Whereas many Canadian cities have at least one popular queer book and sex store, spaces that are usually seen as community hubs and crucial sources of radical literature – St. John’s has never had one.
Enters Prude, a queer and artist-owned bookstore and sexual wellness shop, which opened in downtown St. John’s this winter. The business operates from a small space on Clift’s-Baird’s Coe, one of the small streets connecting Water Street with Harbour Drive.
“Our customer is probably someone who hasn’t always felt comfortable in traditional sex shops; maybe the industry, in general, hasn’t felt fun or welcoming to them,”
said co-owner Robin Follett, who is opening the store with a photographer called Pepper.
“We want to make a space for them.”
Prude assumes a holistic approach to sex. They both believe a variety of factors such as having a comfy domestic space, remaining active, staying intellectually stimulated, and staying engaged in your community can all positively impact your sexual experiences.
The choice of items for sale in the cozy shop shows their comprehensive move to sexual wellness, as well as a program of events created to bring people together.
Prude’s name is somewhat of a coy joke as well as an earnest invitation to persons who might not perceive themselves as particularly sexually outgoing to come in and browse or get involved in some of the store’s programming.
“We love all the products we have and that’s one part of it but we really want it to be more than a store,” Follett said.
“We want to create a space and a community, somewhere that’s fun and interactive where people can talk and explore and get excited.”
Prude holds a small yet curated variety of high-quality sex toys produced by firms who consciously design and market their toys to be more inclusive of a range of genders and relationship types.
Follett says that the pandemic has seen several people trying out online dating and long-distance relationships, a trend the sexual-wellness sector has been fast to respond to with new and innovative toys designed to facilitate those connections.
One example is the new kind of technology available at Prude is We-Vibe; a kind of product that can be operated remotely in conjunction with a video chat app.
The store will additionally carry items related to fertility and postpartum care including ovulation tests, inexpensive multi-pack pregnancy tests and heated pads intended to ease pain related to postpartum recovery.
It felt to the founders of Prude to establish a brick-and-mortar store so that individuals can walk in and see these intimate toys in person. Follet and Pepper wanted customers to be able to hold the items in their hands and get a feel for them.
Then they selected their location on Clift’s-Baird’s Cove due to the small studio in the back where they can work on their respective art practices.
Follet did fashion at Ryerson University and George-Brown College. During her studies, she explored using leather and latex to make designs influenced by BDSM, drag cultures and burlesque. She is interested in the interconnections of fashion and sex and hopes to use Prude as a venue to continue exploring the complex relationship between these two intimate kinds of self-expression.
The business will have the chance to be outfitted for Follett’s tailor-made, hand-crafted leather harnesses and chokers at the shop.
Photographer Pepper will utilize the space to document Follett’s creations.
Pride will additionally provide a wide range of literature, from contemporary erotica to non-fiction regarding sex workers’ rights, and progressive kids’ books and literary fiction that touches on questions about gender and sexuality. Follet and Pepper will order in books in case of customers request them too, making the business a valuable resource at a time when there are few independent bookstores in St. John’s.
Follett and Pepper additionally intend to program some events through the store, including panel discussions, maker workshops, and later on, dance parties (all adhering to COVID-19 safety precautions).
Follett will facilitate the initial workshop and is thinking of tassel-making with vintage rabbit fur for the initial session. The owners are open to topics related to sexual wellness for panel discussions and workshops and said they would love to hear from the surrounding community about what skills they would like to learn and ideas they would like to hear talked about.