The Times They Are a Changin'

Did you ever find yourself having a moment and the lyrics to a song pop into your head, capturing the very feelings you are feeling? That has happened to me many times in both my personal and professional life. For instance, as my business partner and I were building a language and a customer base for our female sexual health product that improved arousal, desire and satisfaction, I kept hearing Kermit the Frog's melancholy ballad on a continuous loop.

It's not easy being green.
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.
And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water- or stars in the sky.

Kermit, I feel your pain. I can only imagine how hard it is being a frog, but it sure was and sometimes still is hard to be a VAGIPRENEUR (SM). Any one in this space has faced big hurdles at every turn to get the word out regarding options for female satisfaction - even clinically-proven ones. Cable stations, radio stations, websites, celebrities, reality TV shows - no one wanted to talk about female satisfaction.

Just 3 years, the cover story of the New York Times Magazine was called, Unexcited? There May Be a Pill for That. The article spoke about a range of developments for female satisfaction. And here's the part where I felt like Kermit. According to the author, a noted expert in the field, more than one adviser to the industry told me that companies worried about the prospect that their study results would be too strong, that the F.D.A. would reject an application out of concern that a chemical would lead to female excesses, crazed binges of infidelity, societal splintering. Seriously, industry doesn't want these products to work because women who have options for satisfaction might be roaming the streets in heat? I don't recall hearing those same concerns over the last 18 years about the societal dangers of men wielding four-hour erections in the streets.

And just a couple of years ago, our company was excited about a potential big break. We were going to be in the gift bags (you know those celebrity giveaways for people who already have tons of stuff) at a major awards show. We felt as if we had arrived -- national coverage, our products in the hands of celebrities, paparazzi -- the whole nine yards. BUT, in the final moments, the powers that be decided that our product was inappropriate and might make people uncomfortable. Final ruling -- no dice on the gift bag. Cue Kermit in the background.

But alas I don't feel dejected. I am feeling a little more hopeful every day, every month, every year. I am starting to hear Kermit in much lower volume and hearing Bob Dylan's voice pick up steam.

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown

Your old road is rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'

So what has caused this change -- evidence that times are really changin'? This past February, the airwaves were on fire over the controversy of the inclusion of a device to enhance physical arousal and increase interest in sex in the Oscar gift bags -- the gift bag of all gift bags for the awards show of all awards show. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the ones who give out those golden statuettes) went nuts saying that this product and some others were giving Oscars a bad name. BUT friends following at home, this time no one got cold feet. Sure, people screamed and yelled and objected, but the product stayed in the bag - and I am sure that many of the recipients were happy with their gift (whether they won an award or not).

Just a few weeks ago, the same media organization that ran the article expressing concern over sex-crazed binges published an article on the front page of its Sunday Review section. The New York Times headline read The Tampon of the Future. Imagine my delight that the article covered a lot of ground about exciting developments in female health, the growing importance of female networks for product development and the possibilities of this new technology.

Menstrual flow contains more than just blood; it is also rich with cells shed by the ovaries and uterus. Those cells, paired with genomics tools, might open up a window on women's bodies and give early warning of cancer and reproductive diseases.

Well look at that - the world didn't grind to a halt with the mention of the benefits of menstrual flow in the Times. I also particularly liked the reference from Eric von Hippel, an innovation expert at MIT. What we find is that functionally novel innovations -- those for which a market is not yet defined -- tend to come from users. The reason users are so inventive is twofold. One is that they know the needs firsthand. The other is that they have skin in the game. I think that is Eric von Hippel's way of saying, You Go, Girl!

Who knows, pretty soon, maybe people won't squirm when they hear the word vagina, and we might even hear it online, on TV, all over. So I am going to hang in there as a VAGIPRENEUR (SM) - watching and participating in these changin' times.