Sex Tech Has Embraced Female Pleasure, But Lesbians Are Still Being Left Out Of The Conversation

LGBTQ+ women bring skills, experiences, and insights that straight consumers can benefit from, says Brianna Radar, the founder of Juicebox. Getty

Franki Cookney

Sex tech entrepreneurs wanting to cater to women, would do well to listen to what lesbians have to say about female pleasure.

Barriers between the traditionally white, straight, male world of investment and the increasingly female-populated worlds of design and production are starting to slowly break down. Women are leading the way in audio porn, sex education, and toy design, and the sexual wellness industry is no longer a stranger to female-founders. But the vast majority of products that come to market are still based around a heterosexual understanding of sex.

Speaking as part of DIVA’s Lesbian Visibility Week schedule of virtual events, psychosexologist Dr Karen Gurney pointed out that there are some key differences when it comes to women who have sex with women. “Research shows that when you ask heterosexual people what sex should look like, there is a formulaic and narrow definition given,” she said in a video talk. “But sexual scripts for women who have sex with women provide more freedom. There’s no typical script for what lesbian sex should look like or who should do what in what order.”

The clinical psychologist and author of of Mind The Gap: The Truth about Desire and how to Future-proof Your Sex Life, Dr Gurney added that women who have sex with women are well-placed to bust myths around female bodies and sexuality. “Women’s bodies are not tricker than mens,” she said. “And women who have sex with women will probably know more about that than a lot of women out there.”

She referred to what is known as The Orgasm Gap, based on a 2016 study into differences in orgasm frequency, which showed that women’s rate of orgasm when they have sex with men is only 65%, while straight men report having an orgasm 95% of the time. However, she points out that the rate of orgasm for women who have sex with women is 85%.

“Women who have sex with women typically report a greater variety and frequency of sexual acts,” she said. “Unsurprisingly, this shows itself in more orgasms, as well as higher reported sexual satisfaction.”

Despite this, marketing in the sexual wellness sector is still largely informed by the experiences of heterosexual women.  “Historically, cis men have been the leaders in the space we now call sex tech,” says Maggie Stiggleman, the senior software developer at Lioness. “When women are thought of it’s often only straight women.”

Maggie Stiggleman, senior software developer at Lioness
Maggie Stiggleman, senior software developer at Lioness

While there are of course similarities between what straight women enjoy in bed and what gay women enjoy, lumping lesbians in with discussions of straight female sexual pleasure is unhelpful. “It is almost like lesbians get forgotten in the mix of female sexuality,” says Alice Derock, the CEO of Wet For Her. “When it comes to products, it does feel lesbian sexuality is approached in the same way as heterosexual women’s sexuality. There doesn’t seem to be an understanding of lesbian couples’ sex and how this is different. There is a market within the lesbian community and I think this sometimes forgotten. ”

Founded in 2009, Wet For Her designs and manufacturers lesbian sex toys. Derock says that while she’s always found the adult industry to be very welcoming, the startup space is still tricky to navigate as a woman, let alone as a lesbian-founded sex tech company.

“Many people assume when you say you have a lesbian business, that it must be making porn,” she says. “When you search the term ‘lesbian’ on search engines, it is always porn that pops up first, even though the terms ‘sex tech’ and ‘sexual wellness’ have become more mainstream.”

Stiggleman says that gay women also face an extra hurdle when it comes to breaking into the sex tech world, because of the ways that sexism and homophobia intersect. “Sex tech companies have a hard time being taken seriously because of the stigma already associated with sex,” she says. “Women-run ones have an even harder time because society has taught us to trust men with business, not women. So, a lesbian-run sex tech company? Investors don’t come running for something society has told them is deviant in so many ways.”

A portrait photograph of Alice Derock, the CEO of Wet For Her
Alice Derock, the CEO of Wet For Her, a lesbian sex toy designer and manufacturer
Wet For Her

Both women say they feel completely supported and welcomed in their own workplaces, but acknowledge this isn’t always the case. Furthermore, Stiggleman feels proud to be working on a product—a smart vibrator that allows users to measure and track their orgasms—that is taking the lesbian experience into account. 

“I do a lot of the designing and coding for our mobile app, and I make sure that we do not assume the sexuality or gender of our users,” she says. “It is important to me that I’m helping to make a great sex tech product when I know that lesbians weren’t even thought of during the inception of many others.”

Andrea Barrica, the founder of sex education platform O.School, recently pointed out that in today’s market there is no single identifiable customer for sex tech products. While there will always be a demand for lesbian-specific products, entrepreneurs looking to reach a broader customer base need to let go of assumptions about what kinds of sex their users are having.

Brianna Radar is the founder of Juicebox whose products include Slutbot, a virtual sexting coach. She thinks the future of sex tech will lie in taking a more gender neutral approach. “That’s the future Gen Z is looking for,” she says. “Not necessarily a product that exclusively speaks to queer women but a more gender neutral approach that’s personalized.”

She too thinks that LGBTQ+ women bring skills, experiences, and insights that straight consumers benefit from. “More than any other demographic, queer people are excellent at talking about sex,” she says. “We have to be, as minorities. The goal of our product is to take everything I’ve learned from being in fringe communities and bring the positive aspects to the mainstream.”

Original Article in Forbes Click Here

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