“Awkward” texts followed by an “uncomfortable” phone conversation between a mother and daughter about sexual wellness sent Natalie Waltz, founder of Tabu, on a mission to find a solution to the struggle that a majority of women in midlife currently face; painful sex which, for many, meant the end of their sex life.
Natalie recounts those first moments: “It was a Tuesday at work. I remember being in my office and learning these outrageous facts regarding the sexual health side of effects of menopause. Things like 90% of women can experience pain or discomfort during sex, so much so that nearly 50% just stopped being sexually active in their 50s. And I don’t know what came over me, but I grabbed my phone and I texted my mom, ‘Hey, do you or your friends have pain or discomfort during sex’?”
Her mom, Ouhoud Dabbas, a Gen X woman in her early fifties who comes from a religious background, said that her first reaction to the texts was utter shock. “I think it was one of two thoughts. Someone’s either kidnapped her or something is wrong with my daughter. But after we got over that uncomfortable ‘never thought I’d be having this conversation with my daughter’ moment, it became more like a ‘why haven’t we had these conversations?’ kind of thing. I wish somebody had this conversation with me. But, I’ll admit, it did take me a moment to get there.”
For women in midlife, painful sex has traditionally been attributed to the process of aging; it’s something that has just been accepted as the norm for a woman “past her prime”. A taboo that women approaching or going through menopause had to endure in silence and sometimes in shame.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
After many more conversations, focus groups, studies and discussions with experts, it was clear to Natalie that destigmatizing masturbation and making it an integral part of a woman’s self care routine would dramatically improve the lives of millions of women going through menopause every year. “I’ll admit – I still struggle to say the word, ‘masturbate’ out loud. But when I learned how therapeutic it can be – especially as we age – I figured it was worth getting over the uncomfortableness of it all,” Natalie told us.
So she founded Tabu. Not only for her Gen X mom and women going through menopause but also for her future self and the next generations that will sooner or later enter this phase of their lives.
The Kit From Tabu. Thoughtful design, classy packaging–a high end sexual wellness experience
The Kit from Tabu is the first sexual wellness kit designed for women in menopause. Featuring a lightweight, flexible massager and organic, healing lubricant, The Kit was designed to help women confidently kick off and maintain their sexual wellness routine.
Not a traditional “sex toy”, The Kit is a refined and classy approach to sexual well-being. “Our mission is to help women embrace their sexual wellness as a part of their overall emotional and physical wellbeing and not give up on it as our bodies start to change,” Natalie said. “While the change in our hormone levels can make things more challenging; the benefits of regular sexual activity – with or without a partner – don’t magically expire once we can no longer procreate. If anything they can become more important to maintain our health,” explains Natalie. More on that later.
Every aspect of the customer experience was “obsessed over”, as Natalie said, to ensure a special and premium experience from the moment her customer receives her order.
“One of the most important parts of the creation of the Kit was making the experience of receiving it in the mail special. We assume our members have never purchased a sexual wellness product before and wanted to make sure that first impression is exactly the opposite of what they likely expected from this category,” Natalie said.
When you open up the Kit’s clean and reusable white box, you are greeted by an educational booklet and guide along with two individually wrapped products that look more like high-end skincare.
The soft touch massager is discrete and made with 100% medical grade silicone and features an optional warming system to help stimulate blood flow (which is good news for the health of your vulva and vagina)
While the organic lubricant comes in a beautifully designed glass bottle and was formulated with powerful antioxidants, omega-6 essential fatty acid and plant based anti-inflammatories – a luxury serum for a woman’s “lady parts”.
“The bottle design was very intentional,” said Natalie, “ we wanted it to replicate the feeling of putting a serum on your face so that, upon every application, you know you’re doing something good for yourself and nourishing those important but delicate tissues.”
Sexual Wellness – The Healthy Pleasure
Dr. Barb DePree, an OB/GYN, Menopause Care Specialist, pioneer in sexual wellness in midlife, founder of MiddlesexMD, and advisor at Tabu shares, “We need to recognize that we own our sexual health. You have your spiritual health, your emotional health, your physical health, and your sexual health. The fact of the matter is that masturbation is really central to maintaining your sexual health.”
So, why is it important? It’s not all about pleasure, although that’s the fun part when it’s pain free! Dr. DePree points out that North American Menopause Society’s The Menopause Guidebook says, “Regular stimulation activity involving the vulva and vagina promotes blood supply to the genitals and natural secretions that maintain vaginal health. Penetrative sexual activity (with or without a partner) helps maintain vaginal width, length and tone. Self or mutual masturbation or use of a vibrator maximizes stimulation and should be encouraged as appropriate.”
The biggest takeaway is the earlier you make masturbation part of your routine, the better. “A 45 year old is going to have a much better outcome than a 55 year old just getting started,” Dr. DePree explains. “For premenopausal women, generally speaking, vaginal health is maintained without sexual activity, primarily because of the presence of hormones that are having an ongoing, favorable benefit to women’s genitals. But it becomes a completely different story in perimenopause and menopause, when the change of hormones, more specifically the loss of estrogen, has this huge impact to the genitals of decreasing blood supply, thinning the mucosa, less secretions, more dryness, loss of elastin and collagen,” adds Dr. DePree.
And then there is the impact to your sex life and relationship. The more you “practice”, the more the anxiety and fear dissipates and the mental shift opens up a whole new world. As Dr. Heidi Gastler, a pelvic floor physical therapist, founder of Mountain to Sea PT and Tabu advisor says, “I think this is really powerful. Tabu’s Kit gives a woman control to support her body and her sexuality–to build confidence, reduce fear and anxiety, and to really learn about herself and what feels good externally and internally. Because then when you move into a partner situation, you can actually communicate what you like and what feels good versus what might feel scary. In my experience with patients, this confidence and communication has a tremendous impact on relationships.” She continues, “And let’s not forget – sex begets sex. A decrease in libido as we age is incredibly natural, but the more sex we have the more we’re likely to want. And keeping a healthy sex life throughout our lives has big emotional and physical benefits.”
Self-Care – And It’s New, “Not So Guilty” Pleasure
Now that you’re armed with all the health benefits of masturbation, it’s time to talk self-care. In more recent years, self-care has expanded to include a multitude of mind, body and soul treatments. And you can add sexual wellness to that list. Think of masturbation, or self-pleasure, as a way to connect with your body and get in tune with yourself. As Dr. Emily Morse, a Gen X woman herself puts it, “it’s a gateway to understanding your body, boosting your self-esteem, and giving you some serious pleasure.”
What does self-care mean to you? A massage? A bubble bath with candles? A face mask? A mani/pedi? These are all amazing things to do for yourself but what about adding in a solo mind-blowing orgasm? (Although it’s important to remember the benefits go beyond ‘getting there’.)
It’s Sunday night and you’ve just taken a bath with your favorite essential oils and you’re feeling relaxed. You reach for a face mask before you call it a night. While you’re letting the mask do it’s thing, why not reach for your Tabu Kit? Think of it as the climax of your day before you drift off to get that much needed sleep before you tackle the week. (Side note: it can also help you get a good night’s sleep).
It is important to note that everyone is at a different stage in their sexual routine and activity, and our bodies may require different things at different times. There’s no exact prescription for how often you should experience penetration whether that involves another person or not. The advisors at Tabu recommend making masturbation part of your routine at least once or twice a week. But experiment and find out what works best for you.
Who doesn’t want to feel pleasure while also engaging in an activity that’s good for your body? Sounds like a win-win to us. And there’s nothing taboo about that!
Tabu is a new kind of sexual wellness company that puts health before pleasure. Inspired by a mother-daughter conversation and dozens of GYNs, pelvic floor PTs, and therapists since – their mission is to make sexual wellness feel as natural and healthy as our skin and exercise routines with products that are elegant, dignified, and clean.