When the Paris- and Milan-based jewelry designer and sexual anthropologist coined the term “sado-chic” in 1992, the world just wasn’t ready for Betony Vernon’s sterling silver Ben Wa balls. And while it seems that every housewife these days is hooked on erotic lit, Vernon believes there’s still work to be done. The Boudoir Bible (Rizzoli), her definitive “initiation” to sex and the human body, is both a primer on how it all works and a guide to obtaining greater pleasure. Covering everything from erotic flagellation to female ejaculation, her tome is, as she puts it, “every shade but gray.” Here, a few of her favorite things.
I do yoga, speed walking, Vipassana meditation, hamams. And I love getting a manicure in New York. The nail bars are so efficient—you get a manicure, pedicure, neck massage, back massage, all in one place.
It’s my new fascination; I consider it as noble as gold. Lately I’ve been working with a quarry in Italy that Michelangelo tapped into. I designed two objects for “Kama: Sex and Design,” an exhibit that’s at the Triennale Design Museum in Milan through March 10. I did a chair called The Origin Chair, which penetrates itself, and a sculpture called Origin Monument that is very sexy but also discreet. It’s the first time I’ve made a sculpture. But then, I’ve always broken down barriers.
From left: Vernon's new book; Vernon’s marble The Origin Chair, currently on view at Milan’s Triennale Design Museum.
JOSEPH ANTON, BY SALMAN RUSHDIE
I think Salman is an amazing person—so courageous and strong and inspiring. I just downloaded his memoir, Joseph Anton, on my iPad. And for those currently consumed by the E.L. James series, I suggest you read Pauline Reage’s Story of O instead. It’s a masterpiece of erotic literature.
A VINTAGE YVES SAINT LAURENT SUIT
I have a 1970s YSL three-piece men’s suit that a friend gave me. Somehow it fits. I wear it with heels—you can’t wear a man’s suit without something very feminine going on—my own jewelry, and a 1950s cocktail watch. I like a sharp, uniform look. At 5' 10", with curves and red hair, I can’t really run around in wild prints.
KIKI BY VERO PROFUMO
For years I wore Yves Saint Laurent Nu, until it was discontinued. Then I discovered this scent by a perfumer in Switzerland. It has a base of lavender, but it’s very musky, which makes me think of the woods. Probably it has something to do with my childhood on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. In any case, I find it very sexy.
I grew up without a television, in a town where there was no cinema. I got out when I was 15 and made my way to Italy. So my exposure to film was through the Italian greats: Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Michelangelo Antonioni. My favorite is Fellini’s Casanova. I love everything about it— from Nino Rota’s soundtrack to Donald Sutherland’s humorous performance—but most of all, I love the little case that appears during Casanova’s amorous escapades: It opens and a fabulous mechanical bird pops out and starts to play music.
Portrait: Chiko Ohayon; Book: Photographed By Dan Mccoy; All Others Courtesy Of Betony Vernon