Core Values & Culture

We've always done things differently at Come As You Are Co-operative. One reflection of this difference is the decision to operate democratically, ethically, and with an anti-capitalist mandate as a worker-owned and run co-operative. Just after our tenth anniversary (in 2007) we decided it was time to get more specific about how we’re different and articulate our unique values both for ourselves and for our friends, fans, and customers. 

These values describe what we stand for, who we are, how we act, and what we believe. They articulate a way of understanding and experiencing sexuality and gender that is both joyful and mindful. In short, these values represent the way we’d like the world to be, and the way we've worked hard to make it at Come As You Are Co-operative for the past 20+ years.

1. Sex The Way You Want It

The Come As You Are culture believes you should have the kind of sex you want, not settle for the kind you (ought to) have.

Being sex positive at Come As You Are means considering sexuality to be a site of tremendous health, pleasure and strength in our lives. We also realize that many of us have experienced physical, emotional, and psychic pain around sexuality. We are great cheerleaders of the positive potential of sex, but proceed with respect and awareness that sometimes sex can feel too painful to talk about.

Whether you want to have lots of sex or no sex at all, our approach goes beyond being non-judgmental; we positively and actively affirm diverse sexual choices, and support the radical act of asking "what do I want sexually?"

We take an activist approach to mainstream ideas about sexuality, by providing perspectives that differ from mainstream contexts and by modelling respectful, non-judgmental, mature approaches. We welcome everyone to participate in a friendlier and more open way of thinking about and experiencing sexuality.

2. Customer Service That Helps

We’re here to help you reach your personal goals, not our sales targets.

At Come As You Are, we provide answers and ideas, not just products. We think the most radical thing we offer is information, with sex toys, books, and DVDs coming in a close second. We strive to make every interaction a comfortable and informative conversation, not a sales pitch. Even though we're a retail store we know that products aren't always the answer to your questions.

We consider referrals, including referrals to free resources, sexual health clinics, and even other sex shops, a crucial part of building trust. Of course it’s easier for us to do this; we’re a co-op and unlike undemocratic businesses, making a profit is not our primary mandate and never comes before fulfilling our core values.

3. No Come Ons

We value information over sales, so we don’t come on to our customers.

We believe you can talk about sex without resorting to titillation or hucksterism. While we appreciate sleaze as much as the next sex shop, it’s not what we do at Come As You Are. To make good decisions -- healthy decisions -- we all need accurate information and freedom from pressure and social expectation. That's why we don’t do cheesy marketing ploys or fake come ons. What we do do is honest, up-to-date information.

Oh, and we promise not to hit on you and ask that you don't hit on us. We guarantee that the only sex objects in our store are the products on our walls.

4. Be Accessible

We level the playing field so exploring sexual pleasure and health can be accessible to everyone.

It's a big word, but in a nutshell, being accessible means doing our work in a way that doesn't exclude people. It sounds easy, but it takes hard work and constant vigilance. Sexuality is part of everyone's experience, regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation or identity, disability, ethnicity, religious affiliations, how we move, talk, or think. We work hard so that anyone and everyone can come to the table, not just the people we eat with everyday.

From our wheelchair accessible bathroom to our carefully curated DVD selection to the words we choose when talking about sex; we make decisions that open up sexual possibilities, not shut them down.

Ironically, in creating a place for those of us who usually feel left out, we've made a space for everyone.

5. Be The Anti-Experts

We know enough about sex to know that we don’t know it all.

Part of being a co-operative is being about something bigger than ourselves. In all our interactions (with customers, vendors, each other, and the communities we work with) we strive to keep our egos and personalities out of the equation.

We’re not the cool self-ordained "sexperts" you'll find on talk TV or at some other sex shops. We do know a lot about sex, but the most important thing we know is that each of us is the real expert on our own desires. Every day we learn new things just by being open to the conversation, even when we don't agree on what is being said. We consider it our job to listen, learn, and be your guide through our products--not judge, diagnose, or condescend to you. To put it simply, we know it’s not about what we think; it’s about what you want.

6. Be Worthy Of Trust

At Come As You Are, we fully appreciate the trust people put in us and we make sure we earn it in everything we do.

Our culture is built on trust. When it comes to sexuality, privacy isn't just about avoiding slight embarrassment. Some of us have a lot more than our comfort to lose if our sexual desires are revealed before we're ready to reveal them. That's why we’re happy to help you with as much or as little information as you are comfortable sharing. We treat everyone’s privacy as a very serious thing to be protected.

Here are a few of the things we do every day to earn and keep your trust:

We respect your privacy. The only confidentiality agreements workers and members sign is one about customers’ privacy. We know that you can't shop with comfort unless you know we never talk about you - not in the shop, not online, not in the blogosphere. We maintain high standards of confidentiality with no exceptions.

We're discreet. Our shipping packages are plain, our bags don't have our store name on them, and we'll never show up on credit card bills or call display as Come As You Are (always CAYA Co-operative, our co-op name). If you choose to register on our website or join our mailing list we promise to never sell, trade, or rent out any information about you.

We can handle it. With over thirty years of collective experience in sex toys, there isn't much we haven't heard, and when you talk to us we promise you won't get a surprised or judgmental response -- you'll get answers, empathy and encouragement.

7. Create Nerdy Fun

At Come As You Are, we love that sex can be nerdy, silly, and a whole lot of fun.

Creating nerdy fun means not taking ourselves too seriously. With so many social restrictions and taboos around sexuality it's easy to forget that sex is a wonderful kind of adult play. We're all self-identified sex nerds and working in a sex shop offers limitless opportunities to make nerdy fun. We can't think of anything more fun than getting to spend our days talking, thinking, and writing about sexuality.

At the same time we're mindful that for most of us sex is complicated, and we never make fun, or use humour to diminish diverse sexual experiences. When it feels like someone's being left out, we know we're on the wrong track and it's time to start again.

8. Contribute Co-Operatively

Co-operative doesn’t just describe our status; it describes our culture.

In undemocratic businesses, people are encouraged to succeed by climbing over each other and scrambling to get to the top where they alone rule. At Come As You Are we've proven that it's possible to get to the top together (and, by the way, when you get there together it's a lot more fun and way less lonely once you've made it). We use creative and collaborative decision making at every level of the co-op and have found that even though it takes a little longer, it results in better decisions and greater happiness.

Being a worker co-operative means having a commitment to working with each other and knowing that what's most powerful in a group is not the individual who can talk the loudest, but the open exchange of ideas.

What binds us is a collective belief that the way we talk about sex is a radical act, and that (funny as it may sound) sex toys can change the world.

If you're interested in learning more about worker co-operatives you should check out the Seven International Principles of Co-operatives which we follow and we'd be happy to contact us more about.

9. Be Generous

Being generous means putting ourselves in other people’s shoes.

There's so much sexual judgment in our world. Come As You Are is a place free of that, where you'll find compassion and empathy wherever you are in your sexual exploration and development.

We don’t believe anything good comes from withholding knowledge, particularly about sex. Ask us anything about our products and our co-op; we guarantee you an honest answer. Ask us twelve more questions and we’ll come back with more information. We don’t think there’s such a thing as too many questions and want people to know what they’re getting before they buy it.

Our spirit of generosity begins inside our co-operative. In addition to profit sharing and health benefits, we support an extensive continuing education program that encourages personal and professional growth, as well as in-store workshops and a fully subsidized educational outreach program.

10. Working Harder To Make Sex Easier

When exploring sex is the goal, working hard is its own reward.

At Come As You Are we're always working to create a greater sense of comfort, to provide honest information and resources, and to meet everyone where they’re at. It's our experience that sex doesn't come "naturally" to any of us. And we consider it our responsibility to do the hard work that makes it easier for you to explore.

We think being comfortable talking about sex isn’t enough on it’s own, and we don’t let the low expectations of our industry keep us from constantly working to improve our products, education, and customer service.

We know that the harder we work, the better sex people can have, so it's easy for us to take pride and pleasure in going the extra mile.

11. Live Our Name

We live our name by embracing the quirks in all of us.

We called ourselves Come As You Are for a reason. We don't think cookie cutter solutions work when it comes to sex and we see no reason why anyone should have to deny parts of themselves just to get by. Celebrating sexuality means embracing the quirkiness in all of us, and the best part of our jobs is connecting with people who are expressing and discovering new quirks in their own lives.

Promoting evolving self expression rather than requiring everyone to fit into someone else’s expectations results in better decisions for our co-operative and better service for our customers. Helping people make their own decisions means they leave our store and website having picked products that match their desires and needs.

We promise that we’ll never put you in a box based on what you look like, who you’re having sex with, who you love, or who you are when you come in the store. When we say "come as you are", we mean it.