Centering Black people and Black love in white-dominated industries like adult toys can be a powerful proclamation in raising awareness about sexual expression and autonomy. This is a foundational principle for Nefertiti Mitchell, CEO of Ghettoff (pronounced Get Off), an adult novelty boutique in Inglewood, California, nestled among other Black-owned businesses.
I first became aware of Mitchell’s business when I was approached to be an influencer for some of the products at her store. The boutique’s mission is to “break down the stigma surrounding conversations on women’s sexual health and intimacy and normalize it as a part of a holistic health approach.” As I learned more about Ghettoff, I wanted to know more about the woman behind the boutique. A college-educated mother with a background in human resources, Mitchell left the retail industry 13 years ago to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams and raise her daughter.
Mitchell has been featured in mainstream publications like New York Magazine. Her presence in this industry and Black-centered approach to encouraging sexual expression and self-pleasure through non-judgemental education around adult toy usage creates a safer and more welcoming space for BIPOC adult toy consumers, regardless of experience level or gender or sexual identity. When virtually meeting Mitchell, I was struck by the amount of intention and passion she brings to her work. The energy and determination she possesses as a Black woman in the adult toy and accessories industry is exciting to see.
Vilissa Thompson: How did you get into the business of adult toys?
Nefertiti Mitchell: My journey into the adult novelty industry was spurred from my own journey into my sexuality and self-pleasure. I started to explore my pleasure points in college in order to get an understanding about the different sex-related conversations that my friends were talking about.
As a young woman I wanted to heighten my own sexual experience. It was really in that period of time that I started to visit a variety of adult stores. I soon realized that [in] the stores I was visiting, store employees’ level of knowledge about toys, their uses, and women’s needs, was limited. I also noticed that these stores were not as discreet. I wanted to create the posh and discreet experience I desired during my journey.
Thompson: What gaps did you want to fill by bringing your own flavor into this space and establishing your boutique?
Mitchell: I wanted to create a beginning-to-end experience that provided a luxurious and stigma-free space where individuals and couples of all sexual and gender backgrounds could safely shop for play products with an expert.
During my own journey exploring my sexuality and body, I experienced embarrassment and intimidation walking into an adult store and asking questions. I wanted to create a store environment where individuals and couples could openly explore their curiosity, concerns, and questions. From needing guidance on arousal disorders to being sexually active with herpes or other STIs, or men and women exploring same-gender sex, Ghettoff is a no-judgement zone.
Creating a posh, welcoming, and discreet experience was one of the gaps I wanted to fill, [as well as] provide a safe place where people of all experience levels and kink interests could shop without fear of being judged. This is why we have an appointment-only policy. We want to give our shoppers the VIP experience and have them enjoy the store all to themselves.
My shop celebrates Black love. I chose to open in Inglewood, which is a Black mecca in Los Angeles County, to be among other Black-owned businesses and celebrate Black relationships and sexualities of all kinds. I want my business to be a reflection of who I am as a Black queer woman, and the images around the store as well as the Black-owned apothecary products we carry are a reflection of that.
The imagery and products I carry are curated this way because no other adult store I’ve entered around the country has ever celebrated diversity of color. Ghettoff is that shop that fully embraces the BIPOC experience.
Thompson: What has been your experience as a Black queer woman in an industry where people that look like you aren’t as visible as they should be?
Mitchell: It has been an interesting journey. I am among the few women in a white male-dominated industry. I am often at times the only Black woman or minority.
As a Black woman, I’ve had to establish myself as a power player in white male spaces whilst establishing business boundaries. I have attended national, regional, and state adult toy conventions and they are largely white male-dominated spaces. These spaces are also hypersexualized because of the nature of the products sold.
Thompson: One of your specializations is encouraging women and femmes to embrace and be comfortable with their bodies by exploring their desires and interests. Tell me more about this particular focus and why it matters to you.
Mitchell: Our loyal customers stay because of the level of candidness they can have with us. Women—femme and butch—can safely have in-depth conversations about products that are best suited for women’s bodies and interests. Women’s bodies are diverse in shape and pleasure points, and it is our goal to work with our customers to help them fulfill their needs.
We work with couples or individuals to enhance their sexual experience by offering an understanding of new things in order to heighten their sexual gratification and/or pleasures. We want our customers to grow with us and stay curious.
Thompson: It’s imperative for the adult toy industry to be more inclusive of the ways people can express themselves and play. As someone who’s building her business and brand, what are you doing to ensure that all clients feel visible in the entire experience of your boutique?
Mitchell: I reach out to experts in various areas to collaborate and curate products that fit real peoples’ needs, whether it is working with a longtime married couple to host workshops and advice on rekindling relationships or helping with fantasies. We also collaborate with individuals with different physical or gender needs to help us better understand what types [of toys] we should curate into our showroom.
Because of the industry I’m in, I have many in-depth conversations with people about their needs. Serving my clients means being up-to-date on the newest technology, having product testers to determine whether a product is “shelf worthy,” and looking for solutions for customers with complex needs.
Thompson: That inclusivity includes having access to adaptive adult toys—something that is of great importance to disabled clients and influencers like myself. How do you intend to attract disabled clients to your boutique and help them feel confident exploring their sexual expression on their terms?
Mitchell: I want to connect with sex positive people of all interests and backgrounds. Part of enjoying being a boutique is the satisfaction that my customers enjoy from their product purchases.
Conversations on [customers’] personal needs are what led me to realize that the adult toy industry not only lacks diversity among its ranks and in its marketing materials, but also in the very bodies these toys are intended to pleasure. Thanks to my disabled clients, I’ve learned that not enough attention has been given to differently abled individuals with adaptive needs.
I was inspired to curate a line of access-adaptive toys thanks to my girlfriend who is a cancer survivor, and the physical ailments and limitations that come from work-related injuries. We started on a journey to identify the health and sexual wellness products that worked best for us and were inspired to seek out sex positive disabled influencers and experts like yourself to share our experience with couples or individuals seeking for adaptive solutions of their own.
Thompson: What has your experience in curating adult toys for disabled clients revealed to you about who the industry primarily caters to?
Mitchell: I was prodded to explore further into adaptive toys after a consultation with a disabled client. I delved into researching adult toy manufacturers and product lines to determine which toys exist—if any—for individuals with limited hand mobility or reach.
What I discovered in consulting with this particular client is that the adult toy industry is not placing enough attention to adaptive needs. Disabled individuals are not featured in marketing imagery, or catered to in workshops. They are also not reflected within the staff in the nation’s adult toy store brands.
Thompson: What do you hope is the outcome of your deeper exploration of adaptive and accessible adult toys available in the current market?
Mitchell: Ghettoff hopes to work with BIPOC disabled leaders to increase the visibility and engagement of disabled professionals as influencers, product testers, and the sexy people prominently featured by brands. We hope to work with disabled leaders to host how-to workshops and influence the creation of adaptive toys specifically designed with disabled customers in mind.