Health Women Who Lead

Bren Gauthier Co-Founder of The Lake, is Helping Women Practise Self Care Through Pleasure

The Lake

Women’s health and sexual pleasure don’t often find themselves in the same sentence. Although they should. Research has shown on many accounts that forms of female pleasure decrease stress, increase endorphins and boost body positivity. Despite all of that, it remains taboo and stigmatized. Bren and Philippe Gauthier are remodelling this standard, encouraging womxn to define what self care and pleasure means to them with The Lake.  

It began with the simple observation that the model and process of selling adult products had not changed in decades. Hyper-sexualized shopping experiences and drab store displays played on old ideals around sexual practices. 

Five years ago, critical questioning inspired them to conceive their own solution through entrepreneurship. “ It just seemed that given that many of the products being sold in these stores were meant to bring women pleasure, that the shopping experience ought to be pleasurable too,” says Bren Gauthier.

Photo credited to Arden Wray for the Lake

The Lake, Bren Gauthier says, is about changing the environment in which people discover pleasure products. Making it welcoming to any member of the family from your mom to your grandma. In emphasizing self care and health over the act of sex, The Lake is rebuilding the rhetoric around personal pleasure product lines. The Lake’s full line of products are sold online side by side with self care and lifestyle products.

By doing this we opened the space to people who may have wanted to buy a pleasure product but not felt comfortable going into a sexually charged shopping environment,” says Gauthier, “We hoped that by introducing customers to our B.E.D. (Body Exploration Device) section in this way could plant the seed that pleasure is part of an overall approach to wellbeing” 

Steadily experts and accompanying sexual wellness brands have been working to normalize pleasure practices. This mission and mandate is what Gauthier says has been paramount in their approach since The Lake’s inception. “There are several female-founded companies designing gorgeous pleasure products and pushing boundaries in terms of education, advertising, and awareness around these topics and these are the brands we want to carry.” says Gauthier.

Photo credited to Arden Wray for the Lake

For Bren and Philippe Gauthier it’s simple. Meet people where they are and help them to cultivate positive sexual health practices without judgment.  As a way of combating the miseducation The Lake is dedicated to normalizing the process. “We are trying to take away the barriers to discovering pleasure products by offering them in a softer and more subtle environment,” says Gauthier.

For this week’s Women Who Lead Spotlight, we chatted with Bren Gauthier about the gaps in the sexual wellness industry, and using change of language as a mode of changing minds.

Q & A

What do you believe is missing most in the pleasure product industry, specifically through the experience of a woman?

What is missing in our view is a comfortable space to discover pleasure products at your own pace. The Lake is a lifestyle brand curated around pleasure rituals, not just about sexual wellness. Creating moments for yourself throughout your week to experience pleasure, be it through a special bath and body ritual like using a gua sha stone with your favourite face oil, or putting on a luxurious and comfy robe while you sip your morning tea or these days spending a digital-device free night with a glass of wine and a cool jigsaw puzzle – these moments are meant to recharge you, replenish you and relieve some of the stresses that pile on. Pleasure products can be part of these rituals to reduce stress and flood your body with feel-good hormones. 

What fundamental idea did you want to be at the core of The Lake and how have you ensured that this idea has been perpetuated throughout?  

At the core The Lake is about finding ways to connect with yourself through pleasure, in its countless forms. What brings you pleasure isn’t necessarily the same thing that brings me pleasure and so we are allowing our product offering to evolve to include a perhaps unexpected range of categories all with the common thread of being part of a ‘mindful pleasure practice’. Embroidery and cross-stich kits, comfy bralettes and undies and this summer we will be carrying a very chic adult-sized pool inflatable.    

‘Mindful Pleasure Practice’ is a phrase that The Lake has used as an alternative to wording typically used in the ‘sex toy’ industry. What defines mindful please practices, and how has changing the wording helped in reducing stigma and misunderstanding in this industry? 

Language sets a tone. The words we use carry a lot of weight and in some cases can bring up trauma, discomfort, shame, or other negative experiences. The Lake uses the phrase ‘mindful pleasure practice’ as a way of reframing what it is you are doing when you give yourself a moment to be present and savour something that brings you pleasure. We use the term B.E.D. (Body Exploration Device) because the term ‘toy’ conjures up ideas of play, frivolity and to me feels like it is infantilizing our relationship with our sensual selves. Of course there is room for fun and enjoyment when it comes to our bodies, but we are offering another way to look at a pleasure product – it can be a tool to deepen self-intimacy, improve wellbeing and explore what feels good to you. 

Photo credited to Arden Wray for the Lake

How has your company worked to disrupt and rebuild the shopping experience of women who are looking for pleasure products? 

I sometimes forget that what we are doing is disruptive. But then we try to advertise on Google or Instagram or when tried to buy insurance, it all comes back into focus. There are structures in place that block our ability to get our message out to our community in the same way as other types of retail. The pleasure product industry has largely had to keep to itself by creating its own ecosystem, tradeshows and self-financing because the subject matter is viewed as taboo and immoral. It has a lot of similarities to the cannabis industry in that sense. With The Lake we are basically just acting like what we are doing is normal and this is how we will change the experience for women. By placing pleasure in the same category as wellness and leisure, by being imaginative with the language we use and imagery we promote, we are creating a welcoming place to shop and as a by-product we are starting to find ways to circumvent the structural obstacles that otherwise would have blocked our community from discovering us.  

Currently your company is operated online, are there plans to branch out? If so, how will the vetting process of which stores or retailers you allow your product to be sold in be managed? 

The Lake started out online as we believed this would be the most efficient place to test out the concept. We launched at the end of September 2019 and are just fortunate that we are not in the incredibly difficult spot that brick and mortar retailers find themselves amidst the pandemic. Once the world finds its way out of this crisis to a new normal for retail, we do envision opening experiential retail spaces. We are currently a multi-brand retailer, though the plan is to start developing our own in-house lines which we would not be looking to sell via other retailers in the short-term.

Photo credited to Arden Wray for the Lake
Photo credited to Arden Wray for the Lake

How do you define your success? 

Success is being able to build something that I am passionate about and that I hope will have a positive effect on the way people treat themselves. 

What impact do you want to have on fellow women, and women who are striving to lead in their field? 

The impact I hope to have is reminding those who are striving to lead, which is a phrase that in itself implies perpetual motion and considerable exertion to achieve a goal, is that we deserve moments along the way to take a pause, to be present and to experience some relief.    

What piece of advice would you give all women in business. 

Make time to check in and connect with yourself regularly.