A few weeks ago, the internet nearly burst when The Atlantic published a cover story about the great sex recession and how millennials are struggling with intimacy. Following the release of this not-so-sexy study, I attended a launch event for Maude, a gender-neutral sex-essentials brand determined to simplify your sex life with high-quality products that both look and feel good. Established in 2017, the company is a collaborative passion project co-founded by Éva Goicochea and Dina Epstein.
Maude currently offers consumers a waterproof vibrator, organic aloe and silicone lubricants, natural latex condoms, and a newly released massage candle. Aside from having specific functions to enhance all sexual activities, the minimal design of the products makes them discreet to the point where someone might feel comfortable enough to leave any of the items out on display in their home rather than hiding everything in a secret sex drawer in the privacy of their bedroom.
Of course, that isn’t a happy accident. This less aggressive approach to a modern product presentation is one of the main objectives that Maude is fully committed to achieving.
“Beyond making the products [simpler and more neutral], fundamentally it is about changing the culture of sex, and that starts with the approach of the industry and companies like ours,” said Epstein. “So that’s our mission: to make sex and all that that means better for all people through quality, simplicity, and inclusivity.”
Goicochea and Epstein recently spoke to The/Thirty about building their brand and developing this mutual interest in improving the sexual wellness space. Scroll down to dive into the stimulating conversation.
On how the brand came to fruition:
"The name Maude literally means strength in battle, and the design is a nod to history," says Epstein. "In the early 1900s, condom packaging was beautiful with interesting names (including a brand called Three Merry Widows, i.e. Agnes, Beckie, and Mabel) so as to fly under the radar of the Comstock Laws, which banned all things obscene. We felt like our packaging should also be beautiful, not to be hidden but to actually align with what sex should be: shame-free.
"Also, Bea Arthur’s character, Maude, (of the show with the same name) was a trailblazer for reproductive rights, civil rights, and gender equality, which is very much in line with our company ethos, and the name lends itself to a play on the word modern. It just felt like the name encapsulated the forward-thinking that drives who we are as a company."
On the "sex recession":
"Even though we’re living in a time when sex is talked about more than ever, there are so many distractions and ways of connecting online that take us away from connecting offline," says Goicochea. "Social media, Netflix binging (no chill), the demands of our desk jobs—we now have plenty of other things that produce quick endorphins, often at the expense of making time for our sex lives which have the same endorphins and long-term health and psychological benefits. Coupled with the fact that one-third of us aren’t getting enough sleep, it’s easy to see why our sex lives are suffering."
On the need for a sexual health revolution:
"We both separately saw this industry as a place that desperately needed change," says Goicochea. "And if it were shifted to be more human-centric, it could have wide-reaching effects: changing our culture, bettering the disparity amongst genders, allowing people to think about it as a part of your health. By the time we discussed the topic, we were so aligned on how needed this was that it was a no-brainer to build together.
"The current industry is fractured—male-focused incumbents and female-focused newer brands often selling sex in a taboo or clinical way in drug stores, on gendered websites, or in sex shops. And if the brands aren’t gendered, they’re selling some outdated version of sex that doesn’t resonate with people. In short, it’s the last frontier in personal care. We’re trying to give consumers a brand that empowers them and makes them feel comfortable and happy. Basically, we’re helping sexual wellness catch up to the rest of your routine/lives."
On building a brand around inclusivity:
"From the moment I met Dina, I knew that we were aligned on our love for people and for welcoming all to the table," says Goicochea. "So when we began carving out the vision for Maude, the one non-negotiable was that it had to be an inclusive company. Think about it: Sex is human. So far, the sexual wellness landscape, and the wider world, sells an outdated vision of sex that is not only incredibly gendered but also ageist, often sexist, and truly narrow in its interpretation of what sex is and should be. More than just simplicity and quality, our company is so much about changing the culture of sex, and for us, it starts with inclusion and really recognizing that everyone wants to be comfortable and loved when it comes to sex.
"We always think of our consumer as somebody who really values form and function when it comes to the product itself and really wants to know what the brand story is and who's behind the brand, whether that means where the materials come from, the humans behind the brand, or the ethos. Our audience is smart, curious, and really want something that's beautiful that works."
On some of the brand's key staples:
"We wanted to build the essentials, sell them in one place, and take the BS out of buying them," says Epstein. "Also, we felt it was imperative to include silicone lube because if you say you’re inclusive and you’re just offering water-based gel, then you’re not inclusive or you haven’t actually asked a wider audience what works for them. We developed and formulated the products making sure they were body-safe and FDA-approved, created accessible pricing, and then made the website build-a-kit or single shopping so the customer could choose. Where we landed: the Vibe (our vibrator designed as your go-to or your first toy), Rise 100% Natural Latex Condoms, Shine silicone lubricant and Shine organic aloe-based lubricant (your preference), and our Quickie Kit (two condoms and a vial of lube), which we also stock in hotels across the country."
On bringing humanity into sex:
"We built the brand with a very clear voice: non-prescriptive, non-judgmental, always friendly," says Goicochea. "From how we consider packaging to what we’re calling our products to our content, we are trying to build a world of sex that is human and everyday. We keep saying that word—human—but so often real people are taken out of the equation when sex brands think of their products or place in the world."