If you’re like me, when you accept a job working at a place that’s part women’s intimate wellness, part luxury sex toy brand, you probably have some pretty big expectations. And did I mention this gig was in Shanghai? At the very least, I figured that: 1) Everyone I worked with would be blissfully liberated mentally and otherwise; 2) There would be loads of free goodies; and 3) I would be the new office prude who would be coaxed into my future, fully realized self à la Almost Famous.
Interestingly, my experience did not involve as much of the gasping, guffawing and giggling as I expected. Sure, there was the shock factor, but there was so much more that I hadn’t anticipated: The internationally tentative nature of sexuality, the monetizing of female body issues, my period’s environmental footprint, major women’s health problems that go ignored, and much more.
20 Things I Learned Working in the Sex & Wellness Industry:
- Daaahhhhling—Never “vibrator”, always “personal massager”. This is the first rule of working in the classy sex toy industry.
- The French think that all Americans are sexually liberated, while Americans (ironically) tend the think the same of the French. The truth: We’re all in the closet.
- Working at a sex toy company doesn’t make you any less prude—a job’s a job. A lot of the people who worked in my office were so embarrassed about their work that they didn’t even tell their own parents what they did for a living.
- The number of disposable menstrual products used in one year by American women is equivalent to the weight of 6 Titanics.
- One in three women struggle with bladder control.
- Most of us don’t know the correct name for our own genitalia—it’s not the “vagina”, it’s the “vulva”.
- The “try to stop peeing mid-stream” Kegel trick is actually bad for you. The habit can prevent you from fully emptying your bladder, possibly causing pelvic floor health problems.
- Tampons and other disposables pose ignored health risks, including exposure to a substance that’s proven to cause cancer. Tampons are often created with synthetic fibers that go through a chlorine bleaching process that produces toxic by-products such as dioxin.
- Menstrual products such as tampons are “regulated by the FDA”, but the data that the FDA relies on to determine if a product is safe is supplied by the tampon manufacturers. The FDA does not conduct independent tests to confirm industry-reported data.
- Menstrual cups are not just for hippies and totally worth a try. Select a reusable one in medical-grade silicone for a healthier, greener, cheaper period.
- Young girls are starting to menstruate younger and younger, and the earlier age of first menses has been linked to lower socioeconomic standing, obesity, stressful family life and more.
- Most women don’t even know the name of the most common vaginal infection, bacterial vaginosis, which affects anywhere from 10% to 64% of the female population at any given time.
- There is such a thing as a “period sponge”. They’re natural sea sponges used to, well, you know.
- Reusable menstrual pads are also a thing. Think of them as underwear accessories—it’s more glam.
- Flushing disposables down the toilet creates major septic problems and costs cities big time—especially in developing countries. Even if your products are labeled “flushable”, they can create major problems.
- The women’s intimate wellness industry will try to convince you that you need special products in order to stay fresh and clean, but they’re just trying to sell you shit. Your body has its own way of keeping things balanced, and it’s totally fine to stick with clean hands and warm water.
- Weightlifting for you vagina—it’s a thing. Just trust me.
- Stress can actually make your period late, but it’s not the time right before menstruation that causes the delay. Instead, it’s the time before ovulation that’s to blame.
- Writing a “cool” infographic about incontinence is really hard. “Just make it really fun, like a magazine article!” said my boss. The best I could muster was upbeat real talk.
- A lot of women use products not intended for intimate use (i.e. petroleum jelly) intravaginally, which has been proven to cause infections. These infections can, in turn, increase a woman’s risk of sexually transmitted infections.