April 16th, 2012
Organic lubricants, silicon vibrators and whips recycled from old bike tyres -- a Berlin sex shop has taken a growing trend for clear-conscience consumerism to its most intimate extreme.
"Other Nature" sells purely organic and vegan sex aids in a country which, a recent poll suggested, topped the table for liking sex "tools and gadgets".
While a wide range of dildos to suit every demand for colour and size are set out across the counter, they all have one thing in common -- they contain no animal substances, nor were any of the products used to make them tested on animals.
"We are a sex shop, only we do it better," Anne Bonnie Schindler, one of the shop's co-managers, said.
Next to a display of tubes of lubricants, a small sign explains that they are glycerine-free and contain no parabens or allergens.
The whips on sale in this shop, which opened in October in a mainly Turkish neighbourhood of the trendy Kreuzberg district of the German capital, are never made of leather, while sex aids are certified as both organic and vegan.
"It's a niche in fact," Schindler said. "Our customers are of all ages and contrary to what we expected, it's not just women," the 31-year-old who sports both tattoos and piercings said.
While the organic food sector has a label of recognition at the European level, no such framework exists for sexual accessories.
"We contacted each of the manufacturers and asked where the materials came from, where these objects were produced and if animal substances were used," she explained.
Schindler, who for a long time worked in a "classic" sex shop, is herself a vegan, meaning she shuns any product that comes from an animal or was tested on animals, such as leather, fur, wool or even beeswax, and is among a growing number of vegans in Germany.
According to Joeran Fliege, of the Vegan-Berlin association, Germany has half a million vegans out of a population of 82 million inhabitants.
"The trend is seeing a strong increase," he said.
Anja Haegele, of the Peta animal rights organisation, said veganism was not just about what people ate, it also incorporated what people wore, used as household products or cosmetics.
Last year saw the opening of what it claims is Europe's first 100-percent vegan supermarket in another hip Berlin neighbourhood, Prenzlauer Berg. Just nearby, a shoe store stocks only non-leather footwear.
Meanwhile, vegetarianism is also on the rise in Germany and can also have an impact on love.
A vegetarian speed-dating event for St Valentine's Day at a Berlin restaurant this year saw participants swapping dinner dates every 10 minutes in the hope of finding their soul mate.
Naturally, a fellow vegetarian.