08 October, 2007

Female focused sex shops

This week I’ve been spending time in sex shops. Oh, stop sniggering at the back there. I bet you’re thinking of sticky floors and flickering neon, now, aren’t you? Grubby windows and lone, sweaty-palmed gentlemen who can’t quite meet the cashier’s eye. Wrong. The sex shop might still suffer from a bit of an image problem, but a new wave of female-orientated outlets are taking hold of central Scotland, with the emphasis on serious, grown-up glamour.

In the beginning, there was Ann Summers, the ‘upmarket’ chain of sex-shops reinvented as female-friendly party planners by young executive Jacqueline Gold in 1987. Ann Summers parties feel almost innocent these days – peekaboo bras and French maid costumes are pulled on over sweatshirts; the party-goers sit cross-legged on the floor and giggle as they try out vibrators on their noses. There’s now a store on every high street in Scotland (except Perth, where concerned citizens had it shut down), selling jokey, genital-shaped chocolate, hen night smut and softcore erotica, and while there’s no doubt that the company helped make it more acceptable for British women to be open about shopping for sex toys and saucy lingerie, today’s increasingly sophisticated consumers are looking for something a bit different. London store Coco de Mar, run by Anita Roddick’s daughter Sam, was among the first to realise this, reenvisaging sex shopping as a high-end lifestyle experience, and one in which women were encouraged to take a lead – and it finally seems to be catching on north of the border too.
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