Woolworths, Australia’s largest supermarket chain, made a decision last week that will make it more difficult for their everyday shopper, women especially, to leave with a smile on their face. Threatened with a consumer boycott, ‘The Fresh Food People’ agreed to remove Durex Play’s Delight vibrating bullet from its shelves. The opposition to mainstream retail sales of sexual aids is nothing new, but the curious origin of one of the more aggressive complaints is certainly unexpected. Fiona Patten, president of the Australian Sex Party and chief executive of the Eros Association, Australia’s adult industry body, argued that the sale of such aids in supermarkets was patently unfair to adult retailers. “It is unfair that adult shops must jump through myriad hoops to get planing approval and are strictly regulated yet mainstream stores sell the same products without having to adhere to similar regulations.” The regulations of which she speaks include age-restricted admission, a 200 meter proximity limit to schools and churches, and sometimes even blacked-out windows, adding to the already marginalized nature of adult-oriented retail.
Following suit, Coles, another national supermarket chain, has removed from its shelves Durex’s vibrating ring products, citing its awareness of “community concern”. This decision regarding a product with a more flexible target market – although they can and are used by women, the rings were packaged with condoms and clearly aimed at male consumers – comes more than five years after Play Vibrations ring device hit the shelves of grocery stores, pharmacies, and petrol (gas) stations around the country, raising barely an eyebrow on their initial stocking. So, can we deduce these recent withdrawals to be an attack on progressive female sexual awareness? Considering the Sex Party’s stance on freedom of sexual expression, this seems unlikely. Although, the other target of a potential boycott (and possibly legal prosecution) suggests it could be.
Clearly part of a bigger issue concerning Australia’s adult retailers, the Woolworths issue highlighted another outlet from which savvy customers can purchase dildos, vibrators, and many other products from some lingerie stores and pharmacies free from restrictions and regulations. Patten continued, “Adult shops would not stand a chance getting planning permission in such high-traffic precincts [as shopping malls]. Although what the lingerie stores are doing is illegal in many states, I’m yet to hear anyone bringing them to task for it.”
Sexologist Nikki Goldstein has vocally disagreed with the decision of retailers, asking “Why is it so offensive? We are taught to view such products as dirty, naughty, shameful, and outside the boundaries of normality, and that’s wrong. A vibrator is no different to a vitamin in that it does something positive for your body.”
Durex Play vibrating products are still available at pharmacies and adult retailers (and some lingerie stores) around Australia.