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An Open Letter to Honey Birdette

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Vavven Honey Birdette

Dear Honey Birdette,

As you know, recently a number of your ex-employees initiated a protest and petition along with the Young Workers Centre calling out poor working conditions, and sexual harassment claims in your retail stores. It is distressful there are many spaces in our social and corporate worlds where sexual harassment exists. But you would agree with me that the one place it certainly should not exist is within an organisation which claims to be founded on sexual empowerment, such as yours and mine.

This is because, put simply, to use overt sexualisation to sell your products in the name of sexual empowerment that in turn allegedly put your employees in danger is insidious and contradictory by nature.

Now I’ll be the first to admit there are many areas I personally take issue with about your company and its practices, but I am a firm believer that being a feminist means allowing other women to choose their own way and do things I may not agree with. However I’ve decided to step into this debate due to your relative silence on the allegations made, because I believe as leaders in society, particularly an industry so directly related to sex, there are two basics we must get right in our relationships; listening and consent.

We may not like everything we are told, but when a group within our society stands up and tells you that your work practices are not cool, then listening shows respect and replying shows you listened. The reply can range from taking corporate steps to review and investigate, as well as introduce new policies and procedures through to adequately refuting the claims made. Simply calling the allegations a ‘mistruth’ and not elaborating any further only leaves me and many others wondering why.

Consent is a frequently discussed topic in connection with sex. Its impact, however, reaches so many other aspects of our lives. Your ex-employees have raised serious concerns which are effectively based on consent, or lack thereof, in their alleged treatment by your customers and your managers. They have raised concerns about your alleged work practices, alleged customer interactions, and alleged dismissal of sexual harassment complaints to your managers.

As mentioned above, there are many aspects of your company philosophy I take issue with, from the inability to display products on everyday women and the constant use of the ‘come f*ck me’ faces, to the ability to sidestep the sex toy retail regulations imposed on so many others in the industry. I do recognise the contribution you have made to opening up the conversation around sex and pleasure, as well as the role played in reducing the shame often associated with the purchase of intimacy products.  But without the base line of mutual listening and un-coerced consent in your relationships, these positive steps are potentially meaningless. The allegations raised are extremely serious and deserve a reply. You have a responsibility to uphold the values that have been fundamental to the formation of your community.  

I would urge you to take immediate action in regards to  the complaints of your ex-employees.

Regards,

Jacqueline Haines

Founder and CEO Vavven

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Follow Jacqueline Haines:
Social entrepreneur who champions sexual and reproductive health and rights. Founder of Vävven.

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