WCG founding CEO, Saundra Pelletier, and activist and actress, Jessica Biel, share the inspiration behind their new collaboration and the importance of sex positivity.
What is the TRYST Network?
Saundra Pelletier: This is a judgment-free, shame-free community. Women and their partners can join us to find answers to their most pressing questions about sex, bodies and relationships. In addition to original videos and blog posts, we’ll be curating the best resources for sexual health information, highlighting new research, breakthroughs and leaders in the field.
Jessica Biel: The word TRYST means “a meeting place between lovers” and that’s what we hope to create—a safe meeting place for our community to share experiences, gather information and increase their sexual IQ. We don’t think we have all the answers. But we’d like to be the place you come to and then we can say, “Oh, you’re interested in that? Check out this website. Check out this author. Look at this book or this article.” There are empowering, body-positive sources out there, but they aren’t always easy to find and we want to make them more visible.
Why did you create TRYST?
Jessica: When I thought about getting pregnant, I realized I didn’t know how my body worked—like the intricacies of my menstrual cycle—in a meaningful way. When I tried talking to friends, they didn’t know either. I thought, how is this possible? We’re well educated, thirty-something adults—how do we not know these things? And it’s hard in our society to be honest about what you don’t know. You feel guilt and shame and don’t want to admit you don’t know these things. I want Tryst to change all that.
Saundra: My entire career has been focused on sexual and reproductive health and what continues to shock me is that the statistics aren’t getting better. Right now in the U.S., sexually transmitted infections are at record highs and half of all pregnancies are still unplanned. There’s clearly a need for sexual health information that isn’t being met and I want to provide that with something that’s fun and provocative, but still educational. I also want to help people embrace the idea of becoming what we call an Educated Sexual Being, or ESB.
What does it mean to be an Educated Sexual Being (ESB)?
Saundra: Being an Educated Sexual Being is about increasing your sexual IQ through accurate, sex positive information. And it’s a lifelong pursuit of learning and experimentation because our needs and desires change throughout our lives. It’s also recognizing that every body is different. Not all vaginas are the same. Not all orgasms are the same. Connection and how you feel emotionally, physically and sexually are all very individual. And that’s okay! Having open conversations and access to trustworthy resources can turn uninformed decisions into powerful informed choices no matter what stage of life you’re in.
Jessica: We know people will laugh and joke with it and that’s great. We’re not trying to take ourselves too seriously. Sex should be positive and fun. We just want to encourage people to see the value in being more than book smart. To see that it’s important to be really smart about your own body. Knowing your needs and desires—and being able to communicate what those things are—matters.
Why focus on anatomy, self-exploration and pleasure?
Jessica: Understanding how your body works and what feels good is the foundation of our sexual health yet people rarely talk about these things. Sure, we joke about masturbation, but no one discusses it in a real way—and they should. It’s an amazing way to safely explore your sexuality. If you skip the masturbation part, not only are you missing out on a lot of pleasure—which is a total bummer—you’re missing out on a crucial educational step. It also forces you to really look at yourself and that can be hard for a lot of women. We’re kind of afraid to look at our vaginas. We’re worried they’re weird looking. We aren’t sure we even want to know what’s going on down there. But it’s important so you can participate in healthy self-care.
Saundra: Exactly. How will you ever know if something is normal, abnormal or different if you don’t have a benchmark to start with? We also want people to know that there is nothing wrong with pleasing yourself. Masturbation is normal, for everyone. And knowing what you like and what you want creates this incredible confidence. That confidence then enables us to communicate better with our partners so we can have healthier, more equitable and satisfying romantic relationships.
What’s the best—or worst—sex advice you’ve ever received?
Jessica: The best advice I got that I didn’t listen to: Don’t do it in the hot tub. It doesn’t feel good. Stay out of the water! Try the shower maybe? Nothing submerged. Not good. Don’t do it in the ocean, bad idea. I didn’t listen. Now I know!
Saundra: The best advice I got was actually from my mom and that was to be open-minded. She said, “You’ll never know what you like—or don’t like—until you test things out, so, as long as you’re being safe, don’t be afraid to experiment and see what’s out there.” It’s also how I discovered the pitfalls of using food in foreplay. Honey in your hair is a nightmare! Stay away from anything sticky.
What do you hope the TRYST Network will achieve?
Saundra: We want to help women and their partners find reliable resources and information that enables them to make more empowered, informed choices when it comes to sex and their bodies. Our hope is that through our willingness to be wide open and a bit provocative, Tryst can help disrupt the notion that these topics are taboo or too embarrassing to talk about.
Jessica: We want people to know that NO topic is off limits or shameful, and that no question is a bad question when it comes to seeking the answers you need to make an informed decision about sex and your body.