More than a toy shop, She Bop offers sex education, inclusivity

Photo by Amelia Doyle

She Bop is a women-owned sex toy boutique in the Portland area with two locations. The Division shop, located in Southeast Portland, is now open to the public after being closed due to COVID-19. The Mississippi shop is located in North Portland and offers online ordering and curbside pick-up.

Two Lewis & Clark alumni, A.J. Zimpfer ’10 and Gretchen Leigh ’13, are currently working at She Bop. Zimpfer is the general manager of She Bop and has been working there for about ten years. Leigh serves as the events coordinator and has been working at She Bop for seven years. Both of them have also taught sex education classes at LC, mainly through the Forest Residential Advisors (RAs) and the Feminist Student Union (FSU). According to Zimpfer, She Bop sells an array of body-safe products that people can use. 

“One thing that sets She Bop apart from some of the other sex toy boutiques is that all of our toys are non-toxic, so they’re gonna be body-safe,” Zimpfer said. “It’s a curated collection of products that we stand by that are made of high-quality ingredients and materials.”

She Bop prides itself not only on being a sex-positive, body-inclusive sex shop, but also on having a strong events program that seeks to educate people on all different types of experiences. Both Leigh and Zimpfer have taught sex education classes at LC. Classes touch on topics such as sex, relationships, toys and much more. 

“I would say our most popular classes are things that are skills based, like different kinds of sex acts, and they have tangible skills and live demos and things that people can take home with them,” Leigh said. 

During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many She Bop classes were moved online. Now, all of the classes are still accessible through the She Bop website.

“Most of the (events) are geared toward anybody who is an adult who wants to learn more about themselves, sexual empowerment, relationships (and) communication in and out of the bedroom,” Leigh said. “We usually offer at least four classes per month, on weekdays in the evenings … People from all over the world attend our classes now.” 

Zimpfer wants to expand the education program beyond just these online classes. 

“I (would) also love to see our education program expand into being able to do in-person classes again eventually, but also keep the online components,” Zimpfer said. “The online thing has been really wonderful.”

She Bop is very inclusive when it comes to gender and sexuality, and the classes are taught with all sorts of different bodies in mind. Going forward, Zimpfer wants to emphasize a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“The area that we, as a white-owned, white-run business, have really been missing out on in the last two years was diversity, equity and inclusion and our commitment to anti-racism,” Zimpfer said. “So after I became the general manager, I helped to get a sign-up for DI (Diversity and Inclusion) consulting, which we did for a year and have really been throwing ourselves into that work, which I’m really proud of us doing.” 

Zimpfer hopes to continue this commitment to diversity in the future to ensure that it becomes a value of She Bop.

“In addition to sex toys and books about sexuality (and) relationships, we also carry gender expression items and consider ourselves a resource center for people all along the gender spectrum,” Zimpfer said. “So we have products like breast forms, gaffes, packers, packing underwear, harnesses — all sorts of different things that other shops don’t carry.” 

According to Leigh, over recent years both the Forest RAs and the FSU have reached out to She Bop to set up sex education classes. Recently, Leigh taught a toy class with the FSU. They really enjoy teaching college students because of the changing cultural conversations around sex, and because younger people are learning more about consent and tend to ask complex questions.

Another thing that Leigh recalls is that every time they have taught in person, one person in the class has asked how to be a sex educator. Leigh’s advice to these students is to get involved wherever they can, find different sex-positive, body-positive places, attend different sex education classes and start volunteering.

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