In Conversation with Venus Libido
Sex-positive artist Venus Libido talks to KK about her journey to sex positivity, art, and how she blended those worlds online. She also talks about the inspiration behind her incredible #ItsAKittensWorld collection.
KK: So, how did you become an artist?
VENUS LIBIDO: I’ve always studied art. When I was at school, it was the only thing I was interested in going to school for. I could never concentrate on anything other than art and I was always drawing and always making stuff and then when I went to college, obviously, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. So, I did art at college and then I did a foundation degree in art and then I went on and studied fine art as a degree. I specialised in sculpture, and then as soon as I left university and well even before I left university I was working with artists.
I got a job in London as a mould maker about two days after I graduated making resin moulds and it was such an amazing job. I even did a couple of Madame Tussaud’s hands! Art is literally all I’ve ever done, my whole life. I just don’t think I can see myself doing anything else. I just love it; it just speaks to me. I wish I could just go back to university and just do it all again because I loved it. It was literally the best time in my life. Just going in everyday into a space that obviously wasn’t free I was paying to go to university. Sadly though, most jobs, actually all of my jobs have ended because of some form of sexual harassment or not being paid equally as a woman to my male counterparts. Every time I’ve left it’s been because somethings not been right.
There’s quite a lot in the art world when it comes to working in that space. I just saw it happen all the time and that’s kind of why I went freelance because I couldn’t take it anymore, I couldn’t take being treated like that. And every job that I loved… It was making me hate that space, it was making me hate art.
KK: How did you go from fine art to sex-positive illustrating?
VENUS LIBIDO: It’s funny because I did fine art at university – I didn’t train in illustration or anything like that. I just started drawing one day and it turned out I was quite good at it. I started posting the drawings I did on Instagram, and it went from there.
I think the most pivotal moment in my career was when Rihanna posted one of my drawings.
I literally nearly threw up. I can’t remember what it was, but it was on international women’s day three years ago now. She posted one of my drawings. It was quite funny because it went around all the news platforms in America because it was quite a controversial piece of work and loads of people were saying such funny things about it. It was hilarious.
KK: Have you always been a sex-positive person, or did you have your own liberation journey?
VENUS LIBIDO: This is something I’ve had to think about quite a lot recently because I’ve been asked to write in a book about being single and I wrote a piece about my relationship with my sexuality. I always thought I was someone who didn’t really talk about sex a lot, but I was always very interested in it, from a very young age. I remember always wanting to watch porn all the time and being really fascinated by the human body.
If there was anything on TV that was overly sexual or was about sex, my eyes were wide open. So, I have definitely always been really interested in sex, but I think I’ve always been quite quiet about it because I’ve always been quiet about my sexuality. I didn’t come out as pansexual until last year and I’m turning thirty this year, so I was very late.
I knew from the age of six that I liked girls and it wasn’t just guys that I liked and then, as I got older, my sexuality just formed into me identifying as pansexual. I have always been very interested in the topic, but I think I only felt confident talking about it once I did my show Private Parts that was a real steppingstone into me thinking “No, I can talk about this, and I am comfortable talking about this now.”
I think “Private Parts” was the real turning point for me. And being that person who was comfortable with saying the word “vagina” or “masturbating” and talking about sex toys online – I think that really helped me
KK: Where does the Venus Libido name come from?
VENUS LIBIDO: I’m really interested in Greek mythology and I’ve always been really fascinated by Venus and Medusa and all these amazingly powerful figures. Venus was just a name I kind of wanted… I didn’t want to use my real name online because I wanted to kind of create this alter ego that was a space for me to do stuff that I wasn’t doing in my own personal life.
At the time, when I started Venus Libido, I was going through a really bad time in my life where I’d just tried to take my own life and I was just really unhappy with who I was as a person. So, I thought “Okay. Maybe if I create this new person who isn’t represented to me as an individual and who I am in my real life I can use this other person to be everything I want to be in life.” So yeah, I just thought Venus was just, you know, a woman I was interested in at the time and doing quite a lot of research on her and then I was just really fascinated in exploring sex and my sexuality and the word libido, I just really like the word libido as well so I just put the two together and thought “Oh that works. I’ll just call myself Venus Libido.”
At the time I thought “Oh gosh this is ridiculous everyone’s going to laugh” but it’s kind of worked. People enjoy it and find it really interesting! When people ask me what my name is, I always say “Venus” and they say “Oh that’s a really cool name!” I’m like “Yeah, it’s not my real name my parents weren’t that cool.”
KK: You now have your own collection with us. Can you tell me about the inspiration behind it?
VENUS LIBIDO: The brief was to capture sexiness and empowerment. The Hell is a Place on Earth sweatshirt is my favourite, and it’s the one Instagram keeps bloody removing! I just drew all of my different moods into a collection of the same person. But yeah, I really love it. That’s one of my favourite drawings I’ve ever done.
KK: Why Killing Kittens?
VENUS LIBIDO: Everything KK stands for, I stand for too. I just really like brands like KK, that aren’t judgmental and are challenging social norms and what it means when it comes to sexual liberation. KK is a really cool brand; all the workshops are right up my street. Any platform which helps promote, support and encourage women to explore their sexualities and their self-pleasure, I’m there for.
You can purchase Venus Libido’s Killing Kittens collection here.
Beth Ashley (she/her) is a journalist and creative writer specialising in sex, relationships, politics and class. You can follow her work on Instagram at @bethashleywriter