Sex & Dating

Painful Sex Sucks, But Ohnut Founder Emily Sauer Created a Solution

Your guide on using the quality buffer ring designed to stop pelvic pain.

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1,796 Hypes

About 75% of vulva owners experience pain during sex at some point, yet with every new sex toy and “pleasure is power” campaign, the topic is rarely discussed. Most who are open about painful sex are told it’s simply because their partner has a large d-ck or some other invalidating reason that leaves them unsatisfied. Meanwhile, there are dozens of medical conditions that can cause painful intercourse. Emily Sauer, the founder of Ohnut, grew tired of the status quo and took matters into her own hands by creating donut-like compressible buffer rings designed to be placed on the penis during sex.

Sauer had been begging doctors to help her understand what her body was going through but was never met with helpful solutions. The pain she experienced was “physically jarring as it was emotionally disappointing,” and it endured for ten years. “The times that sex was painful, my self-esteem tanked,” Sauer told Hypebae. Considering we live in a society where catering to your partner in all ways — including sexually — is prioritized, she felt inadequate. But her next move would not only change her sex life but the lives and confidence of many others secretly struggling.

The name Ohnut was inspired by the product’s original prototype — a pink frosted donut that can be adjusted to customize how deeply you’re penetrated. After a few rounds of trial and error, the product got a new look, but its playful name stayed.

Continue reading for Emily Sauer’s empowering story of tackling painful sex, one Ohnut buffer ring at a time.

Were you ever given a medical explanation for what caused painful sex?

Try using lube, avoid certain positions and use a pillow under your hips. For me, none of these lofty suggestions worked, and when I looked up sex pillows online, everything emphasized “deeper penetration.”

These are reasonable suggestions if there’s no intention to figure out how to solve the underlying cause of the pain. There was no referral to a specialist, no questions about life stressors and no interest in pelvic pain over time. There wasn’t a single helpful product that understood what I was going through, physically or emotionally. So, during a stressful time when sex got worse and I felt unsupported in every way, I hacked an Ohnut prototype that sparked an entire paradigm shift.

What was it like having sex for the first time with a quality buffer ring?

For the first time when certain positions weren’t painful, I finally felt it wasn’t my fault  like I had the choice not to be in pain. In fact, I had the choice to feel good. I felt capable, deeply connected to my partner and free. From there, Ohnut became just as much of a helpful product as it became an empowering conversation starter. A simple tangible thing that validates a shared experience, helps us all ask questions and brings us closer together.

What were you most excited about trying/enjoying sexually when you could finally have sex without pain?

To be honest, I was just happy to feel like myself again. I’m generally a very confident and playful person, so with a new foundation of safety and trust, playfulness and confidence came back.

ohnut rings emily sauer painful sex interview

Ohnut’s Buffer Rings seem like a great wellness solution. Do you hope it will one day be prescribed as a solution for painful sex?

Funny enough, it is currently prescribed as a solution for painful sex by some doctors and PTs! Our biggest cheerleaders from day one have been medical professionals — OB-GYNs, pelvic floor physical therapists and other folks in the medical field have all been incredible champions of this product. We’ve connected with clinicians all over the world to be able to offer Ohnut to their patients. We’re even available at the nation’s top hospital, Mayo Clinic.

Is the current Ohnut Buffer Ring the original prototype? How did you decide what material to construct the product with?

Ohnut has definitely gone through many iterations to get to what we sell today! The original design idea started as a pink frosted donut, which is where “Ohnut” name came from. This design was heavy and cumbersome — it clearly wasn’t going to work. After 14 different iterations, we finally got to the simple, stretchy, comfortable version you see today.

Given that painful sex is generally isolating and unsupported, everything about Ohnut is meant to be friendly. The squishy stretchy material, the jade color, the dimpled texture and even the shape of the rings. Because of the approachable design and stretchiness, we love how folks get creative with it — saying Ohnut could be an underwater sea creature, a small plant holder, or even sex Lego, which is exactly what we hope for. Couples who were previously inhibited by shame, enter a liberating dynamic of play. 

We use a body-safe, BPA-free polymer blend because it’s the most versatile and stretchy. Folks who are experiencing painful sex might be very attached to a certain type of lube, so we wanted to create a product that could be used with either silicone or water-based lubricant.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your brand?

By far the most rewarding aspect is the feedback from customers, which has been unbelievably positive. First of all, people first appreciate the way Ohnut is empowering, by acknowledging how sex can be complicated. It can make or break our self-esteem if something isn’t easy, doesn’t feel good or goes wrong. For the vulva owners who use Ohnut, many call it a “lifesaver” for their relationship and self-esteem. And the penis owners have been incredibly supportive, too. Most people don’t want to hurt their partner, so Ohnut is a fun way to figure out what feels good so that both partners can relax without worry.

Do you have any advice for women who experience painful sex?

First of all, know that the fact that you’re reading this means that you’re doing great. Remember that painful sex is not your fault. You’re not broken. And you’re definitely not alone. Diagnoses are hard to make and oftentimes the treatment path can be unclear, however, there is a team that can help. There are good doctors who will believe you. Pelvic Physical Therapy is always a great first step, and if your current doctor doesn’t consider your pain, tell them about Ohnut. Then, find a new doctor who cares.

ohnut rings emily sauer painful sex interview

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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