Each month we’re spotlighting a designer and collaborator on Shrill Society whose work brings a theme from our Nasty Woman planner into your closet. February is all about sexual health, so we sat down with Natalie Gaimari, the maker of one of our boldest sex-positive shirts on the site. Shrill Society talks with the New York-based screen printer about her Make A Woman Cum For Once shirt, the orgasm gap, and going viral overnight.
Shrill Society: Your Make A Woman Cum For Once tee is a real conversation starter. Can you talk about how you were feeling when you made the shirt and what message you wanted to get out?
Natalie Gaimari: It was a while ago to think about it now, but it’s right around the anniversary of when we made it. I’m a screen printer. I worked in a screen-printing studio at the time with a bunch of other women. That November , you know, you felt so helpless. I was like, “What can I do? Me as a person. What is my level of access here to make a difference?” Screen printing historically is a method for putting out political messages. Political posters―so much ephemera over the years has been screen printed because it’s accessible, relatively cheap to get it done, and a great method of reproduction. So me and my coworker were like, “What can we do?” We knew we were going to the Women’s March. It’s hard to even recall the moment of conception for it, but, in general, it was just like a “fuck you.” Exactly the kind of thing that would bother Donald Trump as a person. That was on the heels of the whole “grab her by the pussy” moment. We were just like, “You know what, dude? You’re garbage!” So it is supposed to be attention-seeking. But it also opened up a really positive conversation around the orgasm gap instead of it just being petty and clever.
Can you talk a little bit more about the orgasm gap? You hear about the wage gap all the time, but I’m not sure I’ve heard anyone use the phrase “orgasm gap” before.
Oh yeah! I don’t want to butcher the statistics, but there is a misunderstanding that women are supposed to have an orgasm from simple penetrative sex. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve had sex with a random person, and it’s like, “Oh, you’re done? I guess we’re done here. This is the end.” I think the communication is looked down upon, but also the idea that there’s research to be done. That not everybody is the same. Having an open and willing partner is hard to find right now and it’s systemic really.
Yes, while it may seem like a personal issue, and it is highly personalized, it’s also a reflection of longstanding power dynamics. Women’s sexual pleasure is not as valued as men’s. In most cultures, women aren’t supposed to enjoy sex in the same way that men are.
Because the underlying issue is really that men feel emasculated that they’re not able to do that, so what better way to avoid failure than to not go for it at all and have it be an insignificant part of the experience?
I want to get more into this personal aspect. It is a personal issue, right? Literally every person’s body is different and responds differently to stimuli. Every relationship requires deep and personalized conversations to make sex mutually fulfilling. But also from a design perspective, you relied on appropriated sloganeering from Trump’s campaign, the existing typeface, and color to create a message that was personally, like you said, an attack on him. Why was a t-shirt such a strong vehicle for this type of message?
I had designed it to be a button, and my husband was like, “That’s gotta be a shirt!” I thought if I made buttons I could give them out for free at the Women’s March, but he thought it was so funny and effective that it just had to be a shirt. My coworker Megan and I, who did the whole project together, started with 25 shirts and we packed our backpacks the morning of the Women’s March. We made sweatshirts for ourselves because it was cold that day, and we just walked around. All the money went to Planned Parenthood, and we ended up with $300 in cash after that day. I opened an online store just in case somebody didn’t have cash because I don’t think anyone was going to the Women’s March expecting to purchase anything. Whoever was reposting things from the Women’s March, taking photos of us, using the hashtag or whatever, people just started buying them from the online store from everywhere. So I woke up the next day...
Yes! Let’s talk about the experience of the shirt going viral because that’s a bizarre and very modern experience.
Oh. My. Gosh. It was obviously exciting, but I have a full time job! Over the course of a week, I had inadvertently opened a business and a very particular type of business because the core principle of it is that I’m not profiting. There are so many aspects―there’s production, there’s customer service, but also there’s the constant need to keep it alive on Instagram, to keep reminding people. So it was really bizarre and within three days of it becoming a thing and that photo of my torso being shared over and over again, there were already rip-offs on the Internet. By the time Amanda [Shrill Society’s cofounder] swooped in and was like, “Hey, let me take you under my wing and help you with this,” I had experienced such a high level of burnout. My birthday is in February, so it was the next month after the Women’s March. I worked that whole day. It was a weekend too! I just had to pack shirts all day. There were no two ways about it. Every day after work would be at least three hours of either printing, folding, or packing, and then also there’s the insane experience of your phone just constantly buzzing―waking up and having 1,000 Instagram notifications.