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Photography Fran Gomez De Villaboa, creative director Joel Palmer (Major Zcene), courtesy of HOWL

HOWL is the sex-positive brand helping the queer community have better sex


TextDominic Cadogan

Founded by filmmaker Samuel Douek, the community is focused on supporting LGBTQ+ people through education and destigmatising anal pleasure

After decades of campaigning from queer organisations, last year the UK government ruled that LGBTQ+ focused sex education would be taught in schools – starting in September of this year. The lack of this invaluable knowledge for so many generations has without a doubt been damaging to the community, but it’s something that HOWL – a newly launched queer-run, sex-positive community – is on a mission to change. 

“We’re here to educate, destigmatise, and normalise an outdated societal taboo of pleasure and connection,” explains founder and filmmaker Samuel Douek. Born from queer club nights, the pandemic brought Douek an opportunity to expand its offering after he was approached by friends in the CBD industry to create CBD anal lube. “It was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down and together we developed the idea,” he continues. “The HOWL brand was the perfect stage for this new venture given its sex-positive and community focused identity and, well, the name.” 

Launching with two products – water-based and silicone-based CBD lubes – both are designed to be used in a multitude of ways, whether for solo play, penetrative sex, or for sex toys. What unites them is Douek’s promise that they’ll “elevate assplay to another dimension” with relaxing and anti-inflammatory CBD formulated especially for anal.  

In addition to the lube, HOWL offers educational tools online for tips on douching, virtual panels exploring sex positivity, and a zine spotlightlighting queer creatives. Not only that, but it gives back to the community too, partnering with UK Black Pride for it’s first issue, with 50p from each bottle sold supporting the event. 

“But, most importantly, while we are a brand made by the LGBTQ+ community for the LGBTQ+ community, we’re a brand for everyone,” concludes Douek. “All sexualities, genders, races, religions, creeds, shapes, and sizes. Because you dont have to be queer to have a queer belief system. And that belief system is one of tolerance, love, and respect.”  

Here, we speak to the founder about sex positivity, the importance of LGBTQ+ sex education, and how sex is going to change post-COVID. 

Can you tell us about how HOWL first came about? How did it progress into the sex-positive community it is now? 

Samuel Douek: HOWL began as a 14-hour queer techno and performing arts festival in Tottenham back in 2019. It was launched by myself, Nicco Torrelli, and Zoe Marden and was the birthchild of two other live event projects I’ve been running for a few years; BUM.P, the bi-monthly club night that I hosted with Nicco, and the CAMPerVAN, a travelling queer performance and community caravan that I host with Zoe and Fiontan Moran. 

We set out to create a space that brought different LGBTQ+ collectives together for one night under one roof, with three stages for performance art, techno, RnB, and house music. The event was a big success and we were looking forward to growing HOWL into a mini festival in 2020 and beyond; London’s answer to WHOLE Festival in Germany. But when Miss Rona reared her ugly head, it put everything on hold and the project became stagnant until I was approached by some friends in the CBD industry about launching a line of CBD anal lubricants designed for the queer community. 

 What does HOWL stand for and why? 

Samuel Douek: HOWL takes its name from the Beat Generation queer American-Jewish writer Allen Ginsberg and his seminal poem ‘HOWL’ which was banned in 1956. It’s hard to imagine the impact the poem had in shaping the new world. Written against a backdrop of strict conservatism and religious ideology, it marked a turning point in self-expression and the fight for personal freedoms.

HOWL hopes to continue this legacy of breaking taboos. One of the first things we did, inspired by collectives like Pxssy Palace and Crossbreed, was to create a manifesto that clearly outlined what we stand for. Its last two lines seem the most pertinent: ‘HOWL is for all sexualities, genders, races, and sizes. HOWL is liberation through exploration’. The idea is that, through unpoliced personal exploration, we liberate ourselves from the oppressive expectations of society and therefore break down cultural taboos, such as the awkward stigma that shrouds the hushed world of anal sex.

Why is it important for you to focus on positivity and education for the LGBTQ+ community specifically?

Samuel Douek: Around the world, the queer community face daily adversity. From micro aggressions in countries where there are protections, to the arresting or murdering of queer people under less tolerant governments. But despite such oppression, the queer community never stops showing love and support for one another. It’s this support that makes me want to give back. It’s the reason I created the CAMPerVAN and started the clubnight BUM.P. It is the reason why HOWL was born and has now evolved into a queer lifestyle brand. 

Championing LGBTQ+ positivity and servicing the community is at the core of our brand identity. And what we hope to offer is an amazing product and a series of educational tools that break down the mysteries surrounding anal sex and how CBD anal lube may help. But perhaps our most important initiative will be our relationship with queer charities. For every bottle sold, 50p is donated. For our first issue, HOWL has partnered with UK Black Pride – Europe’s largest celebration for African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American, and Caribbean-heritage LGBTQ+ people – because Black lives and queer Black lives always matter, and it is our responsibility to support those most vulnerable under the umbrella term of LGBTQ+. 

Why did you want to launch with CBD lube? 

Samuel Douek: The main reason for wanting to launch HOWL with a CBD anal lubricant at its core is simply because we knew that we had an amazing product on our hands. CBD is reported to be anti-inflammatory and relaxing, perfect for a lubricant where it decreases pain, relaxes muscles and increases pleasure.  

Currently, the CBD lubes availabile are all targeted at women and formulated for vaginal sex. Our lubricant formulations have been designed with ISO-accredited GMP-certified CBD (Cannabidiol) sourced from Germany specifically designed for anal play (whether that’s self-care solo play or with a partner/partners), though they feel amazing for all types of vaginal play too. Every decision we have made as a brand is dictated by the same principal; what would be the best product to be used by an intersectional group of different genders and sexualities with different needs, the answer tends to be ‘CHOICE’.

“The only way to improve mental health and sex-positive wellness is to have open dialogue. HOWL’s sole purpose is to open the floodgates of discussion” – Samuel Douek, founder, HOWL 

How do you think education around sex positivity and wellness for the LGBTQ+ community can be improved? 

Samuel Douek: The only way to improve mental health and sex-positive wellness is to have open dialogue. We have a long way to go in creating safe spaces for discussion about a subject which the vast majority of people engage with but seldom discuss. HOWL’s sole purpose is to open the floodgates of discussion. From online educational tools about douching and CBD use to virtual panels with experts and amateurs exploring anal sex. However, the most significant manifestation of this will be HOWL ZINE. 

With every purchase of a HOWL product, each customer will receive a free HOWL ZINE. The ZINE serves as an archive and creative platform for queer thought and self-expression, inviting a selection of artists, writers, and thinkers to contribute, responding to a theme. For ISSUE 001, the theme is Liberation and in support of our featured charity UK Black Pride, we are inviting QTPOC artists to contribute. It features an interview and intimacy mix by NTS presenter and DJ Sippin’ T from the BBZ Collective and a poem by multidisciplinary writer Otamere Guobadia. 

How do you think attitudes towards sex are going to change in 2021 and hopefully a post-COVID world?  

Samuel Douek: COVID-19 has forced us all to spend a lot more time online. From watching more porn than usual to endlessly swiping to find a hot post-lockdown date. Personally, I have noticed a lot more adverts for sex toys on my social media feeds, but that might be because I’m launching a lube company and we all know they listen…

What’s exciting about the future of sex in a post-COVID world is that I think it will follow the trajectory of gender. There seems to be a growing trend towards more nuanced and complex manifestations of gender identity. The more the better if you ask me! It’s fascinating to see, particularly younger people, fine tune a label that perfectly defines them and identifies like minded others. As we move beyond the performed constraints of gender we free ourselves from the limitations of sexuality. I like to think that in a post-COVID future, we do away with the rules that govern what men, women, and non-binary/trans people should and shouldn’t do. With greater visibility comes greater exploration and understanding. 

What can we expect from HOWL in the future? How do you plan to expand it? 

Samuel Douek: HOWL is really just beginning. In addition to our water-based and silicone CBD anal lubes we will be developing additional lube SKUs including a premium concentrated CBD lube for a more intense experience and a line of sex toys for all genders and sexualities. 

Alongside our CBD and sex products, we are collaborating with queer artists in the community to create merchandise that can continue to help support LGBTQ+ charities through sales. Everything from buttplug iPhone finger grips to BDSM-inspired bedroom accessories. The whole idea is to support queer artists by commissioning LGBTQ+ designers to create limited edition merch in line with our Zine Issues. 

But of course the most exciting thing about 2021 will be the return of HOWL: QUEER CITY 2021, our festival that kicked off this entire project. I have begun looking for a field to host a 3 day overnight festival for about 1000-2000 people. It’s quite the undertaking but the idea of bringing people from all over the world together under the ethos of HOWL is too exciting a venture to turn down. If you know a field going… let me know ;)

HOWL is offering Dazed readers an exclusive holiday discount. Visit the site and use the code ‘DAZED25’ at checkout to get 25 per cent off your order plus free UK delivery and a HOWL bandana. 50p of every bottle sold is donated to UK Black Pride (Europe’s largest celebration for African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean-heritage LGBTQ+ people).

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