Sex shops can sometimes struggle to be sexy.
With airbrushed models posing in lacy red and black push-up bras with voluminous, blow-dried hair at one end of the market, to underground shops stocked with BDSM gear and expensive leather outfits behind neon-lit doors at the other, it can feel like women are being sold a vision of sexy from an old lads’ mag or one that’s a little extreme.
But some women are stepping into the industry to plug a gap with toys and lingerie made and marketed by those who want a paired-down aesthetic.
In its 2017 trend report, the JWT trend forecasting agency predicted that the rise of pelvic floor muscle exercises, vulvar skincare, and g-spot stimulators in the year prior as a sign that it will be the year of the “vagina-nomics”.
“Long seen as taboo, the rise of fourth wave feminism is encouraging women to talk about their vaginas and vulvas like never before, whether that’s to do with periods, health, sex and masturbation or wellbeing,” according to report by Lucie Greene, Worldwide Director of the Innovation Group, JWT.
Par Femme, an online sex-shop based in Australia, is part of this wave. Opening in late 2016, the shop stocks lingerie, erotic magazines, jewellery, sleek sex toys, and publishes body-positive interviews and articles.
The store is the brainchild of former fashion publisher Monica Nakata and stylist Ruby Heery, who wanted to present an image of sex that isn’t airbrushed.
“The idea was born from Ruby’s interest in the notion of ‘the feminine’ and how female sensuality and sexuality has been captured in imagery across time,” Nakata tells The Independent.
Heery had created an Instagram page curating feminine imagery. This caught Nakata’s attention. The pair launched their sex shop in November 2016.
“Empowerment and self-expression is our ethos so we were drawn to products that we hoped could make all women feel sexy, naturally. Connecting with like-minded women who shared a similar vision of understated feminine confidence was of great importance to us.
But what’s so wrong with enjoying dressing up in more mainstream black lace corsets you might find on the highstreet?
“We don’t believe there is any single quality that is definitively feminine, but we like to play with social definitions of the term,” says Nakata.
“We wanted to create an environment online that women found fun, beautiful and safe to explore their sexuality,” says Nakata. “We’re not offering an alternative, rather just a platform for the those who appreciate aesthetics and intelligent content.
“The majority of sex shops are a bit over the top and even intimidating, but we would rather transcend the stereotypes. Comfortable white cotton can be just as sexy as black lace.”
And surveys suggest that while men prefer lingerie on women that is red, lacy, revealing and embellished, women prefer clothing that is white, black and comfortable.
One thing seems missing, however. While women of colour are featured and the images aren’t airbrushed, where are the bigger bodies?
“It’s important to us that we celebrate women across a full spectrum of cultures, identities and bodies,” says Nakata. “We’ve run two shoots to date so we’re quite far from the complete vision of Par Femme. We’ll be launching gallery pages next week, which will showcase our desire for diversity and of course, this is just the beginning.”
Read more at independent.co.uk