Therefore, she decided to make them herself.
That Sassy Thing is changing the way India talks about self-pleasure.
The sexual wellness brand was founded by Sachee Malhotra in January 2021 and it came after she realised how “cis-men centric” the Indian sexual pleasure industry was, both in terms of the products sent to market and the way they’re sold.
Tej was once a customer and now manages the brand’s communications.
Tej recalled what it was like buying sex toys online in the past:
“Stores were pitching sex toys as these debauched, lascivious products.
“I remember one of the platforms even had a separate LGBTQIA section, which was the weirdest thing for me as someone from the community.”
Even today, most Indian adult websites seem to maintain harmful stereotypes about sex, while focused on recreating what is portrayed in mainstream porn – performative, extreme and largely heteronormative.
Adult sex costumes and all-black sex toys are heavily pushed but they can be intimidating for anyone still discovering their own bodies or desires.
As a result, Sachee believes self-pleasure remains shrouded in embarrassment for large parts of India.
Sex is almost entirely seen as a means of procreation.
For men, pre-marital sex is generally deemed acceptable. However, women often face harassment and judgement.
Sachee told The Independent:
“Let’s zoom out a little bit so I can try to paint what the pleasure picture looks like for women in our country.
“Think about what society expects from women: sacrifice in all aspects of their lives. Period.”
She also said there is also a notion that a wife’s pleasure is less important than “keeping your husband happy”.
“[So] there is no compass for what pleasure means to us. We’re always taught to compromise and put others’ needs before our own.
“What’s so threatening about the idea of us indulging in our own pleasure and loving it?”
Sachee previously worked with both American and Indian sexual wellness companies and she found that most products were aimed at pleasing men only.
She said: “As I questioned these skewed narratives and representations, I became super interested in the space from both a product and cultural standpoint.”
As a child, Sachee was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which causes delayed periods and excessive hair growth.
Another side effect is vaginal dryness. This often leads to painful sex.
Sachee said: “I went to look for products that were safe and good for my body, but I couldn’t find any in the market back then.”
Therefore, she decided to make them herself.
That Sassy Thing’s earliest products were not sex toys. Instead, Sachee began with pubic hair oil and a pain relief roll-on.
But the ‘DTF’ lube (Down to F***) is the brand’s signature lube and remains one of the brand’s most popular products.
Tej is a fan of the ‘DTF’ lube, saying:
“What really made the difference for me was the lube.
“It completely changed my perspective and I even gifted it to a lot of my friends.”
That Sassy Thing also opened Anuja’s eyes, who now also works with Sachee.
Anuja said: “I’ve tried for so long to find answers and resolve the [sexual] traumas I’ve endured and the struggles I’ve had.
“Just so that I can put it into words and pay it forward; to help others who are also struggling with the same doubts, insecurities and questions.”
That Sassy Thing currently reaches more than 21,000 people.
According to Sachee, 80% of people with vulvas are unable to orgasm through penetration alone and this is the reason why manual stimulators need to exist.
Sachee stated: “A patriarchal narrative and societal conditioning have led women to associate their pleasure solely with their partners.
“They haven’t even considered the idea that they could be responsible for their own pleasure.”
But Sachee admitted that it has not always been easy.
“Surmounting the shame and judgement – including internalised feelings about our bodies – is the biggest challenge we face.
“For example, as young menstruators, we’re raised to hide our sanitary pads or period products in black garbage bags. Or use euphemisms for our periods such as ‘chums’.
“There’s hardly any comprehensive period and sex education in Indian schools, either. [We’re] still raising a generation of young people unaware about their bodies, and shy or afraid to talk about things.”
This is partially the reason why the brand has also moved into video, offering expert-led resources to educate viewers on combatting stereotypes and myths about gender, allyship, intercourse and self-pleasure.
The videos have been very successful so far.
Sachee said that initially, she did not know if That Sassy Thing would take off, or if people would be willing to speak openly about their sexualities with others.
Instead, customers have purchased products for family members and friends.
Sachee hopes her brand will help unleash a new wave of sexual honesty and care across India.
She added: “I think it’s been our responsibility to lead these conversations but then pass the baton, inspiring others to speak up, too.”