Siren Call

1.21.2013

By Aaron Hicklin

Sexual anthropologist Betony Vernon is on a mission. Will you join her?


From left: Bondage kit; gold clamps; petting ring.

More important, Vernon wants to save relationships from boredom and decline. “Desire has a shelf life -- that automatic ‘I need you, I want you, I’m going to devour you,’ ” she says. “That sort of thing, it’s been clinically proven, can last from one day to, max, four years; after that, you’d better have some skill sets.”

As for erotica’s current lodestone, Fifty Shades of Grey, Vernon, whose own literary tastes run from Somerset Maugham to the Marquis de Sade, is conflicted. E.L. James’s runaway bestseller has lead to a spike in the sale of Ben Wa balls, a popular number in Vernon’s own Paradise Found collection, but the author’s literary style leaves her cold. “I don’t think she’s someone who’s actually ever been on her knees,” she says archly. “It sort of feels as if she’s studied it rather than lived it, but I do have to thank her for bringing different kinds of living to the people.”

Vernon calls out from the darkness below. “This is the boudoir,” she says, as the lights flicker on and I descend the corkscrew staircase to her 17th-century cellar, where she stores her Paradise Found collection, about 180 pieces, in a large armoire.

“I add things, but, as Gertrude Stein would say, a cock is a cock is a cock,” she says, retrieving a silver butt plug from its holder. “These are anal tools,” she explains. “It comes in a set of three, because, as you know, if the anus is dilated gradually, it can take on quite large things.”

Although her clients tend to be women, Vernon thinks men, gay and straight, would benefit as much, if not more, from her services. “If someone comes to me and says, ‘I can only be a top and I can’t do anything else,’ I say, ‘Well, that’s your limit -- why don’t you start to poke around that limit and see what happens.’ That’s where barriers are broken, that’s where we have revelations. But it does take trust, and you’re not going to do it with someone you’re never going to see again, whose face you maybe don’t even see online.”

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