The Toronto-based market hopes to provide education and promote healthier and more inclusive understandings about pleasure.
All photographs taken by Vai Yu Law.
Nestled within a studio whose rough old-factory aesthetic is softened by plush rugs and a deep couch, community and online shop The Lake premiered The Pleasure Seekers Market to an intimate group of epicureans on Dec. 6.
As the cold bristled outside, inside the Lovt West studio it was warm. The loft’s wide windows and industrial vibe tamed by soft lace curtains, gently-scented candles and the cosy light of Lucero lightbulbs made for an affectionate atmosphere perfect for the flourishing of the market’s philosophy: acceptance, safety and self-love.
Market-goers had the opportunity to sip on mulled wine or delicate Seedlip concoctions, all while shopping in a relaxing and body-positive atmosphere. On display were graceful pieces from organic underwear brand Nude Label, books, and luxuriant Newt by Elle skincare.
Bren Gauthier and her husband, Philippe, founded The Lake after being jaded by the hyper-sexuality and hyper-feminity of traditional sex-health shops. The Lake is a primarily-online shop that curates self-care brands with the aim of increasing confidence and by extension pleasure. In addition to distilled non-alcoholic spirits-maker Seedlip and the Nude Label, brands featured at the market included Sharebloom, a subscription-based plant and floral service, Ashley Brodeur’s revolutionary touch yoga Feelosophy, Toronto-based artist Carmen Lew who celebrates the human form in all its glory; and Ferly, an app that promises to explode stigmas and help you engage in mindful pleasure. In addition to these, The Lake had on display a selection of its pleasure devices from various brands, such as Dame Products and Iroha, meant to boost any self-care routine, featuring accessible pleasure devices. All these brands highlight the theme of inclusiveness and acceptance that the evening, and also The Lake, exude.
The Lake hopes to turn mainstream conversations around pleasure and sex on their head, hoping to steer them in the direction of mental, physical and interpersonal wellbeing. Gauthier recognizes the deep-seated societal taboos surrounding talk of sex, and hopes to start a conversation that normalizes experiencing pleasure, that doesn’t leave sex within the shadows, where it is in danger of being misinterpreted. The Pleasure Seekers Market aimed to facilitate dialogue in a safe and caring environment: by freely talking about sex with representatives from the brands present, and with Gauthier herself, by educating about pleasure with a partner or in isolation, Gauthier hopes to remove any shame or stigma associated with it, and lead to more responsible, consensual, and fun moments. By talking about it more, we will make pleasure accessible to all, Gauthier mentioned.
Ultimately, Gauthier hopes to bring sex back to the individual. “You can’t experience pleasure if you’re not in your body,” she says. Feelosophy and Ferly emphasize The Lake’s idea of individuality and flourishing in it. For example, Brodeur’s touch yoga aims to help the practitioner be present in their body, in each of their muscles, in tune with their breath. This kind of oneness with the self means a kind of security and confidence that, according to Gauthier, will allow us to be good to others as we are to ourselves.
Gauthier pointes to mainstream lingerie brands such as Victoria’s Secret, which sell a kind of sex that is heterosexual and an image of a woman who is only seen through the male gaze — these brands are divorced from what women actually feel and want. By removing the focus from what others think we should look like while experiencing pleasure, and emphasizing the items — vibrators, lingerie, drinks — that complement pleasure and are conducive to our confidence, and by inviting the market-goers to touch and feel for themselves, Gauthier and The Lake create an inclusive environment based in emotional and physical positivity.
For those who weren’t able to make it to the market on Dec. 6, worry not — there will be many more opportunities, as The Lake’s Pleasure Seekers Market is the first of many to come.