The words “sex furniture” might bring to mind the sort of object an elderly real estate mogul would keep in his Hamptons home for whatever the equivalent of a Bunga Bunga Party is in 2018. Or perhaps you’re envisioning a TRX-inspired swing built for the sorts of couples who have CrossFit-like sex post-CrossFit. However, no longer is sex furniture the sole territory of flexible swingers with cash to burn on a spare walk-in closet.
Once condemned to the domain of sweaty, latex BDSM swings, “romance furniture” has been elevated to art, with a growing array of handcrafted, ergonomically-engineered designs more akin to the seating found in the lobby of a W Hotel. Commercially, the options are endless and the accessibility aplenty. There are swings and slings and gliders. There are wedges and spanking benches and “queening” chairs. Today you can buy a Liberator wedge— the Kleenex of the industry— at Target. In recent years, greater acceptance of sex toys in mainstream media has spurred the demand for higher-end offerings, paralleling what Dr. Ruth has deemed “artisanal sex”—that is, sex to be savored and enjoyed, preferably outside the bedroom.
Of course, having sex in chairs is nothing new; neither are sex chairs, which have mirrored the fashions of regular-use furniture during any given era in history. Pay a visit to a sex museum and you’re sure to come across at least one crude iron hybrid that looks like a cross between an old-fashioned dentist’s chair and a medieval torture device. The Turin Erotic Papyrus from approximately 1150 B.C. depicts couples having sex on various pieces of geometric furniture made of reed and stone. One woman is bent over what appears to be a wedge; another sits atop a square stool common in Egyptian households. King Edward VII, who frequented the Louvre-adjacent brothel Le Chabanais throughout the late 1800’s, commissioned an ornate siege d’amour (literally, “love seat”) in a popular Louis XVI style to facilitate threesomes with only a modicum of physical effort. A raid of Catherine the Great’s Russian palace during the second World War revealed her secret erotica room, where ornately-carved phalluses and vulvas adorned the legs of tables and chairs upholstered in plush velvet favored by the royal family. When inflatable furniture was popularized in the later half of the 20th century, sex toy manufacturers began affixing inflatable chairs with dildos; similarly, sex chairs of today are crafted with an eye towards modernist design.
You would think any chair could become a sex chair if you believe in yourself, but not so: the sorts of chairs in question are contoured to maximize range of motion and facilitate optimal pelvic alignment for positions that might otherwise lead to a pulled hamstring. In fact, two such chairs actually hold design patents: One is Zen by Design’s Tantra Chair, which retails for upwards of $1300 and whose dual curves resemble an infinity sign cut in half horizontally. In a recent interview, the chair’s designer, AJ Vitaro, stressed that the Tantra “isn’t a chair for bachelors to use” so much as “a relationship aid. I wanted to create something to make a relationship evolve, to fill a void that was in the world.”
The second such piece, the Archer Bowchair ($3,100-$3,900), which closely resembles a curved beach chaise (featured in the image above), was patented by furniture maker Robert Kaczmarek for his wife, who suffered from sore joints and a pelvic floor disorder as a result of childbirth. “Two years of design, experimentation, and prototypes later,” the designer said, “We needed to share the Archer with the world.” The resulting chair, inconspicuous and waterproof, is engineered with mattress-like springs that enable it to rock back and forth, reducing stress on the knees and hips.
Both loungers feature vegan leather and baseball stitching, although the Tantra is much longer and decidedly more chaise-like, while the Archer is slightly higher and more practical for outdoor use. Both measure 16.5” across, which is apparently the perfect width for straddling, therefore allowing, so the Tantra chair claims, “the female to use her quadriceps and gluteus muscles to maximize her pelvic movements.”
To these and other luxury sex furniture manufactures, design is paramount; Each piece has its own aesthetic sensibility like any other work of art. “Adela is not just a chair, but a sculpture to make love,” design duo Balastudio described of their design. With its sleek, tilted legs and sloping, horn-like handles, the Adela (price upon request) resembles a gazelle made of polyurethane and fiberglass, a piece that might reasonably blend into a well-traveled art collector’s eclectic living room.
Each chair is handmade in units of (not coincidentally!) 69 and comes with its own serial number plate and certificate of authenticity. In the same way the Adela Chair feels animalistic, Revel Furniture’s Essence Chair, a gently beveled, two-piece lounge set with an ottoman and adjustable recliner, pays homage to Le Corbusier’s iconic LC4 chaise, a visual reference to the lines of a body at rest. Like Balastudio, Revel Furniture’s Kevin and Erin Jensen, a husband-and-wife duo, insist their chair is “made to be seen, never hidden in a closet, to remind us that sex and intimacy are essential and should always be a part of our lives, no matter how busy we get.” At $2,700, the Essence looks not unlike a chaise from West Elm or Crate & Barrel, albeit at a slightly higher price point.
Perhaps it isn’t so much of a stretch to imagine design greats like Le Corbusier or Herman Miller sketching their works with sex in mind as much as relaxation or contemplation. Although, whereas in the past furniture was meant to merely exude sex, we’re now in an age where sex and furniture can be synonymous. And while it’s unlikely that IKEA will begin manufacturing erotic-minded furnishings anytime soon, sex furniture is sure to become more prevalent in bedrooms and unassuming living rooms the world over in much the same way as talk of sex itself.