The sex tech expert gets candid about her journey in the industry.
Research shows 30% of women experience pain during sexual intercourse. What’s worse is that many of them don’t tell their partners when it hurts, making it nearly impossible to fix any underlying problems.
The state of medical research and its unbalanced focus on male sexual pleasure over female sexual pain doesn’t help either. A recent review of PubMed revealed there are nearly five times more clinical studies on erectile dysfunction than painful conditions affecting women’s sex lives. It’s about time the health community started taking women’s sexual health more seriously.
But where it has failed, sex tech expert Estrella Jaramillo has stepped in. After growing up in the south of Spain, she eventually moved to Madrid and began working in the field of women’s health, maternity, and social entrepreneurship. Upon meeting likeminded friends similarly concerned about the lack of focus on women’s sexual health, together they launched the B-wom app.
I spoke with Estrella over email to learn more about what’s inspired her to take this entrepreneurial journey, as well as the personal and outside challenges she’s battled along the way.
If you are comfortable doing so, can you share more about the trauma you experienced in the health system and how that has informed your work now?
Estrella: The truth is that it was a series of disappointing intimate and sexual health-related experiences that made it very clear to me that: (1) Our approach to health needs to change drastically, and (2) Women’s health, particularly sexual health, has been neglected for far too long.
Also, I found it extremely frustrating to experience how women’s sexuality is suppressed and judged negatively by society, while it is encouraged in men. So approaching gender equality from the perspective of helping women feel healthy and comfortable in their bodies and sexual health just fuels my passion every day.
What does B-wom do and when did you start the company?
Estrella: B-wom is a digital coach that offers personalized programs for women’s intimate and sexual health. Our users take a test and receive an evaluation and a personalized care program with habits, guided pelvic floor exercises, tips, actionable recommendations, educational contents addressing their needs, and a tracking tool to see the evolution.
For instance, if you are experiencing discomfort during sex, besides suggesting seeing a specialist, we would provide you with daily tips and exercises to improve your symptoms, and you can track whether sex is painful or pleasurable and when. You can learn a lot about yourself by tracking and understanding your symptoms.
We launched in the summer of 2015 in Spain, then expanded to South America, then to North America because we saw a great response from the market. And then I came to the US!
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced starting a sex tech company?
Estrella: As with any startup venture, there’s no shortage of challenges! There’s still a lot of awareness raising to be done about these women’s health issues, their causes and how to prevent. But especially we need to understand that they matter. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality around sex is not working, so we need to have a conversation.
We want all women to be in charge of their health and to feel good. We want sexual health to be taken seriously: better sex ed from an earlier age, better support for the woman during her postpartum recovery so that she can have a fulfilling sexual life after having babies, and better solutions for the menopause period.
I constantly have to explain that we don’t work with a niche public, that all women experience some of the problems we help with at different points of their lives, they just don’t feel invited to discuss them or are told that there aren’t solutions.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned and do you have any advice for others trying to get into sex tech?
Estrella: First, don’t let anyone try to convince you that what you are doing is not solving a pain that people are waiting to get a solution for. I’ve heard this even 200k users in.
Secondly, become comfortable with the fact that your discourse will make others uncomfortable—that is ok.
And last, but not least, fasten your seatbelts!
What keeps you up at night?
Estrella: Currently, too many things. First of all, I’m getting more involved in doing advocacy for better maternal and birth care, because women are still dying during childbirth (especially women of color), when most deaths could be prevented.
Secondly, pushing the conversation of gender equality: There is still too much to do. Women are still judged negatively by society if they are assertive. They are still judged based on their expressing their sexuality. The fact that people don’t say certain things out loud anymore, doesn’t mean that we are being evaluated by the same standard. And also, just offering people better preventive and continued care that is affordable.
What has been the biggest surprise you’ve encountered working in sex tech? Or did any preconceptions you may have held about the space get shattered?
Estrella: Honestly, the biggest surprise was probably to discover my own limiting beliefs. It’s been a journey, and it’s been overwhelming at times but one of the most enriching experiences I’ve had. I didn’t have any pre-existing beliefs about the sex tech community, but I definitely was happy to discover that is full of pretty special people.
Every founder of a sex tech company, from Mia Davis (TalkTabú), Suzanne Sinatra (Private Packs), Alex Fine (Dame Products), Polly Claire (Unbound) …They all are trying to help people, and specifically many women, feel sexually empowered, and ultimately this means feeling included, supported and accepted, independently of how you chose to experience your sexuality.
Image sources: Estrella Jaramillio/B-wom