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Sh! in Hoxton

SEEN had the recent pleasure of visiting the wonderful women’s emporium, Sh! in Hoxton Square. Sh! is an award-winning sex shop, having picked up 15 retail plaudits over the last 9 years. It is the only sex shop set up and run by women in the whole of Europe. Sh! is the brainchild of is Kathryn Hoyle, (Founder & MD), who set up her retail emporium 25 years ago after she visited sex shops in Soho with a female friend. The experience was not pleasant and she reported that she felt very uncomfortable whilst trying to peruse sex toys. Consequently, she came up with the idea to open the female-friendly Sh!


She started by renting one floor of the building that the shop currently inhabits, and has since taken over the whole building. Her vision has grown as more and more women have welcomed the opportunity to explore their sexuality, creating a niche industry which now makes many of its own products; the silicone dildos and the light BDSM leather pieces are designed and handmade in London by Sh! manufacturers.


SEEN met with Renée, the store manager for 10 years. She was warm and welcoming, and despite how it may initially seem, that SH! is merely a sex shop for women, the shop is in actual fact, an incredible hub of information and empowerment. SEEN was delighted to learn that Renée is as equally focused on raising awareness of female sexual pleasure as she is on empowering women to reclaim their bodies after sexual trauma. Sh! runs events at the shop during the evenings and on Saturday mornings. The talks, with small groups, range from how to give good blow jobs, to using a strap-on or how to achieve your own orgasm. Renée is clearly very knowledgeable about the female anatomy and that challenges that confront both cisgender and transgender women of all sexual orientations. Renée doesn’t shy away from the practicalities of sex and she calls a vulva a vulva. As we discussed, you wouldn’t call a finger anything else, so why society continues to skirt around definitions of the genitals is exactly why Sh! needs to continue raising awareness of the many issues women still struggle with today.

Sh! Women's Erotic Emporium (4 of 18)

Renèe gives talks for pleasure for women with FGM and HIV, helping women on a psychological and personal level to reconnect with their bodies. Sh! runs the Café V in conjunction with the My Body Back Project, which is a workshop for survivors of sexual abuse. Renée told SEEN that these sessions are about providing a safe space for women to talk, and when they are ready, to reclaim their bodies after sexual abuse.

SEEN was also thrilled to learn that Sh! has invented National Vaginismus Day, which is on the 15th September. As part of this campaign, Sh! invented the Vibrating Silicone Dilating kit, which is to help women suffering from the condition, and also helps post-op transwomen. Again, Sh! excels in bringing awareness to an ailment which many women suffer from, yet sadly, nobody talks about; at least 2 in 1000 women experience vaginismus in their lifetime, and there are many more who feel too scared/embarrassed/ashamed to seek help.

And then there is the shop itself, as the glamorous frontwoman to the incredible work which takes place behind the scenes, the store is a delightful experience: an explosion of colours and beautiful ergonomic shapes. The dildos and clitoris pleasurers of today look like works of art you would love to display on your mantelpiece. The store is bright, airy and luxurious, like every little princess’s dream boudoir, only better, for this boudoir teaches women how to masturbate and how to be proud of their genitals. The Sh! store fills the preposterous void between being the Whore and the Madonna, helping women of whatever orientation to choose and own their sexual pleasure, unapologetically.

Clients are welcomed by female staff, with tea and coffee, and a relaxed pragmatic talk about what the guests are hoping to buy, or hoping to achieve between the sheets. Nobody need feel embarrassed here and the staff does a wonderful job of talking about the vagina as though they are talking about an elbow, and this is exactly what society needs more of.

So, SEEN highly recommends a jaunt with your partner or girlfriends to explore the toys yourself, and even each other! Open up, get real and lose the shame.

57 Hoxton Square
N1 6PB

Roving SEEN reporter Cristina is a writer/producer who specialises in sexuality. She was invited to present her essay on porn at the prestigious university of languages in Washington DC and is currently receiving great reviews on her first novel about teen sexuality and slut-shaming. Check out her projects, and buy her novel here:


Image Cover: Helmut Newton

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