A friend with benefits returned to the Fourth Avenue district with the reopening of Jellywink Boutique, a queer-friendly sex toy shop.
Erin Voss is taking over the shop originally opened by Ally Booker.
"There's no place like Jellywink in Tucson except for Jellywink," Voss said. "When Ally opened Jellywink, it was revolutionary. It was like there was no place in Tucson that was this really queer-friendly, inclusive space."
When you walk through its doors, Jellywink greets you with a rainbow flag hanging at the entrance, a doormat saying "all are welcome here" and a table filled with books on kink and sexual health. Sex-positive sayings—"safer sex is self care"—adorn the walls alongside portraits of heavyset models in sexy lingerie, creating a welcoming environment.
While Booker wasn't able to sustain the shop, Jellywink earned a lot of loyalty from devoted customers during the time it was open.
"Jellywink provided this really unique and safe environment for women and queer people, trans people, people of color, people of size, differently-abled people to go explore, try to get their kink on and like feel safe and comfortable," Voss said. "I can't do things that I'm not passionate about, and I'm absolutely passionate about what this business stands for and what we do."
Alongside the toys, outfits and lubes, Voss plans to host workshops to explore sexual topics that are often considered taboo so that attendees can become more comfortable with their fantasies and kinks.
"Jellywink will be offering workshops on a lot of different topics—like queer, inclusive, basic sex ed," Voss said. "So what that means is safer sex practices and pregnancy prevention for everybody."
A 2015 Guttmacher Institute study noted that fewer that 6 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students in their teens and early 20s said their health classes had included positive representations of LGBT-related topics. Voss says it's vital to provide that community with basic sex ed.
She also says the kink community deserves an accepting space to explore their desires.
"We can't pretend people ain't spanking each other," said employee DiAn Augustus. "I want them to come in with whatever feelings they have and leave feeling like they've met a really good, safe friend to talk about sex with and get good information. Even if they don't leave here with a toy in their hand, I would love for them to understand this as a space where they can come and get good information that's safe for them, good for them, and good quality merchandise as well."
And just where does a name like Jellywink come from?
"You have to come to the shop to find out," said Voss.
Those 18 and over can find Jellywink at 416 E. Seventh St., just one store over from its original location. Summer hours are noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.