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Martial hearts! At sex-toy shop Babeland, workers to be trained to defend themselves

Brooklyn Paper
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Talk about getting your kicks.

Workers at upscale sex-toy store Babeland in Park Slope may soon be getting lessons in martial arts as part of their new union-negotiated benefits package because homophobes and other bigots sometimes get a bit too frisky at the shop.

“We asked for a number of different safety trainings, which includes self defense, because customers do get physical,” said Stella Casanave, a non-binary-gendered Windsor Terrace native who works at the mom-and-pop shop’s SoHo outlet.

The move comes after a recent rise in homophobes entering the shop and targeting their venom at queer and transgender employees, prompting workers to request martial arts training and other security measures.

Babeland staff subsequently voted to organize through the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in May, in large part because they thought management was not providing enough support for workers facing routine harassment at the hands of customers.

“Because the demographics of the work force are such, you do get people who are looking to target trans women, they’re looking to target young lesbian women,” said Phil Andrews, the union director who’s negotiating with Babeland on behalf of workers.

Babeland owner Claire Cavanah said the problem is real and her business is doing what it can to deal with it.

“There have been a bigger number of prank calls, and, in some instances, there are people who act inappropriately in the store,” said Cavanah. “People just get kind of crazy, and we kind of stumbled in our actual store-manager positions there, and the hourly workers felt they were not being backed up.”

In addition subsidizing martial-arts training, Babeland will provide seminars teaching employees how to support each other in confrontations, to formulate exit strategies, how to prevent themselves from getting cornered, and to use verbal and physical cues to de-escalate threatening situations.

Workers also deal with shoppers who fail to perceive the distinction between asking a salesman at Home Depot what brand of power sander he prefers, and inquiring whether a sex educator at Babeland prefers her handcuffs with, or without fuzz, according to Andrews.

“It’s a sex-toy shop, so you have people being a little ignorant and thinking that, because it’s a sex-toy shop they can ask questions like, ‘What vibrator do you use?’ ” Andrews explained. “It’s kind of creepy, but not intentional.”

On last week’s edition of Brooklyn Paper Radio, Cavanah pointed out that it is store policy to not divulge if workers there have taken any devices for a test ride, and instead just point out what product manufacturers purport their products do.

Babeland and employees are about halfway through bargaining negotiations, and are expected to sign a contract that will put the new training and security measures into affect sometime before year’s end, Andrew said.

As always, Brooklyn Paper is hard on the Babeland beat. Just last week, we broke the news that the store is certified “senior-friendly,” thanks to its wide aisles, discounts, and quiet music.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Linda Lovelace from The Heights says:
Senior access ramps ought to do a lot for business
Oct. 31, 2016, 1:19 pm

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