Whether it’s the official “I do”, or playing games with gender and sexuality, her life’s work celebrates love, sexuality and femininity
Ingrid Mack, Founder and Owner of Liebenswert
Just like eating and drinking, love and sex are basic human needs – without them, we would die.
Ingrid Mack likes to deal with her clientele in person; it helps for them to see and feel her erotic specialty products to sort out which are right for them. So, she has also developed a space that is cozy, warm and inviting, “like your own living room.” In fact, it could be any upscale luxury boutique, until you begin to notice what’s lying on the shelves.
One of her most memorable customers was an 84-year-old widow, who at first tried to order one of the “newfangled devices” over the phone. But Mack was insistent about her coming in person. When an elderly, crippled woman hobbled into the store on crutches, she nearly regretted her decision. But then, three weeks later, a vigorous, grey-haired dynamo suddenly bounded into the store, sans crutches – to replace the batteries – she had to laugh.
“‘Throw another set of batteries in there while you’re at it,’ she said to me,” Mack recalled with a mischievous grin. “I still get goosebumps when I think about it.”
But when Mack, 52, opened the first proper condom shop in Vienna 23 years ago, it was no laughing matter. It was after she lost her best friend to AIDS. “I was confronted with this epidemic right from the start, so I had to take action,” she said. “I wanted to offer the Viennese a normal shop – a ‘Condomerie’, like a ‘Parfumerie’ or a ‘Drogerie.’”
The need to address female sexuality soon led Mack to opening a store specifically geared towards women – which became Liebenswert. In the past, sex shops have nearly all been oriented towards men and couples – one of the first, Beate Uhse, was described as a “marital hygiene shop.” With TV shows like Sex and the City, the media helped the industry become mainstream. Novels like Fifty Shades of Grey then took it to the next level.
“There is nothing I consider unnatural,” said Mack, who is also a certified sex therapist. “Sex and love have so many faces. People have their own ideas, but when one finds another with whom she can share the same thoughts and feelings openly and honestly, that’s when a deep love can develop — and in the best case, with joyous sex to boot!”