After violent vandalism, New Mexico sex shop crowdfunds security

A New Mexico sex shop has endured a violent wave of vandalism over the last six months. Now, it’s asking the Internet to help beef up its store security in order to protect the community. But will it be enough to stop the attacks from happening?

Self Serve Sexuality Resource Center is a locally owned Albuquerque, N.M., sex shop. According to the description on its GoFundMe page, it provides “a sex-positive alternative to the old-school adult store.”

We believe sex is healthy and pleasure is good for you. Since 2007 we have created safe space for people to explore their desires and discover endless possibilities for pleasure and healing.  

But not everyone in Albuquerque is keen on Self Serve’s business model. The store has been attacked six times since August. Perpetrators have kicked in doors, repeatedly smashed windows, and even attempted to flood the store. In January, the attacks escalated and became still more frightening. On GoFundMe, store co-owner Mattie Fricker wrote:

On Monday January 19th a rock was shot through our front window. A few days later on Thursday January 22nd (while store owner Matie was in the store), another rock was shot through the window. It came through the window like a bullet and was honestly terrifying. We believe it was shot from a high powered sling shot or other trajectory device because the rock broke on impact and a small rock caused big damage. We feel like our store is not safe at night when we leave. 

Fricker told Salon that local police had failed to follow up on any of the store’s vandalism claims. Facing rising damage costs, threatened livelihoods, and no end in sight, the store turned to the community for help. The GoFundMe campaign asked donors to help the store pay for the cost of replacing glass windows with Plexiglass and installing a surveillance camera outside the store. In 11 days the owners managed to reach their modest $7,000 goal. 

Self Serve isn’t alone. As Salon noted, incidents of harassment, threats, and violence are stories shared by sex shops around the country. Numerous workers spoke of verbal harassment and inappropriate behavior from customers. One worker reported receiving a rape threat from a caller, while others spoke of having stink bombs, rocks, and even lit fireworks thrown through their store windows. Worldwide, sex shops have long been the victims of political tensions: In 1972, Jerusalem’s first sex shop was the subject of intense protests and later a bombing. In 1979, detractors smashed the windows of a sex shop in the U.K. while protesting male violence against women. In 2003, a website called War Line briefly attempted to shame adult bookstore patrons in Kentucky and Indiana by photographing them as they entered and uploading their photos.

While items of sexual pleasure are more freely available than ever thanks to the Internet, acts of violence against sex workers around the world remain high. Additionally, many businesses in the sex work industry, regardless of legality, suffer stigmatization from their local community and even online professional networks.

In Self Serve’s case, crowdfunding aims to increase the shop’s safety in the future. But the stigma that leads to violence for these businesses persists. 

Photo via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY SA 3.0)

Aja Romano

Aja Romano

Aja Romano is a geek culture reporter and fandom expert. Their reporting at the Daily Dot covered everything from Harry Potter and anime to Tumblr and Gamergate. Romano joined Vox as a staff reporter in 2016.