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We've noticed a major shift in the way the media shows (and talks about) women's bodies. We're happy to see more diversity in the imagery we're presented with (although there's still a long way to go), and we're also glad toВ that in a general sense, women's sexual pleasure is no longer a taboo or uncomfortable topic.
Still, on a personal level, many women feel uneasy talking aboutВ sexual pleasure. Olivia, 29, says she's not surprised, given the way sex was discussed back in her school sex-ed classes. "The lessons weren't geared toward female pleasure in the slightest," she says. "We talked about male masturbation, but there was no mention of girls' self-pleasure." (This is a common thread when we talk to women about masturbation, a topic many feel embarrassed to discuss, even with friends.)
Doctors continue to be fascinated by the science behind the female orgasm and the many ways in which people experience them. There areВ many studies (past and present) about the "big O" and how women can achieve an orgasm more easily. It's also thought that self-exploration with toys could help some women who haven't previously been able to climax.
The truth is that we look after our hair, skin and our body's fitness and health, so why are we shunning our sexual well-being? A recent study showed heterosexual women orgasm less than any other demographic when having sex. Female masturbation is a great way to explore what you enjoy sexually. It's healthy, liberating, fun and ultimately leads to a better sex life (alone or with a partner). So when we came across SmileMakers, a company aiming to put a body-positive spin on sex toys, we knew we needed to find out more.
What is SmileMakers?Smile Makers
The company's co-founders, Mattias Hulting and Peder Wikstrom, founded the company in 2013 with the aim of creating products that didn't yet exist-namely, practical yet stylish products designed specifically for women. And they also aimed to take their products to regular stores rather than relegating them to the back wall of sex shops.
"We're living in a time with increased sexual empowerment, encouraging women especially, to take control," says sexologist and relationship expert Nikki Goldstein. "Isn't it now about time we gave the everyday woman that control in how they can purchase their sexual well being products?"
How is the brand different?
For a long time, sex shops were the only option for women wanting to explore their own sexual pleasure. "I'd say I'm liberal, open-minded and positive about my own sexuality," saysВ Alice, 28. "But even I found the whole sex toy-buying experience was shrouded in secrecy and embarrassment. They're tucked away on a back shelf in a dimly lit shop, which makes it feel seedy rather than healthy and normal (which it is)."
Emily, 29, agrees: "I, for one, felt I had to sneak into a shop praying no one saw me. Often I found the staff overly keen to offer other products to buy; I wanted to say 'This experience has been embarrassing enough; I'd rather not talk to anyone right now.'"
Many women we spoke to talked of hiding the fact they were buying toys. "I would only buy vibrators online, all the time praying the packaging was discreet enough that the postman wouldn't know what it was," explains Jess, 24.
This brand feels different-Smile Makers is available to buy in chic fashion and lifestyle stores like Free People in the UK, and in Urban Outfitters and Goop in the U.S. "They aren't garish, the packaging looks and feels luxe and strangely, though I never thought I'd say this about a vibrator-they feel stylish," says Katie, 30. "Their toys are more 'me' than others I've tried."
The brand is also committed to giving back; it works with organizations like the United Nations to help provide easy access to sexual education. It recently visited Borneo's Sabah Family Planning Association Clinic, which promotes family planning, sexual health and sexual education.
SHOP SMILEMAKERS PRODUCTS:Smile Makers The Fireman $48Shop
The flame-shaped Fireman is a silent clitoral vibrator. Seventy percent of women need clitoral stimulation to reach an orgasm, the brand says, so this innovative vibrator is not only applied on the clitoris but also covers the labia to take your orgasm to the next level.Smile Makers The Frenchman $48Shop
Like "a French kiss down there," this soft, flexible vibrator is the perfect sensual toy to re-create the sensation of oral sex.Smile Makers The Millionaire $48Shop
The perfect shape to bring you satisfaction, you can also use this vibrator externally, making it the best for unlocking the variety of the female orgasm. The Millionaire has four speeds and two pulsation modes, but it's still extra quiet.Smile Makers The Surfer $28Shop
This small, super-quiet clitoral vibrator features a rounded head andВ small bumps to provide focused stimulation.Smile Makers The Tennis Coach $35Shop
This vibrator features a rounded head to gently stimulate your G-spot. It's been carefully designed toВ deliver the best stimulation possible.Smile Makers Generous Gel $13Shop
Smile Makers lubricants areВ anti-inflammatory, containing natural liquorice rootВ extract. They're also fragrance-free, vegan, and compatible with condoms and silicone toys.Smile Makers Little Light Liquid $13Shop
During the research process, Smile Makers discovered that 80% of women experience pain during sex due to vaginal dryness, but less than 4% like the traditional lubricants available.В Enter: Little Light Liquid.Smile Makers Stay Silky Serum $13Shop
This serum would be especially helpful for women experiencing dryness after giving birth or post-menopause.В
Next up: seven surprising sex benefits you didn't know about.