Putting the Boots in to mature sexuality

Oooer, missus! Did you know that good olde, cuddly olde, respectable olde, ever-so-slightly boring olde Boots has been, is and possibly for the next week and a half will be….wait for it…selling smut? Well, sex aids, actually or, as they put it rather more coyly, products designed to enhance “sexual wellbeing”.


No? I certainly wasn’t – although i have been vaguely aware, for a while now, that they have actually upped their game in the erotic sphere to stocking evil and lascivious flavoured condoms and lubricants. But i hadn’t noticed that they had broadened out into what some blokes might consider the, er, optional end of sexual activity. Not just support for the sexual act itself: but foreplay, too!

What is the world coming to?

Of course, its not a story. Not really news. Or it wasn’t until this weekend when the Daily Mail found out what was going on, and jumped in with a story about Sex Toys being on sale at Boots “prominently displayed to children”.

Just think of the children!

Oh, dear. We all know what’s coming next, and it isn’t pretty: “Boots”, they thunder, “has been criticised by parents for selling sex toys in its shops, within full view of children”.

No matter that up to now just four customers had seen fit to complain. After all, it is understood that a handful of complaints about the Russell Brand/Andrew Sachs prank call prior to the Mail going to town on it – and that ended with some 30,000 complaints, mostly from individuals who hadn’t heard the broadcast in the first place.

And the offended aren’t that hard to find.

Or inspire.

According to the Mail, in one Boots outlet, “three types of sex aid were on display last week and placed on a shelf low enough for children to see”. Not only: but they were displayed unboxed – a crime so appalling that not even Ann Summers would commit it.

A 43-year-old granny – Julie Burgess – claimed to be “appalled” and “shocked”.

26-year-old Scott Millins described the enterprise as “quite disgusting”.

Saving adult blushes

Oh dear, oh dear. So what is the problem? This isn’t “sexualisation ” of children – which is about the alleged creep of adult themes into childish products. No. This is about adult devices being offered politely and without hype to adults in a store that, apart from the toy section, is likely to be fundamentally boring to most kids.

The devices are not – despite the Mail’s claims – displayed especially prominently. They are supported by the sort of euphemistic description of their function that would probably pass muster with the average maiden aunt. And given the exotic streamlined nature of the beast(s) – long since moved on from the phallic symbolism of the “non-doctor” vibro-massager – the most likely reason for the average ten-year-old to express an interest in them is not their affinity to the erotic, but the fact that they could well be scale models of the newest Klingon “Bird of Prey”.

So what’s the problem? Well, as always, it probably has more to do with sparing adult blushes than genuine child protection. Our disgusted granny explained how she “certainly wouldn’t want to be having to explain [to her grand daughter] what a sex toy is”.

I wonder if her g-d is equally curious about incontinence pads, or tampons…and whether she is equally embarrassed to explain what those are for.

Likewise Scotty, whose sad commentarary on the enterprise was: “Children shouldn’t know about that sort of thing until they’re grown up and in a relationship with someone”.

So there you have it. Children might ask awkward questions. And their parents and carers, rather than provide sensible, age-appropriate explanations, like “those are toys that grown-ups use to give each other pleasure when they love and trust one another” would much prefer to tell them nothing.

Sad, really.

I’d give boots not much more than ten days before this silly piece of sensationalism forces them to rethink their policy.


ETA: Oh dear….the story has now cycled round to be the mail’s online lead. Suspect the number of complaints to boots will be way past 4 this time tomorrow.

Should we say 4,000?


14 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Personally I’d rather Boots did sell 10″ double ended dongs that such quackery as the ‘Breast Light’ or those very pricey pretend laser hair removal thingies 😉

  2. 2

    kathz said,

    I was interested to note that Boots insists they are “for you and your partner” – for use by couples only??! And of course, no child would accidentally pick up the Mail or see the headline and photos and be prompted to ask, “Mummy, Daddy, what’s a sex toy?” – because the Mail is always sold from the top shelf in plain cover – right?

  3. 5

    Sophie said,

    What Boots need to do is steal an idea from *that* joke – paint them all tartan and call them novelty flasks until the fuss dies down.

  4. 7

    Did anyone else notice the curious combination offer of a free eye test voucher with a sex toy?

  5. 8

    ‘But i hadn’t noticed that they had broadened out into what some blokes might consider the, er, optional end of sexual activity.’

    an unnecessary dig at men maybe?

    • 9

      Is it a dig if it’s true?

      I think the failure of some men fully to appreciate the value of foreplay (even this term is loaded, as it suggests that it is merely the prelude to “real” penetrative sex, as opposed to an important experience in its own right) is, on some level, a product of the Daily Mail‘s attitude.

      Then again, I am primarily autosexual and always found penetration the least interesting part of 2-person sex.

    • 10

      janefae said,

      (replying by e-mail as well, since i am never sure whether or not you pick up on replies out on the blog).

      anyway. i did think of you as i wrote that sentence and wrote it, from my perspective, in a way that i felt drew its sting a bit. Two “justifications” – which may or may not satisfy.

      First, the way in which i write these sort of pieces is semi-humorous…or rather, uses what i hope is moderately interesting and amusing language to treat quite serious issues. Hence little “literary” flourishes like “oooer, Missus” …and comments like this, which is not so much serious analysis as alluding to what i guess could best be described as populist cliches.

      Yes: you may see it as low “dig”…and i can’t argue that it may come across as that. However, in context of the entirety, i’d say its not having quite such “a go” as maybe you read it as.

      Basically, if i wanted to do a piece about men and sexual awareness, i would…and at that point i’d maybe try and examine the issues rather more seriously and in depth: basically, its a known cliché…but is there any truth to it.

      Second…and again this is maybe personal to me…there is some specificity in how i use language here. And the fact that i said “blokes” rather than “men” is at the heart of it. In usage, i tend to distinguish men and blokes…with cliché largely loaded onto the latter class. In that sense, this is circular.

      blokes are the sort of men who wouldn’t be too bothered by foreplay…the sort who wouldn’t be so bothered by foreplay are blokes, as opposed to men. it may be a bit of a hair aplit…but its there in my own mind, if nowhere else..

      All the best,

      jane xx

  6. 11

    Megan said,

    This is the problem with this country, we are so up tight and repressed about sex (yet at the same time cis people are quick to point out about trans people’s genitals and question them), that children should be protected and sex is wrong and evil so lets not talk about it. Children see it as this big taboo thing; so like most children that want to try it out, then are too scared to come to their parents for advise and end up getting pregnant or someone else pregnant.

    Also if’s it’s so wrong why is the mail showing pictures of the offending items in a paper than children can access? this is typical mail and other tabloid newspaper conduct they scream and shout and show the offending pictures but then put in a an advert that shows breast enlargement and diets.

    Personally I feel this is worse than the original offending article because it’s putting pressure on young girls (and to a certain extent us older women) that having small breasts and a figure is wrong etc..

    Most of the comments seem to be, of the opinion of who cares this is the 21st century, stop being so prudish.

  7. 12

    Koalabravo said,

    Picking up on the tartan comment, my then 9 year old son and I were once in a gift shop in Edinburgh where whiskey flavoured condoms were displayed on the main checkout counter. He of course asked why anyone would want such a thing so I calmly explained that adults sometimes like to kiss their partners in those places and would be put off by the taste of latex. He just said, “OK, that makes sense,” and that was the end of it. Kids are much more sensible than we give them credit for.

    The Daily Fail’s problem is it believes kids all think like its readers do, in a narrow, small minded and anacronistic way. In the Mail reader’s world, people still have sex with their clothes on, the lights out, in a sound-proof room so as not to alarm the neighbours and only for as long as is absolutely neccessary for procreation. And no giggling!

  8. 13

    j murphy said,

    What awful people! Ugh!

  9. 14

    Barry said,

    the phrase “Oooer, missus!” is part of the problem and one I don’t like at all…

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