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.
Being stared at by strangers is something I have become very accustomed to. Not because I am a beautiful, ethereal being that catches everyone's attention (but I will take it if that's what you're thinking), but in the way that I am a Black woman, a Black person, and people tend to notice my presence. I don't think there is a Black person out there that can deny knowing what it's like to be stared at by a random person.