Meet the Two Female Entrepreneurs Making 'Feminist' Sex Toys
We talked to designers Alex Fine and Janet Lieberman about the "first hands-free, strap-free, non-intrusive" vibrator and what it means for female sexual pleasure.
Photo of Alex and Janet, courtesy of Dame.
Alex Fine and Janet Lieberman are two New York-based female entrepreneurs who are passionate about sex and not afraid to say it. Together, they launched the company
Dame Products, to "empower the sexual experiences of woman kind" by creating sex toys that answer women's sexual needs more adequately than those already on the market.
Their debut design is called "Eva," the world's first "hands-free, strap-free, non-intrusive couples vibrator." From the outside, Eva just looks like a cute little butterfly. Alex and Janet claim that it's "revolutionary," though, as it's the first ever vibrator that stays in place without you having to hold it.
Alex—Dame Products' CEO—holds a masters in Psychology from Columbia University, while Janet—Eva's designer—is an MIT-trained mechanical engineer. I rang Alex up to find out about how they fell into the business of making sex toys, to have a chat about the experience of using Eva and to get her thoughts on where we're standing right now in terms of male and female sexual equality.
VICE: Tell me Dame Products' story.
Alex Fine: When I first thought of the company, I had some idea of the kind of products I wanted to make—sex toys made by women, for women, and putting women's needs first—but I lacked the technical knowledge to make them. Then I met Jane, and very quickly we realized we shared a similar passion: making vibrators. We both thought, What an amazing way to spend your time!
Then a lot of it came from conversations we had with ladies about their sexual experiences and issues they'd had with sex toys. We felt like we had to focus on clitoral stimulation, since about 70 percent of women only have external orgasms. It seemed like possibilities to enhance women's satisfaction were very limited out there, with stuff like cock rings (which restrict the man's blood-flow and completely changes their experience), or that whole butterfly strap-on thing, which both take up a lot of the experience.
OK. How did the idea for Eva come about?
I wanted to make a sort of little "fairy," that could cause stimulation but not impact sex outside of that. So I started to think of possibilities of creating a small accessory that could just stay in place without you having to hold it. I then took a half-dollar coin, wrapped it up with some cellophane and put it in between my labia. Then I saw that the coin just stayed in place, as the skin was holding it. I even ran around the house with it to see if it would fall. This is basically how Eva was born.
Did you think making sex toys was what you would end up doing with your degrees?
Actually, yeah. My real desire was to be a sex therapist, eventually build a name for myself and then create vibrators. I even have a chart somewhere of "career paths with sexuality as a focus" and vibrator-maker is just circled with stars around it.
What would your classmates say now?
I just got back from my five-year reunion, so I can tell you what they actually said: "I can't imagine you doing anything else." "That is such a perfect job for you." "What do your parents think?" Actually, we had 50 women trying the product before it went into manufacturing—I even got my mom to test it, and she loved it.
What's so different about Eva? Is it really that "revolutionary"?
We got some very good reviews from the start. The biggest thing to it, really, is that women loved the fact they didn't have to hold the vibrator while they were having sex. Doggy-style, for example, is really a position in which gravity works against you... Some testers really loved that even in that position because they only needed a finger to hold it in place instead of their whole hand. It gives more freedom, as during sex you use your hands a lot anyway.
How do you think our sexual partners accept the idea of having a "third party" or vibrator generally?
Personally, I was very frustrated by other products, particularly because of this feeling that there's something else "in between" you and your partner. Most of the usual sex toys will give you a clitoral stimulation, but there's also that feeling that they're inside you at the same time as your partner. That can be extremely bothering. Sure, even with Eva, you're still using a sex toy, and there are certain things about that that make it the whole experience different. But because it's so much smaller (about two inches by two inches) and stays in place, you can just forget about it.
Why do you call your products "feminist-friendly"?
I never set out to do that particularly. But it's been amazing how people have come out saying this was actually a feminist company. Our aim from the beginning was to empower women, to encourage them to use more products of the kind, enhance their experience of them and to close the gap that existed in the sex toys industry.
There are very few toys out there that are actually made by women, for women. We're putting women's needs first, and it's obvious to me how our product really speaks to women. The toy we created really makes sense. Thinking that a vibrator could simply replace a partner is a silly idea. The fact that women are using sex toys doesn't mean they'll do it all the time—it's just nice to have more options. I think it also encourages certain conversations that you might otherwise not have.
You can buy an Eva here. A dollar from each sold unit goes to an organization fighting against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
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