Guilty Pleasure not so Guilty / Sex Toys are Having a Moment Now
What kind of picture emerges in your mind as soon as someone mentions sex shop? Always an empty place, you pass on your way to work with the neon sign, plastic dildos and cheap sex dolls inside? Mary Lauro, the co-founder of an online sex shop Bottega Nera says that fortunately, these sad times are over – the market is blooming now and it’s the perfect time to explore and celebrate our sexuality in the endless possible ways. So, let’s dig in and find out more about this secret world of pleasure.
15 May, 2019
by BARBORA GEDVILAITE
Let’s admit that opening an online sex shop is not that common, so I just have to ask – how did you come up with this idea?
The idea to open Bottega Nera was inspired by two of the co-founders discovering that there is a whole world of kink and sexual adventure that isn’t scary if it’s explained to you by an expert. As busy women with families, we didn’t have time to research what we were interested in but wanted to explore intimacy beyond the mundane. So the idea to create boxed sets that could easily be taken along for a vacation or another getaway was born.
Since you have been involved in this world both personally and professionally for some time, tell us more about this market and how it is changing through the years?
The market is beginning to bloom in my opinion. The times of sex shops with opaque windows and dirty DVDs is passing away quickly – and sexuality is becoming a more comfortable topic for many people. I still think the world has a long way to go and BDSM (a variety of often erotic practices or roleplaying involving bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, sadomasochism, and other related interpersonal dynamics) and alternative lifestyles are still unpopular topics, but we’re beginning to move in the right direction. Companies celebrating sexuality and striving to help people understand their bodies better are becoming more mainstream, from OMGyes to us. Of course, sexuality is a highly personal thing and I can’t speak for the entire world, but I do believe we’re beginning to be less shy about what our bedside table drawer holds and are excited to learn about new ways to celebrate sexuality.
You are inviting people to celebrate their sexuality. But what exactly is sexuality and how to make a celebration out of it?
I would define sexuality as a complicated web of interests an individual has, from who they would choose to be intimate with to what turns them on. Sexuality is how you express yourself when you’re looking to connect with other humans and the world around you in a way that causes pleasure. Celebrating your sexuality doesn’t have to be about sex toys only – sex toys are simply a (very fun) tool that can help many people get more in touch with their bodies. Beyond sex toys, the possibilities are almost endless for how you can choose to celebrate who you are as a sexual being.
Do we have to celebrate together (in a couple) or can we celebrate alone? What are the rules of this game?
You can celebrate in every configuration you can imagine: alone, with a loving partner, with three people, and even with a whole crowd of people. Your sexuality is yours to command in whichever way makes you feel best, and Bottega Nera also encourages even happy couples to explore something new if they wish. There is still a stigma around sexual pleasure in many parts of the world, especially when women’s rights are still threatened. If we still can’t provide adequate health care (including sexual health) around the world and support the need for it in our schools and other parts of society, then we for sure have stigmas and issues around sexual expression.
Bottega Nera is an all-women owned company. Can you say that women are more brave in celebrating their sexuality than men?
This is a really interesting question! Seeing as the dynamics of sexism, women-empowerment, and the history of how women have been treated sexually is complicated and steeped in injustice, I think the true answer to this question would be an essay worth of analysis. A short response would be that since women have been bombarded from a young age with contradicting messages about their body and sexuality (you’re a prude if you’re a virgin, you’re a slut if you like sex, so on and so forth), I don’t think that women are braver in celebrating their sexuality. They are just more creative and empowered when they finally choose to do it their way. Women celebrating their sexuality in a way that they choose and not how society tells them to is a radical act. I think that’s very brave.
What are the trends in the sex toys market you are noticing these days? Do people care only about the pleasure or is the design also playing an important role here?
Sex toys are having a moment! Now that the use of sex toys is becoming more normalised, the variety of toys on the market is exploding. A few years ago your choices were limited, now we see luxury brands with exclusive materials becoming popular. The market is discovering that design can improve the performance of a toy and make it more enjoyable for the users – so good design and pleasure are becoming one and the same. Toys used to be unappealing, ugly even (take a look at the original Hitachi Magic Wand) – now you can get a toy with the same pleasurable and functional features that are gold plated or has a design that matches your style.
Speaking about the design, I couldn’t help but notice sex toys by Rottn Products and Fornicouture on your online shop. These are real pieces of art!
Oh yes, they are. Fornicouture is a project by the artist AHH and the focus of the brand is to elevate sex toys to the world of fine art. The Fornicouture toys are truly some of the most stunning sex toys I’ve ever seen. They are made with the finest materials - from gorgeous blown glass to handles made by the Queen of England’s own whip maker. The toys that we currently carry from them are mostly from their Volcanic series. Each toy is inspired by the mythology and stories around the most powerful volcanoes in the world.
Rottn Products is another example of how glass can truly elevate sex toys to the art level. All of the toys are handmade and they have a certain wicked sparkle to them. He makes many of his designs custom for clients and we’re proud to support a small craftsman.
How do you know that the sex toys you are selling are really “working”? Is testing the sex toys the part of your job? It might seem like a dream job! 😊
Testing sex toys is always part of the fun! We’re always scouting out new toys, and before we choose to stock a product we oftentimes buy them for ourselves to test. We also partner with Kinky Sprinkles – a website that tests toys along with writing about more advanced topics in sexuality and kink. We also listen carefully to the community around us. We evaluate everything about a brand before we work with them – not only the product. We make sure they follow similar values to us and care about improving sexual wellness and taking care of their customers.
Since the topic of May in our abstract planet is ROMANCE, let’s make a special gift box inspired by Abstract Stylist for a romantic getaway.
Sure, let’s do it. While all of our boxed sets are perfect for a romantic getaway - we’ve picked a few items that really speak to the Abstract Stylist’s ethos. The following combination of items is intended for both a couple and individuals - the romance of the self and romance with others.
Mococu Artisan Raw Chocolate Body Paint. This sumptuous vegan body paint comes with a feather-soft brush - Mococu is all about rituals and intimacy. The ritual of enjoying something sweet and special with a partner, and the repetitive strokes of painting a masterpiece.
Paul Seville Tickler. Tickling is one of the most playful ways to engage with your partner. We adore this little tickler because it delights everyone who picks it up with its bristly feathers and energy. With the touches of a true artisan.
Wax Play Candles. Bright red and daring, these wax play candles are another step into the world of sensations. Drip them over your skin from a distance to feel the warm embrace of the wax, and then explore how it feels when it hardens on your skin. Wax play is a creative process, much like painting. Together with the other items in our Abstract Stylist set, you can create a true masterpiece.