The Boudoir Box: Betony Vernon Reveals Secret Erotic Tabernacle After 18 Years and Celebrates 25 Years of Sado-Chic

by Amy Marie Slocum

There is no identity box beautiful enough for Ms. Betony Vernon and for good reason. As a self – described sexual anthropologist, she is against most clinical or racy descriptions about her and her work. She nor her work is not for the meek, meager, or mediocre – small minds need not apply. I met Vernon on a recent trip to Paris in her private boudoir showroom appropriately named EDEN. Setting the stage is an important element of the sensual and Ms. Vernon does not cut corners. Everything about our encounter is striking: the low-lit room, fresh lilies, sleek furniture, our frank discussion on sex, and of course, Vernon herself. She sits next to a maquette of her marble Origin chair, her statuesque figure, her flaming red hair, porcelain skin, and gravelly voice pairing perfectly with the room’s sumptuous green velvet decor.

Sexual anthropologist seems like an apt description. Vernon has done the dirty work in a variety of fields providing a much needed revamp to our changing world’s sexual politics. This year, she is celebrating her 25th anniversary of the Sado-Chic line: her first erotic collection that shifted her into stardom. In 2013, she released The Boudoir Bible (via Rizzoli) which is perhaps our most comprehensive guide to pleasurable sex since the popular 1972 The Joy of Sex expanding our views well beyond missionary. Chapters like “The Genital Gym” and “The Anthems of Anal Sex” keep her dear readers’ attention. Vernon has led educational salons all over the world, speaking on “dismantling the pleasure taboo.” At the same time she is a masterful craftswoman, writer, and designer. Vernon is a needed and requisite sexual intellectual; she bends and weaves through these different arenas with ease: “I work as much as a healer as I do a designer. I have a method all my own, as Mae West would say.”

It wasn’t always book deals and pleasure domes. As a young successful designer in the ’90s, Vernon designed fashion jewelry for Barneys New York and other big name clients, but then something changed. “I knew that after September 11th, if I was going to design anything at all it was going to promote positive, kind, loving, pleasure – hinged relationships and love. More than anything else: loving; in the universal sense of the term. I made that decision because it was a political decision. In 2001, I presented this hidden work from 1992 to my clients around the world and everyone dropped me which sent a clear message to me: that I was working on something really important.” Vernon began designing her Paradise Found Fine Erotic collection which she travelled with in a luxurious display case known as the Boudoir Box. The box was to be seen only by her private clients and was set to be photographed by the late Helmut Newton until his untimely death kept it further in hiding. “It’s sacred to me somehow. It’s like a tabernacle.”

Sixteen years later Vernon again feels the pertinence of our time: “I believe I have to be totally in the light in this moment – it is urgent.” She will be revealing her long hidden Boudoir Box to the public for the first time ever as part of the jewelry exhibition MEDUSA at Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris where the box will have its own censored room. The box will be alongside more than 400 works including the likes of Dalí, Man Ray, Van Cleef & Apels, and Cartier. The show will run until the November 5th of this year. The images shown here are by photographer Jeff Burton in the house-museum of Casa Mollino, and have never been released. They are the first photos of the Boudoir Box in existence.

Nearing the end of our visit, Vernon invites me to follow her to a room where she unveils the Boudoir Box to me. It is seductive, a totem of curiosity displayed prominently against a mirrored wall. Some of my favorite textiles make a stunning debut: her polished Jewel-Tools encased in rich dark leathers, with fine Italian stitching, and deep velvets. There is a simple pleasure in being a spectator to the object. Each moment I spend looking, I find more interesting details. This is not lost on Vernon: enjoying yourself is very important to her. Before I leave, I ask her what makes for a truly exquisite sexual experience. She responded with a grin: “It’s about being in the moment and taking your time, treating each others bodies as a sexual whole.” She pauses and repeats herself, saying once again, slower and softer: “Take your time.”

Written by Audra Wist