From writing legal briefs to designing briefs for pleasure.
Here’s the thing. “Is my vagina normal?” is a far too commonly asked question. In fact, Refinery29 recently surveyed their millennial female audience and found that nearly half (48%) had concerns about the appearance of their vulvas. There are a lot of myths about vulvas and vaginas that make the people who have them feel unnecessary shame. Not only is this causing people to inherent intense (and completely unnecessary) insecurities, but it has resulted in an overwhelming oral sex deficit for the people with these parts. We’re not about that shame and stigma life, so I was thrilled to learn about an entrepreneur tackling this very problem: Melanie Cristol, Founder & CEO of Lorals, an oral sex panty brand. You might be thinking, “What are oral sex panties?” So I went to Melanie to find out!
For starters, what exactly are Lorals and how do you use them?
Lorals are panties that can be worn during oral sex and rimming. They’re made of silky natural latex that’s ultra-thin and stretchy to allow sensations to pass through, and they’re non-porous to block fluids, a partner’s scratchy facial hair, self-consciousness, or whatever is holding the receiver back from pleasure. Our company is also pursuing FDA clearance of our products as STI-prevention devices — hands-free, beautiful alternatives to dental dams to make oral sex more accessible to everyone.
What is the inspiration behind Lorals? What problem(s) are you addressing and how are you solving them?
I came up with the idea for Lorals when I was on a vacation and needed a dental dam. I knew it would be impossible to buy one, since they’re not popular enough to be sold in most stores (particularly on the coast of Mexico!). But even if we’d been able to get one, the idea of using it felt like a bummer. I wanted to feel sexy and confident and have a wonderful and easy intimate experience, and dental dams just didn’t fit the bill. After the trip I went back to my job as a lawyer, but instead of thinking about writing briefs I kept thinking about oral sex!
I started having conversations with dozens of friends about their oral sex experiences, and I heard over and over again that they said no to oral for a variety of reasons, even when they wanted to be saying yes. Some said no because they were concerned about STIs, others because they felt self-conscious, others because they’d been through sexual trauma and the experience felt too intimate, and others because their partners had beards or chapped lips and oral sex physically hurt. I realized that stylish and thin latex panties could help so many people say yes to oral sex more often, and I quit my law job to create them.
Some people might argue that the concept of Lorals reinforces the idea that vulvas & vaginas are gross by concealing them behind latex underwear for oral sex. What are your thoughts on this?
Our goal is to help people have more oral sex, not less! Everyone has different opinions about what they like and don’t like during intimacy. There are so many people who love the idea of oral sex and rimming – they want the sensation of a person’s tongue exploring their body. But when it comes to the reality, the actual skin-to-skin contact is a turn-off, or it feels physically uncomfortable, or emotional barriers come up, and so they say no. Lorals provide an option in-between saying no and having full skin-to-skin contact.
What is your number one tip for building sexual confidence?
Focus on what feels good. If something hurts or feels uncomfortable or is triggering for you, be vocal about it and switch things up as soon as possible. And when you find a position or an activity that makes your body feel good and makes your mind happy, focus on those mental and physical sensations. Take it all in and enjoy every moment. If you’re having trouble focusing even when you’re feeling good, check out mindfulness meditation as a way of training yourself to focus on the present moment.
Do you face any stigma (from friends, family, other business owners) as a founder in this space?
I think oral sex – especially oral sex for women’s pleasure – is taboo in the US and many places around the world, and one of my goals with Lorals is to try to change that. While most other business owners have been enthusiastic about Lorals, when we do face stigma it reinvigorates me to continue working to destigmatize oral sex and women’s pleasure. My family is pretty quiet about sex, so the business was initially an adjustment. I’m so grateful that they’re now very supportive – my parents listen to my podcast episodes and my 94-year-old grandmother googles Lorals to read our press coverage (hi Grandma!).
How do you maintain your mental health as an entrepreneur?
For me, the toughest mental health challenge has been to not self-isolate during these early stages before Lorals has full-time LA-based employees. I’ve tried really hard to keep lots of positive influences in my life, from friends and family to colleagues. My team is remote, and so I try to spend workdays with support systems in LA, like a three-month accelerator program I did with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, or simply coworking with other entrepreneurs. And I have people I can confide in when times are tough, like when I got food poisoning on a solo sourcing trip on the other side of the world, and my amazing colleague was just a phone call away.
To learn tips and tricks for better oral sex, check out our guide!
Header image source Melanie Cristol
How do you feel about oral sex? Sound off in the comments below!