TOPHER TALK: Erotic Trade Only Magazine | December 2018
There are a few traditions that most of us are used to at Christmas time; overindulging in food and alcohol, seeing family, forgetting what day it is, watching crap TV and sleeping in. But there’s one that not-so-many of us know about: the thirsty messages. Each year when my WhatsApp starts exploding, I suddenly remember ‘Oh yeah! Everyone’s off work’. I don’t know how familiar you are with the ‘hangover horn’ but it’s particularly prevalent at Christmas time. It’s a unique phenomenon where you wake up particularly horny the day after drinking. With this in mind, I think I can tell you without telling you how my yuletide was. Let’s just say that after messaging back-and-forth with a closeted ‘straight’ gentleman that I know… I made the yuletide gay.
I got invited to a family Christmas party where I quickly realised that I was the only single adult in the room. Don’t get me wrong – this wasn’t the focus of my evening at all as I was just happy to see the Irish side of my family. BUT there was the underlining realisation of “oh…” as even my gay cousin has settled down. It was the first time I had seen some of my family in person for a long time, so it was nice catching up with them about their lives as well as chatting about the more vanilla aspects of mine. Am I seeing anyone special? Yes, a few actually. I kept it PG13 though.
“I began working behind the till at the tender age of 18, where I was corrupted. Only joking, I was educated and more improtantly – I was fascinated”
A few days before Xmas, I did have quite a disheartening moment whilst wandering through Soho. I’d gone into central London to pick up some last-minute bits for my Xmas hibernation and was hit by the realisation of how much of Soho’s SEX has dissipated. And by dissipated, I mean pushed out by expensive rents and licensing costs. I can’t remember the last time that I was offered a massage, private dance or blowjob whilst wandering through Tisbury Court and to me that’s sad. There’s a few of those ridiculously overpriced sportswear shops that teenagers’ queue to get into – which I find bizarre as when I was a teenager, I could barely scrimp enough change together to buy a bottle of Lambrini to drink in Soho Square. There’s also a shop on Old Compton Street that’s dedicated to simply selling posh crisps. Not bags of crisps, you select from a window of crisps which are delicately placed into a paper serving tray. At the heart of what used to be the gay UK. Hideous.
Other than the carnal stuff and moaning about Soho, Christmas time is one of my favourite times of year to be in our line of work. During November and December, my inbox is full of emails from customers and phone is full of messages from friends who are asking for sex toy advice and that’s always what I want and enjoy. I feel like I spend so much time typing words out for magazines and product descriptions, that I crave a little human interaction and more importantly: being asked questions. Singles, couples, and groups are planning for a couple of weeks off from work and what exciting accessories they can insert into their bedrooms (and themselves). If you read my previous column, you’d know that I started behind the till so It’s engrained in me to speak with people about sex and sex toys. Therefore, this is a great time of year for me as I get to flap-my-jaw and talk about sex. It’s quite hard to study and psychoanalyse people by email, but it’s always going to be better than sales reports, analytics, and admin.
Christmas time is, from my experience in adult retail, a great way to get a customer into a new type of product or to find a new type of customer. A simple way to do it is to write a Christmas Gift Guide blog and embed it into your website as well as pushing it on your social media channels. It may feel like a waste of time and you may think that ‘no-one’s going to read this’ but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the reaction you’ll get to content which is personalised to your brand. Even the most seasoned players out there need a little guidance. With this in mind, if you’re reading this close to Valentine’s Day – why not focus on your SINGLE customers this February 14th?
2019 has started well for me. I’ve just been interviewed for a very famous dating apps news website and have just completed a podcast recommending my favourite men’s sex toys for Valentine’s Day. I’ve been writing a lot, reading up on different aspects of sexuality that I don’t have much personal experience with and binge-watching Netflix. Work is busy, my dating life is chaotic and I have still not mastered a good-nights-sleep.
I thought I’d begin my first ETO column by introducing myself (as besides what my photos may suggest… I’m not quite egotistical enough to assume that you know who I am). My name is Topher Taylor. I’m just about to celebrate my 10th year in the adult toy industry, an industry which I joined due to my fascination with sex, pleasure and the psychology behind it. I got into the industry the old school way, as a retail boy at a couple of sex shops. It all began for me in Soho. Home. I love Soho and wanted a tie to the streets. I began working behind the till at the tender age of 18, where I was quickly corrupted. Only joking. I was educated and more importantly – I was fascinated. I was taken under the wings of local working ladies, owners of ‘dodgy’ sex shops and learned the trade from the ground up.
Over the next few years; and after a few companies, and business changes, I slipped into product testing, reviewing and ultimately taking control of PR, Social Media & Brand for a major gay retailer (Clonezone) where I am today. I don’t have a degree in sexology or a degree of any kind of degree for that matter… but I do have front-line experience with people and a genuine love for our industry. A decade of liaising with customers, brands and being involved with product launches has given me a unique perspective within the world which helps me to guide, advice and most importantly – have really good orgasms. I can’t teach someone else if I don’t know myself, right? That’s what I tell myself anyway.
How was it for you?
2018 has been a whirlwind for me but a very progressive whirlwind. I suddenly felt like my decisions were making wheels turn, was traveling all the time and I was seeing good things happen. In February I won ‘Best Retailer’ in a gay scene magazine awards, which I don’t really know if I was expecting or not. I was there until midnight and then at 10am, I was on a Eurostar making my way to Antwerp to promote at DARKLANDS (Leather and Fetish Pride). Before my feet had even touched the ground, I was thrown into an indoor fetish festival held in a huge Hangar building, FULL of all of the debauchery you can imagine. It’s not often I feel innocent or particularly vanilla, but I can assure you that I felt stripped of any of my sex-credibility. The week was an amazing experience and taught me a lot about how people shop fetish and what it means to them. If you’re a retailer wanting to up your BDSM sales – my advice is to get yourself into the underground. Talk to local club owners, get to events and keep your ears to the ground on kink social media. The scene is ever-changing and you need to be ahead-of-the-curve. Don’t wait for people to come into your shop and ask for something. Have it for them already.
The next couple of months were extremely colourful as always. After moving into my new place and breaking not one; but two, bedframes, the weather started to warm up and the promise of summer was on the horizon.
It was then that I was informed that I had been nominated for a Porn Award. My instant reaction was “It’s for Clonezone” but was quickly told that no, the nomination was in fact in MY name and was for ‘Best Social Media Personality – Sponsored by CAM4’. Contrary to popular belief, I have not done porn. I mean, I post photos with my thighs open all the time wearing very little but I don’t do porn. I was originally confused but was told that my award was due to my association with the industry, through my work and there had apparently been many who had put my name forward. The awards took place May 18th and to be completely honest with you, I was extremely busy sorting out a mid-show fashion show that I had arranged, so my mind was elsewhere during the giving of trophies. I wasn’t expecting to win the award but was just happy to have a nomination. Suddenly loads of people started screaming and pulling me from backstage. It wasn’t until I was pulled onto the stage that I realised I had won. I could hear people screaming and could see porn models that I’ve worked with for years clapping in the front row, but it’s all a blur.
Summer in the city
I turned twenty-nine in June which spun me into an existential crisis about where my life is going now that I’m fast approaching 30.
July. Oh, July. If you’re in the gay sector, you know all about Pride in London. This is a big event if you’re a gay business and obviously, Clonezone is in the heart of everything. We arranged to take part in the parade… but let me assure you that this is not as glamorous as it sounds. The paperwork, logistics and boring chaos which you are pulled into by taking part is quite overwhelming. You spend almost all-day-every-day for weeks planning your participation in a parade which lasts for an hour or so. On July 7th it happened and it was one of the most stressful experiences of my life but also one of the most rewarding. We ended up having issues with our float and sound, but it was punk rock and fabulous. People were asking to join us and the models involved had an amazing time. The most important thing about doing Pride is to be visible and show the community that you’re here, you’re still queer and you’re probably sunburned from standing in the July sun for 4 hours.
As the rest of the year has been happening, I’ve just been taking it as it comes. I’ve been paying close attention to social, listening to customers, reading feedback to my reviews and generally trying to keep my head above water in London. It’s a crazy life but I love my job. Sometimes I want to pinch myself because I feel like the luckiest tart-with-a-heart in the world.