Betony Vernon: Exploring Desire In The Boudoir Bible

The Notebook | 24th July 2019

The author and sexual anthropologist on desire, transgression and the new edition of her celebrated guide to sexual wellbeing The Boudoir Bible

Betony Vernon is an iconic figure in counter-culture, and has collaborated with some of the world’s most prestigious fashion houses, creatives and designers, including Missoni, Alain Tondowski, Nick Knight and Jean-Paul Gaultier. Once described by the legendary director Alejandro Jodorowsky as an ‘urban shaman’, the self-described sexual anthrolpologist is something of creative polymath, being a celebrated author, trangressive jewellery designer and  sculptor (her work has been exhibited at the likes of the Museum of Contemporary art in Lausanne and Gewerbemuseum). Working at the cutting-edge of sensual therapy and sexual wellbeing at her studio in Paris, Vernon reframes what might be considered by many to be taboo sensual practices and desires into therapy, and is often deferred to by leading doctors treating those going through trauma or issues related to abuse. Her essential guide to sex, desire and healthier sustainable relationships is The Boudoir Bible–The Uninhibited Sex Guide For Today, which has just been updated in a new edition published by Rizzoli, to be unveiled at Mortimer House on July 30th. Here, the inimitable flame-haired maestro of desire share with us her thoughts on dating in the digital era, the art of sexual anthropology and the pursuit of sexual transcendence. 

What is the essential purpose of The Boudoir Bible?
I wrote The Boudoir Bible–The Uninhibited Sex Guide for Today as an initiation to what I call the sexual ceremony and the tools and techniques that make it possible. By engaging the entire body as a sensual, sexual organ in a ritualised environment we can radically extend the time we devote to making love to each other, and reveal therein the true extent of our bodies’ innate capacity to provide deep, if not transcendental pleasure. The Boudoir Bible also aims to dismantle sexual misconceptions and die hard taboos that prevent us from reaping the pleasure that we deserve to experience. When I was initiated to the powers of full body stimulation in the 198Os I was warned that the tools and techniques of adult playtime and those who enjoy them were pigeonholed as 'dark', 'dirty' and 'perverted' by most. I wanted to change this negative image, for life and loving has taught me that great sex is never as sweet and soft as Hollywood portrays it. Our ability to experience and share greater pleasure requires that we honour the body, mind and soul as a whole. Focusing on genital pleasure alone radically limits our ability to tap into the blissful effects of endorphins and other hormones–our bodies' natural love drugs. 

What has changed in societally that you felt it was important to explore in this edition?
The third reprint of the English version of The Boudoir Bible corresponds to the second edition of the French translation, which, I am thrilled to announce, has become a best-seller in France. The new augmented edition in English is now available and it contains information about the new anti-HIV prescriptions that are now available on the market, as well as a chapter dedicated to digital dating which has come to represent the most common way to meet new partners. In addition, it also features four more illustrations by Francois Berthoud.

How would you describe sexual anthropology, and what draws you to the study of sensuality? 
My research in the history and evolution of our societies sexual perception through the ages set the foundation for all of my work. By the turn of the 21st century I was convinced that if I were to continue designing my erotic collections then I would also be required to assume a didactic role. My teachings have since been supported by anthropological, medical and neurological underpinnings. These teachings became the foundation of The Boudoir Bible. Every person is as unique as their desires. I tailor every experience to target my client’s needs. There are two aspects to the bodywork that I do in my Paris studio. One being the initiation to the tools and techniques of the sexual ceremony, and, on the other hand, I deal with sexual trauma–as well as working with cancer survivors to re-associate their sexual persona following treatment.

Talk to us about desire and the interrelationship between love and lust... 
Desire makes us get out of bed in the morning. The same part of the brain lights up whether we are creating our favourite dessert or sex in itself. When desire becomes an obsession it can be very destructive.  Desire when it is not kept in check can lead to obsessive-compulsive behaviour and even addiction. So the challenge, especially in the days of digital dating is to be aware and self-examinatory in order to keep things in a healthy dimension. It is naive to underestimate the atomic power of our sexual energy. Lust can lead to Love but the big question always remains, how do I keep lust, and therefore desire, intact in a consolidated relationship that is hinged on love? Answering this question was one of my goals when writing The Boudoir Bible–how to keep desire alive. The Art of loving requires sexual knowledge and skills. One of the greatest myths that I attempt to debunk is the belief that great sex should be spontaneous. Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship will agree that keeping the fires of desire alive demands creativity. 

What for you is the definition of a self-actualised human being who has a healthy sexual appetite? 
The philosophy of self-love, continues to hold true. I also believe that our sexual satisfaction is a critical part of our overall mental and physical well-being. Our ability to build positive sexual relationships, not just jump from one encounter to the other, which is often the case with digital dating, is a sign of a mental health. Consumer sex can be very dangerous for the soul. Your personal space should be considered sacred. The better you know and trust your partner the more likely it is to experience truly deep sexual satisfaction and possibly even transcend. In the digital age we are missing the most powerful element, which is chemistry. The pheromonal aspect of attraction is completely impossible online. You might find someone very attractive in a photo and yet be totally un-attracted to them when you meet in person. So, while I encourage digital dating, as it has become the norm, and people really do meet there, I also invite people to get out in the real world and make themselves available with an open heart.

The new edition of The Boudoir Bible launches at Mortimer House July 30th
Contact johnpaul@mortimerhouse.com if you would like to attend