Natalie Westlake, Chief Pleaseure Purveyor & Co-Founder of 8850 Co. shares her experiences and why she created this empowering company.
Sexual health is complicated. It’s individual. It’s layered, emotional and different for everyone. It’s part of our overall state of well-being: emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual. How we each choose to navigate the path to a balanced and healthy life, is sovereign and sacred and defined by you. A residual sense of shame from social structures put in place to avoid this topic still dominate our social psyche. Government and big business dictate the platforms and places we can consume this information, creating the narrative we’re digesting on this topic today.
It’s not good enough in 2023.
Our collective wellbeing and choices are being compromised for commerce and broad sweeping regulations grandfathered in, year after year, while the optics of creating change and impact don’t appear to define a future of collaboration or progress. If change is going to occur, it must happen from us: everyday Canadians. If we settle for less, we’ll continue to get it.
In 2020, I spent a lot of time alone. Covid19 restrictions created isolation, depression and too much time to think. As a single mom in my 40’s it was more than I could handle. I had spent nearly 20 years of my life creating health and wellness programming for lululemon at that point. My job as Director, Community was North America-wide in scope. I believed it provided me plenty of knowledge and experience learning what living a healthy lifestyle meant, but when lock down occurred, every bit of my sense of wellness was lost. The time isolated from others made me question what wellness was. It was being redefined. It was uncomfortable and I was very unhappy throughout this period. In hindsight, I’m grateful I had the opportunity to reinvent a new, healthier way forward for myself, but from time to time, I wonder how my life might have unfolded differently had I formed a healthier and more confident understanding and connection to my body at an earlier time.
I co-founded The 8850 Co. in 2021, an e-commerce platform, to create transparency in the unregulated global “Adult Novelty” industry where the nonexistence of regulations allows manufacturers to develop female and male-centric sex toy products without any restrictions on reporting of materials or chemicals used. Because these products are meant to go in and on our bodies; they should be safe and ethical and create as little impact to our bodies as they do to our planet. That’s why The 8850 Co. created the sexdex – to provide transparency on the topics of quality, safety and performance in an industry where most push cheap, fast, and discreet. Cheap does come with a price, albeit not readily available on the hang tag for consumers. The 8850 Co is a HEALTH company first; we sell sex toys as an extension of this philosophy.
What I didn’t know at the time I set out to launch The 8850 Co. is that retailers aren’t currently allowed to advertise sex toys online. Google restricts this type of advertising content as ‘inappropriate’ and in its policy, treats all sexual content available as one. It does not differentiate between sexual wellness based in education, from content solely focused on “drawing attention to …strip clubs, sexually suggestive live chats, and models in sexualized poses.”
In September 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that, “Countries with good STI surveillance such as the United States and Canada have reported an increase in at least 3 STIs: syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.” These STI strains are growing at a rate so rapid that contemporary treatments are becoming quickly obsolete.
When it comes to health, big business should never dictate what we can and can’t have access to, and our government is responsible to protect that freedom by removing boundaries restricting its citizens from access to good, quality information that may enhance and improve our collective, overall sense of wellbeing. That’s why I wrote a petition to challenge Google Canada’s advertising restrictions, preventing Canadians from having wide visibility into safer sex products available today.
Change is needed now: change in the way we view sexual health, change in how we view sex toy retailers, change in how we consume information on the topic of sex online. (Did you know if you Google porn sites, the platform will rank best sites or most popular porn stars or even provide you with direct links to pornography, but retailers providing safer sex options are strictly prohibited from advertising).
We want to boil the ocean in Canada! Our goal is to create change for everyone – all retailers in this space across the country. We want all Canadians to have access to safer options and better information. We hope other Canadians agree and want to see change with greater accessibility to source these health products.
You can support the movement to better health here: https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-4344
Last modified: March 21, 2023