With sex toy sales inching the sexual wellness industry closer to mainstream acceptance every day, it must be easier than ever for pleasure seekers to find their way past outdated stereotypes and stigmas. Well, it would be easy, if Congress would get out of the way.
“With the news that Congressional leadership is determined to defund Planned Parenthood, I worry about the almost 100,000 patients that we serve each year, and the millions nationally who depend on us for quality reproductive health care,” reports Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
We pride ourselves on being inclusive; seeing and recognizing all people’s orientation and gender identity.
Determined not to live in a so-called free country that simultaneously denies its citizens access to their own sexual health, a trio of Colorado-based former Planned Parenthood employees decided it was time to act.
Vibrant, an online adult boutique based in Denver, began when now-CEO Angela Wells and her former Planned Parenthood co-workers brainstormed ideas to save this valuable community resource.
“Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) was facing political and social attacks as well financial constraints, much like many non-profit agencies in the U.S. The need for financial support to maintain the agency’s infrastructure was continually underfunded,” Wells said.
After applying to the Colorado Social Enterprise Exchange Cohort, Wells and her co-founders endured more than a year of rigorous assessment to determine their worth as an asset to the community and thus worthy of funding. Almost to their surprise, the assessment team found Vibrant to bear the most promise, and the company officially launched in September 2016.
But what’s so special about an umpteenth sex toy e-tailer opening to the public? In addition to providing a rarely-seen, truly inclusive shopping and educational experience, Vibrant literally exists to further the Planned Parenthood cause.
According to Wells, Vibrant’s mission is to “create the largest, safest and most inclusive sex toy retailer in the world that generates significant revenue to fund Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains,” she explains.
This local chapter of the nationwide family planning and sexual health clinic is the sole recipient of Vibrant’s charitable donations and a major beneficiary of company dividends. And as if that alone weren’t enough to motivate sex toy shoppers to spend vibrantly for a good cause, the company’s approach has picked up where many other well-intentioned e-boutiques have trailed off.
“More than half of adults in the U.S. will use a sex toy this year. We are in the midst of a new sexual revolution that is driving the growth of the sex toy market,” says Wells. “Unfortunately, the industry is failing to keep up with the growth. The typical online buying experience is outdated, overwhelming and sometimes intimidating.”
Like a sex-positive superhero in a rainbow cape, Vibrant has come to the rescue. The company provides a comprehensive approach to sex toy buying from the moment you pull up BeVibrant.com. The website’s front page catches your eye with playful user guides full of videos, tips and must-have toy lists for all the ways you play.
From travel-friendly toys to what is quite possibly the largest collection of beginner’s sex toy suggestions in e-boutique history, there’s no shortage of buyer-tainment over at Vibrant’s online headquarters. The team even keeps a regular blog that covers all the latest ways to smash the patriarchy with non-phallic sex toys, choose the best toys for non-binary folks, and how to use a cock ring with or without a penis.
“Vibrant’s website is designed to feel like you’re talking with a friend and, as such, is furthering conversations about female empowerment, inclusivity, sex positivity and body positivity in a comfortable, welcoming environment,” explains Wells. “We are dedicated to providing a space without stigma for all people to take control of their sex life with safe, cutting-edge products, and education about how and what to use based on specific interests.”
Just in time for Pride season, Vibrant is walking the talk and furthering their mission to create a positive atmosphere for all humans. The pleasure-positive team has partnered up with local LGBTQ+ advocacy organization QueerAsterisk, a not-for-profit group of trans and queer therapists and counselors providing invaluable aid to marginalized members of the community. Through affordable and often unique forms of therapy — take, for example, resident therapist Sorin Thomas’s penchant for wilderness and canine/equine therapy — QueerAsterisk is a beacon of light for those outside oppressive heteronormative stereotypes.
In addition to therapy sessions, QueerAsterisk also provides support for the LGBTQ+ community as a whole through mentorship, local gatherings, and even consulting services for companies seeking a more queer-informed copy writing approach. Whatever it is you’re seeking, if it involves radical inclusion, you can likely find it from a QueerAsterisk team member.
“We enlisted the help of Queer Asterisk to ensure that we are true to our intent of providing a safe and inclusive space for all customers,” says Wells. “They reviewed our website content and copy, providing guidance on gender inclusive language. The team also helped draft the final version of our LGBTQIAP+ glossary.”
Queer Asterisk headquarters of Boulder, Colorado is now a Vibrant affiliate and home to an exclusive collection of sex toys just for the rainbow community.
“In collaboration with their team, we curated a selection of toys and gender affirming products to bring more sex positivity to space and to broach the topic of sexual health as a part of mental health,” says Wells.
Inclusion is all in a day’s work for Vibrant, and that’s exactly what sets them apart from even some of the most well-known luxury boutiques. Sex education is a happening trend, but something about Vibrant’s approach just feels more genuine than a few queer-friendly buzzwords thrown into a product description and an errant blog or two pitching toys for gay folks. Sex-ed and inclusion aren’t always mutually exclusive, unless you’re shopping at Vibrant. Then they’re stitched into every seam.
Vibrant’s mission is “reflected in the images, tone and language of our site,” explains Wells. “We pride ourselves on being inclusive; seeing and recognizing all people’s orientation and gender identity.”
It’s one thing to tailor-make your e-tail shop into an SEO haven for queer-themed content. It’s another thing entirely to build it into your foundations from the first metaphorical pour of concrete. Vibrant, it would seem, knows that when it comes to a foundation of inclusion, understanding and pride, you’ve got to be more than sturdy concrete; you’ve got to be the whole mixing truck.