The two questions that we are most frequently asked at Other Nature are:
1) “What makes you an ‘alternative’ sex shop?” and (buzzing vibrator in hand) … 2) “How do you turn this off?!”
The answer to the latter depends on the model; the answer to the former rolls off the tongue of every member of staff: “we’re feminist, queer, sex-positive, eco-friendly and vegan”. This summary is usually the beginning, not the end, of the conversation – a conversation we wanted to share with you on our BRAND NEW BLOG!
This is the first in a series of posts about what each of our core values means to us, and how they shape the way we work.
We’re kicking off with sex-positivity…
The idea of a sex-positive sex shop might sound a little odd at first, like a shoe-positive shoe shop or a book-positive book shop. Aren’t all sex shops, by their very nature, sex-positive? The truth is, society’s relationship to sexuality – unlike its relationship to shoes or books – is rather complicated.
Public discourse around sexuality is rife with gendered double-standards (of the “she’s a slut, he’s a stud” variety). Mainstream media suggests that every (successful) person should be having amazing sex all of the time, yet sex education in schools is often woefully inadequate. While highly sexualised images of women’s bodies are used to sell every product under the sun, actual sex workers are stigmatized and denied basic rights in many countries.
This complex web of contradictory and harmful values can be described as sex-negative. Sex-negativity is not necessarily about prudishness or censorship. As Charlie Glickman explains, a society in which food is abundant can also have a negative relationship with food. So sex-saturated spaces, such as mainstream sex shops, may perpetuate – and capitalize on – the shame and insecurity created by a sex-negative world.
This is why being consciously sex-positive is, for us, a crucial element of being an alternative sex shop. All of the negative and contradictory messages out there can lead to people feeling ashamed for wanting lots of sex or for not wanting any, for being kinky or for being vanilla, for whom they desire or what they enjoy, or for not knowing those things.
Everyone has the right to make – and deserves to feel great about – their own choices regarding their sexuality and sexual practices. For us, sex-positivity is about respecting and rejoicing in these choices. There’s nothing wrong with sex, and there’s equally no right way to want, have or feel about it. Whether you’re a self-proclaimed slut or avowedly asexual, we support and celebrate your self-determination!
We won’t tell you what your sexuality “should” be like, but we are available for open and honest discussion about what it means to be a sexual being – our feelings about our bodies, our desires and fantasies, consent and boundaries, our relationships, and the vast spectrum of possible sexual practices available for us to choose from.
Sex-positivity is sometimes misunderstood (or misrepresented) as an insistence that sexuality is always and inherently positive – as opposed to a movement towards a more positive understanding of sexuality than that which currently dominates. It isn’t calling for a free-for-all world in which “anything goes” – on the contrary, enthusiastic consent and respect for boundaries and desires are at the heart of the sex-positive movement.
Recognising that many of us have had negative sexual experiences, or have survived rape and sexualised violence, we strive to be a supportive place in which to navigate difficult feelings about sex, and to access survivor-specific resources.
Sex-positivity informs everything we do, from the frank and friendly way we talk about sex with customers to our comfy armchairs and unlimited free tea. We strive to consciously destabilize and resist harmful beliefs that sex is shameful or bad, and hope that the inclusive, informative, and cozy atmosphere we provide will encourage others to do the same.
We hope that our sex-positivity helps people to feel good about being in a sex shop, and puts people at ease. You really can ask us anything without embarrassment – including how to turn off that vibrator you just picked up.