Photo by Ali Madhavi
At VCU, my friends and I routinely referred to Betony Vernon as a goddess. Nearly 6 feet tall, with long, flaming red hair and razor-sharp cheekbones, she graduated cum laude and went to Italy to get her master's degree while designing fine jewelry.
These days, while she's still creating jewelry, Vernon's also a sexual educator. It's a post- Fifty Shades of Grey world, and countless readers of the erotic novel have had their curiosity aroused by its more outré scenes. As author of The Boudoir Bible: The Uninhibited Sex Guide for Today , publishing in February, Vernon wants to encourage readers to invest more time, thought and intelligence into what takes place behind the bedroom door.
RM: Did you read Fifty Shades of Grey ? What did you think of it?
BV: [E.L. James'] book is a romance, and she [has] allowed people to embrace their fantasies. Most people have fantasies, but they're afraid to ask. Now they're no longer afraid. I want them to do things safely. Mr. Grey is rather aggressive, no?
RM: How did your book evolve?
BV: My work as a designer is completely centered around the body and sexual pleasure. I began teaching sexual well-being salons in order to support my design work — I felt responsible to the people who bought my objects. This book is a kind of initiation into those things and the body itself.
RM: Your book seems to be both a well-researched guide to the body and a manifesto for the spiritual aspect of sex. How do you see the connection?
BV: I think making love is one of the most incredible forms of communication between two people. … It's also a quest for a higher plane. The average sexual encounter lasts three to 15 minutes. In three to
15 minutes, we don't experience the real extent of our body's capacity to provide and receive pleasure. [By slowing things down] it allows the endorphins to flow and for us to discover the entire body.
RM: How do you make time for you and your partner?
BV: I carve it out. To me, it's important — it's a way for me to travel far away without going anywhere. Making love to somebody is a lot more fun than yoga class.
RM: What do you say to anyone who's initially put off by the more exotic sexual practices in your book?
BV: Try it. You might like it.
- Vernon graduated from VCU with a degree in art history and has a master's degree in industrial design from Domus Academy in Milan.
- In her video for "Paparazzi," Lady Gaga wore a jeweled couture neckpiece from Vernon's Paradise Found Fine Erotic Jewelry collection