My daughter Sam has done it again. She's blazed a trail for me, only this time it's not by hacking a path through a rainforest or introducing me to the wonders of hemp. She's opened a sex shop. But that hardly does it justice. Coco de Mer is a sumptuous little box, filled with earthly delights to stimulate all the senses. There's sensuous, sophisticated stuff to wear, stuff to taste or to massage into the skin, stuff to read. And there are plenty of extraordinary objects to wonder at. There's even a seductive soundtrack specially composed by Dave Stewart. It's indulgent and playful, a real celebration of the erotic arts.
It's the playfulness I love best: the peepshow changing rooms, the old Persian fabric print that tricks the eye with its array of bottoms, the kitsch sex mags from the '50s, all displayed in a heady rococo atmosphere. I told Sam I couldn't believe she was such a decadent at heart. She looked straight at me and said, "Mum, I've always been decadent."
Well, you live and learn. Ask me for my enduring image of Sam and I'd probably tell you about our 14-hour trek through the Sarawak rainforest to find the Penan tribe who had been forming human blockades against loggers. The rainforest canopy closed claustrophobically over my head, my footwear was entirely inadequate for jungle hikes, and I was covered with leeches. Plus if those loggers had caught us, they'd have had no qualms about killing us. So I was feeling a little subdued. Sam, on the other hand was singing movie soundtracks, chattering about "The Jungle Book" (that's where we were, after all), talking about Gandhi and vigilante consumerism, meeting the challenges of the moment with reservoirs of fearlessness, passion and good humor. If a mother sometimes looks for herself in her daughters, I can tell you I was desperately looking for my daughter in myself during those stressful 14 hours.
Sam definitely inherited the activist gene. Her response to issues has always been immediate and intimate. Now she's married with a little girl, it's been fascinating to watch her absorb a whole new set of preoccupations and responsibilities. It's totally in keeping with her personality that she has found a way to shape her new sense of herself into something that motivates and seduces other people.
In this case, seduction is essential. Remember, we are talking about sex here. Sam collected the experiences of several generations of women including her grandmother (sharing experiences is one of the things we do best) to flesh out the Coco de Mer fantasy. I think that's why it feels so extravagant. Sex is a playground where we're all welcome. Sometimes we just need to feel like we have permission to play -- and the liberation of desire is what Coco de Mer (named for "the most indecent fruit in the world") is all about. Once again, Sam is on the frontline.
Check out the Coco de Mer website, and read this bloody fabulous review of the shop from The Observer.