Interviews

Two Smart Girls Create a Vibrator You Can Wear

May 27, 2016
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Two women—one with a degree in psychology from Columbia, the other with a degree in engineering from MIT—combine their powers to make a wearable vibrator. By Erika Allen.

I don’t know why I’m shocked by innovation in the sex toy market. Like, basically everything else we use is constantly being improved upon—faster, smaller, sleeker, longer battery life, less gas, whatever. So why should I be amazed that someone is trying to make a better vibrator?  

Generally, I subscribe to the “It it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mode of consuming (except when it comes to shoes, or bags, or makeup, or skincare products, in which case get me the newest, chicest, glowiest, most pore-refining, age-defying update you’ve got!) There’s a reason that “don’t try to reinvent the wheel” is a saying. But there people go, actually trying to reinvent the wheel.

When I heard about Eva, the “hands free, distraction free” wearable couples vibrator, I put it in the category of upgrades I’m not interested in. Then I read more about this vibrator’s inventors, Alex Fine and Janet Lieberman, two young women, with degrees in psychology from Columbia and engineering from MIT, respectively, who decided to crowdfund an adorable little egg-shaped, winged vibrator that wouldn’t get in the way of intimacy with a partner (there wings tuck under your labia so you can literally wear it). Who wouldn’t want to try a product made by two women smart enough to take their knowledge about human psyche and 3D printers, add other people’s money, and create something that gives you orgasms? At the very least, who wouldn’t want to hear from them?

I asked Alex and Janet a bit about Eva and their company DAME. Here’s what they told me.

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Erika: When did you decide to apply your advanced degrees to the sex toy game?

Alex: I got my advance degree in human psychology and sexuality at Columbia. For me, it was a bit more of a decision about when I decided to apply business to my degree in sex.

Janet:  I’d been a sex toy user for years, and, one day, three things occurred to me. First, that I had lower expectations for this product category than I did for other consumer electronics. Second, that there was no reason I shouldn’t be getting the same reliability or value for my money. The third epiphany was that, as an MIT-educated mechanical engineer who’d been working in consumer product development for seven years, I had the background and experience to be able to make that happen.

What is the pleasure gap and why was that so motivating for you two?

Alex: The pleasure gap is the difference sexual pleasure perceived between the two sexes.  Women are four times more likely to say sex is not at all pleasurable. We think that is concerning and would like to change it.

Janet, you have a lot of experience using 3D printers.  When did you first realize that technology could be applied to these toys?

Janet: My first job out of school was designing 3D printers. From day one of my product design career, I had a fleet of 3D printers at my disposal—it’s just how I learned. 3D printers are integrated into my design process. I didn’t actively think of applying 3D printers to sex toy design; I thought of applying modern product development techniques. Leveraging 3D printers to iterate quickly is part of a lean product development plan.

Did you ever have any trouble explaining to your families how and why you were going to move into the sex toy space?

Janet: I think my parents know that I decided to start a sex toy company because of the values they instilled in me, not in spite of them.  

Alex: My family was thrilled that I didn’t want to get my PhD, but was instead going to start a company. I’ve been wanting to pursue my passion for sexuality since I was 18, so my parents are definitely used to it by this point.

This video explains how it works/how to wear it.

When did you start your research and how did you go about it?

Alex: My first attempt at product testing was amazing. I had a bunch of lady friends come over, try on these crazy looking vibrators and plié/squat. We had a blast!

What about the market research? Were you just going out and buying and trying every vibrator you could get your hands on? Is that super fun or does it become tiresome and stressful?

Alex: Market research for solo play is either super fun or very weird. I’ve realized I’m not great at getting myself into the mood for work purposes. Testing other brand’s products with my partner is also either really fun or incredibly annoying (especially when using a poorly designed product). Testing out different version of the same product is the worst for him, since I’ll stop him in the middle of sex to switch out vibrators and then ask him to do same thrusting motion he just did. We can’t change positions, since that would add a third variable.

Janet: Buying, trying, and then taking apart every vibrator in a product category is definitely part of the process. Generally, most vibrator testing is somewhere between fun and stressful—it’s pretty hard to simultaneously control all the variables between “trials” and use a vibrator naturally.

What about the science-y/ technology part? How does that experimentation go?

Janet: The scientific method, is, by definition, just trying things and seeing if they work in some sort of logical way. People can get it intimidated, but it comes down to something that simple. I started with the vibrator’s wings, because I knew they would be the hardest to get right. I tested a lot of different versions of them to understand how the problem worked. Then I started to add to the rest of the parts, and understand what those rules were going to be. Then we started making versions that had everything in them, and tried to figure out what tweaks would make them work better.

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When did you decide this would be a crowdfunded project?

Alex: Day 1! We knew crowdfunding was a perfect tool for us from the get go. Institutional money is certainly not knocking on our door anytime soon, so it was a logical solution. Crowdfunding allowed us to validate the product concept, take in money for manufacturing, and develop an amazing and invested consumer base.

Janet: The response was amazing. We hit our goal of $50K the first weekend. The next day, before I’d gotten a chance to open the champagne, we’d doubled it.

Right, because people love orgasms! What’s next for you? Do you plan to continue making more toys?

Janet: Our mission is to make the world a happier place, one vagina at a time.  There are definitely more sex toys that can help us in this mission. But, long term, we’ve got big dreams.

Erika Allen is an editor at VICE magazine. Read her most recent post for Slutever, “What Should I Call My Unmarried Partner?” HERE :)

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