Sexual Health: The taboos surrounding female pleasure

The beloved orgasm….

Clearly linked to the blissful release of Serotonin, Dopamine and Oxytocin, widely renowned for helping with cramps, poor sleep, stress, skin health, immune systems - orgasms are good for you. Taking care of your sexual health is fundamental to your physical health, and undeniably beneficial to your emotional health. And yet, despite all these benefits, the taboos of sexual health create all kinds of issues. 

With September recognised as Sexual Health Month and today marking the start of Sexual Health Week, what better opportunity to explore the importance of a subject that is core to the being of Coco de Mer.

Pleasure = Self Care

Understanding your body is an understanding of self. Pleasure is an invaluable and essential form of self-care, and at Coco de Mer we are steadfast in our drive to inspire sexual wellbeing, stimulate intimate satisfaction and bring pleasure to the forefront.

Pleasure can be life-changing. It is one of the true gifts of being a woman. Our capacity to experience it is innate, universal, and human, leading to self acceptance and a sense of fulfilment; together with confidence, joy and improved health. Taking care of your sexual health is integral to your body functioning at its full potential. It is a basic human, bodily right to be well and to take care of yourself.

WHO shared a powerful statement last year about sexual health being “A central aspect of being human. Good sexual health is fundamental to the overall health and well-being of individuals, couples and families, and to the social and economic development of communities and countries.”


What is so taboo about sexual health?

For millennia, female sexuality has been considered one of the most dangerous forces in the world - something that had to be controlled, physically and legally. Even back in Greek Mythology, people have been scared of female power for as long as time shows - our ability to experience and cause immense pleasure but also incredible pain. History shows that it is always our fault. This control hasn’t changed. Look at social media today. You can’t talk about female pleasure without being banned or restricted, and aside from the moral inequality, the knock on effect this has on a business like Coco de Mer is significant, and infuriating.

“A couple of years ago, we had an ad banned that mentioned ‘female pleasure’, but removing the word ‘female’ and keeping it as ’pleasure’ was accepted. It seems like even the algorithms are literally silencing female pleasure. We are currently banned completely from advertising on Meta - with absolutely no explanation of why - other than I assume because we sell sex toys.”

Lucy Litwack, Owner & CEO, Coco de Mer.

Image: Center for Intimacy Justice

The desire to control female pleasure seemingly goes above profit for so many media companies. Currently, the sex toy market is worth £25 billion globally - the erectile dysfunction market under £3bn. Yet, you can advertise Viagra, but advertising a vibrator or lubricant is banned. So although it is explained that you can’t advertise ‘’adult products’’, it certainly seems to focus more on female sexual wellness rather than male.

In 2022 we were banned on Facebook (now Meta) for 6 months, unable to even use our paid-for scheduling platforms. This was allegedly due to two posts, one with a female nipple on show, another with one of our award-winning sex toys from The Pleasure Collection. Like many other like-minded, empowered brands and social media users, we adapted. By changing the spelling of words, the algorithms working against us are often outfoxed, ensuring our content can reach our cherished audiences once again.

Given our focus on the importance of female pleasure, the sexual wellness category is a substantial part of our business at 25% and the increasing appetite is testament to that. The sex toy market alone is due to reach over £50bn by 2030. Incredibly pleasurable, but no laughing matter.

Let’s talk about s3x

“Educational programmes which better reflect the reasons people have sex – including for pleasure – see better health outcomes. The hope is to galvanise the sexual and reproductive health and rights community to promote services that educate and equip users to engage in sex that is safe, consensual, and pleasurable.” 

Dr Lianne Gonsalves, WHO/United Nations Special Programme HRP

Representation and education are imperative. We need to give female pleasure the platform that it is so often lacking in the media and in educational spaces. We need to enable conversations that inform women, and men, that empowering women is the most life-changing act a society can do. Trying to curtail a female’s pleasure is so staunchly controlled in so many ways. And we have to remember that pleasure is power.

There has been a significant amount of research carried out over recent years that shows a clear misunderstanding and often complete ignorance around the female anatomy, which inevitably causes disastrous implications in so many ways. Read more about this in our piece, ‘The Orgasm Gap’.

Sexual wellness is certainly becoming a more discussed topic, the product offering is getting better and better (nudge, nudge) and the business case is moving forward, dispelling any sceptics about how important sexual wellness is, but we are talking about an endemic societal narrative going back generation after generation. Sadly it’s not going to be fixed by the FT saying it matters, as much as we love them when they do - take a look at their brilliant piece ‘How to Sex It’ featuring Lucy, Coco de Mer, and a few of our favourite things.

At Coco de Mer we really want to normalise the conversation and educate people of all ages towards a healthier approach to sex and curiosity. With any big societal shift awkward conversations are inevitable, but so very important.


Last year the Center for Intimacy Justice (CIJ) published an investigative report in The New York Times and 80 media outlets, showing that Meta systemically rejects women’s health advertisements (of the 60 companies CIJ studied, 100% faced ad rejections) – despite Meta allowing erectile dysfunction and other male-focused advertisements. 

In March, the CIJ filed a complaint against Meta, accusing the social giant of systemically rejecting advertisements and information from women’s sexual health brands. These rejections lead to suspended accounts, diluted brand messaging and missed marketing opportunities, all of which we can relate and attest to.

The complaint alleges that Meta engages in unfair and deceptive trade practices by purporting to allow women’s sexual health brands to advertise on its platform, but in practice rejecting ads. The petition supporting this complaint can be found here. Please do sign and share.

In a CNN article, female reproductive experts argue that these content restrictions strengthen the shame surrounding the female body and her hormone cycle. This can have devastating effects. By restricting information as basic as the menstrual cycle, to the world of STIs, to misunderstood and undertreated conditions like endometriosis, these platforms hinder how people with uteruses understand and advocate for their bodies, as well as the people around them.

A spokesperson for Meta, Ryan Daniels, said, “We welcome ads for women’s health and sexual wellness products, but we prohibit nudity and have specific rules about how 

these products can be marketed on our platform.” Regarding the sensitivities of the subject, Meta stated that as a global company it needs to take into account the “wide array of people from different cultures and countries to avoid potential negative experiences.” Charming.

When speaking to the British Beauty Council, Evie Plumb at Flo, a brilliant period-care brand said of the supposed policy change: “I am still seeing brands and individuals (including myself) having purely educational content unfairly removed for ‘nudity and sexually explicit imagery’, so it will be interesting to see over the coming months whether Meta is actually enforcing this policy change.” 

Take care 

Safe sex needn’t be vanilla, but it is a key factor to taking care of your sexual health. The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) has a resourceful guide to safe sex here and Get Me Giddy has a wonderful piece on sexual health awareness that we loved.

Taking care of yourself, and your toys, is equally important. Lubricants, condoms, and cleaners like Pleasure Renewed are all incredibly important to ensuring optimum sexual health, creating a truly holistic sense of self care. And with our Intimate Play collection, the beautifully designed amber bottles will look perfect on your bathroom shelf with all your other beauty products - with no one having any idea what’s inside… How delightful.

Coco de Mer has been, and continues to be the Home of Pleasure, a safe space for exploration and understanding, for all of our customers, whatever their desires or anxieties. It is self acceptance, a sense of fulfilment, and the confidence, joy, and improved health that comes with education and uninhibited explorations of pleasure that we want to deliver to women. Pleasure and sexual fulfilment shouldn’t be regarded as luxuries; more women need to regard their own sexual satisfaction as a necessity, an essential part of their wellbeing.

Take care of yourself. You deserve it.