mia davis, founder of tabú
In America, sex education often includes: abstinence. In the words of, Coach Carr from Mean Girls said: Don't have sex, because you will get pregnant and die! Don't have sex in the missionary position, don't have sex standing up, just don't do it, ok, promise? So, how are we going to change how we learn about sex and mental health? Mia Davis, founder of tabú, and she’s changing how we talk about sex, owning one’s sexuality, and sustaining healthy relationships overall (and then some!). Learn about how she started tabú, and how she is hoping to change the sex education and sex conversation game in today’s spotlight.
Mia, what did you want to be when you were growing up?
Starting around the age of 10, I wanted to be a criminal defense attorney. After watching The Green Mile, I became really passionate about prison reform. I have always had a deep sense of justice and desire to protect and defend vulnerable populations. In high school, I discovered the field of engineering and realized it had the potential to create massive social change at scale, which catapulted me into the vast world of technology and innovation. Though my career interests have evolved, they have always been rooted in social good.
What was that pivotal moment for you to launch tabú?
To borrow from “Lemony Snicket,” tabú was the result of a series of unfortunate events. These experiences included having an unmanageable period, not being able to use tampons, having abstinence, and religious/shame-based [lack of] sex ed, experiencing sexual trauma in college, and thereafter struggling to have penetrative sex.
This took a serious toll on my mental health and was something I didn’t have the language, tools, or even self-awareness to talk about.
About a year after I graduated college, my friends and I were talking about the misrepresentation of sex in the media (aka zero conversations, awkwardness, foreplay, or birth control!) and this opened up a conversation about the need for better, more realistic resources that are fun and playful, but accurate and reliable. I realized I wasn’t alone in my insecurities and this conversation eventually developed into what is now tabú.
In the process of the launch and now growing, what has been a hurdle for you and your team? What milestones have you reached?
There have been a ton of ups and downs. From the initial decision to leave my very stable and lucrative job to the still uncomfortable family conversations about the work we do, I would say many of the hurdles for me have been personal. As an early-stage, bootstrapped company, it can also be challenging to hire people and grow as quickly as you would like to. I am proud of our team and all of the amazing people and partners we have worked with along the way who have believed in our mission and grown tabú to where we are today. Our audience is entirely organic and that is a tremendous accomplishment for me.
The conversations happening at tabú are the ones we would have with our close friends, was that the intent behind creating it? And real talk: how do you think “situationships” happen?
Totally! I still find it incredible how the second someone sees an opening to have an intimate conversation, they take it and sprint with it. People should be having uncomfortable conversations with their friends, partners, doctors, and even family members.
It is completely worth any initial awkwardness and I truly believe that vulnerable, authentic conversations have the power to transform your relationships.
On that note— and to answer your second question—in my opinion, “situationships” derive from a lack of transparency and communication. One or both people in the relationship either aren’t being honest with themselves and/or the other person about what they want in a relationship. Even if all you want is sex, be honest about that! If you’re looking for something committed, but non-monogamous, be honest about that. If you’re looking for something more traditional and long-term, but you’re afraid you’ll scare the person away by “saying something too soon,” seriously, just be honest. Better to scare someone away who isn’t looking for the same thing than to spend weeks to months (or longer) hoping and waiting for them to be on the same page.
That reminds me, if you ever use the term “same page” when discussing your relationship status, please clarify exactly what is on that page, that you are reading the same book, and that it is written in the same language. People (historically myself included) really try to beat around the bush sometimes. Do yourself a favor and be direct. Texting and mind-reading games simply are not worth your time or energy. You have far more important things to do, even if it is just watching Netflix! There are plenty of series to binge…
In your opinion, do you think dating is harder in large cities like New York than a small town, and why is that?
Hmm… I think dating has its challenges no matter where you are located. When you’re in a bigger city, you theoretically have too many choices, which prevents you from making one (paradox of choice) or leads you down the path of looking for the next best thing without taking the time to nurture an existing or potential relationship. On the other hand, a small town might have fewer options so you end up settling with the ...only available option. I see people from my high school on social media and so many of them are either engaged or married right now and still living in the Midwest. At the same, I’m sure there are a ton who are happily single and I have no idea where they live.
I mean, who is to say that it’s “better” to find a long-term partner at a younger age or to have fewer partners before finding the person with whom you wish to spend your life (if that’s even what you’re seeking)? You can learn a lot about yourself from dating and your experiences can ultimately lead you to stronger, healthier long-term relationships if you do the inner work to reflect, grow, and move forward. Ultimately, what I’m saying is, yes and no (so helpful, I know, and I would probably lean more toward yes). Don’t be discouraged by living in a big city. People everywhere are looking for companionship, trust, and intimacy. In my completely unprofessional opinion, the best way to date, wherever you are, is with complete honesty, and that includes first and foremost with yourself.
How do you hope tabú grows in the next few years?
We are launching exciting new content soon that I think will be deeply powerful for people who are confused or who have been struggling. I am eager to ramp up our content to be more inclusive and accessible to a broader variety of people, experiences, and identities. To me, this is exceedingly important. We’re also going to be expanding our reach outside of the world wide web with more live events. My mission for tabú has always been to be the premier destination online (and perhaps even IRL!) for people’s questions about bodies, sex, identity, and relationships. Who knows? Maybe 15 years from now, people won’t even have that many questions because they will just be so informed from all of tabú’s fascinating, educational content and their tabú-informed parents. I mean, that’s the dream anyway…
Interviewed by Chary