{ }
1/8

World

6.14.2019

Bedside: Reconstructing The Sexual Status Quo With Wild Flower [NSFW]

Amy and Nick Boyajian are partners in both business and life. Together they are the co-founders of Wild Flower, an online sex shop that’s defying the tightly kept gender, body, and racial norms that are quick to define the adult industry. As former sex worker themselves, Amy met Nick at a time in each of their lives when they were questioning the systems and rules around one another. It’s one of the many reasons why Wild Flower is equipped with ethical standards that disrupt even the largest manufacturers in the toy business. Think classic highway pull-off sex retailer. Both Amy and Nick have unique coming-of-age stories which deeply influence their mission at WF, and drive home their passion for ruthless standards of inclusivity. From their upbringings, to open relationship, I sat with the duo at their bedside to chat business, ethics, and what it means to be a radical change-maker.

Tell me what each of you do. What are your roles at WF?

N: I’m Nick, Co-founder and COO of Wild Flower. I essentially take care of all the infrastructure for the company: the website, the backend of inventory, and basically how we keep Wild Flower small and independent. My background is in technology and building operational systems for growing business so I’m taking that and applying it to this mission. I’m also a musician, and a creator. I do a lot of animation, and also really enjoy building robots.

A: There’s a robot skateboard upstairs and I’ll never get on it! [laughs]

I’m Amy, the Co-founder and CEO of Wild Flower, and I do most everything that is forward facing. I run our Instagram, the day-to-day involvement on our socials, and am in charge of all the packing of our orders as well as communicating with customers. Under a strict Nick budget I also am in charge of all the purchasing of product.

What did coming-of-age look like for each of you?

A: I grew up in a place called Birmingham England, which is a very blue collar working town. I had pretty much hands-off parenting. My parents were very self involved so I was kind of just left to my own devices. I ended up moving to America to get away from domestic abuse happening in my house, and I moved straight to Southern California where my Dad was living with his new family. It was the most Christian household, and so different than the experience I had in England. In my town growing up, I did things like dye my hair pink, label myself queer, I even made people call me James for a week because I’d wanted to be a boy, and my parents had always been like whatever. When I moved to America it was like oh no, you can’t do that, or that, or that. It’s about that time I just started fighting back. Oh I can’t do that? Well I’m going to start the gay straight alliance at my school, and wear rainbows everyday.

N: I grew up in central Massachusetts, outside of Boston. Little town, I had a pretty big family, I have three younger sisters, and my parents were dog breeders. It was really chaotic. You know I had a typical American sex ed: one day of it. I remember it was like, oh today you’re not going to your regular class we have this teacher coming in and everyone’s going to be laughing and snickering, and they’re basically going to teach you not to have sex.

Was there a dialogue about sex for you growing up?

A: No not at all. I didn’t even understand it. The only time I ever remember having any sort of schooling around sex was when I was in an AP bio class and we had to mate fruit flies. That was the first time a teacher was like male and female and this happens. I was like, “Woah you can say that?!” That was the only time I had any sort of “sex education”. I didn’t have a grasp on anything about sex so I had to figure it out like most things I had to figure out. I threw myself into all the books I could find, all the queer theory, all the events I could go to where people were different.

N: My parents both grew up in New England where everything is just a little more tight lipped. It was just a discussion that was never going to be had. There was no one telling me it was bad, but definitely no one telling me it was okay. As I was discovering sex and my own sexuality I definitely thought it was something to hide. It’s interesting because Massachusetts, generally speaking is a pretty liberal place, but outside of the urban centers there’s a lot of homophobia and bigotry and racism. Growing up I’ve always expressed my gender in a nontypical way: I wore a lot of girls clothes to school, I was involved in activities that people would associate with femininity like the drama club.

We could have honestly a whole conversation about drama club in high school. [laughs]

A: Oh of course! [laughs] I was in drama club too!

N: But you know because of that I actually had a really hard time. My parents were very loving and gave us the best childhood they possibly could have, but they were under a lot of stress. My dad towards the end of my teens ended up getting really sick and on a lot of pain medication, and the DEA actually flagged his prescription. He got put on probation because they were accusing him of selling his medication, which he wasn’t, and this terrible lawyer that was all my family could afford told my dad to take probation. Then they ended up testing my Dad for cannabis, which he was using to also deal with his pain, and threw him in prison. It was a federal medical prison, and within a few months of being in there he died.

I’m so sorry Nick.

N: Thank you. And so that was really difficult. To just see your dad be chewed up by the law.

How old were you when that went down?

N: Around 19.

So that must have drastically impacted your coming-of-age.

N: Totally, I mean he was sick throughout my entire high school life, and you know as a result I was going through a lot of tough stuff. I wouldn’t even want to go to school because I could barely walk down the hallway without someone yelling faggot at me. Pretty typical American high school stuff. Luckily I had a lot of extracurriculars I was passionate about. I was on a robotics team, I was in band and the drama club so all that kept me sane. To be completely candid with you I’m still not healed from all that happened with my dad. I’m definitely not over that, and it makes me distrust a lot of the systems that are in place in our society.

How do you carry that with you in the work you do with WF?

N: I think it’s a sense of social justice.

A: I think for both of us we just have this feeling of wanting to make things better. Healing our pain, our issues with our families, and the things we’ve gone through, and I think that sex and sexuality whether people realize it or not involves every single person. You were either made by having sex, or you’re having sex. A lot of people hold pain and shame, and sometimes it can go into other areas of your life like your family life, your self perception, and so it all kinda balls up. We just really wanted to create a space where people can explore those places, whether they be good places or difficult places to heal, and eventually come to a place where they can accept themselves and love themselves. A lot of sex ed and things around the industry are centered on blocking all that off and just doing this, “crazy sexy fun thing!”. We’re like no, sex can be integrated into who you are. You don’t need to switch everything about who you are off to be engaged.

I’d love to dig more into the ethics of WF. What void did you see in the industry?

A: I remember being young and sneaking into sex toy stores before I could legally get in. I would visit all these stores off the freeway [laughs] these places with a ticket booth when you walk in, and a jerk off parlor in the back, with porn playing. I was just amazed. I ate it all up, and from there I started to discover more feminist sex stores. Right now we are in a time where sex is hitting the mainstream, but with that is tangled up investors that are just about wealth, and not behind those feminist ideals.

N: Sex is going corporate basically.

A: At WF, we’re trying to keep the feminist ideals of sex stores from the 70s to 80s to now, but push it forward into this new generation of acceptance without having to sellout.

Your products are also quite ethically sourced. I read somewhere that by the time you get through your ethics checklist there are very little toys on the market that you can pick from.

A: Within the industry there’s a lot of crap. There’s a lot of old white guys selling non body safe toys in a really creepy way, but then there’s whole cool new wave of people really thinking about inclusion and toys that are body safe and toys that really meet the needs of people who are buying them. It’s about who has the toy in their hand and who’s using it. It’s also about having difficult conversations with these vendors. Being like hey we really want to carry your products, but we don’t think that’s correct. What are you going to do about it?

N: We intentionally work with manufacturers who are designing and are part of the whole process.

What should we be looking for when purchasing toys?

N: Well number 1, you should be on WF [laughs]

A: The FDA doesn’t regulate toys, and we can’t have a conversation about sex within our government unless it’s about banning it, or regulating people’s bodies. There are a lot of products out there that are used in an intimate way that are not regulated. Because of that there’s a ton of gray area about products not needing to be labeled certain ways or being mislabeled. For example, I see a lot of things out there that say “Body-Safe PVC”, but PVC is and will never be body-safe.

N: I dissect toys all the time.

A: Yes all the time! We’ve done things like burn toys to test if the silicone is pure, or if there are other chemicals. You can really see how things work that way. It’s why and how we feel confident telling people this is okay to put in the most intimate area of your body.

So you two are in a non-monogamous relationship, and you’re married. Tell me about your experience.

A: Previous to Nick most of my relationships had been open relationships. I’m talking like relationship anarchy openness [laughs]. I’d come home and my girlfriend would just have like three guys in the bed, and I’d be like, Okay, hi, nice to meet you. It was a free for all. When me and Nick met, it was always a point of discussion because he hadn’t previously explored that in his relationships, and that was my default relationship style.

N: When I met Amy I was in a monogamous relationship that was like a decade old.

Was coming to terms with non-monogamy difficult?

N: Yeah, and I’m still dealing with it to be honest. Being in a relationship like this will never be perfectly easy. It can be messy so you have to talk a lot, and sometimes you have to get mad. Sometimes you’ll feel insecure or jealous, which are all the reasons why people don’t try it, but it turns out that if you really trust someone and you love someone and you communicate really well with them that you can be honest about your desires.

A: I want a partner who supports me in what I want to explore. And like Nick said, it takes a lot of vulnerability to do what we do. You can talk through things, and all the details, but still be jealous, upset, and not get it. You have to say those things, and most of the times you have to realize those feelings are there because it’s not something someone did to you, but because they’re yours to understand. Like Nick didn’t make me jealous, I am jealous because of how I’m reacting to the situation, so you have to explore that. Am I not getting enough information, is there trauma surrounding that? You have to really analyze yourself and have moments of vulnerability. It’s all about taking your relationship and being like instead of following all these rules we were told let’s just come up with what works best for us.

Do you have advice for people navigating non-monogamy? What are some first steps if you’re considering?

A: For me it’s just throwing away all your ideas that you have about it. Whether you’ve envisioned it being a way for couples to cheat on one another, or you think it has to be this burning man free for all, everyone has these concepts that if you’re non-monogamous your this type of person. You don’t have to be anyone but yourself.

N: You also can’t force your partner into it. All parties in the relationship need to actually want it. Not just go along with it because the other party wants it. There’s a lot of reasons one might be scared, but there are also legitimate reasons to not want it. And if you find yourself wanting it and your partner doesn’t you have to consider if that’s right for you.

What do each of your sexual wellness routines look like?

N: Number one is to get tested often. Sleeping with multiple people I’m always using protection, but still get tested and make sure I’m keeping my body healthy. Also masturbate a lot, have party sex a lot, be honest about my desires, and not try to keep myself from enjoying the body that I’m in. Yeah, pretty simple.

A: I think for me it comes slightly differently and it’s tied up in my self perception. Even though I identify as non-binary I’ve been socialized as a woman most of my life. For a lot of women and femmes our sexuality is really tied into what we look like so I think for me it’s almost like creating a divide between that and realizing my self perception doesn’t have to validate or invalidate my sexuality. I like to take care of and be in tune with my body. I can manifest a lot of stress and upset so keeping myself relaxed and giving time to unwind is really important to staying sexually fulfilled. It’s really important to go get a massage, ask Nick for a massage, go to the gym and work out some stress. For me also making sure that I’m mixing up my masturbation routine. I think that when you’ve had a really hard time orgasming or you’ve lived in a society where your orgasm isn’t important or the focus once you figure out a way to come it’s like you hit the holy grail and want to do it that one way every single time. That’s one goal that I have for myself sexually: to come in as many different ways as possible.

You have a new toy that just came out. A first ever product by WF!

A: Yes, our first toy is called ENBY. Essentially it was sparked by a couple things, one of those being a common question we got from people who like to masturbate on their stomachs.

N: It was a really common question. Like, “I’m a pillow humper, what do you have for me.”

A: So it was born out of that, and then we also had a friend who was transitioning physically who was asking about toys and made a comment about having to throw out all of their toys now that their body had changed. We found ourselves thinking about how toys are so catered to specific genitalia and abilities, and we wanted to create something that was past all that. That was universally inclusive. The ENBY has transformed into this toy that you can hump, that you can flex to make into a masterbation sleeve for penises, that you can tuck inside of a harness, and easily slip between bodies. We wanted to make something was great for beginners and for those more experienced with toys.

It’s so approachable! I think a lot of sex toys are intimidating.

A: We wanted to really create something that looked visually appealing, that didn’t really have to look like a sex toy if you were to leave it out. It’s also a product that is just asking to be explored.

N: I feel like a lot of sex product designers in these categories keep redesigning the same things just with minor tweaks. We were like let’s get all these standards out of our minds and start with only our design criteria. It turned out looking like nothing that’s on the market.

So exciting! Wrapping up here, what is one thing that you want all your customers to know and/or understand when coming to WF?

A: I want people to feel like they deserve pleasure and deserve to be loved and to feel included in the narrative of the sex industries. To feel like they belong.

N: I want people to be able to express themselves and find the product that’s right for them – not what they’ve been told to buy.

A: Good sex.

N: Good sex.

Stay tuned to Milk for more sex positivity and follow the Bedside series on Instagram here.

Related Stories

New Stories

Load More

K

Like Us On Facebook

X