The strange, unbreakable link between Ikea and sex.
Why is flat-pack furniture so damned sexy?
Ikea and sex are somehow completely entwined. It sells beds and couches, of course, on which large amounts of sex are had, but there’s more at play. What is it about the world’s largest furniture retailer that is inextricable from horniness?
Temptation is right there
There are so, so many places to sneak off and hide in an Ikea. In 2016, Ikea had to issue a statement forbidding people from hiding in furniture to stay overnight after a series of pranksters went viral. Incidents were reported in at least ten different countries. There is no chance whatsoever that “young people breaking rules to stay somewhere forbidden overnight” doesn’t involve sex a reasonable amount of the time.
It’s a DIY lover’s playground
Ikea hacking is the idea of combining multiple Ikea products to create something else—buying a bookcase and a worktop and ending up with a classy-looking bar for relatively little money, that kind of thing. Naturally, some people have applied this concept to make their own sex furniture. A DIY bondage chair, for instance. One commenter on this Reddit thread built a ‘rimming seat’ from a toilet seat and some Capita-model stainless steel legs. In 2008, blogger Mark Hoekstra made a DIY pleasure device from an Ikea shoe tree and milk frother.
It’s full of beds, damn it
In 2018, Vice asked an IKEA employee whether customers ever had sex in the display beds. She said, “Yes, but there are stories of it happening across every department. The beds are displayed with lots of duvets and blankets, so it's easy to build a sort of bed cave. Supposedly there are even people who've had sex in wardrobes. Couples also regularly get frisky in the aisles of the big self-serve area, right before you get to the checkout. Luckily I've never caught anyone in the act. But hats off to the people doing it in wardrobes—that's quite a feat.”
There’s subliminal sex everywhere
Over the years, Ikea’s exotic names have occasionally had some unfortunate, unintended connotations in English. A now-discontinued computer desk had the model name Jerker, there is a plant spray bottle called Fukta, and there were previously Beslut chairs and Lessebo sofas. (There was also once a workbench called, incredibly, Fartfull.) An unfortunate gap in cultural knowledge involving homophones in Cantonese meant a stuffed wolf toy was given a name that sounded a lot like “your mother’s vagina”. Are shoppers constantly seeing weird double entendres out of the corners of their eyes and getting horny? Probably not, given their relative scarcity and the fart thing, but that does bring us on to…
Swedishness equals sexiness
Culturally, Sweden is seen as an incredibly sexy place filled with impossibly attractive people, a stereotype so ingrained that it must, on some level, come into play when visiting Ikea. It comes from two things: a relaxed attitude towards casual nudity and what seems like a high proportion of alarmingly good-looking people with godlike proportions. Perhaps somewhere deep in your subconscious, as you browse storage solution after storage solution, there’s some kind of extremely hot sauna scenario playing out.
The world knows Ikea
While there are plenty of stores in which someone could sneak off and film something naughty, the international footprint of Ikea makes it that bit more compelling. There are 422 Ikea stores in 50 countries—it’s the McDonald’s of self-assembly furniture. Headlines about a woman filming herself twerking and masturbating in a Chinese branch of Ikea, or a Hong Kong branch accidentally broadcasting porn on its big screens, immediately conjure up much more specific visual images than if they were about chain stores you’d never heard of.
It’s emotionally intense
Most big Ikea visits are connected to some kind of new beginning, and the labyrinthine, inescapable design of Ikea stores, where popping in for one item regularly seems to involve walking through six miles of umlaut-laden shelves, makes the whole thing an intense experience. Emotions run high. There are, surely, very few couples who haven’t had a blazing row or two among the Billy bookcases, three airless hours into what started as a genuinely nice day. But a blown-out-of-all-proportion argument about a shelf is still passion. There’s no making up without the preceding furniture store falling out. And assembling flat-packed furniture is an emotional rollercoaster of a task in itself, but can also show off a side you don’t always get to show off—for a lot of people, rolling one's sleeves up and demonstrating physical competence is something of a rarity. And when you’re finished, all sweaty and tired but full of the rush of completion, you have something new. Might as well bang on it!