In the winter of 2018, Emily Sauer fearlessly went out on a limb to create Ohnut—the first intimate health wearable for painful sex that allows its users to adjust the depth of penetration. Little did she know her soft and stretchy wearable would change the lives of millions (including mine).
Dyspareunia (painful intercourse) causes a deep stabbing, cramping, or shooting pain straight into the vaginal canal or pelvic area during or after sex. Unfortunately, there are more than a few reasons as to why you may feel this deep, dreadful pelvic pain, including endometriosis, adenomyosis, pelvic floor dysfunction, interstitial cystitis (bladder pain syndrome), uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine prolapse, scar tissue or pelvic adhesions, cysts, polycystic ovarian syndrome, stress, or trauma, among other conditions.
In addition to creating this cozy wearable, Sauer also co-founded the Lady Bits League, a monthly conversation in which empowering women come together in hopes of creating a deeper understanding of how sexual identity informs our lives.
COOLS: How did you come up with the Ohnut and its design?
Emily Sauer: “People are always hesitant to ask me why I created Ohnut. Because I needed it! I had zero background in product development, pelvic health, or business—but I knew the challenge really well. For me, doctors dismissed my concerns for over 10 years… when finally the physical discomfort from sex, made me feel like a failure. To myself and my partner. So when I hacked a prototype at home to customize penetration depth for comfort, I experienced not only physical relief but an emotional upheaval. I finally realized that it wasn’t my fault.”
“While the design didn’t quite start this way, Ohnut is now the first wearable that allows couples to customize penetration depth. Each set comes with four soft and stretchy rings that stack around the base of a penetrating partner (ex. shaft or toy). During penetration, it compresses down, like a buffer! Rings can be added or removed at any time during any position.”
“With regards to R&D, I like to call the first eight months of product development not-so-rapid prototyping. With zero background in engineering, I frequented a local art store that supplied me with at-home silicone kits and advice. Those early designs were not pretty! They leapt from donut-shaped, to football-shaped (yikes!), to beautifully tear dropped, to modular. Yet even with early clunky prototypes, the user feedback was intensely emotional. The unmet need was real, and Ohnut was changing the way that couples feel connected to themselves and their relationship – during sex.”
COOLS: Where did the name come from?
ES: “Well, at a time when my self-esteem and relationship plummeted, I had to do something. I thought, if deep penetration makes me feel like a failure, then if penetration goes less deep, maybe I won’t feel so disappointing. The logical idea: a pink frosted donut to customize penetration depth! Obviously.”
COOLS: When did this idea come to life?
ES: “We started shipping in November 2018. A lot has happened in half a year… To be totally honest, I had no background in pelvic health, but the response to Ohnut was so positive that I began interviewing all kinds of pelvic specialists during early prototyping. I also started attending medical conferences to better understand the clinical landscape, and before I knew it, board members from each association became part of our scientific advisory board. Their current toolkit is often invasive, expensive, or just plain daunting, and they truly know how limited solution options are.”
“So even during the early days, the feedback calls were both heartbreaking and hopeful because people felt supported, even liberated, after years of being ashamed. It was a network effect. Doctors were referring their patients to me and their patients referred me to their friends, and pretty soon I couldn’t make enough prototypes for all of the people who wanted to test Ohnut.”
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There’s nothing we love more than a CBD & Ohnut combo! @thesivapatch is a fave of ours, formulated from hemp-derived CBD and has anti-inflammation, mood-boosting and muscle-relaxing properties all of which can help with decreasing discomfort! Have you experimented with CBD & Ohnut together? Let us know your thoughts! 🌿
COOLS: What exactly are the rings made out of? (Where are they manufactured?)
ES: “Lubrication is essential to the Ohnut experience (do not attempt use without it!). Since Ohnut is made from an FDA-approved family of polymers, it is compatible with both silicone-based and water-based lubrication.”
COOLS: What are a few of the most common reasons why people might be feeling pelvic pain during or after sex?
ES: “Ohnut generally helps with deep dyspareunia (deep pain during penetration) versus primary dyspareunia (pain upon entry). With endometriosis specifically, collision with the rear wall of the vagina during sex can put tension on pelvic adhesions or scar tissue from surgery.”
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“I had my 2nd surgery for Endometriosis this past December. I won't go into my whole sob story as its one you know all too well, but I will say that my husband and I have been actively trying to conceive for a year and a half (taking a break of course while I healed). Over time sex has become so painful to me that I would dread it, making the already stressful experience of trying to have a baby one that I officially loath. The first night that we had sex with the Ohnut (literally the same night I bought it, couldn't wait to try it out!) I practically cried afterwards because it was the most I've enjoyed sex in a realllllllly long time. A huge weight has been lifted from our lives and I can not thank you enough for creating such a magical and needed product.” — A Real Life Ohnut User 💫 #OhnutConfessionals 🎬 @noxshop
COOLS: There’s a section on your site where shoppers can sell the Ohnut themselves—how does this work? Is it like an ambassador program?
ES: “Yes! (Thank you for asking!) We have a referral program for anyone who wants to share Ohnut with their audience. For clinicians, we also have Ohnut available to stock in office because there’s nothing quite like feeling how soft and stretchy Ohnut is in person!”
COOLS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Emily Sauer: “Because of shame, a massive population has been silenced by a completely shared experience, which is why it’s our goal to create products that are simple to use, easy to talk about, and can help a range of challenges.
After all, when is sex not complicated? It can make or break our self-esteem if something isn’t easy, doesn’t feel good, or goes wrong. Ohnut is a reminder that each of us is still very capable and deserving, of human connection. After all, sex is never just physical.”
“We value an interdisciplinary approach, early intervention, and patient advocacy—and we hope above all, to encourage couples to connect with their bodies and each other.”