International Women’s Day
March 8th is a day to not only bring gender inequalities to the surface and spotlight what needs to be done to make the world a safe and supportive place for women and femmes, but it is also a great opportunity to celebrate the strengths of these people. At VUSH, we want to acknowledge the fight of the women and femmes before us, and appreciate how many doors they’ve opened up for us to do the work we do today. Creating safe, fun and inclusive sexual wellness products wouldn’t be possible without the many female pioneers in the space who have not only normalised, but celebrated, women and femmes embracing their pleasure and their bodies. Therefore, VUSH wants to highlight the work of the following 5 women who have made huge contributions to society’s understanding of pleasure, anatomy, and sexual wellness overall.
1. Helen O’Connell
In 1994, Helen O’Connell became the first woman to graduate as a urological surgeon in Australia (right here in Melbourne, where the VUSH magic happens!). During her study, Helen was not impressed by how little understanding of the anatomy of the vulva existed, and how the vulva was only ever described in relation to the penis. She wanted to dedicate some research to discovering how the vulva actually works, so there weren’t so many gaps in knowledge when it came to sexual wellness and anatomy.
In 1998 and 2005, Helen and colleagues published research that identified the true size and power of the clitoris. Underneath that little external button that we know as the clitoris sits a whole wishbone shaped structure, including legs (crura) and bulbs which wrap around the urethra and vaginal wall. Helen’s findings showed how important clitoral stimulation is if vulva owners want to experience true sexual pleasure and increase their chances of orgasm during sex, while also providing insight into how arousal actually works for vulva owners. This work has had such an impact on sexual wellness knowledge that we’ve dedicated a whole blog to it - read more about Helen’s findings on clitoral anatomy.
2. Emily Nagoski
Emily Nagoski is an American sex educator and best-selling author that we have no doubt you’ve come across if you’re well-versed in the sexual wellness space. Known for her TedxTalks on arousal and healthy connections between couples, Emily continues to contribute her wealth of knowledge to help vulva owners better understand their own bodies. Her two podcasts, The Feminist Survival Project and The Come As You Are Podcast, are must-listens this International Women’s Day.
One of Emily’s best-selling books is 'Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life’. This book covers the science behind arousal and desire for vulva owners in everyday language. If you’ve ever thought “wow, that’s unrelatable” while watching the main character in a 90’s rom-com all of a sudden feel an all-encompassing sense of horniness at just one look or touch, read ‘Come As You Are’. There’s also a special edition available with a worksheet and interactive activities so you can actively commit to your own body and sexual wellness while reading!
3. Shan Boodram
Known within the US sexual wellness space as Shan Boody, Shan Boodram is a widely loved intimacy expert and sexologist. Shan describes herself as Dr Ruth x Rihanna, and has made waves all across mainstream media along with Instagram and YouTube. Having featured on and hosted multiple sex and relationships TV shows from Netflix’s Too Hot To Handle to MTV's Guide to Sex, Shan knows how to get the best out of couples and improve sex lives left, right and centre.
Shan’s podcast, Lovers and Friends, invites other sexperts and guests to discuss sex and dating topics such as motherhood and sexuality, dating in your 20s, gaslighters and narcissists, dating with a mental illness, STIs and more. One thing VUSH loves about Shan’s impact on the sexual wellness space is her dedication to honesty and transparency about the relationship between motherhood and sexuality. Shan is a mother and wife, and often speaks candidly to the challenges of maintaining a healthy relationship and sex life while bringing up children.
4. Betty Dodson
Betty Dodson is an American sex educator that spent her life teaching vulva owners how to orgasm. Betty passed in 2020, and we want to honour the incredible work she’s done within this space. Betty was monumental within the second-wave feminist movement, advocating for sexual wellness and pleasure as a part of women’s liberation. Betty wanted women and people with vulvas to recognise that their bodies are completely normal (check out her gallery of vulva diversity), and completely capable of pleasure.
Using her famous Rock ‘n Roll orgasm technique, Betty has worked one-on-one or in group settings with clients to show them exactly how their body works and how to truly embrace their pleasure and orgasm since the 1970’s. Betty’s work was highlighted in an episode of ‘The Goop Lab with Gwenyth Paltrow’ titled ‘The Pleasure Is Ours’, where Betty shows colleague Carlin Ross how to orgasm using a wand vibrator (and we get to watch it happen from an educational lens!).
5. Caroline Spiegel
Caroline Spiegel is the founder and CEO of audio erotica app, Quinn. After struggling with sexual function and arousal herself, Caroline developed Quinn in 2019 to help women and vulva owners connect with their sexuality. Audio erotica is a fantastic sexual wellness tool that focuses on storytelling, scene-setting and erotic sounds, through audio. This can be a game-changer when it comes to arousal for vulva owners, as a safe and sexy context is the first step to experiencing true desire.
Caroline created Quinn as a safe space for women and femmes to explore their sexuality in a way that actually appeals to their desires. With various categories that have been developed based on women’s sexual fantasies (including ‘friends to lovers’ and ‘in public’), Quinn has a little something for everyone. They even have guided masturbation sessions, and characters voiced by the likes of Jesse Williams! Quinn is a subscription-based app which offers opportunities for people to become paid creators - this means it is ethically made.
Read more on Stimulation:
To learn more about iconic women within the sexual wellness space, read about our collaboration with Ella May Ding.
For more on sexuality issues for women and people with vulvas, read our guide to sex during menopause, tips for reclaiming your postpartum sexuality, and article on the orgasm gap.
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