Venus Envy is the go-to spot for everything from vegan lube and cunnilingus workshops to high-end dildos and queer erotica.
The Bytown institution first opened its doors 12 years ago on Parent Avenue, in Byward Market, and is now at Bank and Lisgar streets. The Venus Envy team will celebrate this anniversary on Feb 16 with a party — appropriately titled the Dirty Dozen — at Babylon nightclub.
Owner Shelley Taylor first opened the store in Halifax in 1998; the Ottawa location came three years later, in 2001. Since then Venus Envy has established itself as an important hub in the queer community and a source of products and information about sexuality delivered matter-of-factly by a knowledgeable staff. The store also hosts monthly queer art shows and offers a bursary program for women and trans people to continue their education, created as a way of giving back to the community that supports the store.
Funds for the bursary program are raised through parties and events, and the Dirty Dozen will help continue this tradition.
“I think that we create what we find we need personally ourselves,” says Lara Purvis, Venus Envy’s manager and education coordinator. “It certainly has been something that, even though it’s a small amount of money, is really meaningful.”
Shelley Taylor first opened Venus Envy in Halifax in 1998. She brought the store to Ottawa in 2001.
The store awards two Ottawa bursaries of $1,500 each year. For Purvis, who at one time in her life juggled both graduate studies and single parenting, the benefits of even a small amount of financial aid are clear.
“It takes a little bit of the edge off,” she says. As for the rationale behind offering the bursary specifically to women and trans people, she explains.
“Society prioritizes everyone else every day in every way. We’re offering support in a space where people are normally marginalized.”
The Dirty Dozen will feature all the things that make a big sexy party a success: a photo booth, burlesque performers and live DJs, including Benni X and Meera, whom Purvis describes as having “a really deep groove.”
Venus Envy has hosted parties at Babylon in the past, as well as at SAW and Fall Down galleries, and according to Purvis they’re always a huge success. “People love them,” she says. “It’s a riot. It gets out of hand.”
The Dirty Dozen will be a celebration not only of Venus Envy Ottawa’s 12 years of success as a business, but also its ongoing community engagement and the climate of sex-positivity that the store has created.
“We have a wonderful relationship with our customers and enjoy our reputation as the friendly neighbourhood sex shop,” Purvis says. “But when it comes down to it, we’re celebrating the people that Venus Envy is all about: our owner, Shelley Taylor; our amazing staff; and the community that we have become a part of. We feel like we are part of something more than just our sex toys... though we love them very much.”