Betony Vernon, The Paris-based jewelry-maker and radical sexual anthropologist Spends Some Time With Herself

by John-Paul Pryor

If the mythical city of Oh La La Land were to have a queen of the night then arguably no one would be better qualified to reign over its courtesans, pimps, and sexually-liberated denizens than Paris-based jewelry-maker and radical sexual anthropologist Betony Vernon. Vernon is something of a legendary figure in fetish circles and, while she originally hails from Virginia, she is a veteran both of the City of Angels, where she began her business in the early ‘90s, and the City of Lights, which she now calls home. “Paris and Los Angeles are like two different planets,” she says to me in velveteen tone, when we meet at her very private Parisian salon. “But they have something important in common—they both attract radical thinkers and bon vivants.”

It’s a salient point, considering California is the world’s leading exponent of radical free expression, and France is the inarguable home of revolutionary fervor—and both these characteristics have had distinctive roles to play in Vernon’s evolution as an artist. Los Angeles is the place she first found inspiration as a designer—she will be celebrating 25 years of her line Paradise Found Fine Erotic Jewelry next year—and many of the wayward designs developed at the very beginning of her journey are still some of the most collected today. “There are sincerely not many cities in the world where you can produce jewelry, and Downtown L.A. happens to be one of them,” she says. “The Downtown Jewelry District is full of artisanal surprises and suppliers, as well as being an Art Deco gem.” Given the enduring popularity of her early design work, it’s perhaps unsurprising that durability is a fundamental criterion for Vernon, who has always fostered longevity, not only in her craft, but also the study of intimate relations. “In my process, form follows function, and, more specifically, the function of enhancing sexual wellbeing and pleasure,” she explains. “My designs are commanded by the human body, and the possibility to stroke and strum the senses.”

It is precisely Vernon’s exploration of the empire of the senses that led her to relocate to Paris (“L.A. risked becoming my home at a certain point, but the mere thought made me ache for Paris!”), the city where one can find her private temple of sexual healing. “Sexual positivism is my modus operandi,” says Vernon. “It is key to the overall health and happiness of any sexually mature adult. Great sex is always about dominating and submitting to each other, no matter how hard or soft you play. If someone takes charge of your pleasure, you can’t accept his or her generous offering if you don’t submit to it! Ecstasy is submission, and taking the control of someone’s pleasure is ecstatically empowering—providing pleasure is not only the most effective aphrodisiac in the world, it is also the best way to have the favor returned.”

Vernon is infamous in certain circles for her role as a dominant sexual guide, and it’s within her sacrosanct private temple that the rare images you find upon these pages were shot, because Vernon is rarely given to submission. However, exclusively for Flaunt she allowed herself to be captured on camera by the photographer Raul Higuera. “Bondage is freeing,” she says, of the experience. “It’s pretty rare that I find myself going to the ‘other side’ because skilled bondage masters are hard to come across in the West. But when the occasion arises, I like to be the bottom of a bondage session [Vernon prefers to use the terms Top and Bottom, rather then Dom. and Sub.]. Constriction instills a distinct calming yet euphoric state, and I love and trust both Midori and Raul. It was a sacred day in my private temple,” she continues, with a smile. “I love to submit to Midori, especially if she adds thistles, roses and, of course, thorns to the cords! I became the center of her floral masterpiece. You know that my name is a flower, right? It felt so natural.”

Photographer: Raul Higuera.

Makeup: Tania Gandré.

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