By Alexis Merriman
Sexuality is such an important aspect of feminism. Women throughout history constantly have had their sexualities suppressed and distorted, suffering from laws against homosexuality to censored sex education in schools. It is a bold feminist act to challenge these suppressions of sexuality, and Jacq Jones is a bold feminist.
Jacq Jones is a sex educator and owner of the adult store “Sugar,” which is located in Baltimore, Maryland. At her store, Jones offers workshops about safe, consensual sex, the use of sex toys, the G-spot, and other unique topics that allow women to explore all aspects of their sexuality in a non-judgmental, LGBT-friendly, safety- and consent-first environment. Jones is a successful businesswoman whose passion for her work inspires and liberates people of all genders to be knowledgeable about their bodies and sexualities.
Recently, I had the fortune of interviewing Jacq Jones. This experience was amazing—Jacq taught me all about squeal laws, which I had previously never heard of, and I got to hear all about the experience of being an adult toy store owner, something most people would never get the chance to learn about. To find out for yourself how incredible she is, just keep reading!
Project GirlSpire (PG): Describe your 15-year-old self in fifty words or less.
Jacq Jones (JJ): Passionate, driven, probably far less awkward than I thought I was. Somehow I magically had the ability to set pretty good boundaries, so I didn’t do a lot of the things my peers were doing, which I sure as hell weren’t ready to do. I have a lot of gratitude for that.
PG: Where were you at age 15? (Physical location)
JJ: Going to high school in Worthington, Ohio and living in Marion, Ohio.
PG: Where are you now? (Physical location)
JJ: Baltimore, Maryland (by way of Minnesota, Connecticut, and New York City).
PG: Did you know who or what you wanted to be at 15?
JJ: I certainly didn’t know that I wanted to own a sex toy store! However, at age fifteen, I was already very interested in the limited access to information regarding reproductive healthcare and birth control, and how that had an impact on women’s roles in society and their ability to do the things that they wanted to do. And I was very interested in what we called at the time “squeal laws”, which were laws that require a young woman to notify her parent or guardians if she needed to access an abortion. And that was actually what got me into reproductive rights and reproductive justice.
PG: 15-year olds tend to hate everything, what was going on in your world that you hated and wanted to change?
JJ: I was very interested in Amnesty International and working to end apartheid in South Africa. And of course I wanted to change my parents, they were terrible… they weren’t terrible, but they were terrible. And I was also really passionate about theater, and I desperately wished that I were a more talented as an actress. And I probably wanted to change how I interacted with boys. I was awkward as hell.
PG: At 15, we always think it’s the worst of times; were they really the worst or were they the best of times?
JJ: Oh, they were the worst. One hundred percent. And honestly when I was 15, multiple of my friends attempted suicide. I was struggling with undiagnosed depression, and I am thrilled that all of us made it out of 15 alive.
PG: What were the top 5 songs on your playlist at 15?
JJ: Definitely Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumors”, and anything by Prince. That was around the year that Paisley Park came out, which was his first album after Purple Rain. So, “America” was one of my favorite songs, as was “Paisley Park”. I was also a big fan of Sting. And I’ll be honest, Amy Grant.
PG: What literary, movie or TV character did you identify most with at 15?
JJ: Probably even to this day, Anne of Green Gables.
PG: At 15, what was your idea of a dream job?
JJ: I don’t know! My actual job was working at Perkin’s, and that really wasn’t awful, although I did have nightmares about making bread bowl salads because those could be overwhelming! My dream job at the time was probably working in politics or acting. But I figured out that teaching is a lot like performing.
PG: What were you reading at 15?
JJ: Everything! I have always read everything. When I was little, I begged my mom to teach me how to read. I read Alice Shrugged, I read all of Bridge to Terabithia, which is one of my favorite books. One of the books that we read in high school was called The Ascent of Man, which featured a history of the impact of technology and the abolition of technology on western societies. That book really got me thinking about why we study the past. We look at history to look at all the things around it, and when we look at things today, we have to look at the historical context. In a culture in which everybody is dying young because of a lack of access to healthy water, how will access to clean water change things? When we look at Flint, Michigan today, what is the future impact of lead exposure? What we know from a historical perspective is that we will probably see a significant increase in violence. Those kinds of things really framed a lot of how I think about the world today.
PG: As far as high school stereotypes go, which category did you closely fit into?
JJ: I have no idea. Weird, quirky, odd. I went to an alternative program, and all of us were freaks. Theater geeks as well. But definitely not normal—100% not normal.
PG: Who are you today and what makes you successful?
JJ: Today I’m a business owner. I’m a sex educator. I’m married, I’m a lesbian, and I’m a feminist. And I think a lot of what makes me successful is that I’m very passionate about what I do. I’m privileged to be able to do something that I believe 100% in, and that belief and that fire are what get me through the really boring parts. Like today, I spent a decent chunk of the day entering checks into QuickBooks. My parents instilled in me the necessity to be independent, to believe in myself, and to question everything around me. They caused me to question some things and get some answers I wouldn’t expect.
PG: What achievement of yours would your 15-year old self be most proud of?
JJ: Probably owning a sex toy store, although I’d be mortified! But also probably pretty proud that I own a business and that I’m able to create a work environment that’s positive and supportive for my coworkers and for my customers.
PG: Today, are you the person you thought you’d be at 15?
JJ: Oh, I had no idea. I think that there’s a lot of me that really hasn’t changed much. I think one of the gifts of not being 15 is having a better skillset to deal with a lot of things. But I still read like crazy, and I still have symptoms of depression, though now I actually know how to manage them, which I’m so grateful for. I still really value my friends and my chosen family. I still believe in love and romance. And I’m still passionate about the things I was passionate about then. I’m just me!
PG: If you could say anything to your 15-year old self, what would it be?
JJ: Just hang in there. It gets better; it really does. One of the beautiful parts of not being fifteen is that you can find your people, and within every community, there’s a community for everybody. It might take a little bit of time to find it, and it might not be as obvious. And nothing against people who are popular in high school—I married one, and she’s lovely—however, that wasn’t my story at all, and I’m grateful that that wasn’t my story. My people, my freaks—we’re far more interesting than some other people.