How Zoë Ligon Became the Duchess of Dildos

Category: POV Podcast

Author: Aria Vega

Zoë Ligon knows that sex education can’t be just for kids when most of us become adults without info on bodies, pleasure, and consent. That’s where a sense of humor can really come in handy.

Zoë Ligon is an author, artist, and the founder of Spectrum Boutique. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram

Here are the Duchess of Dildos’ Top 5 Dongs:

- Pure Wand — Njoy

- Jollet 2.0 — Luzarte

- Maverick — Vixen

- Gambler — Vixen

- Corn dildo — Self Delve

Have thoughts, feedback, or story suggestions? Send an email or voice memo to askaria@lustery.com and our host Aria is on Twitter

This show features explicit language and sexual content, and is intended for a mature audience.

Theme song by LAS ODIO

Podcast Transcript:

Zoe Ligon-RC1.wav

Aria Vega [00:00:00] This podcast contains explicit content. Listener's discretion is advised.

Aria Vega [00:00:05] POV by Lustery explores culture, politics and creativity in the sex industry, one point of view at a time. I'm your host, Aria Vega. Zoë Ligon is an artist, journalist and sex educator known to the internet as the Duchess of Dildos. She's also the founder of the online only sex toy shop Spectrum Boutique, which she has helmed since 2015. For Zoë, the work of sex education must be expansive to be effective, reaching far beyond the bounds of classroom settings in childhood.

Zoë Ligon [00:00:41] [Interview] So I think that when we talk about sex education in schools, there is a very important component that is missing. Like, yes, we need inclusive, comprehensive sex education. But even if you happen to go to a school where they're really teaching you everything, it's inclusive, it's a pretty broad overview of sexuality.... The world we live in does not facilitate that positive information. I'm still unlearning the myths about sexuality that I have gleaned from pop culture, Cosmo Mags. Funnily enough, I've written things for Cosmo now, so it has come full circle in that — I used to hide Cosmo under my pillow and now I'm writing for it, oh my god. Let's change it! But there's a reason that exists. People eat that up because I don't know... I think that non-pornographic movies taught me more toxic myths about sex and sexuality than porn.

Aria Vega [00:01:44] Say more about that!

Zoë Ligon [00:01:46] Yeah, I cannot — to this day, do not make me watch a romantic comedy. I will just be in pain the whole time and annoyed. It's not even — OK, like, obviously, the sex scenes are terribly shot the vast majority of the time, unless someone's blessed enough to have an intimacy coordinator who's really good at what they're doing and a director who's, you know, whatever.

Aria Vega [00:02:09] But that only just started happening, which means nothing that you can see that's older than five years old is going to have that.

Zoë Ligon [00:02:16] Yeah. For me, it's not even like the 15 second hump and release and sheet over the body conveniently covering the nipples because like, we all know that's silly. For me, it's like the toxic, like nagging, like the chase. Just like all those tropes are so icky, I hate them. But just watching these sexual mores play out that we all know so well, like lust and passion being emphasized over stability and compatibility, and all that stuff is really... It's hard.

Aria Vega [00:02:56] I very much agree. When it comes to romantic comedies in particular, I think one of the most like insidiously awful things about the stories is that they reward the male lead for stalking and harassment, actual objective stalking and harassment, and frame it as like, well, she doesn't know what's best for her. She doesn't know what she wants, but you do so you just need it right sweep her off her feet until she figures it out, until she figures out what's best for her, which is obviously you.

Zoë Ligon [00:03:31] Yeah, Pretty Woman, Captain Save-A-Hoe, rescuing, giving a sex worker a better life. Obviously there's multiple layers in that movie, but that's just one that comes to mind as a movie that I think is really celebrated. But if you're a movie person, I did do a Bechdel Cast episode on The Stepford Wives, both the original and the 2000s remake with Nicole Kidman. Funnily enough, the original is a horror. The remake is a comedy. And in the comedy remake, which I had seen so many times, that was definitely one of the movies I saw when I was younger and loved it. I thought it was so funny. I was like, Oh my God, boobs! Whoa! But even in that movie, I mean, spoiler alert, you are having a man save the day. Even a man who does all the shitty, fucked up stuff is still redeemed in the end. It's like that rewarding behavior that you're talking about, where this coercive or abusive behavior is rewarded and "getting the the girl," you know.

Aria Vega [00:04:47] [Voiceover] Zoe says she'd never really heard the term "sex educator" before becoming one herself. She grew up attending mostly Quaker schools in Silver Spring, Maryland, before attending a Catholic university. Despite the storied conservatism of these religious sects, Zoë received a decent sex education throughout her schooling, including sex and gender electives in college. After graduating in 2013, she snagged her first job at a sex shop at a brick and mortar store in New York. But she was always dreaming bigger.

Zoë Ligon [00:05:18] [Interview] To be quite honest, I really always wanted to have my own shop. My dad passed away in 2014, and I like to really bring that to the forefront of how Spectrum came into creation, because when it comes to starting your own business, people do not want to give you money or a line of credit for opening a sexuality business. So was I set for life? Absolutely not. Was I anticipating my dad dying? No. But what I inherited from my dad, I like to be transparent about that. It gave me the freedom to create a business without the investors or whatever that I would have to bend and contort my business model to please. So that gave me the freedom to create an online business. But yeah, I really feel frustrated when people talk about like, Oh, I blinked and my business started. No, it was a couple of years before it was really even its kind of own self-sufficient thing. I wanted to create a business that ultimately would be something that could sustain my life, and also like the other sex educators who helped me make it what it is today... I have a really amazing team of people who have been selling sex toys for even longer than me. They teach me so much as well, and I'm really grateful for just like throughout the years, acquiring such a dependable group. And bottom line is that it's certainly not just me anymore.

Aria Vega [00:07:01] [Voiceover] Long before she was running her own sex toy company, Zoë had always been comfortable starting conversations and creating art that related to bodies and sexuality.

Zoë Ligon [00:07:11] [Interview] When I was 18, I was making collage art out of porn that I would buy at flea markets. So I was basically just doing like found material art, and everything I was able to get my hands on was what I would feature in my art. So it got progressively smuttier throughout the years. And I think just, very inherently, having the comfort around the material made it really easy to talk about sex. I think so much of what being a sex educator for me is about, and I identify as like a peer educator, I'm not certified in anything, I think it's so much about just having the bedside manner of being able to make people feel comfortable to ask the questions in the first place, and then being honest and not being too not projecting yourself onto it too much, really having a non-judgmental approach to what people are bringing to you, of course, you know, as long as everything is safe, consensual between adults, yada yada. I think most people just want the reassurance that they are, quote unquote "normal." And what does normal mean? Well, doesn't really mean a whole lot. It's a bit subjective, but that's that's kind of the point. I think a lot of people are just not even sure where to begin looking for the answers — we act like sex education is for kids and adolescence, yada yada. It's just like an ongoing thing. Sex does not end at a certain point in the life, and it certainly changes as we get older and we have to learn how to adapt as we get older.

Aria Vega [00:08:55] [Voiceover] Zoë is right. The learning never really stops. We may discover something new about our gender or sexuality, or maybe we give birth or go through cancer. All of these changes and more impact the way we have sex. So we should all have somewhere safe to go to talk about them. Zoe has dedicated her work to creating just that type of space. Spectrum is more than just a shop. It's also a digital journal for the thoughts and experiences of prominent sex educators, sex workers and other industry experts. You can find essays, videos and even a forum with over 7000 posts to date, covering everything from energy orgasms to hypnosis kinks. Zoë makes a point to cover the topics that you probably won't find in an issue of Cosmopolitan from the past or the present.

Zoë Ligon [00:09:47] [Interview] Let's publish an article on watersports! Let's publish an article on chastity! Let's talk about all the other things that I keep having to answer for customers when I could just ideally send them a link to a more well thought out piece addressing these frequently asked questions. So the journal is really, I would say, my passion. I mean, I sex toys are my passion. They are what have allowed me to be an orgasmic individual. But yeah, having the journal be a big part of it also just really helps me connect with the community as a online shop and not as a brick and mortar. And I really love getting to collage different voices together to create multiple perspectives.

Aria Vega [00:10:39] So in addition to the educational content that you create over various platforms, you also create entertainment. You're an OnlyFans creator, and your Twitter followers are also treated to a multitude of erotic imagery. One of the things that makes that content so special, though, is your willingness to incorporate humor and even like goofiness into these images that are supposed to be sexy. Like there's a post, a recent post on your Twitter of a dildo on the hood of a car that's driving through the forest and peak foliage.

Zoë Ligon [00:11:14] Yes, I was in the Upper Peninsula at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which is a national park. I recommend everybody check out. It is like the Grand Canyon, but on a great lake. So beautiful. Anyway, I was just with my friend visiting the U.P. and I was like, Oh, I gotta make content. It's four o'clock. Oh God, let me stick this dildo on the car. And she was like, Yeah, OK, open up! It was her idea, actually. She's like, OK, so you're going to stand, I'll drive really slow, I'm going to take a picture of it. Yeah, sometimes sex toys, in quote unquote regular life moments are really one of my favorite things to put on the internet, because obviously a demo of a toy being used like, you know, a masturbation sleeve being used on a dildo. That's one way to show a product, and I love doing that. But every single time I'm like, This'll get deleted. My account will get deleted. Oh my god. So if I can just show something existing...

Aria Vega [00:12:15] It didn't even occur to me that that might be in part as a way to avoid censoring. Basically, when I was thinking about this brand of content of yours, it made me wonder, have you found that making people laugh at the sexy things makes them more comfortable with the taboos that might still be associated with them? Perhaps that's also true, but it didn't even occur to me that it was also a clever way to avoid censorship.

Zoë Ligon [00:12:38] Yeah, I've honestly never put a whole lot of thought into it. I think it just is genuinely my sense of humor. And honestly, the most successful things I have done honestly require the least thought. When I put too much thought into it, it's almost like, No, it doesn't really land. So you are kind of getting a slice of my brain, but I mean, I love talking about how I am a horror fan, and I think horror and comedy are both ways that we explore difficult subject matters. And I think for me, it's not that I don't also love comedy. I think like I create the comedy, but I consume the horror a bit more. And I think that those are just the ones as I see the world through. It does make stuff just digestible for my brain. And, you know, I know it's not certainly how everybody likes to receive their sex education. Some people do want it to be a bit more serious. But hey, if it resonates with you, then hey, that's great. Stick around for more.

Aria Vega [00:13:43] [Voiceover] That spotlighting of sex toys in recent TV comedies like The Liberator wedge in Master of None, or the famous strap on from the pegging scene in Broad City. It may be signaling a collective eagerness to take sex toys out of the realm of taboo. So long as we're laughing, that is.

Zoë Ligon [00:14:01] [Interview] Funnily enough, the pegging episode of Broad City features a song that I was contracted to create the single artwork for, like the cover of the single that plays during that scene.

Aria Vega [00:14:18] That is so funny!

Zoë Ligon [00:14:19] All I remember is being told, Oh yeah, there's going to be a dildo in it, ha ha! Little did I know— So I'm watching this episode. I'm like, cool, the song that I made, like the single cover art for is going to be showing up any moment now. Cool, cool, cool. And then I'm like, Oh, this is the [scene]? Oh, this is a perfect! And, you know, I think with pegging, that's such an interesting example, because pegging is really just strap on sex. Pegging is a term we use— I mean, people use the term all types of ways. Typically, we're using it to refer to straight relationships where a woman is fucking the man in the relationship. But some people just use that as a term for anal strap on sex. You could really just use that as a term for all strap on sex. But I mean, that's also a thing that was so much more loaded to discuss before that episode came out.

Aria Vega [00:15:20] [Voiceover] However, not every TV show has offered its audience the most realistic impression of a sex toys capabilities.

Zoë Ligon [00:15:27] [Interview] Sex and the City and the Rabbit... I think it's funny how people thought of the Rabbit as this like ultimate sex toy when in reality, I mean, not to say that there aren't great rabbits out there, but you can achieve the same effect using an external stimulator and an internal stimulator. And not only will you be able to customize the sensation for your body a lot more. You're not running the risk of the toy, literally not fitting your physical anatomy, which, you're running a high risk. Now that's not to say there aren't toys now like the We-Vibe Nova that are trying to address this situation with the Rabbit. But I think people want a toy that are like, Oh, I want a toy that does everything, and they overlook the fact that they can collage— I keep using the word collage — like, collage toys together. I'm usually using more than one toy at once personally.

Aria Vega [00:16:26] Yes, and it's funny like this the Rabbit sort of being understood culturally as the sexual silver bullet. We want the sexual pleasure, but we're still working through shame with talking about it and exploring it. And so like, we want it in a way that requires as little research, conversation, reflection, investigation as possible. And that was the myth that was sold by the Rabbit. It was this thing that could do everything for everyone, and that was just really so tempting at a time when we were still not openly talking about sex.

Zoë Ligon [00:16:59] Yeah, we're comfortable with— we've heard our friend talk about it. We've seen it on TV. There are jokes about it, and it's just a household term. So we're more comfortable with it. We're comfortable going out of our comfort zone slightly because the mainstream representation of the item is kind of meeting us halfway. And similarly, with the Magic Wand and similarly with the literal silver bullet, I remember (this is not so much the case anymore) people would just buy the silver bullet over and over and over again, despite the fact that it was the most inexpensive thing. It would break, they would use it anally, even though it is not an anal safe toy. And I would have to without assuming anything, just be like, Okay, so this isn't anal safe, but the same person would be like, I don't care. I don't care if it breaks. I'm going to keep coming back and buying this $7 vibrator over and over and over again, even though I could spend a little bit more for something that's not going to break over and over and over again because it's a comfortable, familiar thing. And in a world with a lack of sexual comfort around like it makes perfect sense why we go for the stuff that is the most visible, even if it isn't the best or the most versatile, rather.

Aria Vega [00:18:17] That was a perfect example with the silver bullet, because I remember that. I absolutely remember, especially after a while working in the store, you would literally recognize people. They would walk in the store and you knew why they were there. Like, let me just go, grab that for you!

Zoë Ligon [00:18:34] I can't control what you're going to do with this. I've given you the information. Be safe! Please thanks!

Aria Vega [00:18:40] *Laughs* I did my part. I did what I was supposed to do. Let me get you what you want. All right. So the last question I have for you....

Zoë Ligon [00:18:50] Love, love this conversation!

Aria Vega [00:18:52] Oh my god, it's so much fun!

Zoë Ligon [00:18:53] Bring it in for a landing. What's the last question?

Aria Vega [00:18:57] Does the Duchess of Dildos have a favorite dong?

Zoë Ligon [00:19:01] I'll give you a top five. OK?

Aria Vega [00:19:03] OK, I like that!

Zoë Ligon [00:19:08] The Njoy Pure Wand because it is such an intense G-spotter, and you might look at that and be like, That's a dildo? How do I use that? Looks like it's going to hurt me! Steep learning curve, big payoff when you figure out how it works for your body. The Pure Wand. Also another specific one, the Luzarte Jolette. We sell a special edition of it that is also harnessable. So it's the Jolette 2.0, it is a dildo that is modeled after the internal landscape of the vaginal canal. So essentially it's a shape that is looking to kind of generally fit and fill the contours of the vaginal canal around the pubic bone, et cetera. Just take a look at it and you'll get an idea of what I mean. But also the Vixen Maverick, that is a nice girthy-ish without— what I like about the Maverick is its girthy without needing a ton of warm up, I can cold turkey. I mean, I could just like I could be like, OK, Maverick time! Oh God, two more. How do I just pick two more? I'm like looking around the room like, What do I have out right now? OK... The Gambler from Vixen is gigantic. It's literally the size of my forearm, and the girthiest toy Vixen makes. It is so big, and I will say that's everyone's favorite to watch in action on OnlyFans because it's a physical feat. You know what I mean? Oh God, and I can only pick one more... I've like set this rule for myself, I'm so funny... Oh, the corn dildo from Self Delve. It's a dildo that's made in the shape of a corn. And honestly, the corn kernels feel really— I mean, it's silicone, please don't worry. You could technically put a corn in a condom if you really want to. But anyway, this is a silicone dildo shaped like a corn, and I love it. Those are my top five.

Aria Vega [00:21:28] That's Zoë Ligon, creator, entertainer and founder of Spectrum Boutique. If you'd like to check out those dildos that made it to Zoe's Hall of Fame, I've got some shopping links in the show notes for you. You'll also find a master link to all of her various creations, including her mini docu series Sex Stuff, her book Carnal Knowledge, and much of her erotic content. You can also connect with Zoë on Twitter and Instagram@thongria. I'd love to talk about the realities of acquiring funding for a sexuality business in this day and age. Got a story like that? Reach out to askaria@lustery.com with an email or a voice memo, or you can find me on Twitter @vegadreamcast. If you're into the show, please leave us a five-star rating and a review. POV is brought to you by Lustery, and this episode was hosted by me, Aria Vega. It was edited and produced by Kathryn Fischer and Adrienne Teicher, and our showrunner is Paulita Pappel. Lustery is the home of real life partners filming their sex lives behind closed doors. If you're 18 or older, you can find us at lustery.com and we're on Twitter and Instagram @lusterypov. Speak soon, lovers!