SHIFT HAPPENS | SEASON 2 • EPISODE 2

Leeza Mangaldas: Let’s Talk About Sex

SHIFT HAPPENS is a Global Take on Women’s Turning Points and Pivotal Moments

“The culture of silence and shame around sex serves nobody”, says Leeza Mangaldas, India’s foremost pleasure content creator and entrepreneur. In this episode Leeza shares her shift from tv presenter /journalist to social media content creator focussed on sexuality education and emerging from there to the founder of pleasure brand Leezu’s. Follow Leeza’s journey of unpredictable ways into a still much stigmatized field, and how she followed her passion and sense of urgency to create a safe space to talk about sex.

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About Our Guest

Leeza Mangaldas
India’s foremost pleasure positive content creator

Leeza Mangaldas is India’s foremost pleasure positive content creator, author of The Sex Book: A Joyful Journey of Self-discovery, and founder of delightful intimacy products brand, Leezu’s. Given how shrouded in stigma sex is in India, Leeza started creating sex education content on YouTube and Instagram in 2017 with the intention to normalize conversations around sexuality, sexual health, gender, pleasure, and the body. Her videos reach millions of young people around India and the world, everyday. She launched her book in 2022 and then her brand in 2023 to provide tangible tools and resources to her community as an extension of her vision for a more sexually informed, more pleasure filled world.

Leeza is a recipient of The Pleasure Project’s Pleasure Fellowship, and was named Sexual Health Influencer of the Year at the Cosmo India Blogger Awards in 2022- the first year they introduced this category. She has also been named one of GQ’s Most Influential Young Indians in 2021 and 2022, and received a Golden Mike award for Best Podcast for The Sex Podcast, her Spotify Exclusive Hindi Sex Education Podcast in 2022.

Prior to establishing her digital platforms, Leeza presented several lifestyle, sports, and current-affairs shows on Indian television channels including ET Now and Star Sports, as well as contributed to global publications including Forbes.com, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar.

Leeza spent her childhood in Goa, went to boarding school in Kodaikanal, and then to college in New York City on a scholarship at Columbia University. She graduated magna cum laude with a BA in English and Visual Art with a focus on gender and sexuality in 2011.

You can check out Leeza’s digital Sex Ed content here:

Instagram: instagram.com/leezamangaldas
Youtube: youtube.com/leezamangaldas1
Brand: leezus.com

About Your Host

Claudia Mahler is a creative activist, with more than a decade of experience curating meaningful conversations for women in business, art and education in Europe and the United States.

She designs events for women’s empowerment that emphasize organic connection and conversation to complement existing professional development training in a variety of work environments.

She has 20+ years of experience in communications and PR in Europe and the East Coast of the United States.

Transcript

Leeza Mangaldas: Let’s talk about Sex 

00:00:09:01 – 00:00:35:02
Claudia
Hello and welcome to season two of Shift Happens. My name is Claudia Mahler with my podcast. I am creating a space for women to share a pivotal moment and turning point in their life. My husband recently had to be in India for work and at a business dinner he sat next to Leeza Mangaldas, US, who is my guest on today’s episode.

00:00:35:04 – 00:01:01:22
Claudia
Upon his return, he told me about Leeza, India’s foremost pleasure positive content creator. I was stunned. A sex educator in India. That must be such a challenging and fine line to work. I clearly wanted to hear more. How and why did she shift from a traditional career into becoming an advocate for a more sexually informed and pleasure filled world?

00:01:02:00 – 00:01:36:04
Claudia
After years in TV journalism, still a primarily male dominated work field, and given how shrouded in stigma sex and sexuality are in India, Leeza started creating educational content on YouTube and Instagram in 2017 with the intention to normalize conversations around sexuality, sexual health, gender, pleasure and the body. And today, her videos, reels and posts reach millions of people in India and around the world.

00:01:36:06 – 00:01:49:06
Claudia
Welcome. These are.

00:01:49:08 – 00:01:58:11
Claudia
So welcome back to Shift Happens. I have a very special guest today with me. Leeza Mangaldas is joining us from Goa. Hi, Leeza.

00:01:58:14 – 00:01:59:03
Leeza
Hi.

00:01:59:04 – 00:02:25:07
Claudia
So Leeza is carving out time, which is great because she’s usually very busy, educating India on sex and sexual pleasure. I think that’s such an exciting topic. And we will go into this later, of course, in more detail. Now, to start off, Leeza, I wanted to ask you a few questions. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

00:02:25:09 – 00:02:55:05
Leeza
Is there such a thing? I think that life is, every day less glamorous than it might seem outwardly, even for the most glamorous people. Right. And so when happiness provides a glimpse of itself, you must take. It is what I believe. Because most days I sort of. You’re lucky if they’re just okay. There’s also the downs. But when you experience perfect happiness, stop what you’re doing and enjoy it.

00:02:55:07 – 00:03:00:03
Claudia
Very good. What do you most value in your friends?

00:03:00:05 – 00:03:23:07
Leeza
The ability to take your mask off. Like I think we all wear a mask in daily life. You know, we pretend we’re very responsible and tidy and we love our job, and we love our parents, and we love our kids, and we’re just so good. but human beings are messy and untidy, and it can be, sometimes quite difficult to love all the things you’re supposed to love and be good.

00:03:23:09 – 00:03:40:17
Leeza
And I think my most valuable friendships are the ones where they recognize and love the imperfect being behind the mask. And I can take the mask off and not worry about being judged or, in any way undervalued because I’m not perfect.

00:03:40:19 – 00:03:43:16
Claudia
What is your most treasured possession?

00:03:43:18 – 00:03:51:21
Leeza
My most treasured possession. Well, I mean, given what I do, I’m going to say my. Okay, great.

00:03:51:23 – 00:03:55:10
Claudia
And, what is your greatest fear?

00:03:55:12 – 00:04:04:12
Leeza
Ooh. My greatest fear. I wish I didn’t fear it so much, but I definitely fear failure.

00:04:04:14 – 00:04:07:11
Claudia
Yeah, I think we all do. Big time.

00:04:07:13 – 00:04:08:18
Leeza

00:04:08:20 – 00:04:13:10
Claudia
And the last question, what would you come back as.

00:04:13:12 – 00:04:16:06
Leeza
My dog.

00:04:16:08 – 00:04:17:17
Claudia
Mouse.

00:04:17:19 – 00:04:39:21
Leeza
Oh he has a hard life right now. I mean, jokes aside, I would love to come back as an element like water or fire or wind or something. I think, that would be pretty, pretty cool where you’re such a big part of life and yet. Perhaps don’t experience life in the way that sentient beings do.

00:04:40:03 – 00:04:46:19
Claudia

00:04:46:21 – 00:05:10:22
Claudia
Now we know you a little bit better. And I would love to jump right in into your pivotal moments. And you said they really have to do with your career. And of course I’m super curious how with your background as a journalist and TV presenter, and, and media person, how you made this decision to start a platform on sexual education.

00:05:10:23 – 00:05:16:07
Claudia
What was the reaction of the family? You know, like all these questions, I’m wondering.

00:05:16:09 – 00:05:38:00
Leeza
Luckily, my family really champions my work and I never had to explain it to my family. They totally understood the value of it from the get go, and I think that makes doing this work much easier, particularly in India. I think a lot of families would be resistant to the idea of stop that kid from talking about sex, but an unmarried woman talking about sex is still, like, somewhat transgressive, particularly where I’m from.

00:05:38:00 – 00:05:57:09
Leeza
But even globally, I mean, you know, it’s not every day that, like, women are encouraged to be honest about their sexual health or desires or pleasure or like, advocate for their own sexual rights or anything. So there is that. But I would say that, my family has been super supportive from the get go and that’s made my life easier.

00:05:57:09 – 00:06:02:13
Leeza
But I digress because you wanted to talk about how it happened. Should I tell you like how I started doing this? Yes.

00:06:02:14 – 00:06:13:06
Claudia
Would love to know how this shift happened from being in media and working as a journalist, to deciding to become India’s most famous sex educator.

00:06:13:08 – 00:06:38:03
Leeza
well, I never I never knew that’s what would happen. But, when I so I graduated from college in 2011, and I studied literature and art with a focus on gender and sexuality. I just completed my undergraduate studies at Columbia University, where I was very lucky to receive a scholarship, and it had been a really formative experience for me, even personally, not just academically, to come of age in a very progressive environment.

00:06:38:09 – 00:06:45:19
Leeza
And I’m not saying all of the US is progressive. I mean, some parts of the US are like, you know, more backward than some parts of India, to be honest.

00:06:45:19 – 00:06:46:19
Claudia
Yeah, totally.

00:06:46:19 – 00:07:13:04
Leeza
But to be in New York City in this extremely liberal campus, you know, 18 years old or like from 18 to 21, being in this space where I could just be who I am, where we felt like nobody’s identities were being policed. And, there was a lot of sort of safety and, just a warm, cozy feeling around navigating your relationships desires.

00:07:13:04 – 00:07:43:03
Leeza
You know, I was in I a resident advisor while there. You can do that from your second can do on what way you’re in charge of student life on a floor. I was inspired to do that because I had such a wonderful experience as a freshman with my RA. Like, one of the first things they did during orientation was, consent workshops with all the incoming freshmen, where we’d sit together on the floor in the hallway and talk about how important consent is and talk about also the basics of safe sex.

00:07:43:03 – 00:08:06:19
Leeza
That was like free condoms on the office door. There was health services building. You could like, walk literally ten meters and get an SDI test, or talk to your gynecologist about birth control or whatever your needs may be. And that was so different from the sort of environment in a school or college in India. you would never have free condoms on at all, you know?

00:08:07:00 – 00:08:33:08
Leeza
And obviously everyone’s 18 and above. And so it’s adults, you know, but still I feel like, there’s this charm circle of like legitimacy around sexual experiences where at least in the Indian cultural context, there’s still a huge emphasis on sex only after marriage, ideally with the opposite sex, same religion, same partner with the intent to have kids and any than that is like lesser than or shameful or frowned upon or something you have to hide.

00:08:33:10 – 00:09:01:13
Leeza
So it was just wonderful being like a young woman, having my first experiences, my first relationships, being able to navigate my sexual health also so freely and so easily. And when I came back, I thought I’d be a journalist. The internet hadn’t yet become a thing, like you couldn’t have a career on the internet. And I wanted to tell stories and write and, hopefully have a platform to share my opinions on things and showcase the lived experiences of women and talk about gender and women’s health and things like that.

00:09:01:13 – 00:09:03:20
Leeza
So these big plans, you know, you want to change the world when you’re young.

00:09:03:21 – 00:09:04:19
Claudia
Yeah, of course.

00:09:04:20 – 00:09:24:00
Leeza
I thought I’d be a journalist because the idea of being a social media figure wasn’t even a thing like, if you wanted to be in media, you were going to be in traditional media. Unfortunately, what I wanted to talk about and what the mainly old, middle aged, older man, I don’t know, at these TV channels thought a young woman should be talking about, well, quite different.

00:09:24:00 – 00:09:41:10
Leeza
So what was the first TV gig I got was about cars, and then I was presenting about sports. And you know, you take what you get, you have rent to pay and you learn. I learned a lot of skills, whether you’re presenting about whatever you need to learn about production and, you know, just talking live about something, you don’t care about it.

00:09:41:10 – 00:10:08:06
Leeza
You can do that convincingly. You can definitely talk about what you do care about. Yeah, I felt like my mainstream media career was not going in the direction I wanted it, because it felt like the mainly male decision makers. So a young woman as incapable of or like not the right fit for serious stories. You know, you should just wear a tight dress and add color to these subjects that are mainly watched by men, like cars and sport.

00:10:08:08 – 00:10:19:23
Leeza
yeah. So it was a bit frustrating. Yes, of course. And you need to do work to pay bills and you’re grateful for the experiences that come your way and stuff. So I have no regrets. I was able to learn. And of course, you.

00:10:19:23 – 00:10:32:14
Claudia
Learn a lot in the traditional ways. Yeah. How to maneuver yourself exactly. And just to experience, you know, how the work was with the men. I mean, to know that you need to do something different, and this is not your way.

00:10:32:16 – 00:11:02:16
Leeza
Yeah, exactly. I mean, it’s unfortunate. That’s still media. traditional media, in many parts of the world, is still very male dominated in many ways. I mean, the key decision makers in most businesses and industries across the world are still men. And I think it would be great to have more diversity there. But anyway, so, I realize that, like while I have to do whatever I have to do to pay bills and that I need to do some work that pays me, maybe I can also do some work that I just do because I care about it.

00:11:02:18 – 00:11:35:01
Leeza
you know, around that time the internet was becoming like a place where YouTube, it started to become very popular. you weren’t seeing the monetizable thing. You were just seeing this as, like, a place to put stuff you, you know, you’re interested in sharing. Just put it out there. Who knows who will find it. So without really an agenda or thinking that it would become anything, you know, I thought like even if 5 or 7 people want to talk with me about sexual health and women’s experiences and stuff, let’s just put it out there because I can still bring whatever I’m doing.

00:11:35:02 – 00:11:40:03
Leeza
on more mainstream media, and that can be my work. But this could be a little passion project, you know?

00:11:40:06 – 00:11:41:03
Claudia
Yeah.

00:11:41:05 – 00:12:01:05
Leeza
And also, I mean, it came from a place where in my personal experiences, like outside of work, just being an adult in India for the first time. Right? I left when I was like a teenager and then went to college. And, so you haven’t had those adult experiences in your home country yet, right? And so I’m buying condoms as a woman can be mortifying in India.

00:12:01:06 – 00:12:06:16
Leeza
Luckily, you can buy them online. I from the free condoms on my floor. You know, I suddenly like this.

00:12:06:18 – 00:12:08:13
Claudia
Yeah, yeah. Not a stretch.

00:12:08:15 – 00:12:23:17
Leeza
That’s such an everyday part of adult life. Yeah. End up being sad. You’re just like, why is this so hard? It shouldn’t be. And if it’s hard for someone with all the privileges that I have, how much harder must it be for people who don’t have those privileges? Right? Why is it that we, the man, must get the condoms?

00:12:23:17 – 00:12:44:12
Leeza
Will he even use them if he brings them? You know, or like the first question a gynecologist would ask is, are you married? because, I mean, the median job of gynecologist, at least in our part of the world, is to just give birth to babies. Like there’s not that much, agency around young, unmarried women going and seeing a doctor about STIs or pleasure or anything like that.

00:12:44:12 – 00:12:48:06
Claudia
Yeah, well, it’s also in the developed world. Not that developed.

00:12:48:06 – 00:13:08:17
Leeza
Yet. Yeah. So it’s trained I mean. Exactly. And then, you know, your, your, your, your relationships or dates or whatever experiences you have with men, I mean, just generally like exploring your own sexuality in relationships can also be quite disappointing. It’s like, why does no one know where the clitoris is? You know, it’s not that they knew even in America.

00:13:08:17 – 00:13:29:16
Leeza
Okay, this thing just thing. So I so I ha someone’s got to talk about the stuff like, yeah, I’m sure there are more people out there with the same frustrations. And I’m lucky to be in an environment where my immediate family is not going to stop me, where I have the freedom to talk about this stuff and the safety.

00:13:29:16 – 00:13:46:05
Leeza
Like, I think for some people it’s not even see if, like, their parents might beat them up, but throw them out of the house or whatever. Yeah. So I’m just going to do it. And I started the YouTube channel. At that time, Instagram was not so video centric. It was just a photo sharing platform. So it really started on YouTube, and for several years it was just a little passion project.

00:13:46:05 – 00:14:07:00
Leeza
Like, you know, first you have ten followers and hundred, then you have a thousand, then you have 10,000 or whatever. But it’s still like a relatively cozy community of people who have found you because they care about this topic and have been looking for it. Yeah. and I never thought it would become sustainable or like my work, because there was no way of making it revenue bearing in any way I would.

00:14:07:00 – 00:14:29:16
Leeza
I thought I’d always have to do other stuff. But then during the pandemic, all my other TV work stopped because obviously you were it was locked lockdown. And interestingly, at the time, I think people were consuming more content than ever before. Instagram also started reels because TikTok had just become popular. TikTok got banned by the government because it’s a Chinese app.

00:14:29:18 – 00:14:54:23
Leeza
So India was one of the first countries that Instagram launched reels on, interestingly, interest. And I was just lucky to be safe and healthy. But I was locked up at home with no income, because the work had just it was an uncertain time. Right. And it’s a funny thing where you never have the courage to quit your work, to make your passion project, your full time project, which means, you know, it’s only something you put your spare time into, like once in a while, right?

00:14:54:23 – 00:14:59:13
Leeza
I think for anything to become your main thing, it needs to also be your main time commitment.

00:14:59:13 – 00:15:01:11
Claudia
Yes, 100%. Yeah, yeah.

00:15:01:14 – 00:15:20:05
Leeza
It’s like a chicken and egg. Now, where is it always going to be a passion project because you’re not allowing it to become anything not or is it? You know, that it’ll never have the potential to be anything more, and therefore you should keep doing the other thing. So I probably would never have quit doing my work, but my work, like, had no option but to stop happening during those years of the pandemic.

00:15:20:05 – 00:15:37:16
Leeza
And I had this time. Yeah. And wanted to do something with it because you can just go crazy, like sitting in, you know, we had. Yeah, we were like exercising around a dining table again, so grateful to be safe. And it was a very tragic time for many people. But it was also a time when people were like, okay, we’re at home.

00:15:37:18 – 00:15:57:20
Leeza
We’re grateful to be safe. Let’s not waste this time. You know, a lot of young people were like, can’t go to college, can’t go to school. Like, let’s somehow sit at home and still learn something or develop a new skill or improve, aspects of our personality or health or whatever that you didn’t have the time to think about when you were in the hustle and bustle of pre-pandemic life.

00:15:58:01 – 00:16:16:08
Leeza
I think that was definitely like an move towards self-improvement and learning in a funny kind of way, where, educational content was being consumed a lot. And so suddenly, like with reels, my content was just reaching people who maybe didn’t even know that they didn’t know what the clitoris is.

00:16:16:08 – 00:16:23:11
Claudia
One question do you remember what your first post or first real or YouTube clip was about?

00:16:23:13 – 00:16:47:19
Leeza
gosh, my first YouTube clip was like seven years ago. I think it was an introduction to just like, who I am. Why I want to start this channel, and why I think these conversations matter. Something like that. and on reels, I think my first real was about how well most people think that what matters for good sex is, like, how big your boobs are or how big your penis is, or something like that.

00:16:47:19 – 00:17:09:12
Leeza
Actually, what really matters is, you know, communication and, being able to understand each other’s preferences and like, stuff that doesn’t have to do with appearance, how vulnerable you’re able to be, etc.. So, it was again, I never put this stuff out there thinking it would go viral or thinking, you know what I mean? I had really no agenda.

00:17:09:14 – 00:17:18:10
Leeza
I just felt like, let me out there. Even if ten people listen when you’re starting out, like even to get a thousand views feels like, wow, you know, I know.

00:17:18:12 – 00:17:19:18
Claudia
Now tell me about it.

00:17:19:18 – 00:17:40:16
Leeza
Yeah. So I really was just like, it came from a place of I wish that these conversations were being had. So I’m going to try and have them and hopefully I’ll get to collaborate with other people with a bunch of different experiences and expertise, because I might not always have all the answers. I just want to create a space where it’s okay and I’m allowed to talk about this stuff, you know?

00:17:40:18 – 00:18:02:17
Leeza
I mean, it’s funny how the internet could make you an expert, but I didn’t set out to. I was not like, I’m the expert. I have all the answers. I was just like, let’s talk about this stuff. Yeah. And so, yeah, even though I’d started doing this content for several years, maybe three years before even, it was just like a thousand followers, a small community, and I just thought it would stay a little thing on the side.

00:18:02:19 – 00:18:21:11
Leeza
But during the pandemic, suddenly I grew from like 30,000, like five, 10,000 followers in a year or something, and then to a million followers shortly after, and then on all the platforms. And it just grew and grew. And so that once unlock happened, and I could have technically gone back to my TV work, I decided not to, to really focus on this project.

00:18:21:11 – 00:18:51:21
Leeza
But I couldn’t have planned that, you know? Yeah. And it was a huge shift in my career. I never thought I’d see the day where making like pleasure, positive sex ed content on the internet would be a sustainable career in India that, like, people would pay me to do this. I had no clue. And then after the right, sort of like during the pandemic, towards the end of it, also Harpercollins commissioned a book that I wrote that got published in 2022, and I had a Spotify exclusive podcast come out shortly after as well.

00:18:51:21 – 00:19:08:12
Leeza
And, a brand incubator, decided with me to co-found a pleasure brand called Liz’s, which just happened. So a lot of really exciting, sort of like I’d been working quietly doing this work for so many years, and thought it wasn’t important enough for it to be considered serious.

00:19:08:12 – 00:19:10:13
Claudia
And then you got all this attention and.

00:19:10:17 – 00:19:11:06
Leeza
Yeah. And then.

00:19:11:06 – 00:19:12:09
Claudia
Significance. Yeah.

00:19:12:09 – 00:19:32:19
Leeza
It became something where there were legitimate career opportunities where I could really make my passion project, my career, you know, and but I could never have planned it. And it’s funny, I also think it’s a funny thing where just numbers in this industry determine your success, like you were quietly doing this thing, but then suddenly it just reaches more people and then suddenly it’s important.

00:19:32:21 – 00:19:50:11
Leeza
So I feel like you’ve got you’ve got to like, have some distant not, not allow your self-worth or your sense of how good you are or not good. You are the so attached to the numbers because it’s very easy to feel. Yeah, I just think you’re so great because you have a million that you’re not. Probably not that great, honestly, but you’re also probably not that bad.

00:19:50:12 – 00:19:54:15
Leeza
Or like in any way worthless if you don’t have that money. You know what I mean?

00:19:54:15 – 00:19:57:21
Claudia
There must be something with a million. Yeah, there must be something.

00:19:58:00 – 00:20:14:19
Leeza
But, you know, it’s also it’s a bit, it is what it is. I feel like it can be easy to get really caught up in numbers when you’re a content creator and, like, why you started and like that. You actually did this because you care about this, and that’s what matters.

00:20:14:21 – 00:20:15:13
Claudia

00:20:15:15 – 00:20:28:21
Leeza
Because at that point you lose control over how you’re perceived, you know? I mean, I get called a slut every day or some people, like, don’t think that Indian women should be talking about this stuff. And on the other hand, some people like, I love you, Liz, I love you. You’re the best thing ever. And I’m neither. Neither of these things.

00:20:28:21 – 00:20:30:05
Leeza
You know what I mean? I’m neither. What the.

00:20:30:05 – 00:20:54:16
Claudia
The am, of course. Adulation it’s all about. Yeah, it’s a lot of projection, of course, when you are a public person. So I, of course, went through your Instagram and watched some reels and read about you and listened to what you say. And I was really smitten because it’s so clear and upfront and friendly and inclusive and just matter of fact.

00:20:54:16 – 00:21:18:08
Claudia
Yeah. And I love this, I really do. And and I was thinking about it why I love it so much, you know. Am I a pro-German? I don’t know, but, for example, certain expressions, I don’t know how they sounded, you know, in Hindi, but for example, pleasure in German. Yes, they are translations, but they just don’t, you know, carry you.

00:21:18:13 – 00:21:34:21
Claudia
That’s right. The sound doesn’t carry you into a certain feeling at all. So I was wondering if that also plays into it. Yeah, just the plain language and how it sounds, because I think it’s something, for example, in Germany that is not

00:21:34:23 – 00:21:35:13
Leeza
I yeah, yeah.

00:21:35:13 – 00:21:38:07
Claudia
Everybody should tune in and subscribe to you.

00:21:38:07 – 00:22:01:15
Leeza
Thank you. It can be quite difficult to talk about sex and sexuality in Hindi because unfortunately, a lot of the words used for body parts or to do with sex have the connotation of an insult. Like it’s very vulgar or jarring to say the word for vagina penis or something, because they’re just not spoken right. The only time you would use them is when you’re insulting someone.

00:22:01:15 – 00:22:18:23
Leeza
Or I mean, in in, even in English, like we do have notes that, these words. Right? Yes. But I guess there’s also the sort of like anatomic signs, the words around these that become kind of universal. Like in most parts of the world, people will know what a vagina is, I guess, without you having to use the slang terms.

00:22:18:23 – 00:22:36:15
Leeza
I mean, it’s it’s unfortunate that you know, a more local language, which would be really wonderful to be able to speak in what you’re trying to say might land a bit to like, whoa, if you use those words because nobody uses those words. But it would be nice if we could normalize the use of words or invent new words that didn’t have the register.

00:22:36:17 – 00:22:59:01
Leeza
So like particularly women’s anatomy is like unspeakable in most languages, right? Almost any language like the word for vagina would be an insult or some kind of like unspeakable word. And I think that, I mean, because India was a British colony, and also because just how ubiquitous English is globally, I think most languages have a version, right, like Spanglish or Hinglish or whatever.

00:22:59:06 – 00:23:22:00
Leeza
Yeah. And in India too, and also because of like technology relies so much on the English characters that people will even write in the, in English, you know, like phonetically just spell out the one thing that so the familiarity with English is there and you can use those words in English. And I think that that also then reaches a global audience because more people can understand the content.

00:23:22:02 – 00:23:37:10
Leeza
Yeah, but I wish that there were more. I wish that there were more words for all of these aspects of the body and sexuality, and in global languages that are easy to see and friendly and positive, as opposed to rude or confronting or jarring.

00:23:37:10 – 00:23:49:06
Claudia
Actually interesting to think about it. I wonder when it started. Yeah, that particularly the words for those sexual organs, so to speak, became so such a negative and insulting connotation.

00:23:49:08 – 00:24:09:14
Leeza
Yeah. I mean, you know, I suppose even like the biblical story of the original sin and the idea that they had to then cover the animals with a fig leaf because association of shame with sex and sin. Yeah. Sex and things. There’s definitely like a history, a Christian and colonial history, too, like disseminating that idea across the world to some degree.

00:24:09:14 – 00:24:30:02
Leeza
I mean, various religions also have those idea. I suppose it’s about control, really, right. If I think that in a society where there’s no shame associated with sex, I don’t think there is a well, I don’t know of any large urban society where it’s absolute, maybe New York City, yeah. Where where there’s less of an association with shame.

00:24:30:02 – 00:24:49:20
Leeza
Like people are harder to control. Right. You’re busy having a good time if you’re not made to think that having a good time is shameful. I think, like, very systemically, like we’re controlled to believe that we must spend like 9 to 5 working. And the only acceptable context within which to have a relationship is your nuclear family with your husband and your kids.

00:24:49:20 – 00:25:10:14
Leeza
And and then, you know, you should like the whole day is structured in such a way that you to be able to allocate your time to being productive and a good citizen and family member. Yeah, really about you personally and who you are and what your desires are. So I think it can be quite liberating when you recognize that, like, this is so oppressive and artificial and I don’t actually have to conform to this.

00:25:10:16 – 00:25:39:13
Leeza
but sorry, I’ve digressed. I really touched that you talked about my content in the way that you did, where you said that it’s friendly and accessible, because that’s so much a part of what I wanted to do. I think that unfortunately, sex ed communications, when delivered by the officials, sort of tasked with delivering this information if they’re tasked at all, whether it’s teachers or doctors or family planning people or policymakers or public health professionals, I think it’s often so boring.

00:25:39:18 – 00:26:02:18
Leeza
And it’s no good if they themselves would never have sex, you know, like some dude in a white woman talking about how bad it is that, you had unprotected sex and now you’ll get HIV and and HIV leads to death and devastation, you know what I mean? as opposed to speaking of it as a normal and joyful thing that, like, even I enjoy, it’s not just other weird people who do this thing, even we do it.

00:26:02:18 – 00:26:23:02
Leeza
It’s cool. And like, it’s something that we can talk about without resorting to the most, you know, round about textbook ish way of saying something like speaking the way that you speak to their friends, you know, like, what if you’re trying to tell a young person about the benefits of condom usage? What are they going to click on, right?

00:26:23:04 – 00:26:47:00
Leeza
Like reasons why latex prophylactics result in superior, contraceptive outcomes or like ten reasons no use condoms to spice up your sex life. You know what I mean? So I feel like it’s important to to have fun doing this and to make it seem. Yeah, like something everyone should know. Not only people who aspire to work with you and or something, you know?

00:26:47:01 – 00:26:56:23
Leeza
So, yeah, that was very much my intention to do, like, instead of trying to make it super academic or technical or serious, like it’s got to be important information, bring.

00:26:56:23 – 00:26:57:15
Claudia
The lightness.

00:26:57:16 – 00:27:24:02
Leeza
That people want to watch and believe it’ll actually benefit them. Like I think also acknowledging pleasure. Like if we only talk about death, danger, disease and pregnancy, that’s not really the main reason people most people have sex for pleasure. And if we don’t acknowledge the most important, like one of the most fundamental reasons that motivates people, then why would they want to pay attention to all of this stuff that you’re talking about, the consequences and risks around, you know.

00:27:24:04 – 00:27:37:01
Claudia
what I also liked was that you, emphasize the consent issue as educational part. Yes. For partners or potential partners to really make sure that there’s consent. Yeah, yeah.

00:27:37:01 – 00:27:37:22
Leeza
I forgot, which.

00:27:38:02 – 00:27:49:11
Claudia
Requires to be so open about it to not just get on with it exactly and rush through it. Yeah. So that was also something I thought was really interesting and stood out for me.

00:27:49:13 – 00:28:08:07
Leeza
Thank you. Yeah, I think that because we don’t because sex is made out to be something we don’t talk about or shouldn’t talk about, many of us are sort of uncomfortable talking about sex, even with the people we’re having it with. like, it’s hard to actually talk about the sex you’re having. And then also, most of us are terrible with dealing with rejection.

00:28:08:07 – 00:28:28:16
Leeza
Right. And I think that learning both to say no, as well as to be on the receiving end of a know in a way that is not so devastating personally, where we create an environment where like radical honesty is the norm, where I’m not going to be hurt if you don’t want to do something with me, I would be hurt if we did something you didn’t want to do, you know?

00:28:28:18 – 00:28:57:13
Leeza
So I think that. Yeah, talking about the stuff even I mean, of course a gross consent violation is awful. Sexual assault or something like that. You know, when we think it happens with some stranger, like a monstrous stranger in a dark alleyway. But the fact is that while that happens, most people’s experiences of that consent not being heard or things like that is with people they know, you know, it’s often with a partner or a friend or family member, like things like that.

00:28:57:15 – 00:29:10:14
Leeza
it’s normally somewhat normal for the survivor. Right. And so therefore, I mean, what does it say about when we were saying that, like, we need to be able to talk about this stuff more, but yeah, the culture of silence and shame serves nobody.

00:29:10:16 – 00:29:23:18
Claudia
No, no. Absolutely. So you are growing. You talked about the book that you released in 22, but you haven’t talked yet about Liza’s.

00:29:23:20 – 00:29:42:23
Leeza
Yes, I’d love to talk about it. That’s definitely another sort of, I think it might be quite a pivotal shift as well, because as a content creator, I’ve really been like this one man on me, you know, just doing everything myself. And in some ways it’s quite while you’re talking to what can be like thousands of people.

00:29:43:02 – 00:30:00:19
Leeza
But by the numbers, you see on the video, you’re really just alone in your room talking unless you’re at an event or something. You know, it’s quite sort of insular. and more recently, over the last ten months or so, creating a tangible product that is actually an extension of all that I’ve been doing as an educator.

00:30:00:19 – 00:30:22:08
Leeza
But also, I mean, co-founding a business where now, you know, there’s a team and you have to think about various aspects of any guy, any DTC or e-commerce brand, such as shipping and payment gateways and legal. And there’s so much stuff, right? And whether you’re selling vibrators or doorknobs, you’ve got to think about, like, I came into this with that.

00:30:22:11 – 00:30:41:15
Leeza
I hope, you know, 1 million Indian women have orgasms. But the reality of running a business is that no matter what it is that you do, you also have to have all of the structure and stuff in place. So it’s yeah, exciting. All correspond what it takes to set up and run a business. I’m really grateful to have wonderful co-founders.

00:30:41:15 – 00:30:46:01
Claudia
So that products are ranging from vibrators to.

00:30:46:02 – 00:31:05:03
Leeza
Yeah, well, you know, as an educator, I would have so many women reach out to me being like, why is sex so uncomfortable for me? Or why is sex painful? Like, I watch movies or read romance novels and, a porn. And like, women seem to be enjoying themselves. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed myself during sex. I stare at the ceiling fan.

00:31:05:03 – 00:31:34:00
Leeza
I’ve been married ten years. I don’t think I’ve ever had an orgasm. Why is sex always so painful for me? Things like this, you know, and, and I think lubricant, for example, is such an easy fix for more comfortable sex. But many people have never used it yet or never even heard about it. and with regard to sex toys, I think for a lot of women who might not have had the permission that they maybe even give themselves to explore their own pleasure, like your own body can be a bit mysterious to you.

00:31:34:02 – 00:31:48:15
Leeza
You don’t know what gets you there. Your partner probably doesn’t really know what gets you there, but you can tell them what gets you that either. So it’s really frustrating. It’s like, why is something wrong with me? You know, and we’re fed these myths that like women’s pleasure is really complicated. It takes really long. It’s too much to ask for.

00:31:48:15 – 00:31:56:12
Leeza
You probably have to fake it like he’s just going to get done and the sex ends when he comes, so you might as well just like, tolerate it, you know, and.

00:31:56:14 – 00:31:57:08
Claudia
Get on with it.

00:31:57:08 – 00:32:05:14
Leeza
Yeah. We get this messaging that like sex is women are supposed are babies, not orgasms. I was as subject to that conditioning as anyone else. And.

00:32:05:16 – 00:32:07:01
Claudia
we are conditioned like this.

00:32:07:01 – 00:32:31:05
Leeza
We’re conditioned like. Yes, in India you couldn’t get vibrators, like, until very recently. It was very difficult to get a vibrator in India. It is not something that was been easily available until literally like two years ago. So, but thanks to brands like Leeza’s, so yeah, I think like, at the time, like most people in India would not have unless you traveled abroad and brought one back or something like that.

00:32:31:07 – 00:32:47:20
Leeza
It wasn’t a product that was easily available and widely used, so you didn’t even know what you were missing. You know, even lubricant and like, getting good lube was not something that you’d see in the pharmacies and stuff. Until recently, it was not in women even, you know, all of the stuff, like sexual partners are only marketed to men.

00:32:47:20 – 00:33:06:19
Leeza
De la Vega, scantily clad woman on the package. And as if it’s only for men’s pleasure. Like the assumption around many of these products in the marketing is that a male buyer is going to purchase this. They won’t even thinking about women, you know? So anyway, long story short, lube and toys in my own life were, like, absolutely revolutionary.

00:33:06:19 – 00:33:28:02
Leeza
When I use a vibrator for the first time, I was like, oh my goodness, I can have an orgasm in three minutes. Like every single time. How did I not know this? I need to shout it from the rooftops. You know, like such simple solutions to more comfortable, more pleasurable, more gender equal pleasure in the bedroom. so when the opportunity to actually, you know, get the funding to start something, it was like, oh, absolutely.

00:33:28:03 – 00:33:30:14
Leeza
I’m going to do toys and lube. Of course, I.

00:33:30:14 – 00:33:34:09
Claudia
Was just going to ask about who your main, audience is.

00:33:34:11 – 00:33:59:02
Leeza
That it’s pretty gender equal and actually, I would say that, you know, the internet has more men, than women because of just the gender inequality. That is much more macro level. If they’re born in a family, you belong to a man. If there’s one credit card in a family, you belong to a man, you know. So men have more purchasing power and more internet access, and definitely feel more entitled to searching for information about sex than women do.

00:33:59:04 – 00:34:21:03
Leeza
So I would say that, there’s probably maybe like a 65, 35 gender split in terms of even my audience. Men do women. and men are often the conduits of this information, like women would be like my boyfriend. Send me your videos on like a male family member had to take me to the gynecologist in order to get the HPV vaccine, which I saw you talking about on your page.

00:34:21:03 – 00:34:43:06
Leeza
Or because so often our access to resources requires like a man to be the link, you know, someone’s got to drive you to sign up. Someone’s going to pay for it. Like only 20% of India’s women work. So unfortunately, like men, not unfortunately. The reality is men have to be, come on, this journey as well. Can’t do it alone.

00:34:43:08 – 00:35:00:22
Leeza
I feel like there’s a responsibility from men. They better come on this journey, you know. And I think they also have so much. Yeah. Yeah man they have so much to gain from it. So many men also write in with such, deep concern about their own sexual prowess. Like, am I big enough in my heart? Enough? I don’t worry if I’m going to be able to satisfy my wife.

00:35:00:22 – 00:35:26:08
Leeza
Do I last long enough? And also, like, I’ve never had sex. I’m, you know, in India that access to sex is so policed that many young people only have sex for the first time after marriage. It’s an arranged marriage. I find that introducing these products into your personal life or relationship can be very. They’re just like a small seed of a to to kind of trigger the creativity and conversation and joy and playfulness like adults need playtime.

00:35:26:08 – 00:35:36:00
Leeza
You know, there’s a as we were talking earlier, like the systemic reduction of your opportunity for playtime is an ability to keep pretending like you are so serious. And yeah.

00:35:36:00 – 00:35:37:01
Claudia
Yeah, absolutely.

00:35:37:02 – 00:35:40:09
Leeza
You don’t need to have you need to have fun. Yeah.

00:35:40:11 – 00:35:45:15
Claudia
So, where does fun bring you? Like, what’s next for you? Do you know.

00:35:45:17 – 00:36:07:21
Leeza
A. Well, I mean, these are the. So new. It’s only been ten months, and it’s taken a lot of my time, so. Okay, my content and Lizzo’s I think that’s really I have quite a lot on my plate with those two things right now. And I really want to build Liza’s into well, hopefully India’s largest pleasure brand. I would love for to be able to make more affordable products as well as we scale, because I think everyone should be able to afford pleasure.

00:36:07:21 – 00:36:26:14
Leeza
It shouldn’t be something that privileged people can afford. And yeah, I mean, who knows what lies ahead of that? But I think I have I have my work cut out for me for the next like five years. building a brand is quite, is a project, you know, it’s not and it’s not an overnight thing.

00:36:26:16 – 00:36:30:10
Claudia
Absolutely. So you work mainly out of Goa and, Mumbai?

00:36:30:15 – 00:36:43:05
Leeza
Well, my, so my co-founders, which are actually a Swedish, your team incubator and Yana team based in Mumbai. so I’m in Mumbai very often, like Monday through Friday.

00:36:43:07 – 00:36:47:16
Claudia
So I was going to ask you, what do you do to relax?

00:36:47:18 – 00:37:07:06
Leeza
the perils of monetizing your passion project are that suddenly that thing that was your fun thing becomes your work thing. Then you’re having so much fun at work that all you want to do is work. So I struggle with that. Honestly, I have to be. I have like schedule, relaxation time. but I try to read, go to the beach, cook, spend time with my dog.

00:37:07:08 – 00:37:23:05
Leeza
those that listen to music like those are some of the things I really enjoy. But I also feel so lucky to love my work so much that sometimes I’m like, no, I don’t want to stop working because I love this. When you’re building something for yourself, I think that’s easier. Also, like if you don’t feel like you’re putting in all this work for for someone else to to succeed.

00:37:23:05 – 00:37:30:07
Leeza
Yeah. So I’m very grateful. Like I never thought I’d see the day. I never thought I’d see the day that I do this and call it work, you know.

00:37:30:09 – 00:37:33:04
Claudia
So this is what energizes you absolutely.

00:37:33:04 – 00:37:35:19
Leeza
Around. Yeah, absolutely.

00:37:35:21 – 00:37:54:22
Claudia
Well, this was such an amazing insight. A little bit into another culture, of course, but also into your business and into the shifts in your professional life. Yeah. And so interesting how limiting tradition or ways, and that you break that you broke through. Thank you.

00:37:54:23 – 00:38:13:08
Leeza
With them I feel to see people all over the world kind of like, I feel like there’s a collective subconscious and there’s just more. And, Well, I think, you know, whether it’s movements like the MeToo movement or, you know, laws being repealed in my lifetime, I’m happy to see, like, gay marriage became legal in the US.

00:38:13:11 – 00:38:20:19
Leeza
Finally, homosexual criminalized in India. It’s baby steps. And it’s crazy. Sometimes when you think like when 2023 and like.

00:38:20:22 – 00:38:22:10
Claudia
Yes, that’s what I think too, you.

00:38:22:10 – 00:38:29:14
Leeza
Know? And I mean, it’s also crazy when you see like rights that were had been read in like abortion in America.

00:38:29:14 – 00:38:32:09
Claudia
Was taking away. And. Yeah, but I think it’s horrible.

00:38:32:09 – 00:38:52:01
Leeza
I’m confident that like even when it seems like we take ten steps forward and then two steps back, we’re going to take 20 steps forward next, you know. Yeah. Just so I hope that like, yeah, everyone all over the world is sharing in this vision for, for just like a world where all sexual experiences are consensual, safe and pleasurable.

00:38:52:03 – 00:38:59:08
Claudia
Yes, please. Wonderful. I thank you so much for your time and for these really amazing insights.

00:38:59:14 – 00:39:00:08
Leeza
Thank you so much for.

00:39:00:09 – 00:39:01:05
Claudia
And,

00:39:01:07 – 00:39:05:06
Leeza
You do and tell it. Yes. Stories in the way that you do. Claudia.

00:39:05:08 – 00:39:35:18
Claudia
Yes. It’s you know, it’s it’s a start as well. But, I still think women’s stories are the ones that we can’t get enough of them out there because it will take years to change the narrative. And we just have to, you know, keep putting them out there. So thank you so much.

00:39:35:20 – 00:40:05:09
Claudia
This has been an eye opening and such an unusual lens to experience the world and look openly into sexuality and sexual health. And as I said in my conversation with Liza earlier, her videos and reels are so normal and friendly and tonality and inviting to look at one’s own relationship to one’s body pleasure, one’s sexuality. I’m curious what you think, so please let me know and share your thoughts.

00:40:05:09 – 00:40:14:22
Claudia
Interview you or an email to me at Claudia at Claudiamahler.com.

00:40:15:00 – 00:40:39:15
Claudia
Shift happens has been created and is hosted by me Claudia Muller. Editing Andy Boroson social media Magda Reckendrees, I hope you felt connected and heard by listening to Shift Happens and please leave a review and a rating wherever you listen to podcasts.

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