How Flossy is changing the sex shop game
After an unpleasant experience in a ‘seedy’ adult store, Caroline Reis and Annie Miller set out to make an inclusive, approachable sex shop where pleasure, free of shame and stigma, is priority Number One.
When Caroline Reis moved from Seattle to Brisbane, Australia’s 240V wattage compared to the United States’ 110-120V took the lives of two curling irons and her “trusty” bullet vibrator. It was time for a replacement, but Reis wasn’t keen on the idea of having to venture into a sex shop with her partner. Adult stores tend to smell dank, the lube containers are dusty, and there are just SO many vibrators to choose from it can be overwhelming. What’s worse? The unappealing salesperson.
“I wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible, but first we had to listen to the salesperson describe all of his own personal experiences using each of the toys. What he did to ‘make girls cum’,” recalls Reis.
“I couldn’t take any more of the seediness and shame, I regrettably agreed to buy a sketchy-looking wand-style vibrator because I truly didn’t even care what it was, I just wanted to stop talking to him and get out of the store.” And with a nondescript “black bag of shame” shielding her purchase from public view, Reis headed home.
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It was such an unpleasant experience that it prompted Reis to ask her friend Annie Miller if all sex shops in Australia are like this. Regrettably, Miller replied that yes, they are.
“Why isn’t there a sex shop you can walk into where you get a glass of champagne upon entry, it feels like an Apple-store-meets-Mecca and has cosy sitting area in the back of the shop where you can go to a specific session focused on topics of sexual wellness,” lamented Reis at the time, “why do they all have to be so dang seedy?”
A year later, Flossy was born; a personalised sexual wellness destination that “trades seediness, overwhelm, and hypersexualisation for an experience that integrates pleasure as part of health.” The site design doesn’t scream SEX!!! like so many other adult retailers. It’s approachable, modern, and chic more akin to a beauty brand. The champagne upon entry isn’t literal–Flossy is solely online and ships Australia-wide thus far–but it’s a good illustration of what they have tried to achieve through the site’s aesthetic. Think Glossier-meets-multiple orgasms.
“[It] isn’t designed for the male gaze,” says Miller. “We want people to feel like they can relate in this space. By having a softer palate and not constantly having vibrators in our feed, it’s approachable to anyone that’s not even looking for a vibe but wanting to get to know more about their own wellness.”
Dissolving the shame and stigma of shopping for pleasure tools (while most readers will know them as ‘sex toys’, the word ‘toy’ is associated with childishness and a term Reis and Miller would prefer to avoid) is at the top of the pair’s mission for Flossy, no black bags of shame in sight.
“Around recent movements such as #MeToo, you would think we would be further along when it comes to women and people with vulvas owning their own pleasure,” says Caroline. “The challenge is that even though we have made progress, we are still existing within a patriarchal society that has very specific confines of what it means to be a woman and what women should and should not do.” And this societal construct in turn trickles down to our own internal dialogue.
Given that 70 percent of the sex product industry is male-owned, the pair are “putting our foot down” for companies that are designed to profit off female pleasure, and as 75 percent of people with vulvas don’t orgasm through penetration alone, this means more products angled at clitoral stimulation. Miller and Reis are discerning buyers, too. They focus on high-quality products with body-safe ingredients that might be more costly upfront but offer a better investment in longevity and safety.
“Not all sex toys are created equal,” says Miller. “When you buy and use low-quality sex toys, it can be harmful for you.”
It’s for this reason Flossy only stocks pleasure tools made from 100 percent body-safe or medical grade silicone, and maybe most importantly are chic enough to display on the bedside table with pride rather than stashed away in a drawer.
“We have a serious obsession with sexual wellness brands who leave shame and stigma at the door; but instead making you feel like you’re sitting in your best friend’s living room, a glass of wine in hand, feeling nothing but good vibes,” says Reis. “Because let’s be real: Is there any more universal desire than feeling good in our own bodies? No? Yep, didn’t think so.”