Sex Shop Stories: Shifting Disciplines in Design Research

Carter, Fran (2018) Sex Shop Stories: Shifting Disciplines in Design Research. In: Researching Sex and Sexualities. Zed Books, pp. 80-96. ISBN Paperback: 9781786993199; Hardback: 9781786993205; eBook ePub: 9781786993229; eBook Kindle: 9781786993236


Both popular and academic writing about upmarket sex toys and the shops they are sold in has focused on the ways in which the market has repositioned itself to appeal to the female consumer. While existing research has tended towards a disembodied decoding of objects, my work prioritises the voices of female consumers. By using sociological research methods, I have uncovered women's understanding of the various discourses embedded in the materiality of sexualised things and spaces, asking how women's sex shops speak to women about their sexuality. This paper introduces a framework for exploration of the intersections between sexuality, consumption and designed objects, acknowledging the struggle to honour precepts and adapt methods foreign to one discipline or prized by another. Primarily it focuses on those dilemmas of the research process which have resonated most markedly in the life of this project, highlighting the need to adapt an analysis method steeped in one ontological framework to encompass selves in relationship to objects rather than people. Furthermore, it explores the challenges of exploring a sensitive subject and documents the search for a fluid methodology, leaving space for research trajectories to be shaped by participant readings of the spaces of sexual consumption.

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