Sex, Menstruation, Re-evaluating Cultural Norms, and more with Rebecca Alvarez of The Bloomi(Part 2 of 2 of our interview derived from Podcast episode )
HeHe: So we talked a little bit about the stigmas and the shame about menstruation. Go into that a little bit more, like, just share your thoughts.
Rebecca: It makes me kind of upset to think that there's still such a huge portion of us that feel that sex is shameful or dirty. Or menstruating is shameful or dirty.
I'm Mexican. Both of my parents immigrated here and I grew up with a lot of cultural norms that had to do with these topics where the idea of staying clean. Meaning when you're on your period, wash yourself really well using these very fragrant products. Those ideas were just part of my cultural norms, I'll say. And I think that's the case for a lot of women, especially women of color.
Then the idea that sex is more on the dirty side. A lot of like the douching practices that are still being used today, those blow my mind. The fact that there's still a lot of douching that happens after sex, because of ideas that it's dirty. Like I've heard a lot of different examples of how these taboos are affecting the things that we do and the things that women want to do to 'stay clean'. But overall, I had to do a lot of soul searching when I was going into this industry. To really understand, what is something that I have to unlearn and that I want to unlearn. I think that one of the things I really want to do for our community for The Bloomi community is help people make the decisions that they want for their bodies.
So I don't necessarily think you need to do a hundred percent organic or that you need to be a hundred percent pro masturbation everyday. There's nothing extreme about what we're trying to advocate for. It's more just find what feels good for you. Don't necessarily trust that everything you learned as a child or as a teen is something that you should continue with in terms of your sexual self. Empower yourself sexually and make sure that these taboos that you feel are what you want to continue thinking and carrying through, into like your relationships and your own sex life and your practices.
I think at the end of the day, when we stop to reflect on what makes us happy, pleasure makes us happy. So, making sure that we advocate for ourselves makes us happy. A lot of that happens naturally when you have information.
HeHe: I could not agree more. I love that you mentioned reevaluating what you have always believed. Is that serving you? And if you decide, no, give yourself permission for that to be the answer and know that that is totally fine. Don't shame yourself for feeling like you want to take a turn. It makes sense from a human development standpoint, which is how I come to every conversation.
Then the second thing is the psychology piece. The psychology piece in sex is so much mindset. If you're excited about the way that your vagina smells and tastes and you're excited to share that with your partner, they will adopt that same energy. Research shows that partners who are like very close to your perfect match will be attracted to your sweat cells. So they did a study where they had people exercise and then their partners came and were able to correctly identify their partners sweaty shirts. So your partner, if they don't like the way you smell, throw the whole partner out and try again. There's so many fish out there. Somebody will like it.
Rebecca: It's crazy. Even if you think of the business side of all of this and the business side of sex, you probably have heard a lot of this already, but sexual wellness companies cannot advertise. So from a consumer standpoint, it doesn't feel like that big of a deal, but this is how companies survive. This is how, we can get these cleaner products to you. There's a double standard because we can see advertisements for Viagra, for example, but we can't see them for sexual pleasure for women. It doesn't make sense to me. It's not a new thing, but that's just one small example.
So to me, from the business side, we need to do better. We need to invest in these female founded companies that are doing such great work with the products that they're creating. That means that consumers can have more options. It goes back to our issue of, there's not a lot of options, so to have those options, we need to help those companies grow. And I think VCs and investors should really take a closer look at at what the demands are and what women and femmes are asking for.
HeHe: Yes! Support clean, small businesses. Support female-focused and founded businesses. Be smart with your money. You will see those companies grow and they will eventually be able to be the big dogs. And then you have access to this kind of stuff. But you're really crucial on this. Consumers are everything.
So back to having these conversations, they can be a little awkward. How do you actually make an impact and have these conversations with people that you don't know super well, but you think can benefit?
Rebecca: That is a great question. It's not like makeup, right? Like you try a lipstick or lip gloss. You like it- and then you just have a casual conversation. Sometimes some of these topics can be a little bit more personal.
So I would recommend two things. One, I would recommend trying to make these conversations more casual by having more of them from just like a wellness standpoint. So for example, you know how we have the big talk sometimes when we talk about sex with younger kids, I am a big advocate for, don't make this a one-time conversation, make this an ongoing life conversation. Your health and your sexual health are going to change as you grow. So for me, if I can recommend anything to women, it's try to have these casual conversations as if you were talking about your blood pressure or as if you were talking about going to the doctor for anything else.
So what, what that means sometimes is stepping out of your comfort zone and just sharing a personal experience. But I think with practice and doing it more often, it does become easier and more of the norm. I think the second thing is I would expect people who you're speaking to, to want to also have a conversation with you. I think a lot of times we hold back on some of the things that we want to share with our friends, but to be honest, they probably are more receptive than you're thinking. They probably want to have these conversations. For so long, we've had the narrative come from white men on what we should be thinking about our sex life and the products that we're using, but that narrative is changing. And the best way to do that is to have conversations with people and share your experiences.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone a little bit can go a long way. Viewing this as a general health topic, like sex, intimate care, and periods. This is all just part of our health. So it is a little bit of a shift and a pivot in the way that you're thinking about it from like a health standpoint. Really making it something that you can drop little conversations here and there. If a friend of mine has a product that she's loving, I want to know about it. I want that option as well.
HeHe: You touched on that the narrative has always come from white men. You have to think that their perspective was their end goal was - pleasure for themselves. I think women, we're seeing this shift because we're taking the conversation back. I think women are starting to realize there are consequences. So yeah, absolutely share these products. And I like how you say, do it kind of incrementally.
Make it kind of a normal thing that you talk about. If it's on your mind, bring it up. Don't hesitate because here's the thing. They have a period too. And if they don't, they still have something to talk about. They don't have a period. Like you have something automatically in common with this person that you can bond over and you can take the opportunity to educate them. I think the best way to share something you love is to share your story of how it has impacted your life. Sharing the noticeable differences that you are seeing and letting them know that there is an option. Chances are, they might not know about it. Or they know about it, but they've never taken the time to, to look into it.
Rebecca: I want to mention that there's a new shift in the way that conversations are happening from generation to generation right now. The fact that there's so many millennials doing what is called 'teaching up'. So traditionally, there was a lot of women's health education that was passed from generation to generation. You sort of just took their word for it. Used the products that they would recommend. They were the big generation of using those mass produced products. But now, there's a lot of education that's happening from the daughter to the mom. It's kind of crazy, but I have an 11 year old daughter and she is so educated on her body.
It's all age appropriate, but the way she talks to her friends is very different than the way my mom used to talk to her friends. Even the way I used to talk to my friends. So it's nice because you can see there's this more progressive open-minded perspective building with the young generation. They are aware of the millennial buying power - it is something that they own.
I recommend products to my mom all the time and she loves maybe half of them, but still that's like a handful of products that she probably would have never known about. And my daughter the other day, asked me, if she could get a period underwear that was in boxer brief cut. And so we did research. She just started her menstrual cycle a couple of months ago. So we did some research and she found a brand that she loved and we're actually going to carry them on The Bloomi now.
A second thing that came to mind is you said something about, if you could make this switch to something healthier, you would be all for it. But one thing I didn't mention is the compound use of products. So for example, the average woman will use a tampon or pad 15,000 times in her life. There's a lot of people who don't want to make any switch and they like the brand that they like, and that's fine and they've never had any issues, but say you are 10 years into your menstrual cycle and now you make the switch to cleaner. You're still probably impacting 20 to 30 years of your life with cleaner options. So the compound effect that you are going to have on your future health by making the switch, it's pretty big. If you think of your health longterm. Making small tweaks now does have a big impact on your reproductive health and on your sexual health.
HeHe: Absolutely. You can make small changes and then eventually you have this really beautiful thing. In this case, it's your health. You're doing a lot of talking of products see use in products to care for our vaginas. What does that average like vagina care routine look like? Because we know we shouldn't actually wash our vaginas. What should we know about cleaning ourselves?
Rebecca: Most women's health clinicians will say to just rinse your vulva with water. And I completely support that. However, I also know there's that other side where the majority of people do like to wash with something just the same way we like to wash the rest of the skin on our body and our face. A lot of people like to have an option. So if you are going to use a wash, you only wash your vulva or like your labial skin. You want to make sure you are not over washing. The wash that we currently recommend on our website with Healthy Hoo Hoo, you can use every day. It's light and gentle enough to use every day, but you certainly don't need to. I personally have recommended to people that want to use a feminine wash is try a couple of times a week. Or if there's certain times of the month that you feel like you could really benefit from it.
And in terms of moisturizers, there's this big shift right now towards really paying attention to labial skin because it's so different than the rest of our body. I'm a huge advocate for moisturizers. The reason is because depending on the time of the year, the time of the month, our hormones really fluctuate and they do change the makeup of the labial skin. Sometimes it's very dry, it can feel even irritated.
There's also a lot of trends with grooming, so women have chosen for the most part to just decide on what they want to do with pubic hair. What I mean by that is a lot of women or femmes, they're choosing to not do anything and just make it all natural. So one of the products, for example, that we have it's called, Fur Oil. It's meant for pubic hair and labial skin, which I love because it promotes the idea that you should do whatever you want with your pubic hair. You can wax, you can shave, or you don't have to do anything.
So that again goes back to the hygiene practices for washing and moisturizing. They can really be your own regimen. You certainly don't need to do more than a couple of times a week, but if it feels right for your skin and your pubic hair to do something every day, you're welcome to do that. We just really advocate for products that don't have a lot of residue. Products that won't damage the skin- that don't contain glycerin. Certainly never to insert anything internally, because that's a whole different ball game.
HeHe: If you want more information about washing your vagina and your vulva and all of that, you can check out episode #102 on the podcast. I think there are so many missing conversations. We should just know about these things. That should just be part of growing up, kind of like you learn how to wash your feet and wash your hands and wash your face. But no one teaches us how to wash your vagina.
Rebecca: I know it's so good to be having these conversations though, because it also inspires me, even though a lot of us, didn't talk about these things. I think about my daughter, my older one, that just started her cycle. And what do I want her to know? And we do these mini lessons, she picks a topic or I pick a topic. It's certainly come up where we've talked about how do you wash and clean that area. Giving her the proper, anatomical terms and making her feel comfortable in saying vulva or saying vagina. It inspires me. I feel like we need to have more of this even on our blog, it's covering the basics too, because the basics are important and it sets the foundation for teaching your kids or talking to your girlfriends.
HeHe: If you're not new, you're used to me saying this, you should absolutely teach your child anatomical, correct terms for their body. You want them to be able to communicate what is happening with their body? Teach your child the right terms of their body. Teach them the appropriate times to use them in the appropriate ways to use it and the people that are appropriate to talk about those things and those places on your body with. Those are the boundaries that you want to set, not make those terms off limits.
Thank you ALL for coming along on this two part chat with Rebecca and I! You can find Rebecca at www.thebloomi.com and @thebloomi on Instagram and Facebook!
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