Alexandra Fine often says she wants to make the world a happier place, “one vagina at the time.”
But while that might seem like just another take on the Silicon Valley joke, fixing the “pleasure gap” is no laughing matter. Women are four times more likely to describe recent sex as “not at all pleasurable,” and that’s simply not OK anymore.
So it’s no wonder that when Fine—a Master in Clinical Psychology from Columbia who co-founded Dame Products with Janet Lieberman, an MIT-educated mechanical engineer—took its innovative vibrator design to Kickstarter last year, it made nearly eight times its original $50,000 goal.
Up to 70% of women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm, and Fin sold itself on an intuitive design that enhanced the natural movements of intimate touching by adding that clitoral stimulation for women to sex between couples.
Almost 5,000 backers signed up before the campaign closed, and more are placing orders on the website every day. So it’s fair to say that Fine and Lieberman have struck quite a chord with the community.
This followed from the huge success of their previous Kickstarter product, Eva (a hands-free, strap-free clitoral vibrator that a woman can wear during sex), which quickly became the most highly funded adult product in the history of online crowdfunding—raising $575,000 in just 45 days.
User-friendly sex toys
The major problem with most sex toys is that they aren’t very user-friendly, explains Fine:
“Until now, this industry has been separated from all others, but we’re consistently driven by the notion that vibrators are tools for sexual wellness and sexual agency. We’d like to make them more approachable.”
Even confident and empowered women who routinely use these devices are often puzzled by them, which means that for the rest of us the experience can feel so intimidating we’re likely to give up on the whole thing.
Sex tech pioneer Cindy Gallop recalls a time when she unboxed one such beautifully presented gadget only to be utterly confounded by it. “I opened the box and found myself thinking, ‘How the fuck do you use this thing?’” she recalls.
Not so with Dame’s offerings. When Fin and the Eva arrived through my letterbox, they gave off a much friendlier vibe—pun intended. The devices are sturdy (made from medical-grade silicon) and come with clear and simple instructions, should you need them. They’re not exactly cheap, but compared to other sex toys they are, in fact, on the affordable side of the scale.
And the fact that they come in a pleasant range of colors, and live in pretty little black satin pouches, make them the sort of thing you might buy for a friend (if they’re a really good friend). The intuitive design and straightforward settings enable a plug-and-play approach, and that’s what felt refreshing.
Because, as it turns out, it’s the simplicity of Dame’s designs that make them so disruptive in the sex tech space. Whereas freaky-looking cumbersome toys send the message that this is something out of the ordinary for most women, Dame is telling you this is the sort of thing every woman should have in their pleasure toolkit.
By making such devices more intuitive and seamless, they demystify the whole concept and make the idea of female pleasure the rule, rather than an exception.
And as those in the know will tell you, making something beautifully simple is actually much more challenging from a design perspective. Lieberman describes how they used 3D printing to iterate quickly, incorporating customer feedback at every stage. In fact, that was one of the reasons they were so keen to crowdfund both projects:
“Turning to crowdfunding is a conscious decision on our part—something we find crucial when designing products like ours. The immediate feedback and constant two-way communication with our customers allows us to gain insight into the industry in a valuable way,” says Fine
Their mission-driven approach toward enhancing natural intimacy is centered around function-first design, as Lieberman explains:
“Our mission is to listen to, study, and ultimately design around women’s real, unmet needs. I spent years engineering top of the line products, but I found myself consistently accepting lower standards when it came to sex toys. We founded Dame Products out of the belief that sex toys should be held to the same standards as any other consumer product.”
Fin is definitely in a class of its own as far as user experience goes. For one, the fact that it’s worn between the fingers makes it really versatile, meaning it’s easy to use in a variety of ways, and the sensations change based simply on where it is worn—tips of the fingers, base of the palm, or even the backside of the fingers.
It fits both women’s and men’s hands, so that the wearer can choose whether to have direct contact with the partner (or themselves) with what level of vibration.
The main fact that this acknowledges is that where it comes to sex, everybody is different, and what works for one person might turn another one off completely. The genius of products like Fin is that they don’t try to tell you what to do, they just give you the chance to enhance the experiences that you would normally find most pleasurable.
Like OMGYes and Make Love Not Porn these devices help to normalize the diversity and complexity of female pleasure. And if that’s not empowering, I don’t know what it.
Image sources: Dame Products