If your experiences have been similar to mine, the world of sex has been depicted as entirely external. It has been preached as an act for others. A performance to be given. A moment you should want to be remembered for. Sexuality is marketed as a product of desire, removing individuality entirely. This is not surprising, given that a lack of well-rounded sex education would lead to searching for answers to questions in the fictitious worlds played out in book pages and on screens. Those disconnected, near silent, and definitely not pleasurable encounters were what I long believed was normal.  

Pleasure was never a part of my sex education. I was taught how to avoid sex at all costs. I was taught to keep myself separate from sexual encounters. It was meant to be an event of perfection. It would be beautiful, intimate, alluring, but pleasure? That was never a part of it. 

It wasn’t only sex though. Pleasure in all realms of life was never spoken of. Life is meant to be a game of shining success. We are to put in the work and have something to show for it. There simply isn’t space for pleasure, especially not for yourself. Self-care was selfish, and pleasure was an expectation that would never be met. I was told to lower my standards. I was simply asking for too much to find pleasure and comfort in any aspect of life. It’d be best to give up the chase for some balanced life that would provide any pleasure. Whether it be mind, body, or spirit, pleasure was unattainable. 

Turns out, the pleasure market is intentionally hidden away, with algorithms silencing discourse surrounding self-pleasure. We’ve all heard the phrase sex sells, but that only holds true for a singular viewpoint of the subject. Thankfully, entrepreneurs are emerging to bridge the gaps in our pleasure education. One of these is Bren, who along with her partner is breaking through a culture of silence to bring pleasure to the forefront of the conversations we have with ourselves. 

The Lake is a wellness shop providing a range of products to satisfy every desire for pleasure. From puzzles, to candles, flowers, robes, and sexual wellness products; The Lake is the destination for all things self-care. It stands on its own as an outlet for the intersection of all the senses, curating products to maximize the everyday pleasures we experience. The Lake is redefining the wellness industry, breaking the conventional expectations of sexual wellness to encompass the truly multi-faceted nature of a healthy relationship to ourselves. 

It is not a place of prescription. You will not find one size fits all solutions here. Rather, the focus is on individual needs. We all experience pleasure and joy in unique ways, and The Lake serves to help you find what works for you. For some, sex has been co-opted. A manner of objectification. A source of trauma. The pleasure movement that The Lake is sparking is a call to reclamation. Reclaiming time, joy, sensuality, a sense of self. 

When I sat down with Bren to discuss the ins and outs of life at The Lake, I knew I would be meeting with someone who was a change maker in the business world. I didn’t anticipate the empowerment and purpose that fuels every aspect of what Bren and The Lake bring to the world of self-care. Together we explored what pleasure and wellness look like, and how these practices can be integrated into our lives. Here is what Bren had to say. 

To get started, can you please tell me your name, your pronouns, and role at The Lake?

My name is Bren Gauthier, my pronouns are she/her and I am the Co-founder and Chief Brand Officer at The Lake.

How would you describe The Lake and its mission to someone who’s new to the company? 

The Lake is a lifestyle brand curated to help you create moments of pleasure in your daily routines. 

Our product mix is designed to delight your senses. You will find bath and body ritual products, comfy undies and bralettes (we call this loungerie), candles, mindful pastimes (think puzzles and knitting kits) alongside sexual wellness products.

We wanted to take a fresh approach by presenting sexual wellness products in a way that doesn’t solely focus on sex and performance. Instead we want to frame pleasure as a lifestyle, where you mindfully seek out these moments throughout your day. As a result, our vibe is approachable, wholesome, and lighthearted. 

Our hope is that by introducing people to sexual wellness products in this way it can plant the seed that pleasure is part of an overall approach to wellbeing. 

What drew you to the wellness and pleasure industry, and to ultimately begin your business? 

I have a background in Fashion Communications and Marketing from Ryerson and Law degree from a university in Australia. I grew up in an entrepreneurial retail family. In 2012, I met my husband, Philippe, whose father started up a boutique style adult shop in Montreal in the 70s (a pioneer at the time!). We met online and right before our first date I found out he was running a large adult department store in Toronto. Despite being a little apprehensive, the date went well… and we got married two years later. During that time, I moved in with him in the apartment above the store and just like that I had married into the pleasure industry. 

In 2014 Philippe started bringing up an idea he had been thinking about for awhile. He’d obtained a very in-depth research paper called Women, Shopping and Sex and it confirmed many things he had already seen in his own experience running the adult shop in Toronto: the adult retail environment needed a shift. The traditional adult retail shops were built around a stereotypical male gaze (what sex and sexy should look like) and were merchandised like a Best Buy (utility and specs of products). 

The Lake evolved from there: we set out to create a comfortable space to discover pleasure products at your own pace. 

I’m curious to know how you would define pleasure, and what role it has in creating healthy relationships to our bodies? 

We promote the broad definition of pleasure: it is a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment. This is why The Lake is a lifestyle brand curated around everyday pleasures, not just about sexual wellness. Noticing when things feel good, whether it be your hot shower in the morning, the taste of the first sip of coffee, the scent of your favourite candle, the feeling of face oil as you massage it into your skin – taking a moment to pause and delight in those moments is heightening your awareness of what feels good to you. 

By recognizing sensory pleasure throughout your daily routine, you are priming yourself to be in tune to all that your body experiences in moments where you are seeking sexual pleasure. By exploring your own sexual pleasure, expectation-free, pressure-free, on your own terms, you get to know yourself in a way that will be a foundation for your sexual relationships with other people. 

The Lake uses the term ‘body exploration device’ instead of the term ‘sex toy’. Why is that, and why do you see body-exploration as such an important part of self-care?

Using the term B.E.D. (Body Exploration Device) is a way to allow you to come to the space without expectations or other associations that you may have with the term sex toy. 

For example. When we explain The Lake to people for the first time, before they’ve seen the brand or the online shop vibe, the focus goes straight to the fact we carry sexual pleasure products and we instantly become a sex shop and the stereotypes start flowing. What do you think of when you think of a sex shop? 

But this is not how we would categorize ourselves. The focus of The Lake is on pleasure as a lifestyle – seeking everyday pleasures. We consciously named the store to conjure up nostalgia, feelings connected with a relaxing or invigorating retreat. Body Exploration Device is how we want to position the vibes and wands we carry, as an invitation to explore your body without expectations and to enjoy the process of discovering yourself. Toys are for fun, that’s awesome – but these devices can also be used as a tool to destress, slow down and mindfully connect with yourself so we wanted to offer that perspective.

Using the term is also kind of a ‘f you’ to the big media platforms and other structural obstacles in place to prevent us from connecting with people on the topic of pleasure. When we try to advertise on Google or Instagram, the ads are blocked for violating their policies on the grounds of morality. So by being creative with the language we use, the imagery we put in our feeds and on the shop, we are trying to fly under the radar in order to reach a broader audience.

For many university-aged individuals’ sex and sexuality can often feel very external to ourselves. What advice do you have for someone who is just starting to discover their own body and pleasure for themselves? 

I can relate to this, despite my university years being many, many years ago. I remember finding myself in situations with other people and thinking “Ok, is this how I’m supposed to be? Is this what I’m supposed to like or how I am supposed to act?”.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to alleviate that for today’s university-aged population, but I think that advice I would have found helpful is this: exploring yourself, on your own terms, will allow you to discover your boundaries and empower you in those moments where external pressure kicks in.

Building off that, are there any product or resource recommendations you have for anyone starting their body-exploration journeys? 

One resource I can recommend is an online workshop guided by a Sex Educator who The Lake has partnered with in the past, it’s called Bodysex Online and its run by Katrina Marie. If you’ve seen Goop Labs, the first season? It featured Bodysex, which is a nude masturbation workshop created by Dr. Betty Dodson in the 70’s. Katrina trained directly underneath Betty and has facilitated workshops for the past 5 years. In 2020, she created Bodysex Online in response to the global pandemic. Katrina has graciously offered a code (‘MUSE’) just for Muse readers for $50.00 off the workshop. The Lake also put together a toolkit to support the workshop which includes a Maude Vibe, a glass wand, and a lubricant oil. 

Please note that this version of the course has been designed for people with vulvas/vaginas.

Though some progress has been made, self-pleasure remains to be highly stigmatized, especially for women and gender-diverse individuals. What are some ways that you believe we can work towards destigmatization? 

We are seeing it with big retailers testing out vibrators in their online stores right now, amazing brands like Dame Products suing the New York Subway system over their ads being censored and Maude being featured in Vogue and other fashion and design publications. Destigmatization will involve more and more open conversation about self-pleasure as a right to enjoy being in one’s own body, also through pleasure education for youth (this can help create a better understanding of consent – you know what feels good and what doesn’t so you can feel empowered to make choices around that) and creating spaces where people feel safe to discover products that can be used to heighten intimacy with yourself through self-pleasure. Pushing media platforms like Google and Facebook to stop censoring content around pleasure could help too!

The Lake currently has a pop-up shop open in Kingston called the “touch and feel event”. What can visitors expect and what do you hope they take from their visit?

Dreaming up what The Lake’s first brick and mortar immersive retail store will be like is one of my favourite pastimes. Until we get there we will continue to pop-up and host Touch and Feel events where we encourage you to pick up, squeeze, turn on the B.E.D.s and take in the tactile nature of the products. They will be displayed without their boxes, on artful pedestals like sculptures in a little art gallery. We want you to smell the candles, bath salts and face oils, run your hands on the soft fabric of the loungerie and take in the beauty of the floral displays. It is meant to be a sensory experience that leaves you feeling delighted, curious and inspired to create space for everyday pleasures in your daily routines. 

You can keep up with and explore all that The Lake has to offer on instagram @its.thelake, explore the wide-range of products available on their website, and be sure to visit the pop-up running until February 20th, 2022 at 39 Montreal Street. 

Treat yourself to some everyday pleasures with 15% off your purchase using code ‘MUSE15’ when you checkout on The Lake website!

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IMAGES: KIERAN TURNBULL

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