What if you had a superpower? One that you hid from the world because you didn’t want to make a huge fuss about it. And then, after a catalytic event, you decided to come out to the people around you. Yet their reaction was as close minded as you feared before. What would you do? Would you retreat back to hiding it or embrace its fullest extent? Now you’re probably thinking about something like flying, super healing, or something from a summer superhero movie. But what if this talent was not from Science Fiction? Instead this secret was regarding the most natural and human aspect of ourselves: sex. While we consider ourselves to be the most open minded society to date, you’d be surprised about the reaction Betony Vernon, sexual anthropologist and designer of erotic luxury items, received when she opened up to her jewelry clients about her secret passion.
In her interview with Audra Wist from Flaunt she tells the story of how 9/11 made her reevaluate her work in fashion, in favor for what she’d been keeping under wraps: “In 2001, I presented this hidden work from 1992 to my clients around the world and everyone dropped me which sent a clear message to me: that I was working on something really important.”
So, her Boudoir Box containing items from her Paradise Found Collection remained hidden, only to be presented to particular clients. That is until recently when it was unveiled at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. However, aside from her luxurious trinkets, Vernon has also busied herself in educating the public in the ways of pleasure and empowerment. After being met with such a prudish response, she realized that the current landscape continues to frown upon those who are unashamed to talk about their sexual needs and wants. This is where her idea for her book, The Boudoir Bible, comes from.
More than a simple how-to guide, Vernon explains that her book goes into detail surrounding technical aspects and taboo topics. If you’ve ever had a question you wanted to ask but felt embarrassed to ask your doctor or therapist about, Vernon probably mentions or goes into detail in her book, which even includes BDSM tips and suggestions. This labor of love was created with plenty of interest in helping people reach their full potential on a pleasure level. Vernon probably realized that there plenty of humans out there who were shutting themselves off of the possibility of reaching their sexual potential.
Humanity is bombarded with sexual imagery through media and advertising. Yet in practice, we continue to shut out those who openly and fully enjoy their kinky side. Perhaps even using the word kinky is inappropriate because it relates to perversion. But what else do we call those who are bold in the bedroom? It’s through realizing that we all have a taste for a particular sexual persuasion, as different as they all are, that we can begin to shed our very Victorian preconceptions (which I’m starting to think are not as related to the time period).
Vernon addresses this issue in her interview with Hunger TV, “Sex is power and the sexual image is used to drive corporate profit like no other. The danger lies in the fact that the establishment refuses to diffuse concrete information about the sexual body and the importance of pleasure in every aspect of lives alongside this imagery.”
So our world loves to sell sex, but dislikes when real people actually admit to liking and having it. We live in a double standard of having the female body objectified with the goal being pleasurable for the male gaze, yet plenty of women are slut shamed and mocked for attempting to live and experience their sexuality in a way that works for them. It’s not okay for a woman’s pleasure to be found in a way that is unacceptable to higher echelons of society, even though she is seen as an item that brings them pleasure. We scold other communities or societies for their archaic methods of treating women, as if we do not suppress or limit female sexual freedom.
Ultimately, what Vernon does so well is demystify the sexual arena. By using luxury materials and designs, she removes them from the connotation of being dirty or back-alley. She takes us away from our mindset of the sex shop being a seedy space and creates it into a couture designer product. While most of us cannot afford her creations, this act opens our possibilities. It’s not gross, but another product we require in our everyday life. And just like we might like, but won’t buy, a purse we saw on the Paris Fashion Week runway, it’s likely that we can search for a sex accessory within our means and tastes.
Betony Vernon’s change in course is proof that we are all capable of discovering our true passion and drive. We can rediscover what’s inside the box of talent we keep hidden from the world. When we come out to those around us, we might not like their reaction. Yet, in time, we’ll see how vital it is that we stay true to our loves and talents.