What Do A Donut And Sexual Pleasure Have In Common?

Ohnut founder Emily Sauer found a solution to sex pain via her own experience—and a donut.

What Do A Donut And Sexual Pleasure Have In Common?

Emily Sauer is founder and CEO of Ohnut – a playful wearable that allows couples to customise penetration depth during sex. She describes herself as an inventor by necessity. Carol Battle talk to her about her idea of putting a pink frosted donut on a penis and how it changed everything.

CB: Tell me about what you do – your businesses and all that stuff.

ES: So, Onut is a patient-founded company. I am the patient who founded it. I started Ohnut because I had experienced deep penetration pain for my entire sexual existence. For the longest time I felt like the world didn’t recognise my experience. And I never talked about it.

After a particularly stressful relationship – low and behold stress impacts the body – I felt so much pressure that everything about it was uncomfortable and physically, emotionally, I just felt like a failure.

The only thing that brought me joy for that period of time was this idea that if I could just customise how deep penetration went, then I wouldn’t hate myself so much. It’s really when I felt my worst and darkest.

Then, all of a sudden there was this silly, playful idea. I literally had nothing to lose and I had this idea of a pink donut on a penis. It gave me language to talk about it and confidence to talk about it too.

Inspiration can come from anywhere.

Inspiration can come from anywhere.

CB: Is your background industrial design? How did you find a cohort to test for you?

ES: No. I think that way, although I’m not trained. I did work with a couple of wonderful engineers to design the product. The thing was to have other people test it to begin with.

I actually felt pretty confident talking to a bunch of friends. I had maybe about five people try out an early prototype. Only one of them had had the experience of pain during sex. With this, she said that she didn’t. The others were like, “It went on, we had sex. It was OK, it wasn’t horrible.” That was enough to tell me to just call a gynaecologist, start talking to people.

I talked to everybody about my experience of painful sex. I didn’t know anything about anyone else because no one talks about painful sex. It opened the floodgates.

People were like, “Oh my gosh, I know exactly what you’re talking about” or, “I was with a partner who had this, neither of us knew what to do and we broke up.”

The third phone call I made was to this woman named Susan Kellogg, who is a leader in the pelvic pain space. She was like, don’t quit your day job, I’m exactly the person you need to talk to. Before I knew it, I couldn’t make enough prototypes to keep up with demand.

CB: That is such an amazing story. How does being a female founder working in sex tech affect the conversations you’re having?

ES: There’s a lot to learn. I’m sure you feel this way too, people are constantly asking you for advice in ways that we might not actually be equipped to give.

When the door is cracked a little bit and someone has an outlet to ask the really hard questions, the really embarrassing questions or the shameful questions or the health-oriented questions, you know, they come crashing your way.

I’ve had a couple of friends recently who have had kids and they come up to me and they’re like, “Oh, you know, I’m going to get the Ohnut”. And the question that I ask is, are you okay?

And then they can answer that in whatever way that they want, without me pathologizing in any way or being condescending or prescriptive in any way.

OhNut for more satisfying and less painful sex

CB: A lot of products and services are serving the younger generation but there are other groups with different needs, how does Ohnut fit into this?

ES: Ohnut is in a unique position because we never considered ourselves a sex toy.

So, what it is, it’s a stack of rings that are worn at the base of a penetrating partner and they compress down outside of the body. They’re kind of like a bumper.

The rings come apart so you can literally stack them and incrementally adjust to figure out with your partner what feels good for both of you.

So Ohnut never launched as this hyper-erotic sex toy because we understood that we needed to speak to people as people, not as orgasmic beings. Which does inherently appeal to a broader audience, or to a broader age range at least.

CB: So, you sit in this place of anxiety or discomfort or excitement, but you have to learn to get to that place of joy or fulfillment. How much does play come into it?

ES: It’s like, how do you make such a scary space, playful? How can you learn the vocabulary? How can you learn how to communicate that vocabulary without fearing how it would be received? The idea with play is that there’s no objective. You kind of do something for its own sake. So, you’re not moving towards something other than the thing that you’re actually doing.

Good Sex Awards

CB: A lot of the reason why we are accepting good erotic stories is to give demonstrations of that.

ES: Oh God, you just lit a fire. What makes a story erotic? Everyone defines erotic so differently. How can we set an example?

Take this instance where someone says, “Hey, let’s cuddle. Maybe we can play the three-minute game”, which I love.

It’s like, basically when you ask the other person: how do you want to be touched for three minutes? And then you literally set a timer for three minutes. You know what they want.

They’re going to get it. It’s low commitment and it’s the kind of thing where we’re giving ourselves the space to fully receive and not feel the pressure to perform. It creates space for other types of intimacy

CB: What are you hopeful about?

ES: What am I hopeful about? I’m immensely hopeful about all of the women’s start-up groups coming out of the institutions. High-powered business schools are opening up these early start-up stage mentorship groups that really accelerate folks who don’t have a business degree.

I do think that there’s a sense of camaraderie within women’s groups where people commit, they fully give everything that they have of their resources, their knowledge, their care. I’m in a group right now where a lot of times we’ll talk about, you know, business model iteration and scaling and raising. And then other times someone will come out and be like, “I just realised that my startup idea that I’ve been working on for a year, isn’t something that people want”.

And we’ve created these safe spaces where it’s okay to fail and we will catch you and there’s still a bright future.

Let’s figure out what works for you. It’s really facilitating a new style, a new conduct of business. And it’s different to Silicon Valley. It’s not the tech mindset. It’s not always the fast and hard, hockey-stick growth kind of mentality. There’s a lifestyle perspective, a balance that I feel like a lot of women are seeking right now.

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