A recent example of the relentless pornification of post-feminism is seen in the new venture of the massively wealthy Sam Roddick, daughter of the late Anita “Body Shop” Roddick. Cashed up post-feminist, corporate minded Sam has launched a creepy chain of sex shops in London, Los Angeles and New York called Coco de Mer.
Here you can buy “high-end lingerie, sex toys, books and erotic art” with an ethical “up yours!” post-feminist glow. As an interviewer in The Guardian put it, “Smiling, she turns around and says: ‘We can stick our fingers up at our parents and go: check this feminism - it comes with a pair of really lacy knickers.’”
Besides the très expensive, ooh la la, vive la révolution lingerie, you can also stick your fingers up at the older generation of feminists who banged on about women’s poverty, sexual violence, pornography, child abuse, etc, with “Pearl Anal Beads” for only £215. Or for the well and truly up yours ethical post-feminist consumer there is the “Crowned Jewels Chancellor Vibrating Butt Plug” which is “crafted from solid sterling silver” and is yours for the price of £595. (No discounts for pensioners, sorry!)
In an era when women are expected to submit to any sexual practice just to prove that they are sexually liberated, there seems to be something rather apt about this latest corporate pornification of feminism. Or perhaps you would like to buy a naughty little sexually self-empowering mirror? For £1,000, the “Betony Vernon Sado Chic Masturbation Mirror” liberates your sexuality so that you can “Observe your own pleasure and watch as you reach the heights of sexual ecstasy”. Watch out patriarchy!
Also reaching new heights of post-feminist subversion is the Ilya Fleet Dog Mask that comes with a very long pointy snout and alert little ears. Perfect for those protest marches against the new austerity measures that are impacting on disadvantaged women all over the world. Wearing a pointy nosed dog mask will set you back £350. You can also chose from a range of dog collars and leads for when you really want to explore being sexually autonomous. Or, if you’re on a budget - or just not a dog person - you could buy the more economical cat mask for £150. If you fancy being ridden like a horse there is a harness or two, or if you want to be treated like a pig you might find a Hog Tie appealing. Dog, cat, horse or pig? Post-feminism has opened up your choices.
Lashings of other bondage gear will help you subvert the dominant paradigm: whips, spanking equipment, and so on, and so forth, etc. You know, things that will “ensure your lover knows who’s boss!” Oh, if you say so. But perhaps the most interesting is the “unusual and beautifully crafted leather leg harness [which] accompanies the Marlyn dildo”. Basically, it’s a strap on dildo for the thigh. To be used, I suppose, in those consciousness raising bondage orgies that so terrify those in power.
If you can’t quite afford these revolutionary sex toys and would like to settle for a vibrator, rest assured that Coco de Mer offers what might be eco-friendly vibrators. Apparently Coco de Mer is “the first luxury sex boutique to take responsibility for the materials our designer sex toys are made from”. I can’t help wondering what this means. Does it mean that the sex toys are eco-friendly, made from re-cycled rubber, or (and my mind is trying not to go there) that the materials used have some connection to an unspecified Third World economic self-sufficiency program? I do wonder where they got the human hair for the £239 Bombshell Human Hair Whip. (Can we have your hair please - we want to turn it into a sex whip.)
Sam not only wants to liberate the wallets of cashed up western women, but their minds as well. The shop that sells vibrating silver butt plugs and £1,000 masturbating mirrors is really about “establishing intelligent dialogues ... about what is permissible”. The big problem, as she sees it, is that “we” need to sex up feminism:
Feminism as a word is desexualised. If one claims to be a feminist, one is almost sacrificing her sexuality or her sexiness, right? Because it’s not really permissible to be powerful, self-determined, challenging of society and be sexy. So it’s very interesting how many women refuse to state they are a feminist. They fear that they are not going to be desired. I think it’s something that we’ve got to tackle.
With obscenely expensive militant lingerie, revolutionary butt plugs and oppositional dildos, apparently. It’s all about “reclaiming women’s sexuality”, you see.
In 1981 Florence Rush (in The Best Kept Secret: Sexual Abuse of Children. McGraw and Hill) wrote that “the current concept of sexual liberation has no relationship whatsoever to political freedom”. The counter-cultural 60’s slogan “make love, not war” quickly became a slogan for cool capitalism. And it’s still largely forgotten that the guru of the sexual revolution, Alfred Kinsey, employed a known pedophile to conduct sexual experiments on 800 girls and boys in order to prove that kids are sexual.
Several decades later, Rush is still right: there is a big gap between sexual liberation and political freedom.