WhyNot

Rarely Seen, Hardly Heard: Unpacking the slippery stuff

Eloise, 26 VIC & Eloise, 24 VIC

The following interview is part of the Rarely Seen, Hardly Heard campaign – words by Georgie and interview by Lauren.

Rarely Seen, Hardly Heard is about shining a light on the stories, thoughts and opinions of young people who have never been published on the WhyNot platform before, helping break down stereotypes and continuing to amplify diverse voices. All young people have a right to speak up and be heard. 

You can read a recap of the conversation below or skip ahead to the video interview.

 

Let’s talk about SEX BABY! Let’s talk about you and me… let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be… let’s talk abouuuuuut it 🎵🎵🎵.

Let’s also talk about lube and sexual wellbeing.

Meet Eloise M and Eloise O – Co Founders of the incredible lubricant brand known as FIGR.

‘Determined to stamp out the stigma associated with purchasing lube and the misconceptions around the slippery stuff.’

Connecting from Melbourne lockdown, yet again (insert lengthy prolonged sigh). M and O sat down on the virtual couch in the land of zoom –with Lauren and Teri to unpack sexual empowerment and debunk the stigma of using lube.

Who knew the stuff had a use beyond those first few thrusts in the early days of getting it on?

Well, they did actually.

Firstly, we wanted to know how these two beauties met and what keeps them connected. Turns out their paths collided in the corporate world in 2016 and they hit it off. They’re now both living in Melbourne and share a desire to flip the sexual wellbeing narrative – and the rest is history.

M describes O as radiant. We see it too. She explains how she connects to the energy O exudes on a day-to-day basis.

“[She has] a magnetic and contagious personality.”

We quickly come to realise these two bright sparks have left their inhibitions and timidity at the virtual door. O gushes and discloses to all, that as a result of her period she has tears threatening at every moment. She confesses she’ll cry if she’s on the receiving end of any more kind words from M!

Everybody laughs.

O describes M as a breath of fresh air.

“[She’s] absolutely gorgeous – I love her so much!”

Well, with four powerful women on the line and sexual empowerment the main agenda – strap yourself in.

Tell us about the first conversation you had that led to FIGR?

At the beginning of last year (2020) – O was living on the Gold Coast and M was about to face Melbourne’s first lockdown and the duo got talking. Stubborn yeast infections coupled with back-and-forth chats about the uncomfortable vibe in nearly every sex shop ever, (think plastic packaging, fluorescent lights, empty warehouse vibe- come on you’ve been there…) led to a brilliant realisation – “there’s a gap in the market.” They bravely acknowledged experiences they’d had thanks to  the side effects of anti-depressants – lowered libido and reduce natural lubrication, this was refreshing. One thing led to another and before they knew it, the business was conceptualised, during lockdown of all times.

“There are some positives [to] being locked in with your own thoughts.”

M’s neighbour gets the credit for planting the seed of getting into the lube world.

“[We] opened ourselves up to this idea and opportunities fell into place.”

From then on, the FIGR seed began to grow and they found themselves launching a new and exciting business venture.

Eventually the two of them also got to the bottom of those stubborn yeast infections as well. O had been using coconut oil as a more natural lubricant alternative down there… literally what is more wholesome than coconut oil?!

NOTHING! The answer is nothing. Despite this truth, as it turns out coconut oil is not our friend downstairs.

“Coconut oil has a high PH – [it was] fucking everything up down there.”

Everyone is laughing again. If you’ve experienced yeast infections before – you know exactly how awful ‘everything being fucked up down there’ really is.

Wondering what PH is or what it has to do with anything? Standby we get to that later.

Why did you want to get into the sexual wellness industry?

O had been working at her Dad’s sex shop, known as Condom Kingdom positioned front and centre on the Gold Coast strip. Lauren interjects and confesses…

“I’m Brisbane based, and I have been to Condom Kingdom…” Good on you Lauren – it’s a safe space!

O explains how she would watch women come into the shop and really not know what they were buying. So often the lube shelf consisted of cheap plastic looking options, full of chemicals.

Despite growing up with the occasional sex toy on her kitchen table, O describes her family as surprisingly conversative, considering they own a sex shop. However, she does acknowledge her sex (positive) filter is more of a loudspeaker – and she enjoys mortifying her sibling with TMI.

“We’re not nudists.” We’re glad she clarified this for us, our minds had started wandering.

M didn’t think she’d be in this world at this age but can see how she naturally gravitated to the industry. With a design background M has professionally flourished in creating the FIGR branding. We can see FIGR is clearly more to both of them than just a business venture.

“[We are] creating a life we want to create ourselves” M said.

Who would of thought the combination of antidepressant side effects, the betrayal of coconut oil and a major gap in the sexual wellness market would lead to something so exciting.

By this stage Lauren is beaming. “You are making sex, actually sexy for women” she tells them.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

Since launching FIGR it has clearly been a wild ride. Having been riding the highs and lows for the last 18 months, M and O agree the most challenging period is definitely right now.

Whilst they’re both loving the joy that comes with the FIGR adventure, they’ve invested their own funds and now have to balance the challenges of brand authenticity and growth.

“We want to keep growing – but we look at the figures…”

The duo are uncompromising in their commitment to upholding the inclusive values that underpin FIGR.
“FIGR is fluid and for everybody… we’re not trying to alienate anyone.”

The brand is gender inclusive and not something designed just for women. Further to financial hurdles, the duo talk us through some of the hoops they’ve had to jump as women in the sex industry. We’re surprised to learn there are men in the industry – posing as women for the sake of better business.

“Vulva owners get awkward when a non vulva owner has made a product for you.”

They have heard stories of businesses who appear totally female owned from the front, but are ultimately operated entirely by men, with only a few instances of women holding minority leadership. Apparently one of the best indicators of this illusion is product colour choice. If pink and purple are the only options, this is a good sign (not always) the business is not entirely led or owned by women.

What has brought the most joy in the last 18 months?
O jumps straight in. “Doing it with Eloise.”

The creative duo have clearly found the magic that only exists when you’re able to balance a passionate partnership and true friendship.

“We’re still getting along and having the time of our lives.”

Aware of this unique combination, M and O feel lucky to pursue their passions together, despite often being mistaken as either lovers or sisters.

“We do really well – when we’re together – creatively vibing off each other.”

That’s for sure.

What are the stereotypes you’d like to break down with FIGR?

The pair want to smack down the stigma that is strangely attached to using lube and its many uses.
O confesses “If I was with a guy and he said should we use lube – I’d take offence.” And we can relate… why is this?

“[There is a] weird veil of shame.”

That S-H-A-M-E word again – it holds us all back in so many ways. And it shouldn’t.

Low libido is something many of us only expect to come up against way down the track (the life track… that is) – it’s not something women in their 20’s are generally expecting to talk about. But perhaps it should be. Especially as many of us navigate the complexities of our sexual wellbeing and the various strategies at our disposal.

“Sex drive especially for women is not even touched on.”

O and M have dived headfirst into the sexual wellbeing world to normalise conversations and breakdown barriers around the use of lube.

“[I have been] using lube on my period cup, to get it in.” O says.

The gap in education arises again, M and O explain how many young people are neither informed nor empowered to explore their sexual wellbeing during their educative years. Sexual curiosity and exploration was certainly not something we remember celebrating in the sex ed classroom. FIGR is not only about being proud of buying lube but being excited about ones sexual journey and celebrating this without the veil of shame.

“By talking about it more and more and opening up we’re trying to normalise conversations.” M says.

What should people be looking for in a lube?

Thanks goodness, Lauren cut to the chase and put what we were all thinking straight to the Eloise duo – what exactly should we all have our eye on when making a purchase of the slippery stuff?

O and M laid it out by first directing our attention to the ingredients list on the back, noting some are much nastier than others. For women especially we need to avoid anything that will throw off the natural PH balance, as this can result in those pesky yeast infections.

“Glycerin – retains moisture, creates a hot bed for yeast to grow.”

Nobody wants that kind of hot bed in their downstairs – that’s for sure.

As it turns out, women’s natural vaginal PH should sit somewhere between 3.8 and 4.5. This is when we learn coconut oil has a PH of 7…absolute disaster!

We must also be aware of green washing labels that claim lubricants to be totally natural. If it’s being purchased off a shelf it will have some kind of preservative in it, FACT.

Just an FYI FIGR does not have those nasty parabens or petrochemicals. It has only 9 ingredients that have been chosen very intentionally, and the very kindest preservatives to keep it viable on the shelf.

Was there anyone in your circles you were hesitant to tell?

M explained how her family is very open. “My parents have small businesses themselves…so they’re supportive of everything I do.” Her friends have also been accepting.

The one group that brought hesitancy was her workplace. Turns out they were all about it!

O’s social circles responded very similarly. She still grapples with the stereotypes and stigma that come with advocating for sexual empowerment especially as a young woman. The only hurdle she has found was telling people she didn’t know.

Saying the words “I’m starting up a lube company” usually come with certain looks and underlying assumptions that she’s “slutty”, into “weird shit” or DTF.

What’s a piece of advice you would give our listeners in relation to their own sexual empowerment journey?

M – pinpoints her learning to be about being comfortable and understanding yourself.
“I’m still on that journey… I don’t think it ever ends”

O agrees with this sentiment and reiterates that the confidence element comes with age and education.
“Don’t shut yourself off.”

Why did you want to share your story with us?
“We saw how inclusive WhyNot is…. [and] all of these things challenge us, getting in front of the camera. We grow every time we do it.”

It has been our pleasure to hear and learn from Eloise and Eloise – the incredible Lube Ladies.

 

If you prefer to watch or listen to the interview, you can do so below.

Watch part one below…

Watch part two below…

 

Illustration by AileenYou can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenetc

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