A version of this piece was originally published by Forbes.
Meika Hollender is fond of saying that she co-founded her sexual wellness company because, “...like most young women, I always dreamed of starting a vagina-friendly condom company with my dad. No? Just me?”
At 26, Hollender and her father co-founded Sustain Natural – a sexual wellness brand that makes condoms, lube, pantyliners, and tampons. This month she released her first book: Get On Top Of Your Pleasure, Sexuality & Wellness: A Vagina Revolution.
I sat down with Hollender to hear more about her inspiration for the book, the term “orgasm equality”, and how Donald Trump’s election is making people more sex-positive.
Get On Top Inspiration
Since founding Sustain in 2013, Hollender has initiated open and honest conversations about sex and sexual health. She describes the book as an opportunity to put the discussions she’s been having into action.
Running a business can be consuming, so for Hollender, writing the book also served as a great opportunity to continue to learn and educate herself. It forced her to slow down, dig into the research and figure out how she could normalize women’s sexuality in a fun and conversational way.
Hollender grew up in a family where talking about sex and sexuality was a normal part of the conversation. As she met people who were high school peer sexual health educators or who handed out condoms on their college campuses, Hollender realized her path to sex education and sex-positive advocacy wasn’t typical. She felt compelled to become an activist and advocate once she realized that not everyone had the same experience.
In Get On Top, she writes, “I can’t believe people are still so awkward about sex. Our climate is overtly sexual while also sexually repressed in so many ways.” That contradiction and the prevalence of sexual shame, particularly among women, led her to action.
Hollender is deeply committed to changing the narrative around sexual wellness and breaking the stigma around women’s sexuality. She dedicates 17 glorious pages of Get On Top to matter-of-fact conversations about masturbation.
For her, it’s a matter of “orgasm equality”, in which equal pleasure is a priority. “It’s awesome that women are finally gaining some equality at work and co-parenting,” she says, “But when it comes to bedroom, we’re far behind in men and women experiencing equal pleasure.”
There’s historical context to this. While men were typically taught sex was about pleasure, the message for women as recently as the 1950s, Hollender says, has been, “This is something you’ll eventually have to do to make your husband happy and have babies.”
One way to shift that dynamic is to help women identify ways to give themselves pleasure. “There’s a lot of empowerment in knowing your body,” Hollender says, “We have to know how to make ourselves feel good before we can help our partners make us feel good.”
The goal for her is simple. “I want women to know that sex is awesome and healthy and not just about making babies,” she says.
What’s Trump Got To Do With It?
Fortunately, Hollender sees the landscape changing rapidly. “I’ve been in the condom space now for almost 5 years, and it’s been an uphill battle.” She references funding hurdles and challenges getting brand partnerships. She has been slut shamed and pulled out of speaking opportunities because of the stigma surrounding women’s sexuality.
After the presidential election, Hollender says, “Everything sort of changed.” It was no longer as difficult to convince publishers, investors, or other stakeholders that there was real demand for sex-positive content and products. A few weeks after the 2017 Women’s March, Hollender sold the book to the first publisher she met. She says launching the book was one of the first things she’s done where she didn’t get a lot of pushback.
“I walked into the room and made the analogy of the ‘ears on the pussy hat perking up,’ and everyone just got it,” she says, “They got the need for this book, and there being no better time to publish it due to the massive positive shift in women taking ownership of their sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
Hollender is optimistic about the momentum surrounding sex positivity and orgasm equality, and she’s excited for Get On Top and Sustain Natural to be part of the conversation.