It’s February and we’ve got hearts in our eyes for all the incredible women we’re interviewing this month! The theme from our Nasty Woman planner for February is sexual health, so what better way to kick things off than an interview with one of the leading voices in Sex Tech? Polly Rodriguez is the CEO of Unbound, an online retailer and manufacturer of wellness products that put women’s sexual pleasure first. Shrill Society talks with Rodriguez about vibrators, beating cancer, and building a different kind of sexual wellness company.
Shrill Society: I love the title tag for Unbound: An online shop for rebellious women. Let’s talk about the role of rebellion in your work and how you wanted Unbound to differ from other sexual wellness companies.
Polly Rodriguez: Women owning their bodies has always been a rebellious act and, in particular, women owning pleasure―whether it’s masturbating or otherwise defining what pleasure looks like for them.
I think Unbound stands out in that our whole goal was to make a category that has been taboo and stigmatized more mainstream, including the design of the product. So not designing things like penises, as revolutionary a concept as that is! [laughs] Historically the industry didn’t have any women in it because of the reputational risk of being a woman in a line of work associated with sex. So you had men designing vibrators and, of course, they were making them look like penises because, well, men are men. We really wanted to elevate the design without having to compromise on the quality of the product or the price. A lot of the supposedly better quality products in our category―vibrators―can cost easily $200. We wanted to cut out the middlemen and distributors and sell directly to consumers, which allowed us to offer a better product at a more affordable price.
And lastly, our brand approach is pretty political. When we first started the company we weren’t. Personally we always were, but it wasn’t until Donald Trump got elected that the company became more openly political. Most notably, we did a Vibes for Congress campaign, where you could send a vibrator to any congressional member of your choice and all of the profits went to Planned Parenthood. We thought maybe a couple hundred people would do it, but close to 2,000 people did. I think that’s a good example of both how our brand is political and rebellious in the nature of what we do.
That’s brilliant. You talked about the design of the products. Unbound just looks different―the second you visit the website. There’s an emphasis on aesthetics and design―vintage vibes, in-your-face graphics. What were some of your visual inspirations when approaching the look of Unbound?
It’s definitely evolved over time. All of the brand personality, I really have to give credit to my co-founder Sarah Jayne and our head designer Kate [Rockett]. I think for us one of the important things that we realized in the marketplace is that a lot of people use women’s bodies to sell the products. Everybody has seen that trashy sex shop where when you walk in there’s images of women in costumes and high heels, big boobs and a full face of makeup. For a lot of us, we felt that wasn’t relatable. Our brand is really an extension of our personalities. We’re still a small team of ten people. We wanted to have all different types of people on our site. And we wanted it to be playful and fun because we have a product that people have a hard time talking about.