By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
Two of Portland’s greatest claims to fame — its sex positivity and fondness for all things green — come together in its newest “pleasure shop,” As You Like It.
The company, which launched online in January and has plans for a brick-and-mortar store in the coming year, is the brainchild of local queer activist Kim Marks.
“We take our name literally,” Marks says. “We’re trying to create a space where people can get their sexual needs met on their terms, instead of on the terms of an industry that has largely ignored the health side of their products.”
That means AYLI is committed to only selling products that are toxin-free, environmentally friendly, and supportive of a wide range of sexualities and gender identities.
Marks’ concern with the ingredients in sex toys and sensuality products is both personal and political. As a cancer survivor with 17 years of experience as an environmental and social justice activist, including a nearly 5-year stint on the board of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, Marks is acutely aware of the impact common toxins have on the planet and on people.
“I have always been careful about what I put into my system. I also knew to watch out for phthalates in my sex toys and toxic ingredients in the body care products I used. Cancer is on the rise. Almost everyone I know knows at least one person who has been impacted by cancer in some way,” says Marks, 36, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2003. “As an environmental activist, I was more worried about what these products did to our fresh water ecosystems than to my own body.”
But Marks knows that, despite their better intentions, many people don’t have the time and resources to determine whether their sex toys are safe for their bodies and environment.
“We’re committed to doing the dirty work for our customers,” Marks says. “We research all the toys, lubricants, and other products that we carry to make sure that we don’t stock any that have toxic materials or chemicals. We also prioritize local products so that we minimize our carbon footprint by not shipping things from all over the world.”
Among the toxins AYLI avoids are phthalates (used in jelly toys), petrochemicals (including mineral oil), and synthetic fragrances (often labeled simply “fragrance” despite containing up to 200 unnamed ingredients).
“We’re also focused on being completely gender inclusive, and not just to cis women and men. We’re going to be one of the first shops to carry products for both trans women and men,” Marks says. “We also are trying to eliminate the gender essentialist language from our copy on the website and won’t tolerate any of it in our eventual brick-and-mortar [store]. People shouldn’t feel like they’re buying ‘the wrong toy’ just because their body isn’t what the manufacturers had in mind when they created the product.”
Marks is assisted in this endeavor by AYLI media manager Adisson Simon, a former photo curator for Genderfork and sole moderator of TransQueersXXX, a submission-based porn blog focused on inclusive trans sexuality.
AYLI also sells a variety of gender expression supplies — packers, gaffs, breast forms, shaping underwear, dilators, STPs, harnesses for all bodies, and, eventually, binders — as well as massage products, gifts, and dance wear such as pasties and appliqués.
“We’re about romance as well as sex,” Marks says. “And part of romance is feeling comfortable with yourself. So that’s kind of how it all ties together.”
Once AYLI finds a physical home, Marks says she hopes the shop will become a resource for all things “ecosexy.” In the meantime, she and her network have been hosting events and tabling at popular events such as Dirty Queer and Blow Pony.
You can find AYLI online at www.asyoulikeitpdx.com.