Maude's Modern Intimacy and Sexual Wellness Basics
It's difficult to discuss sex without talking about sex.
A solo or partnered act, sex comprises different narratives--and frequently baggage. Sex is reproduction and family planning. Sex is with one partner or several. Sexual self-pleasure, well that, also, isn't without navigation. Pop culture changes our idea of sex for a performance. Institutions and authorities have made rules about sex, making the private very political. I am barely scratching the surface of how and why we consider sex the way we do. In a progressive era, though a beautiful and organic act, sex remains positioned as complicated and divisive.
However, there's a brand trying to change thought and practice of sex to a biological and physical health norm: maude.
Maude is unique. The direct-to-consumer wellness provider wants to live in a world where personal massagers are purchased in comparative stability and normalcy along with other health products found in a pharmacy. Éva Goicochea, maude's founder and CEO, says of herself,"I am not a sex therapist or a physician. I don't wish to be prescriptive." Instead, she says, the brand's aim is to get people to comprehend the holistic nature of wellness, that's the sector umbrella maude fits beneath. Folks pour money and resources into health clinics around diet, physical fitness, and skin care. Yet, there's still an omission from the mainstream of accepted sexual health practices and products that positively affect physical and mental health in similar manners.
Maude is not, only because it's run and founded by a woman, a feminist sexual health brand exclusively for girls. It's inclusive of all people and their sexual health needs. The business reality is that the sexual health and health industries are amazingly rewarding and important to an expansive market of buyers. By 2026, the international sexual health sector is expected to reach $125 billion UDS, based on Businesswire. Because maude, also, snuggles into health, that business's gain by 2025 will reach approximately $6 trillion USD worldwide, based on Statista.
Goicochea's strategy for maude and bringing in clients is rooted in speaking to them like the people who they are. "These products are a part of your regular [life] and they can be treated that way," she tells me on a video phone from her New York office.
The brand's staff is optimistic about presenting foundational knowledge that builds into more normalcy around gender. "We're getting back to the place that's biologically factual. We discuss things in a factual manner that shows the world that we would like to live in. It is not about tackling all these subjects head-on and trying to educate people about them or alter minds through speaking at them. It's only showing them."
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Éva's route to maude
Goicochea is considerate and open about her trip to founding maude but ensures her narrative doesn't eclipse the brand's overall objectives, making her the face of it. She's at a specific crossroad as a entrepreneur and founder: running a company now usually means self-branding is almost as crucial as business branding. "We are going to continue to get known as a female brand because I am a girl, that is in some ways why we try to conceal me," she says laughing,"Of course I do interviews. People today know I exist and I am the founder. But my face is not all over everything because I do not want it to be. I am not the face of the brand. I really don't want people to feel excluded."
Her route for this brand is rooted in doing work that's meaningful and helpful to the general public. Before maude would become the seed of an idea, Goicochea, a sixth-generation New Mexican increased in California, bounced between New York and Los Angeles professionally, working early in her career as a legislative aide in healthcare in the California Medical Association. She studied advertising in college, finally moving on from the health care world to return to brand and ecommerce strategy for businesses like Everlane, The Natural Resources Defense Council, and Josie Maran, to name a few. Maude is not Goicochea's first entrepreneurial venture: in 2015, she moved on to start Tinker Watches along with her husband, Ian, and the designer Luke Ragno.
However, around the same time, Goicochea was interested in bringing together all the pieces of her professional life, whether that job and business existed or not. "I had been hoping to bridge the gap with the public health piece. At the moment, wellness was something. The companies I wanted to work for did not exist. In conversation with some people, sexual health got brought up and they were like,'we ought to create a trendy business around this.' I marinated on the thought, thinking,'wait a second, this is the thought and does it exist? And can I go work for this organization?' And it did not. "
Maude started in 2018. In the summer of 2020, during what are the brand's best year, Goicochea increased $2.2 million dollars in venture capital funding (bringing her total to $4.3M), getting one of 60 LatinX girls to raise over $1 million bucks.
Maude is a play on one of Goicochea's favourite words: modern. (We'll get to how maudern works in the maude world later.) "Modern means power. We were kind of taking on the big guys in the business. Also, I enjoy the fact that Maude was a TV series that was really progressive concerning reproductive rights and women's rights. The title just ticked all of the boxes. "
In late 2020, maude declared that the celebrity Dakota Johnson would become co-creative manager , focusing on product development and sustainability. Johnson, like Goicochea, favors not as much attention and isn't considered the surface of the brand . This trend isn't new: celebrities and celebrities do have creative or financial roles in brands but remain relatively behind the scenes. Johnson approached the brand, not the other way round, Goicochea states. "She came on as a co-creative manager to direct more products generally because she enjoys coming up together. It was about her coming aboard to provide a larger presence to the new but also keep thinking through the question: how do we keep innovating? How do we create products that take care of you? And she is really thoughtful that way. "
Back to basics
It is important to understand first how and why tone and product decisions were made in maude.
In our first correspondence for this interview, Goicochea said the Comstock Laws to me. America, just before and at the turn of the 20th century, was having a crisis of conscience. From the late 1800s, a set of federally mandated laws to be called the Comstock Laws limited or repressed posts deemed as immoral or disgusting . It comprised contraceptives, sex toys, private letters with regard to sexual content, medications, pamphlets, and much more. Essentially, anything related to sex not in a household planning sense was deemed filthy or dirty. Shortly after, 24 states embraced this national act with similar variations limiting or restricting products and materials.
Yet, in exactly the same age, running alongside obscenity laws, sexual health was originally considered part of health. Take, for example, the vibrator. It was a tool used all around the body, rather than as contemporary misogynistic myth has assumed as a means to deal with a hysterical woman. In a publication from 1906, based on Quartz, a physician named Samuel Spencer Wallian used vibrators to take care of organs throughout the body: kidneys, lungs, skin. Consider this Magic Wand as a contemporary example: it is a tool branded as a neck massager but has been used for other sexually related purposes also.
Goicochea subscribes to the notion that such tools as a vibrator have advantages for health overall, since they were originally intended. Moving beyond different layers of history to return to that point is much more complex. Even working through obsolete laws on so-called filth or obscenity, maude is not in exactly the same kingdom as other sexual products. Pornographic and sex toy businesses have upended the ways that the public views sex. "When you examine the way in which the category was promoted, and the goods, it is all about performance, being hot and hypersexual," she says.
In a meeting with Vanity Fair this past year, Goicochea noted that sexual health, and gender itself, possibly feels like a chore to a few people. "It must become a clinic," she told the book. I asked her to expand on that thought, wondering what components make sex and sexual health a chore to individuals, and she noticed that the hypersexualization aspect did not help. Like plenty of media focused on functionality, hypersexualized narratives and graphics can easily set someone up to fail by imagining bodies must look or function in a specific way. Bodies are distinct, and all worthy, and only recently has that story permeated mainstream culture.
Inclusivity is not a trend. It's intended to break away from a homogenous view of individuals. Regarding sex, an enlarged language and thought about LGBTQ+ individuals, racial diversity, and feminist-leaning movies and art has meant enjoyment is not so hollow or narrowly through the lens of cis-male executives. Still, some biological components get left behind.
"Something that's so common, fundamental and needed, and healthy... I believe that is why people have likely perceived it as a chore. The pressure around the dialog makes it harder [to possess.]"
Taking all these angles under account, maude, as Goicochea highlights, literally got back to basics when it started product ideation. The brand launched with four products: the Vibe (a personal massager), two lubricants, and condoms. These products function as the base of maude and a jumping-off stage for which more goods can exist inside the brand's ecosystem.
These goods were intentionally chosen to attract sexual health and health together. A number of maude's investors felt differently about what the brand wanted. "The pushback I had been getting from shareholders was like,'hey, you really need one hero merchandise.' My point was really when we came out with a single hero merchandise, we are just perpetuating the fractured marketplace --we are just continuing to make a divide. That split is like sex toys and apparatus are available at a seedy strip mall and condoms and lubricants are available in a pharmacy," she says.
Name brands synonymous with condoms have other products, also, and the same holds for lubricant brands, but they are often found at the pharmacy, available to anybody. Nobody owns all of them collectively, Goicochea states, that is the solution maude is trying for.
"If these products aren't sold and promoted together as fundamentals, we are always going to be overcoming the preconceived notion that one is more important than another or one is much more mainstream than another. And that is not it, particularly when it concerns the Vibe. It absolutely has to be regarded as a tool and a basic for individuals. You should find it where these other things are. "
Now, maude's product line has expanded to include a massage candle which comes in scented and unscented, multi-use body and massage oil, a pH balanced wash, hydrating bath milk, mineral bath salts, and sterile compostable compressed towels. Last month, maude introduced the smaller, more versatile of its own vibes called Drop, a little egg shaped personal massager. All these products serve a different purpose, Goicochea informs me, and are thoughtfully created for any person to use near daily independently or with partners.
Maude is also hoping to market closeness, broadly speaking, beyond the act of sex, which contains the candles and body care products, and possibly more suited to this. "When we began introducing new products which were intended for disposition and intimacy--that is really what the clients are asking for--it changed everything," she says,"And it was the ideal time because I think today we are beginning to think about it a part of wellness and beauty." Earlier this year, the brand partnered with Urban Outfitters to sell the Vibe, but it fell beneath the tech category. Other items fall under attractiveness or wellness. Carving out a new lane to operate through existing ones is not without its challenges.
Wellness is maude's wheelhouse, even though, as a broader concept, the expression is a source of friction. Still, the brand gives evidence its intent is to amplify and enhance care. That is perhaps what makes maude a completely modern business: one which has baked in development and change from its base by building along with principles, not only adjusting with anything that becomes trendy.
"Health becomes synonymous with physical health, whereas health feels as though it may encapsulate both physical and psychological health," Goicochea states, continuing that the expression feels overused and superficial occasionally. "It is not really driving that health includes your mental health and your emotional health.
"I don't know what the right word is. We've got the identical inner turmoil with the expression toy. We don't need to call it sex toys. We wish to call them apparatus but apparatus also seem clinical and a little frightening. The speech is important, but it seems like it is evolving."
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Sexual wellness and closeness for many people
Maude is and is not a pandemic story. There's an evergreen soul to the brand but the immediacy of interrogating what itself needs--and with whom--and what products align with this was felt the most throughout a missing year in a worldwide pandemic.
The brand was hotly tapped in 2020, Goicochea states, they could not keep up with demand. "We have been out of merchandise for nearly a year. We've never been fully stocked with each product. So, that has been its own challenge." The brand grew 50 percent over quarter, she says, crediting her little but powerful team weathering all of the challenges. "We will need to be flexible around what we have and do not have. We watch patterns of behaviour around traffic. It was at night and now it is in the middle of the day. You are seeing what people are clicking on and reading. This year cemented our view on who our client is and what they wanted because we could observe these patterns emerge. "
Maude's client demographic is neatly divided 3 ways: 25% of clients are aged 18 to 25, and 25% of clients are over age 45, with the remaining 50% covering the remainder. Goicochea is concerned with creating maude inclusive for absolutely everyone. If you notice, she says, people are omitted from product pictures and marketing. That is a deliberate decision so the item speaks to a person and their need, not a new notion of a buyer. Goicochea once told Vanity Fair,"For me personally, it made no sense that this sector was gendered as you have sex with a spouse, whoever that spouse is; or spouses; or yourself."
1 demographic Goicochea is admittedly enthusiastic about tending to is middle-aged and over. "One thing we do not talk about, but it seems like we are beginning to, especially in the last few years, is growing older and the changes that happen to you. What happens hormonally and what are the physical and psychological health consequences around those changes concerning your relationship with others and how much you want to have sex or not," she offers. Sex has this kind of youth trend like almost anything else on earth that the notion of people in their 50s and older with and enjoying sex is in itself almost (and stupidly) not allowed in conversation.
Here, buyers may look to sources on these topics approached compassionately and factually on maude's popular content arm, The Maudern. It appears a lot like a Tumblr page with black and white photographs of intimate experiences, Classical art, and characters in history, all gathered together for readers to peruse. And peruse they do! The Maudern gets almost one million views a month. The website provides insights on relationships, culture, art, science, and history--answering questions regarding dreams for brain health, why we lean right when we kiss, and sex lives post-pandemic. Additionally, it has sections called The Essentials and The Golden, the latter of which provides easily accessible content on sex and relationships for folks that are up and middle-aged. It will feel remarkable to consult with buyers of the demographic so clearly and easily about sex without aging them in a definition or category. "I'd say that by singling out people, you are overlooking the universal demands that people have," Goicochea states,"And so we thought,'what would be the psychographic connections which our customers have? What are their values? What do they require? How do they should be spoken to? And frequently that crosses age and gender. You may find somebody who feels exactly the same way and they are in their 60s or 70s to someone in their 20s."
There's a deeply rooted empathy in how maude's team talks and markets to clients. Sexual wellness is 1 realm that needs such honest care. It is not the fault of this action or the people doing it that gender has such a knotted history. But with a more contemporary understanding, maybe we'll keep leaning toward a world where we discuss sexual health with the exact same willingness we use when discussing how to tend to the pores on our face. That sexual health tools will be as available as condoms at a drugstore without the bags of it being taboo.