Where there's a bride to be, there's a bachelorette party. And for many Los Angeles women, that party means just one thing: The Love Boutique. For 25 years, the shop has entertained and educated parties of women about sexuality and sensuality. The Love Boutique parties are like Tupperware parties, but instead of selling kitchenware and sharing recipes, the consultants are selling romance gear and exchanging advice on how to heat things up in the bedroom.
"We provide women with an honest, authentic sexual education," Love Boutique founder Judy Levy said. "We teach women everything their mothers didn't and discuss everything that women are afraid to talk about."
Levy, who describes herself as a nice Jewish mother, wasn't always in the sexuality business. A graduate of Palisades High, this former B'nai B'rith Girls chapter president spent 15 years as a schoolteacher. While teaching in Europe, she was inspired by stores that sold sexual goods in a traditional retail environment. In January 1981, she brought her version of that liberal European attitude to the Los Angeles area, opening The Love Boutique in Tarzana and hosting home parties. Levy, who celebrated the shop's 25th anniversary with a charity gala on Feb. 2, has since opened a second shop in Santa Monica and now hosts more than 100 parties each month.
The Love Boutique sells everything from massage oils to lingerie and romantic board games to self-help books. In keeping with the store's philosophy, these items are merely tools to help women feel elegant, sexy and self-confident.
"The nighties are just the wrapping paper, you are the gift inside," said Love Boutique party consultant Sophia Silver, who attends Stephen S. Wise. "We want to help women feel good about themselves and their relationships."
But Levy's Love Boutique parties aren't promoting promiscuity or suggesting that women play the field.
"When women understand and respect their bodies, they will find partners who honor, appreciate and respect them," Levy said. "Only men who understand this will get to be with us."
Love Boutique consultants teach that sexuality is normal, healthy and fun. They explain that women will feel more powerful, creative and happy when they are comfortable with their sexuality, and that this sexual knowledge will lead to more successful relationships.
While Love Boutique's parties and shops will have its detractors, Levy believes this education is important for all women, but especially young brides.
"Girls tend to focus on their wedding and forget about their wedding night and the nights after that," said Levy, who was a virgin bride at 21. "It's important that women think about how they'll keep up that connection in their relationship."
That's where the Love Boutique's bachelorette parties come in. The parties teach women to open up lines of communication and be proactive in their requests for what they want emotionally and physically. And attendees say they're just plain fun. Hostesses invite 25 to 30 friends (over the age of 18) for lots of giggly, girly bonding and what else -- shopping.
A love consultant arrives at the hostess' home with a tablecloth, products and goodies. The party opens with a sexuality quiz. From there, the consultant opens up the conversation, allowing women to share stories and ask questions in a comfortable environment. The consultant leads the guests in games and discussions that help women learn about their own romantic needs. Then she walks the guests through the products available at Love Boutique.
The goods range from aphrodisiac candles to edible body frosting and some items that made this reporter blush to witness, let alone write about. Party consultants are aware that hostesses' comfort levels may vary, and they will work with the hostess before the party to find a tone that works for her and her guests. At the end of the party, the consultant discretely meets with each guest individually to take orders to ensure that each remains private. The bachelorette receives a free hostess gift and a gift certificate valued at 10 percent of the party's total sales.
Levy, who participates with ORT and Hadassah, believes her business meshes well with her Jewish beliefs. Many of her party consultants and hostesses are Jewish, and she says her work helps Jewish couples fulfill a Shabbat mitzvah.
"Every Friday night, my husband and I light Shabbat candles and stay home together," said Levy, who belongs to Makom Ohr Shalom in Tarzana.
For Levy, who recently spent two weeks in Israel, tikkun olam (healing the world) is personal passion. The Love Boutique's recent 25th anniversary party at the Jewish-owned Erotic Museum in Hollywood doubled as a benefit for Children of the Night, which rescues children from prostitution. During the month of February, 2 percent of all party, online and Love Boutique sales will go to the nonprofit.
Levy is thrilled to be helping the community at large and Jewish couples in particular through her business.
"We're helping couples connect emotionally and physically, and it's that connection that sustains a marriage," she said.
To book a Love Boutique bachelorette party, call (310) 586-0902 or visit www.loveboutiqueparty.com. Love Boutique's retail locations are: 18637 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, (818) 342-2400; and 2924 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Moncia, (310) 453-3459.