Interview with Polly Rodriguez from UnboundBabes.com
When Polly Rodriguez was just 21 years old, she was given a Stage III cancer diagnosis and told that she had a 30-40% chance of survival. She was instructed to immediately undergo a radiation and chemotherapy treatment that would affect her reproductive organs and leave her infertile.
At the time, Polly didn’t know anyone who had had this experience, and felt very alone as she tried to find support and resources. This inspired her to create Unbound, an online destination that helps women feel good in their bodies and allows them to shop for sexual wellness products from home.
Today, Polly’s company has been covered by outlets like the New York Times and Teen Vogue, and she continues to be a powerful voice empowering other women to get the support and resources they need, so that they don’t feel as alone or confused as she did when she navigated her infertility diagnosis and menopause so young.
We caught up with Polly at her New York City office to find out more about her experience, and what she wants other women to know:
What is Unbound and how did it stem from your experience?
Unbound is a sexual wellness company for women. We make and sell vibrators, lubricants, and accessories in a way that makes women feel great about the shopping experience as opposed to embarrassed and uninformed.
When I went through cancer I ended up in the depths of the internet trying to understand what products would help me enjoy my body after going through this traumatic event. There weren’t websites out there that were for women. There was WebMD and then there were the trashy websites that make you feel like a weirdo for wanting to buy a vibrator.
I wanted to create an online destination where women could shop from the comfort of their home for body safe (no parabens, no phthalates) products that were at a reasonable pricepoint. And thus, Unbound was created.
Do you think the public is generally uncomfortable with women’s health issues? Are you seeing a change?
Yes. I believe that we’re still stuck in this Madonna-whore complex. First defined by Sigmund Freud, this term is used to highlight the polarization of women when it comes to sexuality through the male gaze. Women are either “Madonnas” — pure, innocent, and chaste; or whores — promiscuous, unruly and hyper-sexual.
I so desperately want us to live in the middle — between the two binary options – where women can be professional, smart, witty and also sexual. It shouldn’t have to be one or the other.
Where do you see your ‘fertility story’ in the future? Do you think about this?
I do think about it, but in some ways it’s liberating to know the biological clock isn’t a factor for me. It’s allowed me to really lean into building Unbound and de-prioritize building a family in my 30s.
I also believe that there are so many kids out there who need great homes and that adoption will probably be in my future — it certainly scares me because there’s so much to understand and know; but I think most things in life worth doing are seemingly scary from the outside looking in.
What do you want girls and women to know about infertility and motherhood?
Just that, ultimately, we need to stop telling one single narrative of what motherhood looks like. For me, I’ve found a sense of motherhood in mentoring other young women who are starting businesses. I’ve found community in joining women feminist groups in New York City.
In some ways it’s liberating to know the biological clock isn’t a factor for me.
And, just that if there are any other women out there who are struggling with fertility, that I hear you and I see you. I want you to know that you are not broken. Your body is miraculous and beautiful, and maybe it doesn’t operate the way you want it to now, but that can lead to a great sense of meaning and belonging in other ways. It doesn’t make the journey easier, but it makes it richer, full of challenges and obstacles — and overcoming those obstacles.
Because without the pain and suffering, how can we appreciate joy, laughter and happiness? Perhaps that is a bit sappy, but I mean it from the bottom of my heart. Never forget that the adversity you face will make you stronger than you can possibly imagine.
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