Your sexual wellness matters. Defined as “a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well being concerning sexuality”, it’s a vital component in our overall sense of self and one that’s certainly taking a hit right now. Dating feels like a distant memory, with a wistful rose tint descending upon memories of even the not-so-great hook-ups, their mediocrity revived with a shot of normality nostalgia. 76% of people are currently not in lockdown with their partner and close to 40% of Britons had less sex last year, so if the pangs of loneliness are setting in, you’re definitely not the only one feeling it. This enforced period of box sets, baking obsessions and for many, being alone raises questions: are our personal relationships with pleasure evolving during this time? Is this the perfect time to explore what really gets you off: no if’s, but’s or mmm-it’s okay’s? How can we regain faith in our sexual skills and embrace a different kind of pleasure?
As firm fans of MysteryVibe, the sexual health brand with technology literally at its core, we caught up with Co-Founder and CEO Soumyadip Rakshit to discuss how our relationship with pleasure has changed during lockdown, why freedom is key to exploring your sexuality and his vision for a post-COVID world.
What’s giving you the blues right now?
Not knowing when the restrictions will end and the uncertainty of how long we will be stuck at home, because if you know, even if it is a long time, you can plan for it (in your head, at least) but if you don’t know, it’s much more painful.
For many people, lockdown is the first time they've properly focused on their solo sex life. Why is that an important form of self-care, especially in chaotic times?
That’s so easy! The scientific research behind pleasure, orgasms and masturbation is well established. Everybody’s obsessing over immunity now that we’re trying to not get ill, multivitamin tablets are good but immunity also comes from orgasms. It helps with your mental health, because the hormones that stop coming out when you’re depressed are given a nudge but orgasms, endorphins and mental health is definitely are some the biggest things to suffer in lockdown and in COVID times. Exercise, gyms and swimming pools are restricted access, you can hardly go out and so, sex or masturbation is the best exercise - the health benefits alone are too significant to ignore, especially in unhealthy times.
"Discover and explore a world where every adult has the space, freedom, knowledge and power to elevate their pleasure, sexual health and wellbeing." - MysteryVibe. Why is education so important when approaching pleasure?
The core is conversation-starting: either within yourself because you need to have this chat to make change. We don’t often think of that as conversation and equally or even more obviously, with your partner if you want to elevate your sex lives. Let’s say things have gone stale, recent MysteryVibe research showed that 1 in 4 people in the UK haven’t had sex in years, as in they don’t remember the last time they had it… That’s where our name comes into it: how do you bring the mystery back into the bedroom, maybe it’s disappeared over five, ten, fifteen years of marriage? How do you improve it, how can you make it better? That’s why I love the word elevate, whoever you are, whichever level you’re at now: it could be 0, it could be 10 but we always want to be better. 0-1 is obviously more difficult than 10-11 but in both cases you’re elevating!
When we were building the brand, we thought about what we wanted to achieve and how to elevate sexual health. The easiest way to do that is give actionable things: with devices, you can use them in order to get aroused, that’s actionable, especially if you’re in a position where you need to re-learn. For example, if you’re recovering from prostate cancer surgery and you need to retrain yourself to get erect otherwise you won’t get erect again, it is an active thing you have to do. The other is content and education because if you don’t know what the solution is and how to get there, even if the solution exists, you won’t have it. Not many people will talk about their sex life with just anyone, something really obvious in most other high gross areas - e.g. debit cards that were startups five years ago have grown rapidly because it’s so shareable. You tell your friends about it, there’s no stigma attached, you can put it on the side of a bus, on the tube, on Facebook ads: you can put it everywhere and people can talk about it without feeling shame or guilt, much easier than broaching the subject of improving your sexual health.
Even when you do learn, appreciate and benefit from it - you might just not want to tell everyone about it and that’s the biggest challenge, that’s where it goes back to education and how can we educate people about the solutions that exist. Vaginal dryness after menopause is a great example: if you were to ask a gynaecologist, they’ll immediately tell you to use lubricant. The problem is when you don’t ask and have to suffer in silence when the solution is so simple and generally cost effective, in the grand scheme of buying a product to solve a problem, yet most people will simply be unaware of that solution because the education doesn’t exist. That’s why the education is so important: the content, the research, using that to start the conversations… For example, audio porn has really taken off and we compiled a list of all the companies creating great audio porn. The fact is that it exists and it’s out there but if we don’t tell people about it, they won’t know and that’s as good as it not being there. Maybe you’ve never considered this is something that could excite you and this is a really good way to find out, it’s certainly one way you could explore audio porn with a partner (if you’re doing couple sessions) or by yourself. Education and conversation are interlinked and that’s the starting point, the solution only comes after, once you’re educated.
Your example of people who are relearning pleasure depending on their circumstances, you’ve established yourself leaders in this subject area and you’re making something that could be really daunting more accessible. Is that a key goals?
Yes, one of the first things we said is: how do we make sexual health accessible to all ages, genders and orientations because even in the world of sex tech we are siloed, it can be quite gendered and often it is aimed at younger audiences. That’s true generally for most companies that tend to forget a lot of solutions are needed for the 50, 60, 70 ,80+ demographic. What we’ve built is far more beneficial to a person in the older age bracket than someone in their twenties and often, especially in new and upcoming trends, founders tend to be quite young and only look to solve their own problems. That’s the easiest thing to do and people in the later stage of their life often miss out on innovation. What we try to do is make it accessible across ages, genders and orientations so lots of people can benefit. The other thing is a disability - it’s something we learnt later in our journey and it’s something I’ve only recently got more involved in during product design, e.g buttons are remote controllable via the app. These are very simple things once you think about them but unless you experience a disability, you don’t necessarily think about them and you won’t design for it. So I think all of those come with the pursuit of accessibility and if your customer is the only person you talk to you’ll think you’ve done a great job and you’ll be happy but once you look at why other people don’t use your product, that’s when you start to think about what can you do to make it accessible to them.
It’s always been a design goal to put control back into our community’s hands, for example, we created Crescendo, to be a device that bends to mimic the human finger, while mimicking the dimension of two fingers and it will adapt to however your body is, just like the real thing. We think of it as a soft platform. And here, with Tenuto it’s designed to adapt to whatever the penis girth is - so instead of having to buy many, many cock rings and find which size is right for you, you can buy something that flexes, stretches and adapts which is much more likely to fit you. Everything we do, we try to make it a platform for people to play with.
What have people been shopping for in lockdown?
Sex toys for sure - across the board as it’s so normalised now, even Poundland sell vibrators which is crazy, I don’t even know how they built it! Porn has become so much more normalised, there’s always good erotic content that’s relative to the person who’s seeking it and the ability to access this is no different from being able to access anything in the sexual health and wellbeing. There’s negative connotations in the word ‘porn’ and it’s all relative to the person, as long as it's legal. What someone might find very sexy, the other person might find very odd. This took off big time, which also meant companies like Only Fans exploded, I can’t imagine would have taken off that fast unless people were stuck at home this whole time. Health is another great example: Peloton ran out of stock within a few weeks of lockdown and have been struggling to fulfil orders ever since, they now have people on a three month wait list! If you think of it as one bucket, people are investing more in health and that could be running on a treadmill, orgasming, working on your abdominals, something more erotic: it’s how can you improve your health which I think is the best thing that lockdown has contributed to society.
Habits have changed, too. In the beginning of lockdown, things like home improvement and gardening were trending but you can’t continuously buy things to prettify your house or grow in the space you’re in forever, interest is now dipping, whereas the need for sex toys, Pelotons and porn isn’t going to go away.
How do you think this prolonged lack of intimacy will affect people, e.g. will we see more considered attitudes to sexual partners post-pandemic, or will we see a 'summer of love'?
I am optimistic, I would say summer of love! People will throw caution to the wind and just go crazy because we know already from the news that over 50’s have booked cruises. They know they’re safe, they’ll get the vaccine soon and they’re getting out of here! That’s the best indicator of how the summer will hopefully look like.... I can’t imagine under 50’s being any different as soon as they get the vaccine. There’ll be a sense of ‘we made it through the pandemic, might as well make the most of it!’
What do you think the future of pleasure should be?
It’s complicated. I honestly think that everyone should have the knowledge to decide what is right for them and I think the future should include very easily accessible knowledge and tools, whatever they may be. You have the freedom to do what you want with them but it’s not descriptive as to what is right for you, so for you, being asexual is right, for others being a nymphomaniac is right but just having that freedom of living that life without judgement however you want. Having easy access to the right answers and the tools attributed for getting there, is the future rather than a specific way of living. I can’t imagine a world where everybody thinks the same way about pleasure, its very personal so as long as you get to find out what your answer is (at that point in time because that changes) then you get to learn the most you can to live that life. Freedom to be yourself, with access to knowledge, in order to live your life to the fullest.
What’s giving you hope?
Vaccines! That’s the answer to all of our problem right now, assuming everyone gets it, we can have the summer of love!
What To Do Next:
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