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Zoe Ligon is not here to judge. Will she help people wade through the funny, weird, and emotional world of sex? Definitely. Will she encourage people to consider adding a massive dildo to their toy collection? Absolutely. Really, the only thing the 26-year-old sex educator and Spectrum owner won’t do is shame folks about where they are in their personal sexual journey.

Instead, Zoe advocates for the idea that one can (and should) continue to learn about pleasure and desire throughout their lifetime. Sex can usher in feelings of giddiness, power, and elation — but sometimes stirs up weird, embarrassing, and uncomfortable emotions, too. Frankly, the tepid, fear-based sex ed most people get in high school just isn’t up to navigating the complexities. So let Zoe step in and help. Nobody can do it with quite her unique style:

Photographed by Elizabeth Renstrom.

Salty: How did you first discover your own sexuality growing up?

I was not sexual at all as a young person. I felt really uncomfortable when there was any sexual energy projected onto me, especially by adults or people much older than me, so I hid. I tried to be as devoid of sexual energy as possible.

My first erotic memory, however, was a fantasy about being restrained in a box and my crush rescuing me.

Salty: How has your sexuality evolved since then?

I’ve identified as heterosexual for most of my life, but I currently feel that pansexual more accurately describes my sexual and romantic attraction. I’m also a kinky bottom who wishes they were a power bottom.

As far as my sexuality journey, sometimes I feel like I’m taking steps backward, then having to remind myself that they’re all steps forward. I went from having no sexual desire to being recklessly sexual in an effort to quell the subconscious psycho-sexual issues that plagued me for a lifetime. Now, I find myself in more of a place of harmony with those issues.

I am currently balancing my voracious sexual appetite with my need to be loved and cared for in a non-sexual, intimate manner. When I first became sexual, I had a lot of sex in order to be physically intimate with people because I thought there was no other way to achieve that. As I continue to foster a healthier outlook on my own personal sexuality, I’m realizing how vital the emotional intimacy is for me in conjunction with the physical aspects.

I went from having no sexual desire to being recklessly sexual in an effort to quell subconscious psycho-sexual issues that plagued me for a lifetime.

Salty: How do you think young people’s current sexual education and attitudes about sexuality differs from the way it was when we were coming of age?

It’s hard for me to say as an ancient 26 year old, but I certainly have faith in our young people. I learned about transgender identity towards the end of high school, but my nieces had friends in middle school who identified as transgender. Things are discussed a bit more openly now, that’s for sure. That’s just one piece of anecdotal evidence from a very progressive bubble, however.

I think entertainment and media is the best gauge on this. Porn has adversely affected the younger generation more than millennials, simply because tube sites weren’t a thing when we were little. The Butterfly Effect with Jon Ronson is a fantastic series that sums up this dynamic quite well. I love porn, but without context it is damaging to developing healthy attitudes towards sexuality. On top of that, adults can’t bring themselves to accept that kids will find porn, no matter how much they think they control what their kid sees. If you try to find sex education online, you’ll probably encounter porn first. We must begin to teach porn literacy as a part of sex education.

As far as non-porn media goes, there may be shows featuring non-monogamy, kink, and LGBTQIA+ identity, but they are still tokenized. I think it’s impossible to know how attitudes have changed given that people don’t exactly research sexual attitudes (and when they do, it’s often biased.) I felt that the way the students of Stoneman Douglas High School organized was an inspiring example of how younger people aren’t willing to be complacent as many of us millennials have been.

Photo: Elizabeth Renstrom

Salty: How did Spectrum come to life?

I worked at a sex-positive toy store for quite some time, and really missed working with toys when I left. They were how I became regularly orgasmic, and I thrived —I still thrive — on helping people find a tool that made them feel as complete as I did when I got my first Wand.

I moved from New York to Detroit to live in a place where I felt a greater sense of community and home — a true sense of collaboration over competition. My dad died suddenly and unexpectedly, and left me his retirement fund. I used the cash to get Spectrum on its feet with a full inventory, and bought myself a home since I no longer had a place I called home to return to. It was all about laying the foundation for something even more magical and financially sustainable down the road. I was sick of how the higher-ups at my previous company had made such unethical decisions for the sake of profit. I wanted Spectrum to have more of a cooperative and transparent environment — that also had a sense of humor.

It’s a retail business, but it barely feels that way because at the end of the day, it’s all about the conversations we’re having. Nearly three years into this business, I have a really fucking solid team who helped me make this dream a reality and have done a lot of heavy lifting with and for me. I had the idea, but it wouldn’t have come to fruition without this dream team.

I crusade for myth-busting and shedding light on the most uncomfortable, taboo subjects.

Salty: Let’s talk about the sex education that goes down at Spectrum. What do you find most people need a refresher on? What common misconceptions do you see?

I personally crusade for myth-busting and shedding light on the most uncomfortable, taboo subjects. Circumcision, childhood trauma, mental illness, and  nuanced areas of consent are all important to talk about. But those aren’t the things I am asked about on a daily basis. I am most frequently asked about the myth of vibrator addiction/desensitization and homophobic fears of prostate stimulation.

People are also convinced that there is one single product that is “best” (like, what’s the best vibrator ever? The best harness ever?) Everyone likes different things, because everyone is different! I cannot emphasize this enough. People also like to ask me what I like, thinking that should inform what they buy. I personally like gigantic dildos, so I generally use it as a teachable moment to prove that what I fuck myself with is irrelevant. Unless, of course, they also love huge dildos. Then I invite them to my secret guild of huge dildo enthusiasts ;).

Photo: Elizabeth Renstrom

Salty: Do you come up against a lot of internet trolls?

Yes. It is definitely best to ignore it all. It’s kind of an exercise in mindfulness. Sometimes I just have my partner read me the funny ones and spare me the upsetting ones. When I engage, it provokes the behavior and it has only rarely soothed my ego.

Sometimes I get someone to take their comments down by blatantly schooling them, and that’s fun, but if I were to continue to engage it would become a full time job. While I feel essentially immune to verbal insults at this point, I can let things get to me when I’m already emotionally vulnerable. I just remind myself that trolling is a violent act people who are hurting inside do when confronted with people or things that make them uncomfortable.

Sexuality makes a lot of people, including me, uncomfortable sometimes.

Sexuality makes a lot of people, including me, uncomfortable sometimes.

Salty: I love that you find ways to let comedy, experimentation, and sexuality exist in the same space. Did you make a conscious choice to take this approach?

I think this is just me. I can’t not have a sense of humor about it. I’m glad it naturally opposes the fear-driven sex ed approach (…which is most “sex ed”). Once I realized that humor and curiosity resonates more with people and helps dismantle the taboos more than eroticism, I just let that aspect of me blossom a bit more I suppose.

Salty: What’s the best sex advice you’ve ever received?

Take care of yourself. Seriously, just take care of yourself and the rest will come.

Salty: What’s the worst sex advice you’ve received?

The entire Sex and the City enterprise.

Photo: Elizabeth Renstrom

Salty: Here’s a big one: how would you like to see us, as a society, progress re: sexuality?

I envision a world where pleasure is no longer associated with sin and shame, marginalized identities are not fetishized, and there are sex/trauma/kink/non-monogamy/gender-aware mental and medical health professionals available through universal healthcare.

I want bodily autonomy to be valued as much as it deserves to be, and access to unbiased, comprehensive education around sex/relationships/identity.

Lastly, I want world leaders who are having such mind blowing orgasms that war and violence doesn’t even cross their minds.

Zoe Ligon is a sex educator, journalist, collage artist, and the owner of Spectrum boutique. Check out more of her work on Twitter and Instagram. Sign up for the Spectrum newsletter here.

Photography by Elizabeth Renstrom.
Styled by Cole Davis.
Videos by Paul Desilva.
Edited By Lily di Costanzo.