Read the full article by Sarah Burke at Broadly.Vice.com

 

To create STRAPP, artist and sex educator Shawné Michaelin Holloway asked a diverse range of strap-on users how she could improve an old classic.

When Shawné Michaelin Holloway isn’t making new media art or teaching in the New Arts Journalism department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she is working the counter at one of Chicago’s premier sex stores, Early to Bed. The Chicago native has been retailing at sex shops since she was 18 years old. She likes the opportunity to facilitate sex lives—helping people find the right products: dildos, vibrators, butt plugs, handcuffs.

Over the years—during which she’s also taught weekly kink and sex-ed classes—Holloway has gotten to know the social dynamics of the sex shop ecosystem. She’s noticed, for instance, that one section of the store always seems to elicit particular uneasiness: The corner where the strap-ons hang.

“I just continuously saw a lot of shame in that corner,” Holloway tells Broadly, “whether that’s because heterosexual couples were fearing that they were doing something gay, or masculine women feeling shameful about the fact that they have to put on a thing at all, or people of color who came in and didn’t see themselves reflected in the things we have.”

In her years of sex toy retail experience, Holloway also noticed something else: Even as the sex toy industry consistently grew and designers became increasingly inventive, the design for the strap-on harness has barely changed at all. So, in August of 2017, when she was given the opportunity to join a business accelerator program for artists, she decided to rethink the strap-on with millennials in mind.

Holloway came up with STRAPP, a sleek harness whose design is inspired by extensive conversation with a range of strap-on users about how they’d like to see the strap-on harnesses be more functional and affirming. After initially debuting the design as part of the exhibition, I Was Raised on the Internet at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in the fall of 2018, Holloway is now looking to bring the product out of the gallery and into mainstream sex stores.