“Feminists should boycott Boots” – Really?

After the predictable furore over this weekend’s news that Boots now stock Durex sex toys, come the idiotic pseudo-feminist comments. My favourite was from Christina Odone on Telegraph blogs who urged feminists to “boycott Boots.” The reasons she gives appear to have little to do with feminism and a lot to do with her own personal views on sex.

Firstly, it is worth noting that Boots have long stocked Durex products from condoms to cock rings, all of which are packaged in bright colours and displayed on low levels. Essentially all they are doing here is extending the product line to include the Durex Play Desire (a small bullet vibe), the Play Dream (a larger, curved clit stim) and the Play Discover (a five-speed double ended massager). Thus Odone’s concern that she will have to explain to her daughter what ‘rampant rabbit’ means is entirely unfounded as far as I can tell.

The store, she says, are selling products “more commonly associated with dingy boutiques in Soho” which tells you everything you need to know about how often Odone goes shopping for sex toys. She is also shocked by the fact that they are out on display, not in their packaging, and at eye level for children. At least Ann Summers keep theirs packaged up, she fumes.

Mm. Let’s have a quick look at the difference between the Boots range and the Ann Summers range shall we?

Boots

Ann Summers

Likewise the Mail was furious that Boots would have the audacity to sell sex toys where customers could see them, again citing Ann Summers as the paradigm of child-friendly shopping. Yeah guys, I’d definitely take my five-year-old niece in here…

On the off-chance your kids do happen upon a row of white and purple devices and you’re not to content to brush it off with a breezy “they’re for grown ups… come on, we’re going to be late for ballet/swimming/horse riding,” here are some suggestions for what else they could be: electric razors, neck massagers, dumbbells, curling irons, foot pumices, skin buffers, electric rolling pins… seriously, make something up. Do you really think your seven-year-old would know the difference between a Durex Play Discover and a No 7 Perfect Pedicure set?

And I am still not seeing what any of this has to do with feminism. Are feminists supposed to dislike sex toys? Or are feminists more wary of explaining the facts of life to their children than other people? No. This is nothing to do with feminism. What it is to do with, as always, is the uneducated, fearful and – worse – dismissive attitudes of a certain section of society when it comes to sex.

Now, personally the only Durex products I’ve ever bought are condoms and lube (see below for my shopping recommendations) but I applaud Durex’s efforts to get sex toys on the shelves. Promoting healthy, safe, and mutually agreeable sexual relationships can only be a good thing for humanity.

But the inverted commas around ‘sexual wellbeing’ suggest skepticism that anything sexual could contribute to one’s health or happiness (though I appreciate the term itself is pure marketing spiel) while those around ‘stimulators’ are just bizarre. What does a sex toy do if not stimulate, pray tell? The underlying feeling is that sex is not something you should talk or think about, let alone in the aisles of Boots the Chemist (I am also really enjoying how suddenly Boots has found itself hailed as a stalwart of decency, “founded in 1849, don’t you know – what would the Victorians think?”).

Yawn. It’s all rather tedious, isn’t it? Here’s a suggestion: maybe if we embraced more healthy attitude to sex in the first place, we wouldn’t be so afraid of our children finding out about it.

*

Bright neon lights and automated checkouts mean shopping for sex toys in Boots isn’t exactly a private affair. If you can stand to forgo your points, here are a few of my faves…

Glam: Coco de Mer

Fun and affordable: Sh!

Online: LoveHoney.co.uk

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