Shaking off the stigma of sex

THE founders of Lauvette, Manuel Schuster and Renz Rollorata. / PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF LAUVETTE

The discomfort of talking about sex, its merits, natural occurrence, joys, pains and just about everything about it drove a Filipina woman to put up a website where everyone can speak about it and moreover learn more about safety and health.

Renz Rollorata is an empowered Pinay, a graduate of a top university aiming to erase the stigma surrounding sex. She found an unlikely ally —- a man from the opposite side of the world, Manuel Schuster. She and Schuster met at an online dating site and found that they could be partners in something they both believe in.

In 2019, the two co-founded, an online shop that sells adult toys and features educational materials through its Lauv blog, which is updated daily. Driven by Renz’s personal advocacy of helping spread awareness on sex education after a friend died of HIV, and boosted by Manuel’s background of having worked with the biggest sex toy retail store in Switzerland, Lauvette (a play on the phrase “Love it”) is slowly gaining ground in the Philippines.

Renz and Manuel talked to Daily Tribune in one of the episodes of its Thursday digital show, Spotlight. Watch their interview on the Facebook page of Daily Tribune or YouTube channel, TribuneNow.

Below are excerpts of the separate email interview conducted by Daily Tribune with Rollorata.

Daily Tribune (DT): It is curious to know that a man and a woman, a Pinay, are the co-founders of Lauvette. How did you guys meet and why did you decide to put up this site?

Renz Rollorata (RR): A woman and a man establishing a sex toy shop is, in my opinion, very ideal. We have the perspectives of both sexes. More importantly, who else is better to lead an advocacy-driven sex toy shop but a Filipina who personally is subjected to the shame and stigma surrounding a woman’s pleasure and body? Manuel was working for the biggest sex toy retail store in Switzerland where the sex toy industry is very open and popular. There is no stigma and you see sex toy shops next to clothing stores and groceries. Sex toy shops also have commercials and billboards like any other company.

The Philippines is the opposite of that. The continued stigmatization of said industry is principally caused by the lack of initiative to revolutionize the business and the failure to see the bigger picture, which includes the celebration of sexual expression. Lauvette aims to be the game-changer that the Philippine sex toy industry needs.

DT: Lauvette was founded in 2019 with the idea of viewing sex not as a taboo topic but a normal and regular part of human behavior. Has this helped change the perception of sex as a topic that should not be talked about openly?

RR: As we’ve observed in our social media channels, we’re pleased to see that Filipinos are getting more open in regards to sex. More and more people are reading our educational guides since they have extra time due to the pandemic. Our goal is to normalize the use of sex toys and break the stigma around it so we’re glad to see this progress, albeit small. However, we still have a long way to go.

DT: How has Lauvette been doing in this pandemic?

RR: We heavily rely on couriers for our deliveries nationwide. As you may know, the movement of goods was very limited in the beginning of the quarantine so that caused delays in our deliveries. But for several months now, we’re back to efficiently delivering orders on time.

We are also happy to have had the chance to talk about Lauvette and our advocacies through webinars and interviews. As to sales, we experienced a huge increase. Since it’s risky to go out on dates, people are simply looking for a trusted sex toy shop in the Philippines to satisfy their sexual urges without leaving their homes.

DT: What did you notice about the behavior of those who visit your site? Are they browsing or buying? What’s the most popular toy/item in your catalogue right now?

RR: Most of our customers are first-timers, so they usually inquire first about the sex toys they’re planning to buy. We also have many repeat customers who have good first experience with Lauvette and would want to explore other toys.

As for the most popular sex toy in the catalogue, vibrators are definitely taking the top spot. Most women are now discovering how pleasurable the clitoral orgasm can be, so toys that are meant for clitoral stimulation are getting more traction. Mini vibrators are also popular since they don’t look like sex toys, as compared to dildos and other types of vibrators. For example, our Ducky Vibrator may look like a cord holder at first glance.

THE founders of Lauvette, Manuel Schuster and Renz Rollorata. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF LAUVETTE

DT: What is the demographic of your regular customers or site visitors?

RR: Eighty percent of our clientele is made up of women, so we ensure the best end-to-end customer experience. We want them to feel safe when ordering, especially as there’s a stigma surrounding love toys in the country.

DT: How would you like people to perceive Lauvette?

RR: Our website is designed to have a fun and welcoming theme for our visitors. Everyone is welcome regardless of age, body type, gender and sexuality. We also strive to continue to add value to our customers; that’s why we created our blog called the LauvBlog where we publish educational articles on a daily basis. Lauvette is a safe space for Filipinos to learn about sexual health and wellness. We also make sure to have excellent customer service since this is very important to build trust.

DT: What were your views on sex when you were growing up? At what point did it change and what made you see it in a different light?

RR: I didn’t necessarily think of the topic as taboo but I am aware that I don’t know much about my sexual health because you just can’t really learn that in school. I started actively advocating safe sex and the importance of sexual health when someone I personally know died because of HIV. I believe that this was greatly caused by lack of education and difficulty in accessing medication and support. It became one of my personal missions to join in efforts in fighting HIV/AIDS and removing the stigma around it.

Lauvette is a proud partner of Love Yourself Inc. We take an active part in campaigns such as the annual National HIV Prevention Month and Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial.

DT: Your website is actually pleasing and it’s not the in-your-face type adult/sex-oriented site. The graphics are cute and colorful plus you have informative blogs. Are these conscious efforts to differentiate your brand from the usual and similarly themed sites?

RR: One of the taglines in our shop is, “We are an online love toy shop you don’t have to hide from your friends.” So, yes, our brand aims to make the website as SFW (safe-for-work) as possible.

We also want to steer away from the overly sexual images since those visuals can be very intimidating to first-timers. Our illustrations show individuals who are of different body type, age, skin color and appearance in order to express that everyone is welcome in Lauvette.

The challenge for customers is to find a shop they can trust — and that’s what Lauvette is. There are a lot of

first-timers coming to our shop so it is important for us that our content raises awareness about sex toys that will suit the preferences and needs of different individuals.

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