As a millennial woman trying to empower and inspire other women to take control of their sexual health, I meet people almost daily who mistake what I do. They think I sell “sustainable condos.” They say, “The green real estate business is really booming right now, good for you!”
But I’m not in the real estate business. I’m a 28-year-old condom entrepreneur. Two years into starting a sexual wellness business, I’m still amazed by how people react to what I do and, more generally, to sex. The reactions are a mix of embarrassment, shock, and applause.
There’s no doubt that our culture is overtly sexual while also still sexually repressed in many ways. Sex, even safe sex, is a taboo subject. I’m here to change that.
A few months ago, I was talking to a guy at a bar. When I told him what I do, he quickly whipped out a condom from his back pocket with an ‘Aren’t you proud of me?’ grin on his face. Pleased and surprised, I asked him if he carried condoms whenever he went out. His response? “Yeah, but a lot of times when I’m about to have sex with a girl and she sees me reach for the condom she says, ‘It’s okay, I trust you.’”
Oh God. Back in business school, I was surrounded by smart, educated, and confident women. But ninety percent of these female peers admitted to being embarrassed and uncomfortable when purchasing condoms. Less anecdotal research confirms these findings. So not only are women uncomfortable buying condoms, but now—according to this guy—they also feel like they aren’t even necessary. Due to a combination of not enough sex education, low STD/HIV awareness and traditional gender stereotypes, my generation may be seriously in trouble.
People often ask me why I do what I do. I sell sexual wellness products because I want everyone to take safe sex into her or his own hands. I work to remove the stigma around women buying and carrying condoms. I want to empower women to feel good about their sexuality and protect themselves accordingly. I want to educate women about why our sexual health is just as critical as our mental and physical health. My generation has proven that women are powerful, intelligent, and capable beings. We are CEOs, entrepreneurs, owners, mothers, and educators. There is no reason that we should be embarrassed, ashamed or uncomfortable when it comes to getting on top of our sexual health.
Progress is being made, but a lot of work remains. And the obstacles aren't just attitudes and cultural norms—the laws that give us freedoms in this area are under fire. Just when I feel the conversation is moving in the right direction, we’re hit with yet another abortion case at the Supreme Court: in Texas, they're on the verge of severely limiting access. It’s so frustrating. I spent countless hours last week scanning pictures of protestors’ posters and wondering how we are still debating access in 2016—and thinking about how I should have been there in the trenches. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around how anyone can think it’s reasonable to force women to drive hundreds of miles to take care of their own bodies.
The irony is not lost on me that International Women's Day is this week. This years’ theme? A pledge for parity. Celebrating women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievement at a time when we’re still actively trying to control their reproductive health feels absurd, upsetting—and more important than ever.
My work—selling condoms, not condos, and constantly pushing for change—is my #pledgeforparity. What’s yours?