When you enter Cafe Pitfields in cool Hoxton, the last thing you expect to see among the chai-lattes and flatbreads is the entrance to a sex shop, screened by heavy red velvet curtain. On the other side, you meet smiling staff and a display on the history of the vibrator: welcome to Sh! the only feminist sex shop in the UK.
Since opening 26 years ago, Sh! has become a multi-award winning feminist sex shop, catering to all genders but keeping women at the heart of all they do. Now, Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium, located in quiet Pitfields street in Hoxton, is the focus of a new independent documentary which will focus on their customers and conversations about sex, sexuality and pleasure in 2018.
Carly Aston, the producer and director, who recently worked on ITV documentary Transformation Street about people receiving gender reassignment surgery in the UK said: “It is a fascinating subject and I hope that our new series, with Sh! customers will allow us to delve into these themes further.”
Nick Angel, the director added: “Sex and sexuality are more openly discussed than ever before, but there’s more anxiety about sexual etiquette, even about gender. It feels like ‘Sh!’ is at the centre of this conversation, helping to forge it, and that if we dip into the lives of the women who shop here and use their services we can explore these issues through real-life stories.”
Angel and Aston are now looking for people to talk to them about Sh! Aston explained: “What we’re really after is for individuals – couples – or groups – to talk candidly about their experiences. The documentary will very much be shaped by the stories we come across.”
Although the Documentary is still in early stages, there are hopes that given enough stories, Aston and Angel are open to the possibility that they could turn the documentary into a series.
The documentary came about after Aston and Angel made a BBC3 documentary Too Fat for Love, during which they met Sh! senior manager Renee Denyer.
Denyer said she hoped the documentary would focus on the human side of their customers. ”Many of our customers, they do touch our hearts. On the surface, it’s a sex shop, it’s a lot of fun. But under the surface, it’s so much more, we do work with a lot of people.”
This work includes working local NHS trusts, nurses, psychosexual therapist and HIV clinics to talk to women on how to enjoy sex with HIV. Sh! also works with my body back project, a sexual assault organization running Cafe V a workshop for suvivours of assaults looking to explore their sexuality again. On top of this, the store collaborates with local LGBT organizations, offering products as prizes, discounts, classes and free marketing in store.
The shop sells a wide range of products including hygiene products for menstruation and menopause, sexual health advice and condoms and their own hand made sex toys.
Denyer says Sh! aims to offer a safe space for its patrons to explore their sexuality without judgement. Its customers include menopausal women, sexual assault survivors, a young woman who has recently come out as a lesbian and another who has had gender reassignment surgery.
If you are a customer of Sh! and would like to tell your story, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.