The past couple of weeks has shown us (people with uteruses) that we have to take our health (safely) into our own hands. We have seen great nations that love to shove the word FREEDOM down everyone’s throats take away the freedom of the people that carry the weight of that nation on their shoulders.
Now we have to protect ourselves and care for ourselves, especially if the government won’t. So, what does that mean? It means that we have to educate ourselves, by learning about our reproductive organs, seeking out community supports and investing in safe, accessible intimate products.
Even on a good day, walking into a pharmacy, and heading down the sexual health aisle can feel precarious and anxiety-provoking. Especially when you’re femme-identifying or femme-presenting. No one’s saying it—but you can feel it—this feeling that screams: you shouldn’t be here. Because what’s a woman who’s sexually active? A slut, a whore—someone who’s easy, someone who’s asking for it.
Walking through this aisle, at least to me, sometimes feels like I’m trespassing. I’m walking through a linoleum-tiled, fluorescent space that isn’t really meant for me, even though ironically, most times, it’s also the same aisle that has pads and tampons.
As I walk through this aisle, I’m always met with the same flurry of thoughts.
You can be here
You’re an adult—
Sex is nothing to be embarrassed about—
Being safe is nothing to be embarrassed about
Your body is beautiful, and you can do what you want with it
But what will people think?
Who cares what people think?
Care for yourself!
Put yourself first!
And even when I do summon up the courage to glide around that sexual health aisle, I still can’t help but feel like I don’t belong there, for two reasons
my upbringing has taught me that sex is somehow wrong or debasing
it feels like none of the sexual health items in the goddamn aisle are not even meant for me.
And I know femme-presenting or femme-identifying people aren’t the only ones who feel like this. I was talking to a male-identifying friend of mine, who said he felt like he was going to have a panic attack every time he went shopping for condoms because of the toxically masculine messaging on the boxes.
The truth is, in 2022, many people still feel uncomfortable shopping for essential care items like condoms, lubricants and other personal devices in public spaces—partially, I think, because a lot of brands are either pushing unrealistic expectations of what sex should be, paired with the overall societal judgement surrounding sex in general.
I could spend about a good twenty blog posts trying to unpack that relationship. Hell, I could probably dedicate an entire dissertation to that. But, in the essence of time, I’m going to share some things that I’ve learned — and, some of the companies that are trying to make intimate health more accessible and approachable (especially in the wake of these dark anti-choice times).
Here are some fast facts for you:
In the United States, 14% of women and girls aged 15-49 are using birth control forms of contraception. As well, 10% of women and girls aged 15-49 are using long-acting contraception (such as IUDs or implants)
From 2017-2019, 65.3% of women and girls aged 15–49 in the United States were using some form of contraception.
Half of all new STIs reported each year are among young people aged 15-24
People are having sex—and beyond that, most people who are—are using some form of contraception. It is a fact that correctly using certain forms of contraception, such as condoms, can “prevent the spread of STIs and help prevent pregnancy” (The Society of Behavioural Medicine). Although condoms are one of the only proven kinds of contraception to prevent the spread of STIs, many other forms of contraception are also popular, such as IUDs, oral contraception, implants, injections, or rings.
I think that’s why, lately, we are seeing an evolution in the area of intimate health. And really, thank god for that. So, let’s take a look at some of the companies making intimate health easier and more accessible.
Did you know that nearly two-thirds of people use condoms? And yet, Slipp found that over 80% of women identifying persons do not carry condoms. Literally mind-blowing. And, exceptionally true. Double-true, women are more likely to feel pressured, or embarrassed by asking to use a condom in the bedroom.
🎺 DUM DUM DUM DUMMM! Insert my hero, your hero: Slipp! Slipp is a female-founded, Canadian condom brand that is here to bash down all kinds of female-sex stereotypes through its simple condom products that are made with 2 ingredients: natural rubber latex and silicone lubricant. Slipp is also vegan friendly and Health Canada and FDA certified. Did I mention it's also made without any harsh fragrances or gross dyes?
During my search for inclusive intimate health brands, I came across Champ: the condom, lubricant and personal wipe brand for guys (gals and nonbinary pals too). Curious about just what makes Meet Champ special, I sat down and had a chat with founders Allen Yau and John O'Keeffe about the importance of redefining the sexual health field for condom users, to make it more accessible and welcoming.
Just like me, they realized that the existing method of buying condoms either through online re-sellers or through in-person drug stores wasn’t working. It was uncomfortable. And, there was a lot of toxic masculinity happening in the messaging around traditional condom brands.
Yau and O’Keeffe are passionate about creating a healthy, masculine space through Champ—and making intimate health a safe and welcoming conversation for consumers. This eco-friendly, all-natural latex condom and water-based lubricant brand launched in the middle of the pandemic and have been going strong since. So, without further ado, meet champ, the intimate health brand that wants you to feel open, cared for, and accepted, c
Good sex is safe sex. Safe sex is good sex. It’s just common sense, and really, we should be talking about that more. Foria is here to help you explore those conversations and pave the way to nourishing, “really good” sex.
Foria produces all kinds of goodies to help you and your partner feel good, such as cannabis and hemp-based personal lubricants, CBD suppositories that help with menstrual pain (because yikes, who needs pain) and of course, non-CBD intimate oils to help you feel like your best self.
While their cannabis products are not available to my Canadian friends, there’s no reason you can’t watch this juicy brand from afar, and of course, try out their non-CBD range.
As my friends at Foria point out: “The sexual needs of women have been overlooked and under-addressed for too long. We’re working to change that story every day.”
WOO MORE PLAY
Hold on. Did you know that 50% of women don’t expect to orgasm during straight sex? And, 80% of heterosexual women fake orgasms half of the time and 25% fake almost all the time? Holy cow.
Woo More Play wants to do something about this. They want to introduce “mind-blowing, toe-curling, healthy sex” for you and your partner to enjoy accessibly and openly. And, the best part is, that there are so many ways that Woo More Play can help you achieve this! You can try everything from their toys, lubricants, and personal wipes to find what best works for you!
I can’t talk about intimate health without bringing birth control into the conversation. In Canada specifically, finding the right birth control for you can be a long process (speaking from experience here). It’s a lot of trial and error, it’s a lot of waiting rooms and it’s a lot of bandaid-solutions. Founder Dallas Barnes realized that birth control isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution and that people who needed birth control, also needed a tailored and individual-centred experience.
Through signing up, Reya helps people receive individualized birth control information, planning tools, explanations, expert support around side effects, and dedicated guidance when tracking birth control use.
If it’s one thing I’ve learned through these brands, and through researching reproductive health in a general sense—caring for our bodies shouldn’t be a point of embarrassment or social stigma. It is, if anything, an important facet of what it means to be human.
To be truly free, and make the decisions that best work for you, and your lifestyle.
DISCLAIMER: none of the links above are affiliate links—meaning, the author does NOT receive any paid commission for the inclusion of brand information or products.