important to you but could you perhaps share your reasoning with my lovely readers?

OMG! The indie makers are so important (look out for that blog post too coming out). These guys are super important. They keep the broader sex toy industry on their toes, create sex toy designs for the ‘niche’ communities, provide work for people who just don’t fit in with the regular society, offer all handmade products, and make it possible for me to have my business. Naturally, there are more, but these stand out for me.

Of course, though, besides the above, I just love supporting small businesses.They’re fabulous. The majority of indie brands are a one or two person show, and they’re often risking their livelihoods to make sex toys. I think that’s awesome, brave, and I want to help cheer them on.

Not many sex shops here in Australia support the makers, it’s all about the big brands or the ultra cheap ones. It’s great that I can support the little guy so to speak, and at the same time, help me stand out from other adult shops. I think Indie brands are the superheroes of sex toys, and I wish more adult shops would pay them attention because there missing out on supplying amazing, sex positive and body safe products.

We both know that sex toys are brilliant, but they’re not for everyone. Usually, I would ask what advice you’d give to someone wanting to try sex toys. But I thought I’d flip my burger in this review and ask you this instead: What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t want to try sex toys but has a rather insistent/sex toy enthused partner?

First of all, I want to make it clear, not wanting to use sex toys is perfectly ok. If you have a loving, and supporting partner, hopefully, they’ll respect your choices.

Be it your personal stance, or if it’s come about via a shaming experience – religion, friends, socially, or past partners – it’s important to remember we all have sexual rights, and you have full control over your body. So, saying ‘no’ to sex is fine. But, just because sex toys aren’t for you, doesn’t mean your enthused partner can’t have fun with them.

A healthy conversation will need to take place so you both can share your views and desires. It may mean the enthused partner uses them solo. You may decide to incorporate sex toys indirectly, i.e., your partner wears a butt plug during the day at work. With an open dialogue, there are many possibilities which can occur, and as long as all parties are heard equally and decisions respected, people will leave the conversation feeling valid and understood.
Whatever your decision, you can always change your mind, just go at your pace, and when you’re ready. That’s what I love about sex, you can play with it, and experiment, see what you like, try it, and if you don’t like it don’t do it. I’m a sex toy aficionado, but I can go months and not be interested in using them. It’s ok.

At the end of the day, sex toys are just a toy. They’re not the be all and end of all. They’re just a toy. Use them. Don’t use them. It’s up to you. And whatever your decision – just to reiterate – that’s ok!

Oooh, just a note on sex conversations: When you do have any hard conversation, please ensure space is safe, free of emotional turmoil (not during an argument) away from your sexy spaces. Do not try to begin the conversations during sex, an argument, and respect each other’s boundaries, and be kind to each other, Listen intently and have empathy.

Sex toys are great (especially indie ones), but they’re not for everyone.

What are the five most important adult items in your opinion?

That’s easy!
1. Safer sex supplies (Condoms, dams, gloves)
2. Lubricants – Water-based and Silicone
3. Sex Ed Books
4. Bullet Vibrator
5. USB Charger!

You host local events where people can discuss sex toys, their sexuality, and anything else that is sex and body positive. Are these events always going to be local or can we expect some long-distance, technological wizardry to occur over time?

Yes most definitely! Webinars are on the list of things to do this year. As well as podcasts – in the process of setting that up now – with a few YouTube videos thrown in for good measure. My plan is to have ‘how-to workshops’ via the webinars and fingers crossed be able to share interviews too of great sex positive people, including sex bloggers and the indie makers. I’m excited to be offering a more interactive year, and being able to connect my customers and fans (can I say that? Lol) with some amazing movers and shakers of the sex ed scene. And create the ultimate sex positive community.

For the moment, it’s local private parties and Skype. But watch this space people, there will be big things happening, and it’s going to be fabulous!

Call this a bit of a selfish question if you will, but what value (if any) do you see in working with adult bloggers and sex toy reviewers?

Being selfish is necessary sometimes, and I approve.
Sex bloggers, hmm, I must admit to having mixed feelings about this.

There is an incredible amount of value and potential to working with sex bloggers. It took me a while to reach out and say ‘Hey, I do this, do you think we can work together?’ And I’m glad I did. I have had a few negative experiences, but the great ones have outshined those.

I do wish sex toy bloggers avoided brands which do cause controversy or known for bad products, but, I understand there just trying to make a living too and are representing an independent view. But it doesn’t stop me from face-palming from time to time lol

I feel sex bloggers are key to supporting us sex educators in spreading the word of sex positivity in a time free and inclusive way. You lovely sex bloggers not only support what we say, and help promote the ‘normalisation’ of sex, but also help to keep sex product brands and companies accountable – in products and social media. That’s huge!
It does give smaller businesses the opportunity to be seen, by a wider audience. Be it a small adult shop like mine, or an indie brand, sex bloggers have the power to help that business survive and thrive. It’s one of the few areas; we’re on equal ground with big businesses, which I think is mind blowing.

I’m not sure if many sex bloggers, or even businesses, realize the power you have. You’re the formidable community. I think that’s fab, and I look forward to working with them, including yourself Miss Peach, more often in the future.

Awww, shucks, I’m blushing! Please give a huge thanks to Narelle for agreeing to this interview and check out her site if you can. 

While you’re at it why not go to her Instagram too, which is full of the most lovely content (some of which is featured in this article). 

Until the next review!