After cancer and menopause in her 20s, Polly Rodriguez is teaching us about the importance of sexual wellbeing

I’ve always struggled to find the right words to describe what we do at Unbound. I used to categorize us as a sexual wellness company, but the term “wellness” quickly became overused and stale. Conversely, calling ourselves an adult company conjured up images of blow up dolls and phallic vibrating plastic, which isn’t a cute lewk.

So, I went searching for the right terminology from the woman I knew would have the answer — the one and only Esther Perel. Over cappuccinos in Soho, I presented her with my dilemma:

“I want to make sex both ordinary and extraordinary for women, but struggle to find the right words to describe what kind of company we are,” I told her.

She paused for a moment before responding, “You are not a sexual wellness company, you are a sexual wellbeing company. You are trying to set a baseline for wellness that includes sexual expression. And for how much we care about diet, exercise, and meditation; it shouldn’t be that much of a leap to include sexual health when we think of overall wellbeing.”

I just about dropped my damn cappuccino on the floor. Esther was able to so eloquently and yet so plainly describe the mission I’d been working on for years.

I’m not sure why it’s so hard for us as women to give ourselves permission to masturbate and enjoy sex, but I wholly admit that it is. I first realized this when I went through cancer at age 21 and my radiation treatment resulted in early onset menopause. I found myself in some of the darkest corners of the internet searching for answers on how to boost my libido and what products I could buy. I also was just trying to understand what the hell menopause even was, since my doctors gave me zero information about it.

I used to think that vibrators were objects created for sexual deviants. Truly. I grew up in the Midwest where sexual education was taught by the Driver’s Ed teacher who really had no idea what he was doing (poor guy) and mostly just shouted, “DON’T GET PREGNANT.” But when you’re faced with menopause at 21, you accept that you have to explore your options. For me, buying a vibrator and lubricant from a truck stop in north St. Louis was a pretty horrifying experience, but the products also changed my life.

Ten years after cancer and three years into starting Unbound, I’ve learned about the incredible power that comes with sexual exploration — and not in the 50 Shades of Grey kind of way (though, if you’re into BDSM, that’s cool, too). I’m talking about the simple act of setting aside time to masturbate as a mom, woman, wife, or just as a HUMAN. There’s something truly empowering that happens when you remind yourself how wonderful it feels to orgasm — and not for a partner or anyone else — but just for you.

I have so many friends and friends-of-friends who claim that vibrators aren’t for them. And I totally understand that, but before making up your mind for sure, I’d encourage you to read our Sprinkle Theory on sexual wellness products. Effectively, it compares vibrators to sprinkles on ice cream. Like, you can, of course, eat ice cream without sprinkles, but isn’t it better with them?

IN CONCLUSION (as my 6th grade English teacher taught me to do when writing the last paragraph in a book report), what I’ll say is this — sexual wellbeing is a new, novel concept. And while it may feel like an indulgence or luxury, it really shouldn’t be. Because if all we get in this life is our experience in our bodies for a fairly short amount of time (take it from a cancer survivor), we should embrace, explore, and enjoy our bodies instead of feeling so ashamed about the pleasure we get from them.

As the CEO of Unbound, Polly Rodriguez has always been drawn to turning terrible experiences into great ones for customers. With a background in strategy consulting, she started her career at Deloitte specializing in brand building and customer experience. She went on to scale the YCombinator startup Grouper which focused on the worst experience of all: dating in New York City (and subsequently globally). But there was always one shopping experience that she found to be the worst – buying your first vibrator as a woman. Years later, she’s now the CEO of Unbound, the first direct-to-consumer brand name in sexual wellbeing.

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