Backstory: Risque Business
With fetish a big inspiration for the fall season, Alexandra Marshall pays a visit to Betony Vernon, Paris’s resident sexologist.
She may have a siren-red Bettie Page coif, a closetful of stilettos, and another full of floggers, but Betony Vernon is not a dominatrix. Pleasure, not pain, is her game. “I am interested in sexual well-being,” Vernon says, explaining how she became a fine jeweler specializing in erotic pieces, an international sex seminar leader, author of The Boudoir Bible (due out next year), and a private counselor in the art of love.
From Eden—her bottle green, velvet-draped complex in the Marais—Vernon designs Paradise Found, a striking collection of dual-use jewelry. Three-finger rings stacked with pearls double as massagers (right, bottom); a chain lariat adorned with metal drops is at once a belt, a necklace, and a set of Ben Wa balls. Vernon debuted the line in 2001, but she says, “people weren’t ready for it.” They’ve started to figure it out. Vernon has since made a short film, “L’Envol (Take Flight),” for ShowStudio; Alexander Wang used her silver palm cuffs in his fall show; and her “petting ring” has caressed the hand of Angelina Jolie. Its shape indicates what exactly it’s meant to pet (lucky fellows), but just as important to Vernon is that the ring guides the fingers into the gyan mudra, one of yoga’s best-known meditation gestures.
Three-finger rings stacked with pearls double as massagers
In her counseling sessions and seminars at Eden, Vernon advises clients on meditation and diet as well as “transcendental technique.” Flogging, she’s careful to note, is about acting out and getting the blood flowing, while bondage is largely about trust (and limiting oxygen to enhance pranic flow). “I want to get adults to play,” Vernon explains, “but sacred sexual union is also the closest we come to God.”
Ben Wa balls
A chain lariat
Photos courtesy of Elin Hornfeldt