Can sex be easy? As a coach potato (and a health editor), I think about this question whenever a carefully-censored sex scene plays — or I have to move things to the bedroom. What’s the best way to insist they use a condom without killing the vibe? They don’t show that on TV.

When Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie” tackled sex, it felt revolutionary, but thanks to the lens of comedy. I remember staring at the purple vibrator in — frankly — fear. A quick Google search for ‘vibrator’ also shows that the show’s bulbous design isn’t so far off from the zeitgeist of sex toys.

Vibrators mostly have a loud pink or purple presence that screams, “Don’t forget to hide me!” This coloring of “sex as taboo” is so ingrained that I blush when sex content is on screen.

When my coworker introduced Maude, a modern sex essentials company, I was… confused. But delightfully so. Could I really sit their products on my bedside drawer without my grandmother raising hell? Their design and colors fit seamlessly in a Swedish lifestyle magazine without raising any alarms — and that’s exactly the sex-life integration the co-founders Eva Goicochea and Dina Epstein are aiming for.

In the age of convenience, sex is still a hassle

“We noticed that it’s uncomfortable [and inconvenient] for most people to buy these products. You also have to buy condoms and lubricants in the drugstore, and then you buy sex toys in a sex shop, which sort of indirectly says to women ‘your orgasm isn’t important,’” Eva tells me via video chat with her and Dina.

While sex is very much a human need, cultural stigmas and conversations dictate that we make the road to good sex as difficult as possible. Only 24 states require sex education, and only 13 of them require the education to be medically accurate. So maybe that’s why 30 percent of college women can’t identify the clitoris, despite stats showing that 36 percent of women need clitoral stimulation to come. (The Guardian also reported that only 35 percent of women in the UK could correctly label the female anatomy, and even less men could accurately do that.)

Eva recognizes how these stigmas have affected her as an adult. “The biggest one for me was thinking that sex was only about the male pleasure, because I think that’s just what we’re taught. It also feels like our female bodies are more complicated because we don’t talk about them as much. And so — you just feel embarrassed to explore that as a topic and you sort of accept that men get to orgasm and women don’t.”

When I ask her what advice she has for her younger self, she says: “Masturbate earlier, and I would tell myself that everyone should feel safe, comfortable, and satisfied. It shouldn’t just be about one person.”

Likewise, Maude’s products aren’t just for women — they’re gender inclusive

“Brands that have popped up in the last few years were specifically and explicitly for women. We all have the same pain points in terms of buying these products. So why wasn’t there a gender inclusive brand?”

According to a 2014 survey by FHM, a now defunct male mag, 70 percent of men found purchasing sex toys embarrassing. “We are cognizant of the fact that there’s some people who don’t identify as male or female and all people have sex. We’re trying to create products that are more just about human needs — for everyone.”

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Maude’s buttercup condoms, which make it easier to know if you’re slipping them on right. | Photo credit: Courtesy of Maude

This is reflected in the shape of their vibrator, which isn’t the classic phallic shape. It’s completely unobtrusive. “The shape is really meant for you to use it wherever you want, and you don’t have to be a woman to use it. We don’t recommend anyone put it all the way inside [their body] anywhere, but the idea is that the ergonomic shape is pretty useful for anything. Your hands even, it’s really nice.” Dina shows me the vibrator, which is an elongated tear drop and fits nicely in her hand, like the perfect skipping rock.

“A lot of vibrators out there now are between 10 to 20 different speeds,” she says, “This is simple. One. Two. Three.”

But Maude hasn’t changed everything about the vibrator. It’s kept the good stuff — like being USB-chargeable, waterproof, and running on a motor system that’s tried and tested. Women who have vibrators of their own may recognize this humming buzz. “The vibration is very strong, and a lot of women do prefer a stronger vibrator, but the toys out there that show they have that are a bit more intimidating,” Dina says, referring to the hot pink vibrators that companies have been pumping into the market.

Eva and Dina hope that this design risk will pay off. But, even more than that, they hope that their product can start a change. “There’s a lot to be done from education and policy,” Eva acknowledges. “But for us, we came at it from the angle of: If you create a better alternative — a product that people feel like is delivered with a voice that is friendlier, one that “normalizes” sex as an everyday thing — [then] we can affect change and really start the conversations that can really change policy.”

The conversation around sex and sex culture is already changing, rapidly. In the midst of #MeToo, women and men are having conversations, reflecting how sexual shame, stigmas, and poor sex education has conditioned their sexual preferences and lead to bad sex. (It’s no surprise that science says bad sex can also negatively affect your overall well-being.)

Almost all sex is marketed as a secret for straight couples only

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Photo credit: Courtesy of Maude

For me, as someone who’s always in the process of unlearning the idea of sex as a male domain, Maude’s invitational approach is exciting because of how subtly educational it is.

Maude’s two lubricants, one organic aloe-based and the other silicone ($25), are in mess-free pump bottles. (As Eva and Dina show me their kit, cringe-worthy memories resurface. The one experience I had with lube, the plastic squeeze bottle was slick and covered in dust after.) It also looks like moisturizer, so you can really leave it out by your bed.

Their fragrance-free condoms ($12 for 10) are in a buttercup packet, meaning you know which side is the right way up (rim on the outside!) when you open it — I didn’t even know condoms had a right way up. And the soft, silicone vibrator ($45)? Well, the shape doesn’t reinforce the idea that I need a penis for pleasure.

Eva and Dina recommend the travel kit instead of buying each item piecemeal. After all, being able to purchase everything at once is a key Maude experience. But does making shopping for sex easy really make sex itself easier?

In the end, it really depends on the person. Sex is so individual. Maude’s goal isn’t to solve your problem with a promised orgasm like other companies. Instead, they’re showing you that sex is part of your everyday health, not a one-night stand.

“A question that has come up a lot of us is: ‘Will you create a place for people to have conversations with one another? Is there going to be a place for facilitation and education?’” Eva tells me. “We hope that we get there, that this brand becomes a shepherd of that culture. We don’t necessarily want to say you should listen to us, because we firmly believe that when a product company produces content, it always feels like they’re trying to sell you something. So we don’t want to take that angle. We just want to be the facilitators who offer that platform for people to have those conversations where we’re not necessarily always leading.” 

All companies, in any industry, are selling a lifestyle — sex toy manufacturers aren’t exempt from that. But the lifestyle that majority of the sex toy industry offers pushes the narrative of easy-yet-selfish sex. Maude, through their unisex, minimalist design, is offering the opposite. By design, by offering a vibrator that’s not phallic or purple, by prioritizing the human relationship instead of the end game — they’re dismantling the conventions that once shaped people’s sexual preferences.

Sex isn’t just for dark, seedy moments or come-as-they-go experiences. It’s an everyday part of wellness, and the best way to figure out how sex works for your life is to invest in yourself.

Maude launches on April 2, 2018 and will offer condoms, two types of lubricant, a vibrator, and the “quickie” kit. Products will be available at getmaude.com.


Christal Yuen is an editor at Healthline who writes and edits content revolving around sex, beauty, health, and wellness. She’s constantly looking for ways to help readers forge their own health journey. You can find her on Twitter.