I can’t state enough how beneficial it was to work at the sex shop as my first retail job. We were encouraged to practice shutting down inappropriate behavior and it became a well practiced skill set. I had a flat stare, icy tones of disapproval, and a demeanor of untouchable scorn to back it all up. I could get the most hardened of perverts to back off or leave in a matter of sentences if they harassed staff or other customers.

When I moved on to selling mattresses I came prepared to handle pretty much any situation with the unruffled calm of someone who has asked Santa to stop touching himself and leave. To my vast surprise it was a skill I needed on the regular at the mattress store. For whatever reason men thought it was the height of entertainment to sexually harass me because I was young and cheerful.

They would always quickly learn they’d picked the wrong target.

One day a man strolled in, sizing me up as he came. He saw a young, tiny, afab person alone in the store and came to a stop way too close. He used his height to leer down at me and said, “I’m looking for a new headboard. Which ones are the best for sex?”

It was so stupid. He looked down at me with half lidded eyes and the grin of a man who owns an unmarked white van. He probably expected me to laugh uncomfortably or act flustered. He wanted to feel tall and powerful or maybe even sexy.

He was not expecting what he got. My face stretched into what could technically be described as a smile but was more accurately a threat display. The temperature in the room plummeted as I dropped all warmth in my demeanor. He took a half step back, suddenly aware that he was alone in a room with me.

“Well, sir, that depends on what kind of sex you’re having. If you are looking for a headboard that is grippeable, I suggest this model. The metal is rounded and wouldn’t hurt a hand gripping it tightly. However if you want something that you can secure with restraints, I recommend this wooden one as the slats are wide and quite sturdy.”

He looked liked I’d hit him over the head with a board and stared down at me blankly, taken aback by the authoritative way that I discussed the merits of his lackluster sex life. I met his eyes, a veiled threat in mine, and said, “Which one will you be purchasing?”

He tucked his tail between his legs and bought the metal one. I pulled up a thin layer of friendliness as I rang him up but he had the chastened air of a man who just ran straight into an iron pole.

Another time a man crawled up onto a tempurpedic and thrusted into an invisible partner. He gave a cocky look over his shoulder, sure that he was going to discomfit me as he asked, “How are these babies for fucking?”

I gave him a deadpan look and and said, “That depends on if you’re someone who has to rely on the bounce of springs for your thrusts. Memory foam beds are nicer on knees and joints for positions like doggy style but they absorb a lot of kinetic energy.”

He visibly deflated and got down off the bed with a vaguely ashamed air.

He bought a spring mattress.