My Date with Elvie, The Video Game For Your Womanhood

When my friend forwarded me an e-vite entitled “Vag Event,” with a cryptic message about a workshop led by a kegel machine, it felt like the perfect opportunity to get a little closer to me, myself, and womankind. What are kegels? I hardly knew. I imagined the event would resemble a pregnancy preparation class where you sit in a circle and do breathing exercises while you practice thrusting. Little did I know that I was very, very wrong.

Before I walked into the Birth Day Presence studio, I had no idea that I could virtually bench press with my vagina. What I first encountered in the studio were photos of babies and pregnant women lining the walls and a large poster in soft turquoise with the words “Keep Calm and Kegel on.” To the right of the sign were a neat stacks of boxes, with a mint green pebble sitting unimposingly on top, like the pea for a princess named Elvie.  

It turns out there’s more to maintaining your reproductive health than just using a loofah and watching Sex and the City. But if you’re American, you may not know that.  Standard sex education basically teaches you at a young age that you will randomly start bleeding out of your vagina, then have babies one day and good luck with the rest! In select parts of the world, there’s a little more guidance. That’s where Elvie comes in.

Elvie’s founder, Tania Boler is from the U.K. and her confidant, the U.S. general manager, Cecile Urrea is French. Much of Europe has more progressive laws for postpartum care, more so than the U.S. In France, the government pays for 10 sessions of physical therapy for all postpartum women to help them get back in shape and to ease the transition back to the bodies they know and love.

The fact that this rehabilitation is not an international requirement was part of the inspiration for creating Elvie. Urrea says that her struggle with older women in the kegel-sphere is that they’re too conservative about their reproductive health. “They don’t say ‘vagina’ – it’s still a little taboo,” she told me.  But her concern with millennials is that they don’t know what kegels are.

I didn’t know until this past summer, while wine drunk on the beach having vag talk with my sister and my roommate, Kate, who claims she first learned about kegels from Cosmo when she was twelve. My roommate is a dancer with impeccable posture and an affinity for fitness. I’m a fairweather yogi, but still had never heard of any correlation between the pelvic floor and core strength. Kate was beside herself when she learned the rest of us were kegel virgins.

“You should be doing them every day!” she exclaimed, sitting up from her sun stupor, “I do them on the toilet.” The question of why should I do them or how to do them was not addressed.

You might be asking yourself: If I’m a young, healthy, person, why should I kegel? It’s just for women with stretched-out pussies. That’s not true at all. Here’s my newfound understanding of kegels: Arnold Kegel first discovered and published literature on the subject in 1948. Kegels are important because they help strengthen the pelvic wall, which is like a hammock that stretches from your front pelvic region to your back and holds your internal organs in. A surprising amount of women over 50 undergo surgery because their pelvic walls break down after pregnancy and their organs start falling out. Nn 1952, kegel exercises were also proven to enhance orgasms for women. “You’d think that from ’52 to now someone would have done something with this information,” Cecile said.

So, that’s what they did. Urrea and Boler founded a company called Chiaro, and Elvie is their first product. Put simply, Elvie is a fun yet challenging exercise tool for your vagina. The benefits of using Elvie?  Better orgasms, less back pain, better form, more control, and prevention of bladder and colon issues later in life.

“The promise of better sex is one that appeals to everyone, I hope,” says Cecile. Plus, I think it’s safe to say that most of us would prefer to know what we’re getting ourselves into before forcing a 10-pound human out through our pebble-sized holes.

A 15-minute workout was led by Mahri Relin, the founder of Body Conceptions, a dance-inspired body sculpting program dedicated to helping women of all ages, pregnant or not, feel good in their skin. All her exercises include kegels. In addressing how the kegel works, she explained: “Some people like to think of it as the muscles you use to stop the flow of urine. Or you can think of it as a tent that you’re pulling up for the rhythm between your vagina and your back.” Got it?

Urrea conducted an icebreaker in which we were all handed pieces of paper to write down the names we had for our vaginas (Hillary Clinton won by a landslide). We did Elvie demos with our hands. Elvie is buttonless and sleek. It’s designed by women, so it’s 3 times smaller than any other related product on the market. It slips right in. It has a tail that sticks out like a tampon string with a Bluetooth at the end. The device is detected through the Elvie app on your iPhone, where you exercise using games on your screen controlled from your vagina.

It’s really fun. It’s a video game for your vagina. You can do it lying down or standing up; with pants on or not. The interface looks as if it was inspired by the early days of Super Mario, where you jump up and hit targets based on how tightly you are clenching or relaxing your pelvic walls.

Honestly,  I found the experience to be empowering. I went home and played the Elvie games with my boyfriend present who was engaged enough to suggest I call this “Finally, a video game you can play with your boyfriend!” I won’t, but he’s not wrong. Part of the appeal of the product is that it can be inclusiveYou can compare scores with your friendsYou will soon be able to invite them to compete against you through the app. You can use Elvie as interactive foreplay and then genuinely feel more aware of how your vagina works during sex and its connection with your mind. To see visually how you can control your muscles in real time is really cool.

What Boler’s team is trying to create is more than just a tool with a specific function. It’s about lifestyle and about how women feel. “It’s not about the icky stuff. It’s not about pee. It’s not a sex story. It’s about female empowerment and it’s about wellness,” said Urrea. Elvie is a symbol for the female community. For how often we talk to our peers about yeast infections, sex pains, Tinder, etc., there’s still a strong disparity between sensual openness and education on how our insides operate. Boler strives to increase awareness of women’s health issues, to erase the taboo around vaginal wellness, and to empower women to take charge of their own bodies from the inside out.

Sitting down beside me on the couch before the presentations started, Cecile asked if I knew how to kegel. Before I answered, she said in a whisper, “They’re really boring.” It’s tough to develop a workout routine of mechanically clenching your vagina without any visual instruction or growth. Elvie eliminates the notion of the bored, confused housewife attempting to kegel in front of the daytime soap opera and instead makes the activity interactive, strengthening, and tech-savvy.

“It’s like a sex toy in that it makes you feel sexier, stronger, and more confident,” says Boler. Elvie is short for elevate. So, if you want something for the holidays this year that lifts you up, try Elvie – for your body, for your mind, and because it’s tight.

Julia Edwards writes about lifestyle & entertainment and continues to study being human. She wasn’t sure about her astrological identity at first but is really coming around.