Sex toys… Occasionally talk of sex toys reminds me of related topics, and today I got to thinking about something a friend brought to my attention a couple weeks back â€“ Book22.com, a website that offers â€œintimacy products for married couples.â€
Kevin and Joy Wilson started Book22 back in 2006. For those of you who donâ€™t know, there is a chapter of Christian-based spiritual/religious text which is referred to as the Song of Songs, or the Song of Solomon (â€œThe song of songs, which is Solomon’s.â€). The Song of Solomon often appears as the 22nd chapter in bibles, but this varies depending on which edition and/or version you have.
Regardless, the Song of Solomon, or â€œBook 22â€ as it is also often referred, is believed by some to be an allegorical representation of the relationship that may exist between Jesus and the human soul. The text is also thought allow for two â€œtypesâ€ of love: the sacrificing/giving type and the erotic/sexy type.Â This in turn can be interpreted as approval or â€œpermissionâ€ to enjoy sexual pleasure and exploration
So, with this in mind, the Wilsons started their site as a way for Christian couples to explore their sexualities while â€œencourage[ing] God’s plan for people to remain sexually pure.â€
Like most messages, itâ€™s all in the delivery; and if this delivery is what it takes for some people to embrace sex, then thatâ€™s awesome. But the Gawker piece I read on Book22 was a little bit derisive, so I decided to take a detailed look at the website myself.
The euphemisms that Gawker poked fun at were the first things I noticedâ€¦ vibrators and dildos are in fact referred to as â€œAids,â€ and cock rings and the like are referred to as â€œJelly Rings.â€Â Hehe but honestly, Iâ€™m ok with that â€“ just because some of us can toss â€œcock ringâ€ around with effortless aplomb, many people cannot. And whatsmore, they sell tongue vibes on Book22.com (that way you donâ€™t have to talk at all).
I did start to get a little uncomfortable though when I realized that, as an unmarried person, Iâ€™m technically not â€œallowedâ€ to look at or purchase items from the site (I was still thinking about that tongue vibe), but whatevs â€“ this site is not meant for me, and thatâ€™s super fine.
But as I started prowling even further and really read some of the copy, Book22.com lost a little bit of its initial charm.Â Two issuesÂ highlighted inÂ copyÂ excerpts really stuck out.
The first major issue had to do with thisÂ text here: â€œWe ask for all of the products that we order to be polybagged this allows us to offer products without the inappropriate cardboard backing with images of nude or partially nude people on them. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to get every item in polybag so occasionally we will apply a sticker or remove packaging that we find inappropriate.â€ (sic)
So basically, if Book22 wanted to offer some door jam cuffs but found the packaging â€œinappropriateâ€ (Exhibit A), they would send them to the consumer without the boxâ€¦ ok, but what if they donâ€™t like the packaging for a crotchless harness, such as Exhibit B. They would probably send it out unpackaged as well, right?
(pictured: exhibits A and B)
This practice of unpackaging on the basis of (perceived) â€œinappropriatenessâ€ raises two issues in my mind, the first having to do with health and safety and the second having to do with eliminating competition.
First of all, Iâ€™m not germaphobic or anything, but something about getting an unpackaged crotchless harness-type sex toy in the mail makes me squeamish.Â Who knows what has already touched that thing, and youâ€™re going to put it in your XXX?! Regardless of â€œinappropriateâ€ imagery, it just seems like some implements need to stay in their respective boxes.
And less sticky but certainly more icky (to me) is the issue of marketing and the surreptitious elimination of competition. By removing manufacturersâ€™ packaging materials, Book22 customers are relegated to getting their products from Kevin and Joy Wilson only.Â Although I understand that distributors have certainly already received wholesale return from Book22 and that these separating-the-consumer-from-the-wholesaler type tactics happen all the time, hiding market competition behind assessments of â€œinappropriateâ€ is itself less than appropriate.
The second major issue that really stands out to me has to do with these same notions of in/appropriate and thisÂ text here: â€œWe believe that God intended that such love, as spoken of in Song of Solomon, be a beautiful and normal part of marital life. Unfortunately this gift from God has been grossly distorted and abused by both ancient and modern people.â€ (sic)
What I get from this passage is that there is (supposedly) one-and-only-one iteration of erotic love that is okâ€¦ with God. Now, I fully disagree with this one-and-only-one iteration-is-ok thing; but, just like â€œcock ring,â€ if this is what it takes to get some people to embrace and explore their sexualities, awesome.
What I find irksome about this though is Book22â€™s practice of engaging â€œinappropriateâ€ businesses while simultaneously judging them. Is it ok for Book22 to employ (through wholesale purchase) the endless creative labor it took to make tongue vibes and then write the people who performed that labor off as â€œgrossly distortedâ€ and abusive?
This reminds me of a recent study by Benjamin Edelman (2009) that suggested political and cultural conservatives purchase more on-line porn than their less-conservative counterparts. Ironic and rather relevant, no?
Call me kooky, but when I think of grossly sexually distorted I usually think of someone like this guy (who is technically â€œallowedâ€ to shop at Book22!)…
Who or what do you think of? Email me!!
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Edelman, Benjamin 2009, â€œRed Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainmentâ€ Journal of Economic Perspectives 23(1): 209-220.
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