What Running a Business around Pleasure Taught me about Sexuality

POV

What Running a Business around Pleasure Taught me about Sexuality

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

The Covid-19 pandemic was life-altering for most of us. Other than changing my outlook of life, these years would also change my career, the one I had worked on for a decade. ‘Sangya Project’ began as a sex-ed page on Instagram by my two partners and I, during the peak of the pandemic. A project that was born out of frustration for the lack of sex education in this country, soon turned into a space where people could share perspectives and insights on all things related to sex and sexuality. The project, unexpectedly gained a decent amount of popularity over a period of one year, at which point we decided to take this a step further, and turn it into a business around pleasure. Aside from initiating difficult conversations around sex, we also provided people with the tools necessary for exploring their own sexuality – such as toys, lubricants and kink-wear. A year on, though, as we close our very first round of funding, much has changed. More so in the things I’ve learned about sexuality by running a business around pleasure.

Growing up in India means growing up in the absence of sex education and in abundance of sanctimony. Where saving face takes precedence over all else, including personal beliefs and individual happiness. It’s hardly surprising then that there is reluctance to explore our sexuality. For that would mean to be in touch with ourselves and to put aside decades of conditioning that we have undergone.  Like most of my peers, I was taught and conditioned to believe that enjoying sex is but for the morally depraved, coded by the usage of the words like “slut” for every woman who did enjoy it. While theoretically I was aware of how flawed that outlook was, the realisation was still riddled with shame, mostly due to my own perception of how sex was viewed by my contemporaries.

A project that was born out of frustration for the lack of sex education in this country, soon turned into a space where people could share perspectives and insights on all things related to sex and sexuality.

People who engage with our business bring to it their own unique perspectives – from how sex helped them handle grief to how comfortable their partners made them feel during their first threesome to how oral sex helped them feel liberated. What has struck me through all these tales, is the level of comfort that each of these individuals exhibited. Comfort not just in terms of being vulnerable to sharing their most intimate moments but in their individual sexuality. These were people who, through their own experiences, good and bad, came to be in touch with themselves enough to understand their own sexuality and in turn, came to own it. For the first time I truly understood the meaning of the term ‘owning your sexuality’.

A similar realisation hit me when we began selling pleasure products. We would often see partners buying products for each other. While on one hand I have encountered people making statements to the effect that sex toys stand to obliterate marriage and relationships as we know them, on the other hand, in our customers, I have seen a level of security that enabled them to safely explore bits of their own sexuality with the kind of gentleness and care that I did not expect to see. While a lot of men would find partners using sex toys a threat, I have sat and watched this landscape change little by little as I see more people becoming comfortable with themselves and their relationships to view these products as they are; as an addition to their lives and not as a replacement of a human being.

I have sat and watched this landscape change little by little as I see more people becoming comfortable with themselves and their relationships to view these products as they are; as an addition to their lives and not as a replacement of a human being.

While observing these things individually may not amount to much, having a macroscopic view of these instances has made me realise how love, sex and sexuality are not little parts to be fit into prearranged grooves but more akin to a stream, the ebb and flow of which is to be observed more than to be controlled. It’s something I’m learning to do as well, especially the part where I let go of everything to it can come together organically, in the absence of any preconceived notions and the thing that we’ve all been taught to associate with it – shame. The beauty of this realisation is that you needn’t be an owner of a sexual wellness brand. This is simply the result of observing a space where people were allowed to express themselves and be there authentic selves. It’s simply a result of having ignited conversations. Conversations that most of us believe are impossible to have.

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