Betony Vernon's Guide to Good Sex
Written by Stephanie McDermott
Betony Vernon has never been a retiring flower. From creating Paradise Found, a highly successful line of luxury erotic jewelry, to hosting sexual salons – seminars to enhance love-making and intimacy – her career has led her to be considered a pioneer in the field of sexual anthropology and erotic exploration.
Earlier this year she released The Boudoir Bible, an uninhibited sex guide, covering everything from massage and meditation, to the more taboo topics of erotic flagellation and bondage. Here she discusses her passions and pleasures, and how she became the woman she is today.
The Boudoir Bible has received rave reviews – what do you primarily hope readers will take from it?
The main goal is to dismantle misinterpretations that inhibit our capacity to experience enhanced pleasure. There are a lot of misconceptions – particularly about the use of certain tools and practices – that need to be put out into the open. We’re in the 21st Century, we live in a very sexualized environment and now it’s time for information.
I consider it more than a sex guide because I don’t tell you how to make love to each other: I give you a skill set that allows you to have a much more creative relationship with your partner. I consider it more of an initiation than a guide.
You dedicate chapters to some of the more – shall we say – unusual practices like flagellation and constraints. Is your book for a more liberated lover?
Not at all, I invite everyone to read it because the moment we’re in the know, we do ourselves the biggest favour. We stop judging other people sexually and begin to open our horizons. Humans tend to judge others because they don’t know, and if I’m judging the way you take your pleasure, I’m automatically judging myself as well.
So what specifically do you teach?
Why people do certain things, what happens and why it feels good. I try to dismantle this myth that certain practices are solely for those believing in the no pain no gain theory. All the tools I talk about can be used to provide very soft sensations or more direct ones. It’s up to those practicing these pleasures to respect each others limits. We’re curious animals, we human beings, and everyone’s different. I believe a lot in the art of possibility and think that it’s good to know our sexual possibilities and horizons.
To get into this field of sexual anthropology – especially as one of four daughters – were your parents quite open with sexuality when you were growing up?
My mother was an English civil rights activist in the US and in 1960 took part in the first sit in on the East Coast, and ended up sparking America’s civil rights revolution without realizing it. In ‘72, this caused her – amongst other things – to lose the right to keep us.
A mother’s role is to teach her children, and that teaching involves prohibition, so I didn’t have any at all. I was never told don’t do this or say that, which has a huge impact on the way a child evolves. I was a sneaky little beast, and my father believed we should all be little women, so by the time I was 6 I was being raised by my eldest sister who was 13. At that age you’re really not a woman and not able to set those limitations, so I had very little parental guidance.
I left home very early and wasn’t raised with barriers – but when I look back on it I don’t have any regrets, it just is the way that it was.
With such easy access to online porn many teenagers in the West today don’t have many sexual barriers either. Is it good for sex to be so open?
Porn is not a good teacher. Nothing’s going take it out of the system, but making love and porn are two very different things. The real disaster is that there’s no movement within the education system to give adolescents solid information about pleasure, rather than just facts about reproduction.
We’re still looking at many states in America that focus solely on abstinence education. Meanwhile children aged 5, can unwittingly find themselves in front of XXX material online, and it’s super confusing.
Porn is performance, and many kids don’t know that it has nothing to do with real sex. There’s no intimacy or storyline. It’s just about banging each other, which is all fine and good, because that’s what sells, but it’s a different vision of sex, let’s put it that way.
As someone based primarily in Paris, is the stereotype that the French are more sexually liberate fair?
Well it’s definitely not a puritanic society. Paris is a city that’s renowned for being super sexy and very romantic – there’s that association with the libertine movement.
It’s a more sexual society in a lot of ways than New York let’s say, where many people have really intense work schedules and take the time to prioritise so many things that sexuality is forgotten.
Where do you think has the healthiest attitude to sexuality?
The fact is that we’re all human beings, and everything that we do is driven by desire. Whether it’s desire to love someone, have something or do something, it’s the same part of the brain that’s lighting up, whether American, French or Italian.
But cultural differences do make differences in our sexual perspective. The States are very porn driven, and it’s increasingly a global phenomenon because of the internet. So I would say the attitude to sexuality there is perhaps a little more skewed than in some European countries. I’m very happy to say that my publisher’s in America and I really wanted the book to come out there because it’s one of the places where I feel real sex is the most shrouded, still today.
In the UK – and I’ve done quite a few in the States recently.
That’s surprising, there’s still the attitude that the British are somewhat repressed sexually.
There’s been a real movement there, a feminist approach to erotica and sexuality. It began with Coco de Mer in 2001, which is where I started to teach my salons publicly. And what I find interesting is that when I’m contacted to do a private salon, it’s women that seek me, not the men. Generally, a group of men will not sit in a room and talk about their issues, whereas women will.
Men have been told for 2000 years that they are sexual superiors and the idea of discussing issues in a group can be a big deal – it really is a movement commanded by women. But I always say that they should bring their partners along. Sex is a shared experience so taking this journey alone doesn’t make sense – and historically, women have been the teachers, but we’ve lost our sense of initiation somehow.
I’d imagine some men would be intimidated by that idea – as a woman your job must surely make some partners nervous?
No darling, if they’re not on for the ride, it would never work! I My current partner has been in my life for four years and he’s very much my ceremonial mate. He’s open minded of course and he sustains me, otherwise I couldn’t be in a relationship with him. My work in many ways is that of a healer and he understands that.
Would you say your salons are a condensed version of your book?
You’ve pinned it down exactly. The salons are fantastic and give me an opportunity to delve into the sexuality of others, but one of my goals was to really take this to a wider public. I’m one person and salons are small – I thought to myself the only way to really make a mission successful is to reach the people. And so the information that I include in the book is very much around what I teach in my salons.
For generations a notion of sexual fear has been in instilled in young people, so there’s a lot of shedding of these preconceptions to be done throughout society. And I really believe that now is the time!
To purchase The Boudoir Bible: an Uninhibited Sex Guide for Today online click here.