IMAGE VIA FLOSSY
WORDS BY JASMINE WALLIS
This Brisbane-based duo is fed up with sex toys being designed for the male gaze.
An American and an aircraft mechanic walk into a Brisbane bar. No, this isn’t the start of some corny joke. Believe it or not, it’s the beginning of a sexual wellness site, Flossy.
Meeting through their partners, Seattle expat Caroline Reis and engineer Annie Miller hit it off after realising that they could have frank conversations around masturbation, sex toys and sexual health with one another.
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After a “seedy” experience in a Brisbane sex shop, Caroline asked Annie if all sex toy retailers in the city were full of dust-covered lube, musty carpet and middle-aged men handing you a shame-filled black bag over the counter. When Annie (sadly) replied, yes, the two women got to work in carving out a unique, feminine space in the sexual wellness market.
Almost a year on and the Brisbane-based eCommerce company stock a range of vibrators and toys specifically designed for people with vulvas. Selling brands like American cult-favourite Dame and Australian trailblazers Rosewell, this duo is ready to take on the local sexual wellness industry.
I sat down with the pair to chat about Flossy’s beginnings, the male gaze that’s plaguing the sex toy industry and the stigmas that still exist when it comes to self-pleasure.
Hi Caroline and Annie, tell me a bit about yourselves!
Caroline: I moved over here two years ago and I’ve always been fascinated by reproductive health and got my certification as a doula. I never envisioned opening a sex shop but I’m passionate about empowering people with vulvas to understand their bodies better.
Annie: I actually work as an aircraft mechanic which is such a big difference from what I’m trying to achieve with Flossy. I’m working in a male-dominated industry and now I’m wanting to channel my more feminine side. With Flossy it’s a real passion it’s not ‘How can I make a lot of money?’ It came from a need for something in this space. I think it gives me this edge knowing what it’s like to be in the fully masculine energy and the fully feminine.
What made you want to start Flossy?
Annie: I realised ‘Why isn’t there a place like an Apple store where you get served champagne when you walk in and it’s a really inclusive experience where there’s no shock value to it?’ We’ve found out that a lot of people feel the exact same way and are really excited for us.
Who is Flossy made for?
Caroline: I would say Flossy is designed specifically for people who might not feel as comfortable with things related to pleasure, sex and sex toys. We try really hard to be inclusive because not all people with vulvas are women but it’s specifically designed for people who are just starting to explore this space and [is about] bringing them the most comfortable shame-free, any-questions-goes experience around where to start.
What criteria do sex toys have to fit to meet the Flossy standard?
Caroline: 75 per cent of people with vulvas don’t orgasm through penetration alone and most of the vibrators that we see out there are penis-looking dildos and vibrators. Most people with vulvas are looking for something to stimulate their clitoris and that’s what most of these toys are doing. These vibrators aren’t designed by men for the male gaze. We fell in love with companies like Dame, Maude and Unbound and thought ‘What are brands that are super high quality and really focus on the end-user?’ Let’s find the best of the best products and then create an experience that is so playful and informative and you can ask whatever questions you want.’
We envision a long-term space that’s like that. A really beautiful storefront that feels like Mecca, Apple and Assembly the Label. Where there’s a little couch where you can bring your girlfriends and talk to a sexologist. We kept coming back to the information, conversations and experience around it being totally shame-free and bringing the best, highly curated products.
Why do you think there’s still shame and stigma attached to purchasing sex toys and self-pleasure?
Caroline: It’s been so beautiful to see so many of the movements around the #MeToo movement and female empowerment changing the conversation. But what it really comes down to is deepening our understanding and what our perceptions are around some of these topics. It’s one thing for this empowerment movement to be taking place but a lot of it comes down to self-exploration and doing some deep work within yourself to question when something comes up that you feel shame around.
Annie: The more we both talk about it, the more normal it becomes. I never imagined that I’d be talking about this let alone starting a company and it feels really normal right now and I’ve been so shy talking about sex my entire life up until this point and it’s because in the last year I’ve had so many normal conversations. It’s a part of your health and so we should think about it and treat it as such.
Do you think the Australian sex toy industry has a long way to go in terms of inclusivity?
Annie: Australia is just behind on a lot of things. You can just look at who’s leading the country right now and how he’s handling sexual misconduct so that kind of speaks volumes. The general culture of Australia in some parts is not really leaning towards favouring women’s pleasure. The [United] States has a lot more noise, it’s more diverse. I like the fact that Flossy and the brands we work with are inclusive as well so that’s what we try to ensure as a brand is that they have the same values as us.
If you could describe Flossy in three words what would they be?
Caroline: Approachable, inclusive and shame-free.
Head here to explore Flossy’s range.