What can be more relaxing than a massage and a bubble bath to create a retreat at home? An orgasm.
This week, we met up with the founders and co-CEOs of Bonjibon, a female-oriented sex toy shop, Katie Aitken and Grace Bennett, to talk about female pleasure, sexual stigma and what their own self-care routines look like.
Check out the full video interview here! You’ll be able to see Grace show off some of the product. And if anything’s compelling, feel free to use this promo code: GTADROPOFF.
Janice Liu (JL): So happy to be connecting with you both. Let’s start with your personal journeys and how you came to create Bonjibon? What compelled you, what pushed you and drove you?
Katie Aitken (KA): Grace and I came to Bonjibon from different angles. I have always felt really comfortable in sex stores. Where I grew up, there was a small adult toy store there that was really open to youth, and answered all of my questions. I was so intrigued and fulfilled by knowing I could go there and ask anything without feeling shame or stigma. Eventually, I saw that wasn’t everyone’s experience. In fact, I realized that most of us have negative sexual experiences that can be avoided by knowing our bodies and what works for us. I started to see valuing one’s own pleasure as a radical act of both feminism and prioritizing wellness. For me, it fits into the cultural push for both justice and empowerment that we’re seeing today. I believe that pleasure deserves to exist in a beautiful (even digital) space and be treated with a lot of importance and reverence.
Grace Bennett (GB): I secretly bought my first sex toy, a simple one-speed vibrator, when I was fifteen and it was a huge secret. For me, shopping for a sex toy was scary, uncomfortable, and intimidating, and it had a lot to do with both the physical shop, their appearance and displays and the online sites at the time that were pornographic and overwhelming to shop at. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I bonded with some girlfriends over the very aspect of even owning a vibrator and then fantasizing about there being a cool, fun, not gross and approachable sex toy shop. That was the beginning of Bonjibon for me.
These experiences came together when we met about ten years ago in university. We eventually conceptualized a sex toy shop that we used to fantasize about together. A safe, beautiful space that carves out space for all kinds of pleasure through information. It took eight years, but in 2018 we decided to just “go for it” and between full-time jobs and lives we spent the next two years immersing ourselves in the sex toy and pleasure industry with the focus on launching our own sexual wellness shop and magazine. We designed and built Bonjibon to be a shop and magazine that we would want to shop at and read articles from.
JL: That’s an amazing journey. It’s incredible that you both are tackling such a stigmatized area of our lives. When it comes to pleasure and sexual health – what are tenets you subscribe to? Particularly relative to our parents’ generation?
GB & KA: We believe sexuality is an essential part of overall wellness. We believe good, consensual sex (solo, with one partner, or with many partners) equals good health and that both should be discussed in the same way. We believe that pleasure is an act of resistance and empowerment, and a gateway to our own agency. And above all, it believes everyone is deserving of great sex and that pleasure should be accessible to all.
We both grew up in relatively liberal households. That being said, there were still concepts about sex and pleasure that we had to navigate around, for example the idea that “sex” only counts if it is PIV (“penis in vagina”) and not truly understanding the female pleasure aspect of sex. The general message was: Sex can be good, sex can be bad; depends on the partner – but you get what you get. That couldn’t be further from the truth!
JL: That is so true. I’m glad there are more and more people, particularly women who are pushing this topic forward. How do you feel about orgasms on a daily basis? How and what do you tell our readers who are aspiring to achieve that?
GB & KA: Daily orgasms sound great, but what’s more important is taking time for self care. Committing to “orgasm” as success can make them harder to access, and takes away from the overall experience of genuine pleasure. For instance, sometimes orgasms may not be accessible, but a little sensual self-massage is.
That said, we like to think about orgasm as the best multi-vitamin out there. When we orgasm, we flood our systems with dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, and more. They are a built-in energetic release function in our bodies. They’re the ultimate form of physical and mental self-care.
For folks who are interested in making it a daily practice, we suggest creating a little ritual around it, and don’t be too goal oriented (If you don’t cum now, you may cum later!) What scents, sounds, textures can you incorporate to make it a separate part of your day? We also suggest starting slow if you aren’t accustomed to daily self-pleasure. Also, experiment! Try clitoral vibes, penetrative toys, anal toys – create your own buffet of daily self-care experience. There is always more to explore.
JL: I love that you called it the “best multi-vitamin”! Self-pleasure is still not at the top of the list when it comes to creating a retreat for oneself at home. What is your guide to make your home a sanctuary or a space dedicated to pleasure?
GB & AK: Solo sex can be romantic, erotic, and incredibly satisfying. We see through tons of traditions around the world that creating a separate space can help you access the mindset you are after. We really suggest creating a space for pleasure by incorporating scents, sounds, erotica, textures, etc. that please you. Create a separation between your day and your time for pleasure.
JL: Totally love that! I’ve been talking to a lot of friends and founders about mental health. How does sexual health play a role in mental health?
GB & AK: Sexual health and mental health are intricately connected. That is, if your mental health is struggling, your sexual health likely is too, and vice versa. The act of choosing and valuing your own pleasure forms a basis for self-care and can show up in other parts of life. Does that lunch date bring me joy? Does the partnered sex I have fulfill my needs? A lot of people’s psychology can surround their sexuality. Taking an active role in your pleasure can help you understand your sexual desires, and let go of learned inhibitions, which translates into increased confidence and self-awareness in daily life.
Mindfulness means choosing to be aware of the self: physical body, mental state. Sex is the intersection of a lot of our experiences: body and brain, perception, connection. Being mindful of the physical sensation of pleasure really helps us direct our mind towards something intentional. Also, considering the culture we live in, and preconceived notions that pleasure should look some way, or not exist at all. It is an act of mindfulness to value, prioritize, and experience self-pleasure.
JL: When it comes to mental health and mindfulness practices, what are you bringing into your daily routine and home life in general?
AK: I live with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), and have been lucky enough to spread awareness about that experience into Bonjibon’s magazine. For me, self-care is a key strategy to support myself in my PMDD. I like to call my self care practices my “toolbox,” and each strategy a different “tool.” Some tools work better in the rain, others in the sun. What I mean is, my self care changes as I change. Tools that I find really helpful in the last couple of months are good sleep hygiene, forest bathing, hatha yoga, mindfulness, regular exercise, nurturing food (and not skipping meals), mindfulness meditation, and of course – orgasm. Both with my partner and solo
JL: Makes total sense. I’m sure Bonjibon has opened the doors to this type of conversation for many customers in your community. What are some amazing stories that you can share about your brand affecting your customers or individuals?
GB & AK: Launching Bonjibon has opened up the conversation of sexual wellness within our families and immediate social groups in ways we never expected. For instance, Grace’s family is very conservative in values and yet for the first time they’re talking about the importance of sexual health and breaking down those barriers. In our social circles, we’re finding Bonjibon has become a symbol for friends and acquaintances that it is safe to confide in us with questions and experiences they may never have felt comfortable talking about before, even as a friend.
We did a pop-up at a lingerie shop in February, Stole My Heart, and we had the opportunity to connect with a wide-variety of people in-person then. One day these two women come into the shop, they were in their 60s, and when they saw our pop-up they said “Oh!” and then commented to us that they would be way too embarrassed to sell sex toys. We replied, “Oh, really? I think they’re fun!” and immediately that little bit of validation that the toys are not embarrassing but empowering items deflated their squeamishness and started a really powerful conversation about trying to find sex toys in the past but never knowing what to get and being too embarrassed to ask and they were so happy we were there and so accessible. They each ended up buying toys and even followed up via email with more questions the next day.
JL: That’s a great story. I think the association of negative sentiment with sex toys and female pleasure is such an area of opportunity to help empower women. Can you share some of the favourite brands and products you carry?
GB & AK: We’re so excited about every single one of the products that we selected. In particular, we are absolutely in love with Dame products; their vibrators have revolutionized the pleasure industry and they are a female-founded and designed brand. Their products are incredibly durable and well thought out, effective, and aesthetically pleasing. We’re also really proud of our Bonjibon Collection, which consists of Jade Yoni Eggs and an Obsidian Sex Wand. The materials are natural, durable, ethical, and high quality. We also love all of our body products: each one is the best of the best in its category.
JL: Awesome! Thank you both and can’t wait to hear more about your journey in the coming months.