This Online Shop Wants To Revolutionize Your Sex-Toy Shopping Experience

Photo: Courtesy of Unbound.
Polly Rodriguez first went to buy a vibrator after radiation treatment for colon cancer left her menopausal at the age of 21. It was one of the worst experiences of her life. "I drove out to the side of the highway — which was the only place that sold them at the time, being from St. Louis — and the experience was awful," she tells Refinery29. "I walked in, and there were just a bunch of older men looking at magazines, and pink phallic products everywhere. So I turned around and walked right back out." That experience, she says, led her to seek out a better sex-toy shopping experience for women. When she didn't find one that fit her needs, she decided to open her own shop. "I always knew that I wanted to start a company that was very female-centric and focused on empowerment, but also on changing customer experiences that were really terrible for women," she tells us. Thus was the impetus for Unbound, an online sex-toy shop (of which Rodriguez is CEO and cofounder) that caters to individual needs, as well as women's sexual health. We recently got the chance to sit down with Rodriguez to chat about what sets Unbound apart from other sex-toy shops, and how she's hoping to empower women in their sexuality. Unbound's style and branding is so fun and tongue-in-cheek. What was the inspiration behind that?
"For me, personally, I’m a very dry and sarcastic person, and sexuality is often put in this very dark, sultry box 99% of the time, where it’s some woman in high heels with black lingerie and a full face of makeup. For us, it was taking that down off of that weird dark pedestal and making it more relatable. "So we really tried to highlight female sexual wellness in the same way that a health and beauty brand would, versus the way a very high end lingerie brand would. We were always focused on being relatable, as opposed to being this unattainable vision of what a sexual woman is."
You’ve mentioned going through menopause at 21. Are any of the products on Unbound catered to women who may also be going through the same struggle?
"Yeah, we have a subscription box, which is quarterly, but we also have one-off boxes that we’ve curated and put on the site. "You can buy those individually, and we have a Menopause Box and a Period Box. We really try to bundle these products in a way so that they’re thematic and driven by a life event, whether that’s based on a thematic event like menopause, or you went through a breakup and you want to buy yourself something — there’s the Rebound Box. So there are a lot of fun themes we focus on."
I love that there are so many specific sections on the site for people based on what they need. What was the thinking behind those distinct sections, and how important was it for you to find a range of toys for diverse experiences?
"Early on we struggled with this, to be honest, because we were like, is a gag ball offensive? Are we in a position to judge what is or what isn't offensive, and where do we draw the line? "I think, early on, we decided that so long as we presented the products in a way that our female shoppers were allowed to make that decision for themselves, who are we to judge what someone might be interested in? "We wanted to emphasize a culture of consent, communication, sexual liberation, and choice; and we wanted to make sure we had a full offering of whatever you’re interested in, and you can buy it without feeling embarrassed or shamed." What do you think makes Unbound different from other sex-toy shops?
"I used to be kind of shy when it comes to buying sex toys, and sexuality can be a hard thing, and the woman who wants to try these products might be nervous about going into a store. "So we wanted to make sure that there’s some place where she can go online and buy these. And we also wanted to be focused on content, as well. "After doing this for two years, we’ve built a relationship with people in the industry. Everyone turns to the internet to google questions they’re too embarrassed to ask out loud, so we wanted a central source of truth that was backed by medically and factually accurate information. "We wanted to be really pragmatic and allow people to find information and find the product that they need, to actually try it out and in a way that doesn’t make them feel embarrassed."
What are some tips you would give to a someone shopping for sex toys?
"For those who are intimidated by shopping in-person, buying online is a great alternative where you can take time to peruse the items you're interested in, pick the one that's right for you, and get it discreetly shipped to your door. "If you're going for a solo product, the first question you have to ask your self is if you want something that vibrates or not. If not, you can select from a great array of dildos. If you do, take some time to think about your body and whether you'd prefer vibration externally, internally or both. If you're not sure, I'd suggest starting with an external vibe that focuses on the clitoris — as for most women, that's where heightened arousal via nerve endings takes place. "If you want to buy a product that you can use with your significant other, I'd suggest having a convo about it first. Frame it as a question to make sure they feel included as part of the decision-making process. We have a whole section dedicated to couples on our site, and the possibilities are endless. Whether you're looking to try BDSM for the first time or getting a couple's vibrator, half the fun is deciding together."

What are some things shoppers should ask about or be aware of?
"There are a couple of questions to think about personally and/or with a sales associate when shopping for your new vibes: solo, couples, or both? Some vibrators are specifically engineered to be worn during sex, so make sure you ask if the vibe is intended to be used solo or worn during sex. "Is it battery operated or rechargeable? I'd recommend rechargeable, because there's nothing worse than a vibe dying on you, and realizing you've already stolen the batteries from the remote from last time. Also, noise level. Do you live with roommates or family? Getting a vibe that is quiet can make 'me time' a lot more enjoyable. Both the Minna Limon and Crave Vesper are super quiet.
"Waterproof or nah? Some toys are fine to use in the shower, others not-so-much. The item should have details on the packaging or in the description that will let you know. Body safe? Make sure the product is paraben-free and body safe. Silicone should be medical-grade, not food-grade, and make sure you check the ingredients or ask the sales staff if you aren't sure. And if you're planning to use lubricant with your new vibe or dil, make sure you use a water- and/or oil-based lubricant, and not a silicone-based lubricant, as it will erode the toy."

Do you have any favorite sex toys you recommend for beginners?
"My all-time favorite is the Minna Limon. For couples, the We-Vibe 4 and Sync are cult faves. If you're looking for something simple that won't break the bank, the Iroha Mini is only $25, and she'll do you right."

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

More from Sex & Relationships

R29 Original Series