Accessible, experienced information, supported by Bijoux Indiscrets
Amber Mallery has been working throughout the US and Europe, researching and supporting educational conversations around pleasure and pornography. Having made a name for herself delivering a thought-provoking TED talk titled "Can pornography be a part of sex education", Amber is focusing on how to protect and support sex workers, while creating an equitable system for ethical pornography to be made.
We've had the joy of connecting with Amber through her role as a sex educator for Bijoux Indiscrets - a sexual wellness store of erotic cosmetics and sensual accessories. We're big fans of Bijoux Indiscret's products and pieces (check out their MAZE collection of chokers, suspenders and more below!) and were eager to learn more about their female-led company. Tune in to the podcast interview or read on to hear Amber discusses her work with Bijoux Indiscrets and the experiences that led her to writing her current PhD in Human Sexuality.
Having started working in sex shops providing informative workshops around sex education, Amber went on to work for a company called Sex School Hub, focusing on how ethical porn can be used for educational purposes. As a survival sex worker (someone who works in exchanging sex to meet immediate needs such as financial and housing) and a sex educator, Amber describes this as “transcending the work that I do as a sex educator because the work of ethical pornography allowed me to combine these two personalities”. Recognising how lived experiences systemically aren’t viewed as valuable as academic experience, Amber shares how “I happen to have a little bit of both and Sex School Hub was a project that allowed me to unite those two aspects of my persona and personality and have a platform to speak to that and provide people who may not have had the academic background to have a bit more of a platform to uplift them, working behind the scenes to provide that academic information.”
Having met the founder of Bijoux Indiscrets and reaching out to offer teaching classes in Barcelona, they asked Amber to come on board to provide an educational and politically informed stance to the company.
The Story of Bijoux Indiscrets
Talking on the topic of Bijoux Indiscrets founding story, Amber tells how, having started in 2006 as a female owned company, by Elsa and Martha, they recognised the level of taboo and shame that surrounded sexuality and pleasure for female-identifying people. Being frustrated by this, and with Elsa’s creativity and Martha’s savvy business side, they united their two strengths and decided to create a company that gave a voice to what is pleasure, what is empowerment and what does it look like for people whose pleasure and power had been pushed to the side. Amber explains how they were shifting against the media’s representation of pleasure being “pretty and white and delicate. This was problematic for them and so they decided to rebel against that and with time, Bijoux has expanded…to have products that offer people an outlet, to wear pleasure around their neck… that take the binary out of sexuality”. This is something that is reflected in their brand being, refreshingly, not pink or purple, but instead, black and gold.
I feel like Bijoux Indiscret is for everybody who is trying to be expansive on their pleasure... Their products offer people an outlet, to wear pleasure around their neck, that take the binary out of sexuality
Being curated and offering products to people of fluid genders is something that sits Bijoux apart from other brands. Amber tells us how “I feel like this is a company for everybody who is trying to be expansive on their pleasure” With a range of items such as vibrators, lubricants, BDSM vegan accessories to a simple blindfold, Amber points out how there’s a lot of options for people at different points of their sexual pleasure journey. “I think our clients are people who seek education, we offer educational guides that provide information from sex educators. Because who do you ask to give a better blow job, not everybody has that community. For us, it's about people who want to look for the foundation and then do whatever they want to do with it”.
Amber's Journey into Sex Ed
Discussing her journey into sex education, Amber describes falling into it really naturally; “I’m really fortunate that I have been allowed to let my passions lead me in life”. With an energy that gravitates people towards her, Amber tells us how “I grew up ina really rural town in the United States, where sexuality wasn’t spoken about at all,we had no sex education. And I just had this natural draw to it and so I started to offer advice to people and I’d bring condoms to school and give people pregnancy tests. I witnessed how many people were displaced from their pleasure and not empowered by it.” Deciding not to care what others thought of her or labelled her as, Amber describes how “I don’t mind making myself look like a fool or wild or eccentric, so that people behind me who can utlise that as an example to better their life”. Offering people the space to connect since being a teenager is something that leads us to discussing the way advocacy around pleasure is often minimalised and the challenges of censored. “We see the political sphere in the US and Europe being conservative, white dominated industries that are very heteronormative and lead the direction sexuality is allowed to be spoken about”. Recognising her own priviledges, Amber makes a point of how she names her experiences as a survival sex worker. Particularly in the academic spaces she occupies as a PhD student. She tells us that “People almost have this visceral reaction of ‘Really?! You?’” Fighting the narrative and censorship of it all is something Amber continues to push against. She’s also consciously aware of how much privilege her white, pretty slender identity brings and so she is continually finding ways to suggest other people for opportunities. “I don’t want to take someone else’s voice away to uplift myself. And we need community because there’s often this competition of ‘if I eat, you don’t eat which is not true because we all have a seat at the table.”
Inclusivity and Making Space
If Amber could change anything, she tells us how “inclusive sex education is something I think is so necessary but also that the people who are giving that sex education don’t all look the same. For instance if we’re going to talk about transrights, it should be taught by someone who has that educational foundation but also the lived experience. And to see lived experience as valuable as academic experience”.
Try to be that good in the world
For Amber, focusing on doing the work to uplift others to do the work, particularly around ethical pornography and overriding that narrative that all porn is bad. In her studies, Amber is currently looking at mainstream and ethical pornography and reviewing how people connect to it and use it for education purposes and to become literate around sex and pleasure. Never one to shame people in the industry or those consuming mainstream pornography, Amber quotes a friend Max Capacity when discussing the way “You don’t learn how to drive by watching the Fast and Furious movies… and the same comes with pornography.” She says how “We need to be adults and understand that this is choice between consenting adults”. That there are amazing things to see from pornography but there’s many, many steps inbetween the reality and the fantasy that can be actualised.
Ethical Pornography and Research
When it comes to the term ‘ethical’, Amber tells us how it’s an incredibly complex term and so, for previous studies, she has changed her use of the definition to equitable - “because equality is about everyone getting a box to see over the fence. But equity is recognising that the tall person doesn’t need a box, the medium height person gets one box and the shorter person gets two so they can all see” quoting an analogy created by Dr Bianca Laureano, someone who Amber shouts out with pride. All of the work Amber does is with the hope “of starting a dialogue and start having a real place for sex workers and marginalised people to be recognised and to be speak up and for censorship to be let go of.” What Amber is focusing on is putting her head down, invest her money in creating more expansive research and making sure other people have space to discuss and talk about their experiences in a professional capacity. For Amber, her own research is something she hopes to make it accessible for others and “opening up the forum for others to understand and question… I invite people to speak to me on that level”. This is something that her own work in academia
When do you feel most confidence?
When I have a glass of bubbly, sitting outside and I’m wearing something very sexy. I don’t need to be with or without anyone
Name a key experience that has shaped you positively?
In 2016 I attended the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit and The Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WoCSHN), they were the keynote speakers and it changed my life entirely. It opened me up to a lot of privileges that I have as an educator and as a human being. Pivotal moment.
One dream you wish to come true?
I wish people who are listening to this who have questions and want to pursue their sexual self in a specific way have the resources and community to explore that more. So feel free to reach out to me or write to Bijoux - I want people to know that if you want to pursue your authentic self and it’s the most kinky wild thing, do it! It is ok
One law you want to change or a cause that is close to your heart?
I want to ban FOSTA-SESTA which the biggest censorship laws in the US which marginalise sex workers and it’s why we can’t even say sex on Instagram.
What’s the best thing about being you?
That I have the fortunate energy and persona that allows people to feel comfortable and open with me. I feel at home when I’m having intimate conversations with people and I’m so grateful for that
Release Some Tension - SWV
Kiss It Better - Rihanna
Fashion Freak - Isabella Lovestory
Why Don't You Do Right - Lil' Green, Remastered 2002
Woman's Touch - Yussef Dayes, Jamilah Barry
Keep up to date with Amber's work via IG @amber.mallery
Interview by Bethany Burgoyne @bxsassy2