May 11, 2012, by Amber Martin

A day in the life of a Geographer…Amber Martin

Well, sadly for me the delights of Manhattan and the AAG are but a distant dream. However, being back in the Sir Clive Granger Building here in Nottingham has its own delights. This week I’ve been working hard at cracking on with writing my thesis, which has involved trying to tie up any loose ends with my empirical data analysis. My thesis is on female orientated sex shops within England and in order to research this I’ve utilised quite a lot of different methodological approaches to try and help me understand this industry.

This week started by trudging onto campus on bank holiday Monday (feeling the pressure of being in my third of my PhD I thought I’d make the effort). I spent the day analysing online customer reviews of sex shops as a way of gaining insight into consumer responses to various different kinds of shops. I did this using NVivo, a piece of software that allows you to code qualitative data, which I’ve used extensively while researching as it saves so much time and allows you to identify key themes within your data.

The next day I was on the phone to Ann Summers. From my analysis of customer shop reviews I realised many customers were concerned about children being allowed to go into Ann Summers shops, so I thought I’d give Ann Summers Head Office a call and find out what their stance was on this. They said that despite not being a licensed sex shop they do have an over 18s only policy, but this only means they won’t sell certain products like sex toys to anyone under 18, but they are allowed in the shop. Interesting. (Well to me anyway!).  As Ann Summers aren’t licensed sex shops they are allowed to position themselves on the high street and sometimes, rather ironically next to toy shops (as you can see of this photo I took of an Ann Summers shop in Durham).

Later in the week I had a telephone interview with the owner of an erotic boutique in Brighton which is one of my case studies for the thesis. It was absolutely incredible to be able to speak to her as I was able to get an insight into her inspiration for setting up such a unique business, her experiences of working in the shop on an everyday basis and also how important the physical space of the shop still is, despite the huge online presence of sex toy retailers. Transcribing the interview then took the best part of the day but I managed to get the time to watch a programme on channel 4 called: ‘More Sex Please: We’re British’, which was about a large online sex toy retailer called Love Honey and how its business is booming despite of the recession. I then transcribed bits of the programme which I thought would be useful for the thesis.

I’ve spent the last two days finishing up a content analysis I carried out on products sold within sex shops and erotic boutiques. I collected details, such as cost, colour, size, material etc. of all the products of 8 sex shop and erotic boutique websites (13,000 items in total!). Having finished collecting this data quite a while ago I was just putting some finishing touches to some graphs. I’ve been particularly interested in the use of colour within various different kinds of shops and found similar themes between the use of colour within shop space and the colours used for their sex toys as well. For example, Ann Summers uses pink and black colour ways within its stores, representing a stereotypical girly femininity with a darker seductive edge. It seems sex toys follow a similar pattern, with just under 40% of all the 2119 sex toys I analysed being either pink or black (see the pi chart below showing the percentage of sex toy colours), highlighting how looking at colour can give an indication of gendered discourses within these various shops.

Until next time for more updates on the sex shop industry! (And hopefully some more thesis progression!).

A pi chart showing the percenatge of sex toy colours of 2119 sex toys








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