The Story Of My Little Yoni, Makers Of Vulva Plushies & Sex-Ed Books
Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano
Photography by Photos Courtesy of My Little Yoni
Numerous studies have shown that the sex-ed that our children need differs dramatically from what they actually receive. According to Planned Parenthood, only 39 states in the U.S. mandate some sort of sex-ed and/or HIV education. And “fewer than half of high schools and less than a fifth of middle schools teach all 20 topics recommended by the CDC as essential components of sex education.” Which makes it crucial that parents take sex-ed matters into their own hands—having open lines of communication at home and finding out what is being taught in your child’s district and school. Ariel Saint White—an artist, sexual wellness coach, and stepmom to an 11-year-old son—is taking things even further through her company, My Little Yoni. Ten years ago, Ariel dreamt up the idea for her brand, which creates adorable vulva plushie dolls and a 10-book series about a variety of sex-ed topics—from periods and consent to masturbation and LGBTQ+ topics. Read our interview with Ariel about all things My Little Yoni, below!
When did the idea for My Little Yoni first come to you?
“My Little Yoni first came to me 10 years ago as an empowering character for women and that’s when I created the original art doll with my artisans in Bali. Women started buying them, but what was interesting is that it was mainly moms buying My Little Yoni for their kids! That’s when I realized that My Little Yoni was a character for the whole family and could assist us in raising the next generation with more powerful symbols and messaging.”
How did you go about making the doll?
“My Little Yoni is the world’s first vulva superhero on a mission to smash shame and provide accurate, early sex education with families everywhere! The creation of the original art doll was a pretty magical process. The concept for MLY first came to me in a dream, where I was in the ‘Yoniverse’ and all these Yoni characters were flying around me. I couldn’t stop thinking about these flying Yonis and started sketching out designs. When I thought about where to get them made, instantly Bali sprung to mind. Not only is it in place of practicing Hindus, honoring the lineage of the word Yoni, it’s also an island full of skilled, ceremonially minded artisans. So I knew that incredible care would be put into every handmade doll, which seemed really important for a project like this. Within a day of first landing in Bali I got connected to a maker named Madé, and after a couple weeks we had the first prototype. What’s really cool is that My Little Yoni are the first ‘stuffed animals’ to ever be produced in Bali. Traditionally, Balinese children play with carved wood toys—so making a three-dimensional cloth object was actually a new concept. Which means pattern makers wouldn’t work with us, so Madé worked tirelessly with me to get the design right and after six weeks I had the first batch of art dolls to bring home with me. I still produce the art dolls with Madé in Bali and am just so grateful for her incredible team of women who sew every stitch with joy and care.”
When did you decide to branch out into books?
“It wasn’t until 2020 that we decided to focus all our efforts on parents and helping them empower their kids with quality, accurate sex education. My Little Yoni is an amazing character for making those conversations easier and fun. While having the doll around the house already helps naturally invite some of those conversations, we knew we needed to do more. In 2020 I wrote the first book, Yoni Magic: The Amazing Truth, focused on vulva anatomy. We decided to expand the series, so in 2021 I wrote and illustrated the entire 10-book series, focused on a range of comprehensive sex education topics.”
Why the name “My Little Yoni”?
“The name My Little Yoni is both playful and meaningful. Yoni is a Sanskrit word for vulva and womb and translates to mean ‘sacred gateway.’ With so much shame and violence directed towards the vulva, I thought a word that honors the vulva as the ‘sacred gateway,’ is a powerful and necessary reframe. Vulvas ARE sacred gateways. Women are the source of life. This deserves respect. If everyone saw vulvas as a sacred gateway, that would solve a lot of pain and suffering we currently see in the world. Yoni is also a fun name for our vulva superhero that helps differentiate between the character and the anatomy lessons she gives.”
Tell us about your background as an artist, entrepreneur, and sexual wellness coach.
“I started out in theater as a performing thespian, touring in a Shakespeare company and assisting directors at the Z Space Studio in San Francisco. I left theater to study human potential and trained in multiple body-mind disciplines, learning about the power of meditation, somatic psychology, breath-work, energy healing, and more. I received my degree in Human Development with an emphasis in Human Sexuality and started working with women focusing on sexuality and ‘self-lovership’ (e.g. supporting women in reclaiming pleasure for themselves). As I grew my business, I developed a passion for supporting other entrepreneurs and started advising founders ranging from femme tech to ecological fashion. As an artist, I make commissioned visual art through the project Love Saints and write songs. My Little Yoni brought both art and sexual wellness together, being an artistic approach to a real problem, using a character to disrupt a space like sex education.”
Do you remember the sex-ed you received growing up, especially around vulvas?
“I would say very little. The sex-ed I did receive was too late—at the point where kids already think they know what sex is and any discussion with an adult about the topic produces giggles and eye-rolls. Another message I received was that I needed to avoid rape and that I needed to be hypervigilant as a girl to stay safe.”
From your research, what are kids learning in schools today when it comes to vulvas and sex-ed?
“Only 29 states require sex education and of those, only 23 require it be medically accurate. Only 7 states require consent education to be part of the curriculum and only 9 states require LGBTQ+ matters to be included. This is just a quick snapshot of how lacking our sex education requirements are in the U.S. We have no federal requirements and the government is prone to waste billions of dollars on abstinence education programs, which have consistently been proven to be ineffective. On top of all this, of the sex-ed programs that are offered, it’s usually for middle school or high school, when comprehensive sex-ed really should begin much earlier in childhood.”
Why is at-home education so important for you?
“Where state education programs fail, porn often fills in the gaps and kids ‘learn’ about sex from the internet rather than caring adults in their life that they can trust. This means that unless parents take matters into their own hands, kids are not receiving the education they need. That’s why we are passionate about making these conversations easier for parents and supporting them with resources to provide their kids with sex-ed directly inside the home.”
Tell us your goals for My Little Yoni.
“We have the goal of providing 1 million families with free, accurate, positive sex education that helps the next generation development healthy sexuality and relationships. We want Yoni, and the idea it represents, to be a household term.”
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