When it comes to physical self-care, there are any number of local resources you can turn to: yoga instructors for fitness and flexibility, spas for skincare and massage, hairdressers, manicurists, nutritionists, the list goes on. But when it comes to one of the most important expressions of your physical self, your sexuality, the corresponding services can be surprisingly difficult to find, if they exist in your neighborhood at all.
In South Philly, at least, one such resource has served as a community hub for sex education and entertainment for decades. As of this February, Passional Boutique and Sexploratorium on South Street celebrates a 22 year reign as the space to go to for anything from fetish fashion to sex education classes.
Originally just a workshop series and online boutique run out of owner Kali Morgan’s home, the space has undergone a few changes since its early days. After expanding into two adjoining locations on fifth street, one of which sold products like toys and fashion, the second location began offering a regular class series in sexual education. For a the time the space was frequented by a core audience who knew what they wanted and knew where to get it: historical re-enactors and cosplayers seeking just the right corset, sex professionals in need of supplies, members of the LGBTQ or BDSM communities seeking advice or products from friendly and knowledgeable staff.
Since its latest move to South Street in June of 2013, Ashley, an educator and sales associate at the shop, has noticed a shift in customer interest from among the general public. Now located in an area prone to heavy foot traffic, the shop attracts tourists and residents who wander in brimming with curiosity and questions.
Unbeknownst to them, these casual visitors offer the staff a return of immeasurable value. “You really get to have this personal interaction,” Ashley says of new customers coming in to the shop. One of her favorite demographics to work with is that of middle-aged and older women. “When they were [coming] of age, it wasn’t as common to talk about pleasure, women’s pleasure in particular … cesYou know this person is for the first time prioritizing her experience and coming to explore her body. To be able to be supportive of that and help find what works for them is so rewarding.”
The staff also offers the same immense value to their customers, thanks to a series of sex education courses they offer in the upstairs space. Courses cover a whole range of topics, from learning how to pleasure yourself or your partner, getting limber with belly dancing classes, or even addressing mental health when it comes to sexuality and self-love. According to regular Sexploratorium educators like Ashley and Kitten (who also doubles as a sales associate at the shop), the most popular classes are the ones that offer real-world application, like Deepthroating 101, Fire and Wax Play, and Rope Bondage for Beginners.
“They want to have the knowledge, but they also want to have a good time, they want to leave with a skill,” Ashley explains.
Outside of the spectrum of “edutainment” classes that the space offers, the very act of walking into the shop can be a learning experience. The sales associates who walk the floor will often make individualized recommendations on products or community events, based on a customer’s particular interests or comfort level. Every comfort level is infinitely welcome there, and as Ashley explains, “If you’ve never had sex before, never kissed somebody before, if your interests are whacky, if you’re asexual: wherever you are is okay.”
More information on the roster of classes offered through the Sexploratorium, as well as community events and meet-ups, can be found by following the Sexploratorium Facebook Page.