The Bay's east side can seem a little prudish, especially when compared to its slutty sister city. Until February, Oakland's only retail resources for sex were a couple of trashy adult "superstores." Those places can be fun and functional, but it's safe to bet the cashier probably isn't too concerned about answering a list of questions and making you feel comfortable with your purchase. Nenna Joiner, the owner of Oakland's new sex-positive shop, Feelmore510, is quite the opposite and simply can't wait to start friendly conversations about sex with everyone in her community.
Joiner, a sex educator and adult film director, has been dreaming about opening an Oakland shop for years, but her ideas go far beyond retail. From terminology to etiquette, Joiner says her community needs to start at the beginning, birds and bees style. "I love talking to people. People teach me new things everyday. I'm open and not judgmental. I'll talk about anything," she says after ushering a couple ladies out the door who had spent their lunch break browsing.
From basic questions to the personal, Joiner is educating from the inside out. "A guy came by the other day asking if it was gay for him to want to play with his girlfriend's butt," she says. "San Francisco takes its sexual openness for granted -- the community there is so exposed, probably overexposed," she laughs, a playful swipe at the close-knit kink communities and accessible sex-positive resources she loves.
Joiner says Oakland residents may attend erotic events like Folsom or shop for dildos west of the bridge, but when they return home, the conversation goes flaccid. She puts partial blame on years of serious bedroom talk: preventative health and safe sex practices have been a priority due to the high number of HIV cases in the area. No one is contesting the importance of these topics, but in terms of fast, slutty fun they can be total Debbie Downers. Joiner wants to put the spunk back into conversations about sexuality.
Before the shop opened, the surrounding neighborhood seemed nervous about the addition of a sex shop on the block, but Joiner has been extra careful to make sure people understand that her intentions are purely rooted in the revitalization of Oakland. She keeps up on local politics, attends city meetings, directs tourists to other neighborhood businesses, and even watches high school band concerts. She waves at people from across the street and welcomes anyone inside to chat and enjoy the space. Joiner feels supported by the city around her, which she thinks is happy to recognize her role as a successful business owner. She regularly gets friendly calls from the Alameda Small Business Association, casual check-ins to make sure she's doing well.
"They know I'm a young woman of color, working my ass off. Maybe they don't watch porn or have interest in the products I sell, but they support me because they know how hard I'm working."
Nestled between downtown office buildings on Telegraph Avenue, Feelmore510 lures in its share of curious customers during the day with a modest store front that looks more art gallery than porn hub. Inside the store, Joiner loves to play her late grandmother's vinyl collection, including Sinatra and Perry Como, which perfectly compliment the space's glowing chandeliers and velvet curtains. The shop stays open until midnight, way past the bedtime of most of her neighbors', but with the Fox Theater nearby and a collection of bars and clubs in walking distance, Joiner likes providing the night owls some after-party options.
"I stay open late because I want to help more people have great sex." Getting people off the streets and under the sheets with body-safe, pleasurable accessories-- now that's community activism!
1703 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland