Why Ann Summers Is Killing Sexy

I bought a Rampant Rabbit once. It looked like a life-size replica of Barney the Dinosaur’s cock, decorated by Amy Childs.
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Emily Gibson
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I bought a Rampant Rabbit once. It looked like a life-size replica of Barney the Dinosaur’s cock, decorated by Amy Childs.

Trying to explain the concept of a Rampant Rabbit to my (male) flatmate with diagrams. 

Trying to explain the concept of a Rampant Rabbit to my (male) flatmate with diagrams. 

Ann Summers is gross. It pretends it’s a store where modern women can go and buy nine inches of rubberised phallus in the name of liberation, female emancipation and the belief that everyone, regardless of gender, is entitled to a really cracking wank every now and again. But the fact is, it’s a sex shop that looks like it was designed by a ten year old boy.

Ann Summers is to eroticism what The Sun is to journalism; technically accurate, but cheap, mass-market and as subtle as a flying brick.

I really must emphasise that I am in no way against stockings, suspenders or lingerie made entirely of two square inches of mesh and a bootlace. I own a couple of drawers full of the stuff.

Similarly, I am totally on board with all the buzzing, pulsating and vigorously throbbing things on the market designed solely for floating boats, tickling pickles, and so on.

I own a Rampant Rabbit, which was acquired at a university Ann Summers party amidst a gaggle of giggling (and, needless to say, completely plastered) 19-year-old girls. 

Obviously, we all thought it was hilarious until a week later when we gathered round the package that had just arrived to discover that I had accidentally purchased something that would give even a mother-of-three some trouble.

I know these things are supposed to be of, uh, oversized proportions, but this was huge. Comically huge. And it was purple. With sparkles. I had essentially purchased a life-size replica of Barney the Dinosaur's cock, decorated by Amy Childs (what is that? A penizzle? A dickazzle? The mind boggles).

We ended up calling it Margaret after the former Prime Minister, because it was loud, powerful and men were scared shitless of it.

But before that there was the year when everyone at school was turning sixteen. I don't know what the kids are doing nowadays, but in 2005 it was de rigeur to be presented with some sort of Ann Summers novelty at your coming of age celebrations.

For instance, I was the lucky recipient of a pack of pornographic playing cards (terrifyingly educational if nothing else) and a bottle of Raspberry Ripple Nipple Lick.

This second item, left me utterly perplexed. We tried it on ice cream and it was revolting, and I could not for the life of me imagine a genuine scenario where it could be used in a sexy way.

Even now, I am 100% positive that nobody in the history of the world has ever paused mid-tryst to gasp, 'stop, wait! Hold on, I've got a bottle of rancid syrup in my top drawer. Let's crack that out and really start having a good time!'

But my beef with Ann Summers is not with its astoundingly comprehensive array of faux phalluses - including silicone varieties (in an attractive choice of colours!), 'thrusting', 'rotating' and 'twisting' models and one that can apparently be operated by remote control.

Nor is it the store's sinister underlying theme of bestiality (every Rampant Rabbit comes with its trademark vibrating ears and a little bunny face and whiskers). I'm not even too upset by the sticky shit they sell to sugar your junk with, and can just about get past the 'Anal Connoisseur Butt Plug Set.’ My problem is with the underwear, which is all astoundingly, undeniably horrible.

I love lingerie. Who doesn't? I don't expect men to understand - after all, they've only got socks and the no-brainer decision between Y-fronts (barf) and boxer shorts - but there is something very pleasing about wearing a matching set, even if nobody is going to see it.

Of course, it does the very important job of holding your jugs up and also protecting your modesty if you happen to be run over by a cart, but lingerie is inescapably a sexy thing.

The majority of people who see you in it are going to be the people you are having sex with, trying to have sex with or going to have sex with (possible exceptions: glamour models, exhibitionists and drunk people).

Yet Ann Summers underwear is not sexy; it is tacky and poorly-made. It doesn't help that they only employs models who look really pissed off. Maybe I missed the memo about how angry is the new sexy, but it's as though every campaign was shot on the same day by one director with a special fondness for hard-faced bitches.

'Alright love,' he said (probably) to each young whippersnapper to come through the door, 'just spread your legs, stick your tits out a bit and try and look as though you've just been given a parking ticket. Ta.'

Now, I'm not saying it's not fun to dress up a bit like a total whore, because sometimes it is. That's why Agent Provocateur is so successful, and their collections are wonderfully, creatively filthy (but never tacky). There's no pleather in sight, no leopard-print and certainly no cock rings in the shape of dolphins (or any other aquatic fauna for that matter).

Similarly, Pleasure State, Myla London and Coco de Mer all make beautiful, smokin' hot knickers. But by contrast, Ann Summers lingerie is a mere caricature of sexiness. It's as though it's designed by someone who has clearly never gotten laid (but is trying really, really hard).

A quick straw poll of male friends revealed that, on the whole, blokes do not have elaborate fantasies about feathery anklets and nipple tassels. I actually know a girl who bought herself a body stocking from Ann Summers as a surprise for her husband (immediate reaction upon Googling it: what the bloody FUCK is that? Seriously? SERIOUSLY!?).

First off, it is hideous. Secondly, it is one size fits all, which we all know really means 'one size doesn't really fit anyone'. Thirdly, on the night of the big reveal, he actually just crapped his pants laughing and told her she looked like a fish caught up in a net.

And while we're on the subject of sizing, Ann Summers is also the only underwear stockist I know that offers bras in sizes small, medium and large.

I can't believe that when we all know how important it is to wear the correct bra size, how you're supposed to get re-measured every six months to ensure optimal comfort and support at all times, how not wearing one that fits properly can cause back problems and muscle strain, I just cannot believe that they are selling bras that come in only three sizes. The girls from Bravissimo would probably have heart attacks if they knew.

Poorly fitting brassieres aside, I just don't think the Ann Summers definition of hot is quite right. The key to sexiness has surely always been confidence, and I don't know anyone who would feel confident in an ill-fitting PVC Santa suit.

Of course, if you do feel your best swathed in yards and yards of cheap plastic sweating like a pig on speed, then get in touch. I'd love to hear from you, genuinely. Because I can't just cannot get my head around it.

I've actually still got Margaret, by the way. It's somewhere in the back of a drawer waiting to be surreptitiously disposed of in the dead of night.

I live in fear that I may one day disappear in mysterious circumstances and the police will find it while rooting through my belongings for evidence.

I don't know what my dad would do if he was informed by the constabulary that not only was his first-born missing but also that she owned a piece of kit that would have given Anna Nicole Smith a run for her money. I suspect his head would explode.