Health 02 January 2019
Vicki Cowart, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and Angela Wells, Founder & CEO of Vibrant sat down with SWAAY to talk sex, pleasure, and how this partnership will help millions. “Sex isn't very pleasurable if women don't have access to affordable birth control," Wells begins. “Vibrant offers a new way to support the organization while also supporting one's own pleasure and sexual empowerment." Wells is right! Without birth control and reproductive services, many women are left worrying about risks like unintended pregnancies.
Angela Wells photographed with a customer. Photo Courtesy of Ella Hansen.
For those who don't know, Planned Parenthood, is a nonprofit organization that has always been known for providing reproductive health services and sexual education. This organization is continuously researching and educating to emphasize the necessity of topics like proper health and reproductive rights. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains is one of many health centers serving around 100,000 women, men and teens yearly within their region - Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming. For a majority of patients in that area, this is their only access to affordable resources and health care. Vibrant, a sex toy e-tailer was created by and for the Planned Parenthood organization to raise funds.
WHERE DID THE INSPIRATION COME FROM TO SELL SEX TOYS?
“It was a bold idea," Wells momentarily laughs. “We saw a need inside the industry [because] not a lot of consumers in the U.S. [know] that the sex toy industry is not regulated, meaning manufacturers can make products with materials that are really dangerous and toxic for our bodies." Wells explains that the toys that aren't regulated may contain materials that are banned from everyday items like water bottles and kids toys. It can inevitably disrupt hormones, bring on infections, irritations and can sometimes even cause cancer. “We really felt that Planned Parenthood was a place for us to share our voice and our shared values," she goes on.
Vibrant not only sells inclusive sex toys, but also books, condoms, lubes and other necessities when it comes to having a healthy, safe sex life. Both women shared their positive views on sex, sexual health and providing care and information to their patients. From the start, Wells and Cowart emphasize this partnership felt right. “Sexual health is so important to every person that's walking on this planet," Wells comments. “It's a way for us to continue [creating] a healthy society with this direct correlation to Planned Parenthood."
THE PROBLEM - HEALTH CARE COVERAGE
“Having a company and partner like Vibrant is critical to our future," Cowart exclaims. “We believe that all of us in the health and wellness space can spread the word that pleasure is a fundamental component to healthy sexuality." With this partnership, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and Vibrant are aiming to make birth control accessible and make sex for women safe, pleasurable and enjoyable. Any contributions will bring in support, resources and money, which enable Planned Parenthood to extend what they're doing and provide more resources for the people they serve. “There are so many impediments put in front of women who are trying to access the full range of reproductive health care," Cowart shares. “Having a partner like Vibrant is extending our mission."
“A really significant portion of our work is covered by private donations and that's why Vibrant is very important," Cowart shares.
Just last month, the midterm elections concluded that the most important issue for voters was healthcare. The very next day, President Trump's administration took direct aim at birth control and abortion. The new regulations would allow any employer or university to refuse coverage of birth control. It also affects abortion coverage under the Affordable Care Act. “We saw the voters, particularly Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada stand up and really talk, really say to elected officials that reproductive health is important and rights is important," Cowart expresses. “Even in the moment of celebrating changes in this election, we are still faced with an administration that doesn't want women to have full access to birth control and the full speed of reproductive health care like abortion."
Both Cowart and Wells bring on a serious tone to the conversation. Cowart, in particular, shares her concerns in relation to Planned Parenthood. “[This is] negatively impacting our patients; fifty-five million women have access to free birth control either through their primary insurance or through Medicaid." Not only will women lose their ability to have coverage of these necessities, but also more women will be in need of help. Clare Coleman, President and CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, said in a statement reported by CNN that this ruling “could leave millions of women without access to birth control and reverse some of the important health progress made under the Affordable Care Act in recent years." Since then, citizens across the country are uniting to fight against these new regulations.
THE IMPACT OF VIBRANT & PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
Both organizations hope to normalize the conversation of sex, sexuality and sexual health. “Women are truly able to take care of themselves, be healthy, have a healthy sexual relationship," Cowart says. Vibrant's website in particular removes shame and stigma and promotes inclusivity. “We don't say toys for men [or] toys for women," she beings. “We say 'for me', 'for us', 'for the mind' because toys are not gendered.
“They're designed to stimulate different parts of the body. It's up to the consumer to determine what gender they might identify with, even if they don't identify with a gender at all. It creates that warm and welcoming environment that people receive inside of a Planned Parenthood health center and online as well.
In 2018, 30% of revenue for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains comes from private donations that vary from individuals, corporations to foundations. In the Rocky Mountain region, the facilities do not receive public funding from states. “A really significant portion of our work is covered by private donations and that's why Vibrant is very important," Cowart shares.
“Sex isn't very pleasurable if women don't have access to affordable birth control," Wells begins. “Vibrant offers a new way to support the organization while also supporting one's own pleasure and sexual empowerment."
WHERE CAN YOU PURCHASE THESE SEX TOYS AND LEARN MORE?
Buying a sex toy is one of many ways to help fund the Rocky Mountain region. Those living in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming can find printed materials about Vibrant in most health centers. “We also do a lot of events, [like] pop up shops, in the western part of the U.S." Wells tells us. “We answer questions and let people see some of the products up close and personal." If you are looking to buy a sex toy in support of Planned Parenthood free from stigma and judgment, or simply browse through the many blogs, guides and FAQs, visit their website. This amazing, sex positive company can also be found on Instagram.
3 Min Read
With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.