You all surely know by now that I absolutely love feminist, inclusive sex shops? That’s why I was so pleased to partner with The Pleasure Garden, a UK based online company selling only body-safe pleasure products. I’ve reviewed products for them (and have more in the pipeline!) and I’m in their affiliate programme (so, full disclosure, if you make a purchase through one of my links I make a small commission.) Today I’m really pleased to introduce you to Francesca, the brains behind and owner of The Pleasure Garden.
Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?
My name is Francesca (she/her) and I own and operate The Pleasure Garden – a UK based inclusive sex shop. Its been up and running for about a year now and it has been an exciting ride so far!
At the moment it’s a one man band, so I do almost everything on the site including fulfilling orders, copywriting, social media and managing the website. It can be a lot! I love to work with talented specialists, who make some amazing contributions to things like design and providing expert knowledge, when I get the chance!
What made you want to start an online sex shop?
For a long time I had been interested in starting my own business but I never found the right idea or inspiration. Then I started to read the fabulous Oh Joy Sex Toy which in turn introduced my to a load of other sex blogs as well as the world of ethical feminist sex toy retail. I felt that I had spotted a gap in the UK market for this type of shop.
At this point I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue in my current career. When I discussed my options with a friend they told me that I just lit up when I started talking about the shop and nothing else seemed to inspire that kind of passion! So I worked for a year to build the site, identify the products I wanted to stock and do all the other things that you need to do to start a business (talk to me about business bank accounts. I dare you!) I did all this while working full time before taking the plunge and pressing go with the shop.
The long term plan is to open a bricks and mortar store as well (or maybe a few!) so keep your eyes peeled for future developments!
How would you describe the ethos and values of The Pleasure Garden?
The number one priority of The Pleasure Garden is to be inclusive. For me this touches on being inclusive of all gender identities and sexualities, but in particular relates to disability. In the UK approximately 1 in 11 people have some form of disability. Yet disabled people are consistently excluded from almost everything to do with sex. In emphasising inclusivity I hope to provide a space which is as accessible as possible and provides the expertise to help anyone find a sex toy that will work for them. This is as opposed to making something specialist – which in the end just others and separates people.
The core values of the business are also centred around pleasure – it is right there in the name! I think so many people seek out sex toys because they are struggling to find pleasure in an act which society says should knock your socks off every time, whilst also being a source of shame and embarrassment. I want to provide people with opportunities to explore pleasure. This underpins everything – from my choice of products and my stance on stocking only body safe toys, to customer service and promoting the work of excellent sex educators.
What was/is the most challenging thing about setting up your shop or running it?
Oh, where to start! Before I started the shop I had never worked in retail, run a business or designed a website. So I had a very steep learning curve. It has been an amazing experience and I am adding skills every day. But it is definitely a process and sometimes it can get overwhelming. It is frustrating when I can’t seem to get the vision of something I have in my head to work in reality because I just don’t have the right set of skills. I am getting better at knowing when to call on outside help! Striking the right balance between the social mission of the business and the actual business part is also a challenge. There are so many things I want to do – but it also needs to keep the lights on!
What about the most rewarding thing?
Getting to spend every day doing something that I love is pretty awesome! I really enjoy being challenged and learning new things, so launching a sex shop has been a blast. I learn about new things all the time – from the impact of diabetes on erectile dysfunction and how silicone dildos are made, to the ins and outs of Google analytics and financial software.
What’s the best selling toy in your shop? Why do you think that is?
One of the most popular products I sell is actually the SpareParts Joque Harness. It is a really high quality harness which is pretty beloved by a lot of reviewers, but there aren’t a huge number of places stocking it in the UK. So I jumped at the chance to get it in the shop and it has deservedly done really well.
What’s something that people always misunderstand about your work?
That is a tricky question! I actually think I am super lucky. I’m surrounded by a lot or really awesome friends and family members who really get what I am trying to do (including my mum, who has on occasion been pulled in to package and post things for me when I have been in a bind!) I think the one slightly annoying thing is the repeated asking of, “So have you tried out everything you sell?” I know people are just trying to be funny, but it gets old!
Who inspires you personally and professionally?
Professionally I tend to draw inspiration from anyone who has the bottle to take a risk and start something for themselves. It is a lot of hard work, and knowing that other people have made it work gives me hope! There are also some amazing people who are doing epic work in the world of disability and sexuality, such as Tuppy Owens who founded the Outsiders Club, and Gill Leno, a sex educator who works with young people with learning disabilities.
Who’s your favourite sex educator and why?
There are loads of amazing sex educators out there that I really admire but probably the two at the top are –
Erika Moen and Matt Nolan who create Oh Joy Sex Toy. OJST was my first intro to sex blogging and it really opened my eyes. I absolutely love they way they include a massive range of body types including disabilities, different genders and different sexualities in the comics.
Also, Emily Nagoski – I think Come As You Are should be handed to everyone at age 18! Her work is exceptional, empathetic and engaging.
What’s something you used to believe – about sex, sex toys or relationships – that you don’t believe any more?
What a great question! I used to believe that I may never find sex satisfying and that that was okay. When my first sexual experiences really didn’t match up with the messages I had from the media and (what amounted to) sex education at school, I just thought that maybe sex would just not be that great for me. It took some time learning about myself, a few sex toys and finding how to communicate (seriously, everyone should read Come as You Are) to find as much pleasure in sex and intimacy as I do now.
And just for fun because it is “Coffee and Kink” – do you like coffee? How do you take it?
Hah! I don’t drink coffee… or tea… or hot chocolate. The only hot beverage I enjoy is a hot Ribena (at it has to be brand name – no ASDA own brand rubbish!)
Thanks so much to Francesca for taking the time to speak to us. Check out The Pleasure Garden – we need to be supporting women-owned, feminist businesses! Banner image is property of The Pleasure Garden and used with permission.
Have you guys noticed that collars seem to be really trendy right now? Everywhere I look, femme folks are wearing them as fashion accessories. This is both awesome (“I can wear my collar in public and no-one will think it’s weird!”) and really annoying (“it’s so hard to spot my people in the wild now!”)
The line between what constitutes a choker and what constitutes a collar is… flimsy. I’d say there are some items that are definitely collars, but ultimately the distinction comes down to the meaning you ascribe to it. Wearing a collar is, at its best, a place of safety and grounding for me. It gives me a sense of security in my submissive identity and the knowledge that my Dominant will take care of me for as long as I’m wearing it.
Like every piece in Bijoux Indiscrets’ Maze collection, this collar is made of faux leather made of polyurethane from recycled materials. This means it is both environmentally conscious and certified vegan! A major plus for those of us who love leather but feel weird about the animal cruelty implications of the real thing.
As I’ve said before, I struggle with what I acknowledge is a level of hypocrisy within myself, being a vegetarian who also adores leather. I particularly love Bijoux’s products because their faux leather looks and feels so close to the real thing. It sadly doesn’t have that sexy-as-fuck leather smell, but I guess you can’t have everything. This material is a really fantastic choice for the animal welfare-conscious kinkster.
Simple, Elegant and Comfortable
You can get all kinds of gorgeous and fancy collars. However, I’ve always tended more towards simplicity in the designs I like. The Maze collar is a slender band with a simple ring at the front, which is both decorative and functional (ideal for attaching a leash, for example!)
I have this collar in black, but it also comes in brown, which is equally beautiful and a really nice option for those who don’t want all their fetishwear to be black, red or purple. (I was sorely tempted to ask for a brown one myself! The black won out because it goes with more of my wardrobe.) Both colours are gorgeous.
The Maze collar is also super duper comfortable! I wore it all evening at a party, and it was so comfy that we were half way through our two hour drive home before I remembered I was still wearing it. (Gotta tell you, though, Bijoux collar plus Doxy t-shirt is the ultimate in “post-sex-party chic”.)
One Size Fits Most
I really love the fastenings on this collar. There is no buckle; instead, it is closed with a small peg which you push through one of the holes. I really liked this aspect as it meant it was super easy to put on and take off myself, without needing any help. The downside is that it is not lockable, so if you’re after a collar that can be locked into place, this is not the one.
It’s super adjustable, meaning one size will fit the vast majority of necks regardless of sex or body type.
The Perfect Everyday Collar
I am in love with this collar, and actually this entire range. Pair your Maze collar with a leash and cuffs for kinky fun, with a harness for bondage-inspired glamour, with my favourite ears for kitten play, or with some nipple-pasties/sparkles for burlesque-style sex appeal.
The Maze choker/collar retails for £22.50/$26, making it one of the more affordable pieces in the Maze collection. Eco-conscious beauty at an affordable price!
Chances are, if you’ve met me in meat-space, you’ve also met The Signature Ears. That is, the various cat ear headbands I wear as often as possible in sex-positive spaces. They’re a big part of how I present myself as Amy, they’re super memorable, and I love them. So I was thrilled when Bijoux Indiscrets, who sponsored Eroticon this year , approached me before the ‘Con and asked if I’d like to try one of their new cat ear headpieces.
Why yes, yes I would!
MAZE is an amazing collection of faux-leather accessories from Bijoux Indiscrets. The line includes cuffs, harnesses, collars and more. Most of the pieces are available in both black and brown. The aesthetic is bondage-inspired and focused on sensuality, power and blending “current fashion with traditional eroticism”. Thing strong lines, minimal adornments and kinky elegance. Though they’re showed being modeled by feminine folks, I see no reason why this stuff wouldn’t also look amazing on more masculine bodies.
As a vegetarian, I often feel a bit hypocritical in my love of leather and I have a complex relationship with it. So imagine my delight at learning that everything in Bijoux’s “leather” range is made of polyurethane from recycled materials. Environmentally friendly AND 100% vegan approved. Whoever said that looking gorgeous couldn’t be ethical and cruelty-free?
Maze pieces range from £25 to £90 in price. These ears retail for £40 from Bijoux directly, and are currently available at Shevibe for £33.25 (about $45). They’re luxury pieces and come with luxury price-tags. However, they’re beautifully made from quality materials and this company has stellar customer service reviews.
The Cat’s Whiskers…
The Maze cat ears headpiece is available in both black and brown. I’m definitely a black cat, though, so that’s the colour I went for. It’s fully adjustable at the head. With a maximum circumference of 24.4 inches (minimum 21.25), this piece will fit the vast majority of adults just fine. There’s even space to add an extra hole if required, making it even more customisable to fit you perfectly.
I found the ears easy to adjust and super comfortable once they were in place. They were also nice and secure, so no risk of them falling off – which is important in any product, but especially one that you might pay £40 for!
I honestly felt so fucking sexy in these ears. I paired them with my favourite catsuit from Latex Leather & Lace and high boots for the Eroticon Saturday night social and… let’s just say, heads were turning.
Was it over the top and ridiculous? Yes. Did I feel sexier and more powerful than pretty much ever in my life before? Also yes.
“They make you look hella kissable!” – anon. pretty girl.
Surprisingly, perhaps, I haven’t done very much kitten play or pet play of any kind. (I’m curious, though). But if that’s your jam, these ears could be the ideal piece to help you transform into the gorgeous sex-kitten you want to be.
(Sorry – the puns can’t all be great, okay!?)
I’m simply in love with these ears and this whole range! If you’re looking for a sexy, bondage-inspired aesthetic, you can’t go wrong with Maze.
Thanks to Bijoux Indiscrets for sending me these ears in exchange for an honest review! All views are, as ever, my own. If you get your own, please consider buying from Shevibe using my affiliate links in order to send a small commission my way. Pictures are by me and not to be used without express permission.