Imagine, for a moment, a flogger made with your ideal colour combination. Imagine taking it up in your hands, running its tresses through your fingers, and then eagerly putting it to purpose.
Now imagine the same flogger designed with your least favourite colour combination.
Can you still see yourself buying this flogger?
Does it hold the same sense of empowerment?
When it makes contact is its sting just the same or has it altered somehow?
Logically, no, but if you’re like most individuals then the notion of this undesirably coloured flogger has suddenly made the product itself seem less appealing (or perhaps even unthinkable) even though it fundamentally hasn’t changed in efficiency at all.
Let’s talk colour psychology.
“Please, God, tell me I have not inspired something burgundy”
In perhaps one of my favourite scenes from one of my favourite movies, the ever-inspiring Lola (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) explains to a rather clueless Charley Bucket (Joel Edgerton) why burgundy is an absolutely unacceptable colour for a pair of kinky boots. Instead they must be red.
Why? I’ll let dear Lola take this one:
Red! Is the colour of sex! Burgundy is the colour of hot water bottles! Red is the colour of sex and fear and danger and signs that say, Do. Not. Enter. All my favourite things in life.
For Lola red is essential, and she’s certainly not alone.Red! Is the colour of sex!Click To Tweet
When it comes to colours humans are undeniably liable to have their personal favourites while shunning certain other colours. For example, yellows will (on average) be much preferred over browns. Yellow, after all, is the colour of the sun, smiley faces, and vibrant flowers. Brown is the colour of dirt, and rotting, and questionable fashion choices, in the field of academia (the ‘stuffy old professor’ stereotype exists for a reason).
“The colour of hot water bottles”
What you may notice in both my own words and Lola’s is that, in both these cases, it’s not necessarily the colour that appeals to us or repels us but, rather, the association made between certain colours and certain objects, events, or individuals. This is in keeping with the current theories on colour psychology.
Known as the ecological valence theory, the most popular explanation for our preference for certain colours is rooted in evolutionary theory and the fun effects of our lil primitive ‘lizard brain’ on our more complex psyche.
Essentially colour preference is typically determined by the experiences we have in our life and the colours we associate with them. The theory being that linking certain colours to positive experiences means we will seek them out more, whereas learning to avoid colours we associate with unpleasant memories and/or experiences will stop us from repeating them.
Not just this but we will also accept alterations to our usual colour preferences if those colours are expected for the object in question. For example, most of us would shun a brown apple, but a brownie? Now that’s a different matter altogether.
The societal and cultural association with colours is also a huge influence for most individuals. Lola may associate burgundy with hot water bottles, but that’s because in our society that’s the link we have established. What if the colour of hot water bottles was green instead? Dear Lola might not be as repulsed by burgundy if that were the case.
“The colour of sex”
But does this have any application to sex?
Of course, it does!
When I was at the incredibly packed Kink Crafting workshop (held at Eroticon 2017) the very first question that I heard most people get asked was “What colour would you like?” and the result was incredibly telling.
Some people would answer almost before the question was finished, others shortly and surely after, whereas some took the time to consider their options before eventually determining what, to them, was clearly an important decision.
In all these cases the colour of the kinky item in question was clearly of great significance. When I took a moment to muse out loud as to why this may be the answer was resoundingly to do with personal significance—that association that each individual made between colour and kink. And this was the case for me too.
I didn’t need to hesitate when asked what colour I wanted. It was red. It’s always been red…Well, red and black. Those are my ‘sexy’ colours and there is, of course, a long list of associations in my mind to back this preference up (but those are on a ‘need to know’ basis).
Yet when it came to the ‘Misery Stick’ that I purchased later in the day, and the handmade ceramic dildos, that I admired, it had to be blue. Blue, for me, is a colour of self-care, and healing—tranquillity and passivity. Both colours are important, and both have a role to play in my sexual health and well-being, and that role is undoubtedly active.
So, what does this all mean?
You may be thinking, “Well, Emmeline, this is all very interesting, but what does it even matter!?”
Well, if you are one of the people who does value colour in your sex life then it can make all the difference.
Having a favourite colour in the bedroom can help you craft a kink aesthetic that further bolsters your headspace during a scene, or helps empower you in those uncertain moments. If BDSM is a performative practice, then the colours you choose may be an essential component in setting the stage.
The colour of sexual items can also be highly problematic—something to problematize, challenge, and consider. What does it say about the adult community that most ‘female’ toys are pink and purple, whereas most ‘male’ toys are blue and black? Is this helpful? Is it worth challenging? And, if so, how do we work with an industry that is essentially meeting the demand of a society that is culturally predisposed to make certain colour associations with certain genders?
When a company does stand out against these colour stereotypes then it shows and, interestingly, often has a huge appeal. I’m thinking Godemiche, Ceramic Pleasures, and, yes, Kink Craft who give options and urge customers to customize their items.
And, although I hold my hands up and admit to buying a stereotypically red and black dildo when ordering from Godemiche perhaps that’s irrelevant—what matters (what has always mattered) personal association and being given the choice to curate the coloured collection of your choice. Whether that’s pink, red, or gamboge is irrelevant. What it means to you is everything.