Picture by Matteo Badini
This article is a part of our 'sex is wellness'-series where we discuss the connection between sex and wellness and everything in-between.
Some names have been changed in this article.
When it comes to wellness, we often talk about ingredients, vitamins, supplements; the list goes on – but design is not on it. Design sounds like something almost superficial, while wellness feels deeper, like something that’s underneath the surface.
But (of course there’s a but) we believe design is a key part of our wellness when talking sex. In fact, we prioritised the design of our gel bottle as much as the ingredients in our lube. Because the mind matters as much as the body when talking sex – as mental health project, Here To Help, states, “it’s important to realise that, for all genders, our thoughts and feelings play a vital role in getting us turned on and keeping us that way.” So we know our mental state impacts our desire – but does design impact our feelings? We posed the question to designer Rikke Holst who states, “visuality is bound to evoke certain emotions and feelings. Just like a first impression.”
So surely design should matter as much as the physical formula when talking lube. To us that’s just pure logic...
But instead of just assuming that design matters when talking sex wellness, we thought: let’s investigate.
When we did our initial research for sitre, we asked 130 people a series of questions. We found out that 73% are actually turned off by the products they use during sex – and 78% don’t feel their lube is designed for them as consumers. This told us two things: 1) A lot of people feel alienated by the sex wellness industry, and 2) This feeling impacts their sex life.
But why and how?
Emilie had just given birth to her second child when her husband bought a bottle of lube. It was red and covered in glitter. It might sound... festive? But it wasn’t exactly a turn-on for Emilie: “I couldn’t relate to that idea of ‘sexiness’ at all… Think about it, one moment you’re breastfeeding and the next you have to live up to an image of sex that involves glitter”. The design symbolised a kind of sexiness that Emilie couldn’t connect to, which made it that bit harder to spark a mood.
We understand why. A red bottle covered in glitter does send certain types of signals… And surely that would put pressure on both parts to perform in a certain way? A way that they might not have been able to – or maybe it just wasn’t sexy to them? Design can make us belong… Or feel like an outsider – designer Rikke Holst explains, “if what we see is to our taste, we connect with it. and better yet, if what we connect with also makes other people connect, we feel included”.
Nat had another experience than Emilie. She wanted a natural product, but every single brand she found looked like something from a pharmacy. She felt like the bottle put her in a box that was labelled ‘sick’. Not what she needed when she already felt frustrated with her vaginal dryness, especially as her boyfriend thought he was the problem. “I just hated that moment when we had to pause mid-foreplay because I had to find the lube… The bottle just screamed: Nat has a problem. It made it even harder to just enjoy the moment and not think about other things…”.
The design of the bottle didn’t just impact how nat felt, but also the conversation between her and her partner; it visualised that nat’s need for lube wasn’t normal, it was something that needed a treatment. Why can’t the use of lube just be sexy instead of feeling like a solution to a problem?
Some people we spoke with suggested we designed a box to hide the lube. But that was the opposite of what we thought was needed; instead we would like to make a bottle so tasteful that it could be displayed in your home – because surely that’ll be a big step towards a more honest image of sex… one where the using lube not just feels normal, but sexy.
So... does design matter when talking sex wellness? Yes. It can impact how you feel about yourself, your partner and intimacy, and can even impact communication around all three things. We have probably all tried that something ruined the mood, whether it was a knock on the door or a phone ringing. Well, the products we use during sex should not feel like an interruption. Instead they should help the mood, make the experience even more exciting.