Good Vibrations: Educating the Masses

SAN FRANCISCO Good Vibrations, the San Francisco-based company that has provided sex-positive products for more than 30 years, has taken its philosophy of providing adult retail education to the Web.

Good Vibrations University, launched in 2006, is an interactive webinar program designed to give adult retailers sex-positive sex education. The program took a hiatus in 2008, but is back now.

Rather than relying on senior staff members to train newer employees, retailers can simply sign up for GVU and learn from Dr. Charlie Glickman, who constructed the Sex Education Sales Associate Training Program for Good Vibrations employees in 1999.

At Good Vibrations, "the staff are both sex educators and sales associates," said Glickman, who has a Ph.D. in adult sex education from the Union Institute. "We want to balance out what we do. The job really is about sex education, but we're also selling product. So that was the most authentic way to describe what we do."

New staff members are given extensive training on the finer details of Good Vibrations products and sexuality education. Monthly educational seminars, known as Continuing Education, are required for all customer service staff, who are consider Sex Educators/Sales Associates. Those who complete the training earn the SESA title.

But Good Vibrations University is designed to branch out to all retailers, Glickman said.

“The idea of GVU is to raise the bar in the area of sex education,” Glickman told AVN Novelty Business. “It also allows us to raise the awareness of Good Vibrations within the industry.

“Excellent training gives staff the information and the confidence they need to help customers find the right products and increase sales,” Glickman added. “I designed GVU to bring my extensive experience at Good Vibrations, and our more than 30 years in the industry, to retailers and pleasure party consultants.”

The GVU program currently has six areas of study: Sexual Anatomy, Vibrators, Dildos & Harnesses, Lubricants & Condoms, Anal Sex & Toys, and Sex-Positive Sales Techniques.

Glickman said he plans to add new sessions in the future, on Cock Rings and BDSM.

The courses are open to anyone, but are geared toward retailers, particularly pleasure party consultants, Glickman noted. And retailers from around the world – even competitors of Good Vibrations – can participate.

“The competition is already out there,” Glickman said. “But there are customers of all retailers who need good information on what products will be best for them. And there are customers who do not have the opportunity to visit Good Vibrations and are not familiar with the education we offer, so this affords them that opportunity.”

Participants need a computer with high-speed Internet access and a phone, a set of headphones, or a set of attached speakers. While viewing PowerPoint presentations on the designated topic, students will hear Glickman explain different types of sexual products and how they’re used, care and cleaning info, responses to customer questions, and tips on cross-selling, up-selling, and much more.

Students can pose questions through a chat function, by phone or by USB microphone.

Each session costs $100, but those who enroll for all six classes pay only $500.

But Good Vibrations University isn’t the only way the retailer provides education on all things related to sex and sexuality.

As noted sex educators have increased awareness about the subject in recent decades, Good Vibrations helped lead the way. In 2007, Good Vibrations developed Women Like Me, a public education campaign on women’s issues such as body image, breast health, anxiety, and sexuality after 50. More than a decade before that, however, in 1995, the company deemed May as National Masturbation Month in an effort to raise awareness of masturbation and sexual health across the country.

As the sale of sex toys has become more normalized and profitable, it’s become a matter of course for retailers to offer workshops, classes, and demonstrations. Many are women-centric, and Good Vibrations’ staff sexologist, Dr. Carol Queen, helped lead that charge.

Queen started with Good Vibrations in 1990 and is also a noted essayist whose work has appeared in various anthologies. Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, a collection of her essays, is considered standard reading in several university classes throughout the country.

By 1997, Queen was talking to major mainstream publications about sex toys and sexuality on behalf of Good Vibrations.

Queen, who received her doctorate in sexology at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, helped launch the educational component of the sex shop Good Vibrations in the early 1990s. She and her partner, Robert Morgan Lawrence, were among the first to travel the country teaching sex classes in stores and at community-based organizations.

The retailer also operates an Off-Site Sex Education program, which features workshops designed with interactivity in mind.

“By facilitating discussions and sharing information, we aim to help people learn more about sex and sexuality-related topics,” the company said on its website. “In the spirit of having fun and helping folks get accurate sex information, we've transformed our knowledge and skills into learning events – fun workshops with a meaningful purpose. Each workshop gets the group engaged; packed with brainstorms, exercises, and thought-provoking discussions, participants get both an education and a positive outlook on sex while having a great time.”

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