“The notion that Christianity is adverse to sexual pleasure is a relic of bygone times.”

With more than two billion followers, Christianity is the biggest religious community in the world. In most European countries, Christians make up the majority of the population. Put differently, this is a gigantic audience, and many Christians use sex toys, but for obvious reasons, no erotic product has ever been targeted specifically at this group. Now, German online shop Schönerlieben.de (better love) is taking a step in that direction, positioning itself as “Germany’s first erotic store with Christian values.” The look, product range, and philosophy of the shop all reflect this focus, and in our interview with Wellington Estevo, the man behind the online shop, we learn more about his goals and the unusual concept of Schönerlieben.

Schöner Lieben is“Germany‘s first erotic shop with Christian values.” How exactly are Christian values reflected in your shop?
Wellington Estevo: The most important thing to us is that sexuality within a relationship is centred on and limited to two people. Sexuality is something that we enjoy together, and something that connects two people in a very special way. We want to foster and support that idea.

Why did you decide to create a store for erotic products that follows this philosophy?
The team behind the site all have a Christian background and have grown up in Protestant and Free Church environments. We know our target audience very well, and we are able to approach them and cater to their individual wishes. There has never been a store or shop that really fit our definition of Christian sexuality, so we decided to change that ourselves.

Which products can be found at your store, i.e. which products match your philosophy?
So far, we have been very careful as far as the product range is concerned. On principle, we are open to almost everything, but we feel the best way is to introduce our target audience to the various facets of this world slowly and carefully. And there are things like SM that will probably only play a small part in our product range for the time being.

The most important thing is the presentation of the products. We do not sell products that have any kind of pornographic imagery because we want to encourage our customers to experiment within their relationship. And being confronted with other people’s naked bodies tends to get in the way of that. But again, there are many product categories we could see ourselves picking up – anything that you can use as a couple.

And how would you define your target audience?
Our range of products is geared towards people who are in – or want to commit to – a lasting, serious relationship and want to explore the aspects of their sexuality within this relationship. Also, while the concept is based on Christian values, that does not mean we expect our customers to be religious. If this concept speaks to you, it does not matter if you are religious or not.

“Our range of products is geared towards people who are in – or want to commit to – a lasting, serious relationship and want to explore the aspects of their sexuality within this relationship.”

How much acceptance is there for erotic products among the Christian target audience? Do religious Christians have a different perspective on these products than the rest of the population?
That differs from person to person. Some Christians are very open-minded when it comes to sexuality, maybe even more open-minded than your average citizen. Others feel uncomfortable even talking about sexuality. The same is true for people’s perception – and acceptance – of erotic products. What we do see is that, on the whole, people show a surprising amount of interest in this product category. Sometimes you need to convince them that their curiosity is nothing to be ashamed of, but we have become quite adept at that.

Which trends have struck a chord with your target audience? Is there a product category that is particularly popular?
Apart from your typical drugstore articles like condoms and lubricants, our customers are very interested in sex toys that are designed for two. Couples‘ vibrators are in high demand. But we also get great feedback on massage oils and similar products.

Open sexuality and Christianity often seem at odds with one another, and many people feel that the Christian religion is averse to sexual pleasure. What is your opinion?
The notion that Christianity is averse to sexual pleasure is a relic of bygone times. Practicing Christians are more open about sex than ever. Admittedly, there are certain touchy areas, but those don’t have to do with sexuality in general but with the way this sexuality is expressed. And even when it comes to those themes, there are many different opinions. I think if there is a big common denominator among Christians it’s that sexuality should be tied to a relationship, but we accept it if people feel differently about that.

How would you describe the situation in the market for erotic products? What are the biggest challenges facing you in the German e-commerce market right now?
The sale of erotic products on the internet is booming, as are most other areas of the e-commerce sphere. The aspect of anonymity is obviously very important to the consumers. The biggest challenge we are faced with is probably the pricing competition. Many online shops are selling products at discount prices, and it is hard to keep up with them, especially if your main goal is not just to sell stuff quickly, but to actually offer a pleasant shopping experience to your customers.

Another inherent challenge of the online retail market is that the consumers can’t really tell which products are good just by looking at them on a website. Consequently, it is harder to convince them that a high-quality toy truly offers better quality than a cheaper product. After all, the customers don’t see the products before they buy them.

What can you tell us about your plans for the future of Schöner Lieben?
We are constantly finetuning and optimising the shop and our product range. However, we are not just pursuing this project to generate as many sales as possible, but also – and especially – to provide a source of information and education. We will put more emphasis on that aspect as we go along, and we are already working on comprehensive info materials, including a blog that will touch upon our product range but whose focus will be on sexuality in general.

Also, we have been strengthening our presence outside the internet by presenting our products at Christian events, and we will continue to do that. The positive response has been surprising even to us, and we are already looking forward to the next event in our calendar, the German Protestant Church Congress 2019 in Dortmund. At present, we are still in the planning phase, and we will invite producers to contribute to our promo materials as the event draws nearer.

We already had the support of several well-known brands like HOT, pjur, We-Vibe, and My Size at a Christian festival in 2018, for which we are very thankful. This support really inspires us. There is room for many brands in this market, and we are looking forward to introducing them to our target audience.