Disclaimer: This article is not sponsored by any brands mentioned.
MyMuse is a “sex-startup”. Their initial aim was to encourage individuals to be more vocal and initiate conversations about sex and sexuality through their blog and social media content. The start-up intends to not just break the stigma around sex and sexuality, but also educate the community. “We could see how awkward it was to walk into a pharmacy and ask for condoms and lubricants… that got us thinking about how we are in a position to actually create a positive change here”, says Anushka. They educate their readers by covering a range of topics from the cultural aspects of sex and sexuality to the role of the body and mind. “We wanted to create content and education because that is something we thought that was really lacking at home and at school. We were always wondering, ‘why does our culture have this stigmatized view and how do we change that?’”
This stigmatized ideology around sex and sexuality within Indian society is truly ironic when you consider the country’s history;
“ …the richness of Indian culture when it comes to things like the Kama Sutra or even depictions of bodies…you see statues celebrating female bodies in temples, but at the same time there is a shift that has happened lately”. Discussions about sex are often considered to be impure or immoral, and are often met with radio silence from unwilling participants, effectively ending the conversation before it begins.
This resistance to conversation spills over to the younger generations of India, who understand the importance of sexual health but are not comfortable talking about sex or sexuality. Research has shown that 59% of Generation Z in India is reluctant to initiate conversations around sex or sexuality, primarily due to the fear of being judged. Anushka believes that this happens because, “It's a scenario where if no one else is doing it, how can I do it either?”. Taking the first step may surprisingly open up conversations with individuals who may have previously been resistant to talking about sex or sexuality; “The number of conversations I have been able to have with family members, extended family members, and friends… people who I thought were from a totally different generation, who wouldn’t get it, are suddenly super open”.
Another way to destigmatize these conversations is by ensuring that schools provide sex education as part of their syllabus. Sex-ed across the globe tends to generally focus on biology without much focus on the idea of intimacy and pleasure. In India, however, this is taken a step further. In 2014, the then health minister of India, Harsh Vardhan intended to ban “so-called sexual education” because he believed it was against traditional Indian values.
His stance of “Crudity, vulgarity out, values in” does nothing but further perpetuate the idea that open conversations around sexual pleasure should be stigmatized by education systems.
This is not to say sex-ed does not happen — it is included as a part of the school syllabus. “Some [people] have received basic sex-ed, some have received none at all, and one or two have been quite happy with what they have received … I think it really varies in India; the differences between public and private school education is just so vast,” says Anushka. She highlights that in order to destigmatize sex and sexuality, sexual education should go beyond the anatomy. “What is consent? What is the difference between sex for reproduction and sex for pleasure? What actually constitutes to the meaning of sex?” This is where Anushka believes schooling falls short in its lack of a holistic sexual education. “I think this is where content creators are bridging the gap…I’ve worked with many educators, content creators who have taken it on themselves to provide workshops, information and guidance”.
MyMuse is not only are working towards making the community comfortable around conversations about sex but also have their own line of products, from lubricants to sex toys. “In terms of products we were really, really strategic about what we wanted to bring into the Indian market for multiple reasons… it's only in the last decade that people have started to become more open about this”. At the same time the brand aims to go beyond being just a sex toy company; “We want to really encompass what the bedroom experience is all about”.
One of their first products was Pulse. “It is an off-the-shelf design but we chose it purely because we really felt that it looked so different to any vibrators that we'd seen in India. It is extremely sleek, minimal and, most importantly, it is unobtrusive. For an Indian consumer, especially for a lot of women who may be buying a vibrator for the first time, it was really important for it to not be intimidating”. The introduction of Pulse further shed light on gender misconceptions around sex and pleasure products.
“Another surprising insight has been how many men have been open, willing and curious to bring pleasure into the bedroom for their partners. I think that has been an amazing sign because a lot of people feel that men tend to be less encouraging of them in the bedroom”. Since then, MyMuse has introduced two new products, Palm and Breeze, to add to the bedroom experience.
MyMuse is actively working towards encouraging individuals to be more vocal about breaking the stigma persisting around sex and sexuality within the Indian subculture. “Try to break the stereotype [about sex positivity] that you have in your mind,” says Anushka, “If you don’t try, you are not going to know… and once you do try, it is a lot easier than you thought”. At first glance, MyMuse may seem like a small player in the ocean of the Indian sex education landscape. However the way they approach sex education and sex products, especially that which favors female pleasure, will surely have more empowering effects than we could ever imagine. We can’t wait to see what these game changers come up with next.
Image credit: mymuse.in