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Gender Block: Venus Envy

Making it easier for those under 18 to buy gender-affirming items like chest binders

Hillary Di Menna

In September, sex shop and bookstore Venus Envy was fined $260. The Ottawa location was charged for selling a chest binder to a person under 18. The chest binder, a piece of clothing similar to a tank top that flattens the chest, is not itself illegal. It’s the fact that an “adult store” sold it to someone who is under 18 years old. So where is a teenager supposed to find a chest binder? As Venus Envy owner Shelley Taylor told the Ottawa Citizen, a lot of youth do no have credit cards, so ordering online is not possible. Even if they can order online, they may not feel safe having the item shipped to their home. Pretty fair, considering it was a parent who complained. Taylor was quoted in the Ottawa Citizen asking, “Do you need to have fake ID to buy something that affirms your gender? That’s good for your emotional and mental health?”

The store has now moved to an all-ages format, eliminating the sexually explicit videos and magazines, says Taylor in an e-mail to This.

Venus Envy has locations in Ottawa and Halifax. The shops are trans-affirming. The stores also sell books and health products around safer sex, in addition to toys, and also offerworkshops on sex education. As its website says, “Anyone who’s turned off by traditional sex shops will find us a welcoming and informative place to get cool and sexy stuff.” On October 9 Venus Envy started a Pay it Forward Campaign, offering free binders and gaffs (similar to a jock strap) through their shops. This is possible through donations (which you can make here). “We’ve had a lot of interest in our new Pay It Forward campaign that was sparked by this whole kerfuffle,” says Taylor.

A former This intern, Hillary Di Menna is in her second year of the gender and women’s studies program at York University. She also maintains an online feminist resource directory, FIRE- Feminist Internet Resource Exchange.

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