“Feminism” and “femininity” mean different things to different people. With The F-Word, our essay series airing throughout Women’s History Month, we highlight different perspectives — the good, the bad, and the complicated — of what these concepts mean to people.
I still remember my mother handing me a copy of Our bodies, ourselves, the classic feminist tome on women’s reproductive health. I was young and having a forward-thinking parent who normalized sex freed me from the stigma that so many other young people faced then and still face today. But, what happened in school was a whole different story: what started as negligible sex education in middle school turned into an abstinence-only approach in my Catholic high school. This conflicting dichotomy between how sex was viewed in my home life and in my school life never appealed to me. It would eventually inspire me to question the way we talk about sex and how it affects people of all identities, and ultimately disrupt the industry and change the discussion.
Feminism is personalized in the sense that it can mean different things to different people, but one definition that particularly resonates with me calls for “social, economic, and political gender equality.” This need for equality is one of the reasons I founded Maude in 2018, becoming one of 10 consumer goods Latinas to raise $10 million in venture capital. Maude is a modern intimacy company that is rooted in the reality of sex being human, inclusive sex education being necessary and, in a world that constantly tries to blur our relationship with our own bodies, intimacy being a feminist act.
Without a solid basic sex education, many people become emotionally ill-equipped for intimate relationships with others and also lack crucial information about their own bodies. This can not only lead to fear and the perpetuation of various stigmas surrounding sex, but also to the sparse compartmentalization of sex in one’s life rather than a celebrated component that is part of a full life.
Maude is an intimacy business rooted in the reality that sex is human, inclusive sex education is necessary, and intimacy is a feminist act.
In America, only 28 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education, and only 18 states require such programs to be medically accurate. Twenty-eight states require abstinence to be emphasized, which is problematic given research that has shown that this type of sex education reinforces harmful gender stereotypes (such as “feminine passivity” and “male aggression”). “), omits people who have suffered abuse and stigmatizes queer people and same-sex relationships. This, in turn, supports all kinds of health crises, such as violence, suicide and increased risk of HIV.
Alternatively, robust sex education has a net positive influence. Research shows that programs that take an inclusive and positive approach to human sexuality help prevent child abuse, reduce the stigma faced by LGBTQ+ youth, and mitigate relationship violence (not to mention lower rates). unwanted teenage pregnancies).
I saw the results of both approaches to sex education while working at the California Medical Association early in my career. I have also seen the negative implications that high medical bills can have on a person’s livelihood, which has cemented my firm stance on the importance of access to evidence-based education for all people of all identifications and sexualities.
All of this fuels Maude’s intention to prioritize sex education reform with the ritualization of intimacy through intimate wellness products as a way to ensure access to safe and pleasurable sex. for people of all identifications.
On the product side, we always say that sex is before, during and after. It’s about setting the mood and enjoying the sensory experiences around you without have to fight stigma for life. It’s really important to us to holistically provide our community members with everything they need to have a full sex life, no matter who they are or who they love. Almost everything we sell can be used regardless of gender and gender identity. For example, our external massagers are not intended for anyone in particular; rather, they are for everyone. And we just launched a daily gummie in partnership with supplement brand Asystem called Libido, because excitement is, at least in part, an inside job. The two proprietary formulations are different for people with penises versus people with vaginas to ensure that all biology can be aroused (but confirm with your doctor that the supplement is safe for you before taking it).
On the social justice side, we partner with organizations fighting for sex education reform More precisely-such as Advocates for Youth and the Sexual Information and Education Counsel the United States (SIECUS), two organizations seeking to reform sex education policy. These two pillars of our business – inclusive products and the pursuit of comprehensive sexuality education for all – build on each other to support our priority of promoting gender equality in everyday intimacy.
I still sometimes imagine what my own relationship with sex would have been like if my mother hadn’t approached the subject neutrally in my formative years. Education truly begins at home and continues in the classroom, which is a key reason Maude aims to change the culture by becoming a multi-generational company championing conversations about sex and offering products for people having a body to use independently.
Again, sex is human the same way food is human. With that in mind, I think we should create a brand that speaks to people, not women, or men, or any specific identity group. It is the pursuit of equality by privacy.
As told to Kells McPhillips.
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