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Sasha Dillavou on ‘Awakening’ sexual wellness, embracing sex positivity

//Sasha Dillavou at Awakening Boutique on Broadway on Oct. 6. Photo by Polina Saran | polinasarana@gmail.com

As the manager and event coordinator at Awakening Boutique, and the head of her own sexual wellness practice, Sasha Dillavou has her dream career.

“Everyone—when I told them I got [the job at Awakening], they’re like, ‘Oh my God, there’s not a more perfect job for you.’ Like, literally,” Dillavou gushed. 

While she spends plenty of time at the independent sex and wellness boutique today, Dillavou’s fascination with sexual health began as a child. She recalled early gifts from her grandmother, like an American Girl book acting as an introductory guide for girls on puberty, that were essential to help build the personal relationship she’s established with her own body.

As she got older, Dillavou dove into various corners of the internet to further her own education and curiosity, and once she got a vibrator at 18, “That was a whole new realm that opened up to me: self-pleasure.”

Self-pleasure, she said, is essentially a testing ground to learn about yourself, your body and what you might like with a partner. It’s a conversation she’s had firsthand with customers at Awakening Boutique, which immediately caught her attention as a sex-positive space before she became an employee.

When the store first debuted, Dillavou wrote the boutique online to thank them for opening the space, subsequently befriending owners Rose Kalasz and Tory Johnson on Instagram. She eventually met Rose in person by chance, and shortly after, she joined the Awakening team in 2019.

Awakening, now with locations on Broadway and Larimer Street, was founded to create a safe, inclusive, fun and community-driven space for people to feel comfortable learning about and exploring their sexualities. They also host educational speakers and workshops, along with private parties and pop-ups, which Dillavou immediately embraced as an employee, taking the reins to teach classes, writing for social media and more.

Dillavou emphasizes that Awakening is more than just a sex shop; it’s a community resource center. Whether it’s a DM to the company’s Instagram account or a customer in the shop, there is never a shortage of questions because people know the Awakening crew is there to provide answers.

“You feel good when you walk in, and people say that all the time,” she said. “It’s amazing people every day, it’s like, ‘I love this shop; I’m obsessed with the shop; I can tell my friends about it.’ And I think that’s really special.”

Dillavou also started her own sex counseling practice, Daddy Sasha’s Sex Education, embracing a wide range of topics from working through trauma, sexual awakening, navigating sex with a person of a new gender for the first time and more. 

She operates her counseling on a “pay-what-you-can” basis, typically working with what folks know they already have, or finding a middle-ground after establishing an initial base rate. She said folks have always reached out to her for help, so she’s eager to solidify her practice and further embody the role of an educator.

So, why do so many adults end up re-evaluating their relationships with sex, and why are there so many adults who may not even have the toolkit to begin navigating these issues on their own? Dillavou points to the lack of comprehensive sex and consent education as one reason.

“Sex education, when we were younger was just like STDs, and how to put a condom on,” she said. “It just really wasn’t anything—we never touched on pleasure or consent. People go into this world kind of fucked up about this shit, because of what they learned, and it’s not their fault.”

Though, Dillavou recognizes that the stigma is ever-present, “It happens every day: people walk in, and they don’t realize it’s a sex shop, and they turn around right away,” she said, adding that she wishes there was a way she could help them to feel less shame about the topic.

Awakening’s customers are often working to unlearn the sex shame and stigma they’ve internalized, too.

She said many customers don’t know what they need or have concerns that employees will not be approachable or open to conversations regarding sex toys, which can be deeply personal. Dillavou said providing that safety is a mutually beneficial and rewarding perk of the job.

“People will be like, ‘Thank you so much for your help. I was so lost, I didn’t know where to start. I felt really weird and anxious, and you made me feel a lot better,’” Dillavou said. Finding the best products for customers is a rewarding opportunity she adds, especially when they enter feeling anxious and leave feeling relieved and excited. “That’s all I could ever ask for,” she said.

She plans to continue her personal practice in conjunction with her work at Awakening, as the crew looks forward to the future and their ability to safely hold more in-person events. She also wants to grow the scope of her work in the future, expanding to places like prisons, juvenile detention centers and populations that are often left out of conversations surrounding sex positivity and wellness.

In her eyes, the success of Awakening in Denver alone shows just how needed the boutique’s atmosphere and resources are to community members. Additionally, the inclusive culture lends itself to one of Dillavou’s favorite parts of the job: the diverse clientele—people of all genders, ages, sexualities, body types—and helping a variety of people with their individual experiences and journeys.

“I know for sure that what I’m doing, people can truly benefit from learning this,” Dillavou said. “And the fact that an orgasm itself can make you such a happy person; I think that’s really wonderful as well.”

To learn more about Sasha Dillavou’s sex counseling services, inquire on Instagram, and keep up with Awakening on their page.

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