TOPHER TALK: Erotic Trade Only Magazine | January 2019

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 in which 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 underlying 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.

“…don’t forget about singles this V Day as I’ve always found that marketing solo toys at this year is a success, especially if you display a sense of humour about the expectation to celebrating it with a significent other”

A few days before Christmas, 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 Christmas 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 are a few of those overpriced sportswear shops that 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. There’s also now a shop on Old Compton Street that’s solely dedicated to selling posh crisps. Not bags of crisps, no. 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 heart of gay UK. Hideous.

Sex talk

Other than the carnal stuff and moaning about Soho, Christmas is one of my favourite times of year to be in our line of work. During December, my inbox is full of emails from customers and my phone is full of messages from friends who are asking for sex toy advice. That’s what I enjoy. I feel like I spend so much time typing words out for magazines and descriptions, that I crave a little human interaction and more importantly: 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 important to me to speak with people about sex. A lot of it’s by email and, even though it’s quite hard to study and psychoanalyse people by email, it’s always going to be better than sales reports and analytics. Christmas time is, from my experience in adult retail, a great way to get a customer into a new type of product or find a new type of customer. A simple way to do it is to write a Christmas Gift Guide blog, 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? Most adult retailers (well, all retailers for that matter) focus on couples at this time of year which is obviously a very beneficial market, especially with sex toys. But don’t forget about singles on V Day as I’ve always found that marketing solo toys at this time of year is a success, especially if you display a sense of humour about the expectation to be celebrating it with a significant other.

2018 ended as chaotically fabulous as the year was itself. On the evening BEFORE New Year’s Eve, I headed to Torture Garden for their annual ‘Not NYE’ party, wearing probably the least-clothing I have been outside of the house in since being born. Eight hours of dancing in thigh high boots with a corset squeezing my ribs, stomach, and diaphragm are about as comfortable as you can imagine — so I was not surprised to find welt marks on my hip bones the next day — actual New Year’s Eve. I had promised myself a quiet evening, but my friends who are visiting from Mexico wanted to ‘experience London’ so we took them to a Brixton house party (on the actual Electric Avenue — thanks Eddie Grant), and then onto a queer night in Dalston.

2019 has started well for me. I’ve just been interviewed for a famous dating app’s news website and have just completed a podcast recommending my favourite toys for Valentine’s Day. I’ve been writing a lot, reading up on different aspects of sexuality that I don’t have personal experience with and binge-watching Netflix. If you haven’t caught ‘You’ and ‘Sex Education’, stop what you’re doing and watch them now. Work is extremely busy; my dating life is chaotic and I have still not yet mastered a good-nights-sleep.