- Casual Conversations: The Art of Self-Discovery
- Episode 57: Masculine vs. Feminine vs. HUMAN
- Casual Conversations: Don’t Apologize for Being Human
- Episode 56: The Complexity of Simplicity
- Casual Conversations: The Paradox of Perfection
- Food For Thought: Jealousy vs. Envy
- Food For Thought: Thankful vs. Grateful
- Episode 55: To Care for Others, Care for Yourself
- Casual Conversations: Anxiety, Boundaries, and Meditation
- Episode 54: Accessibility & Equity in Mental Health Care
- En Español: El Poder de la Mente Sobre el Cuerpo
- Episode 53: Sexual Liberation & The Wisdom of Aging
- Episode 52: Cohabitation, Gender Roles, and The Summer of Love
- Episode 51: The Lies We Tell Ourselves About The Truth
- Episode 50: An Industry of Injustice (4/4)
- Episode 49: This Is Actually Happening (3/4)
- Episode 48: Standing By vs. Being An Ally (2/4)
- Recommendations & Reviews: Boogie Nights
- Food For Thought: Contradiction vs. Complementation
- Food For Thought: Curiosity vs. Criticism
- Episode 47: Sexual “Empowerment” Sells (1/4)
- Recommendations & Reviews: The Culture Map
- Food For Thought: Celebrating The Small Wins
- Food For Thought: The Many Roads To Happiness
- En Español: Sexualidad e Igualdad
- Casual Conversations: Communication, Mindfulness, and Pleasure
- Food For Thought: Operational Definitions
- Food For Thought: Memory Tissue
- Episode 46: The Nutrition Facts of Life
- Casual Conversations: The Lost Art of Letter Writing
- Food For Thought: Attribution Theory
- Food For Thought: Coronavirus vs. Connection
- Bonus Episode: The Psychology of Solitary
- Episode 45: Love, Loss & The Meaning Of Life (2/2)
- Episode 44: Love, Loss & The Meaning Of Life (1/2)
- Live Workshop: Navigating Anxiety During COVID
- Episode 43: The Body Knows Best
- Episode 42: (Un)Censoring Pleasure
- Episode 41: Bring On The Heat (2/2)
- Episode 40: Bring On The Heat (1/2)
- Episode 39: The Myth of Marriage (2/2)
- Episode 38: The Myth of Marriage (1/2)
- Episode 37: Same Page, Different Book (2/2)
- Episode 36: Same Page, Different Book (1/2)
- Episode 35: Humans In Progress (2/2)
- Episode 34: Humans In Progress (1/2)
- Episode 33: The Strength In Our Scars (2/2)
- Episode 32: The Strength In Our Scars (1/2)
- Episode 31: Masculinity & Authenticity (2/2)
- Episode 30: Masculinity & Authenticity (1/2)
- Episode 29: Addiction & Intimacy – From Harm to Healing (2/2)
- Episode 28: Addiction & Intimacy – From Harm to Healing (1/2)
- New Trailer: Let’s Get Intimate!
- Episode 27: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See (2/2)
- Episode 26: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See (1/2)
- Episode 25: Why Relationships Fail vs. Flourish (2/2)
- Episode 24: Why Relationships Fail vs. Flourish (1/2)
- Episode 23: The Evolution of (Non)Monogamy (2/2)
- Episode 22: The Evolution of (Non)Monogamy (1/2)
- Episode 21: “Pleasure Is The Measure” (2/2)
- Episode 20: “Pleasure Is The Measure” (1/2)
- Episode 19: Sex Sells? Or Insecurity Sells… (2/2)
- Episode 18: Sex Sells? Or Insecurity Sells… (1/2)
- Episode 17: DON’T Fake It ‘Til You Make It (2/2)
- Episode 16: DON’T Fake It ‘Til You Make It (1/2)
- Episode 15: Mindfulness For Sexual Connection
- Episode 14: Keeping It “Casual” (2/2)
- Episode 13: Keeping It “Casual” (1/2)
- Episode 12: The Birds & The Bees (2/2)
- Episode 11: The Birds & The Bees (1/2)
- Episode 10: Love & Death
- Episode 9: Communication- Mind and Body
- Episode 8: The Power of Sexual Healing (2/2)
- Episode 7: The Power of Sexual Healing (1/2)
- Episode 6: Redefining Masculinity and “The Million Dollar Point”
- Episode 5: Creating Body Maps and Reconnecting with Pleasure
- Episode 4: (In) Fidelity in The Time of Technology
- Episode 3: Let’s Get Cliterate! Narrowing The Orgasm Gap
- Episode 2: Today’s Not So “Liberated” Sex Culture (2/2)
- Episode 1: Today’s Not So “Liberated” Sex Culture (1/2)
- Episode 0: Google doesn’t have all the answers
- Trailer: Let’s Get Intimate!
Let's Get Intimate!
Episode 42: (Un)Censoring Pleasure
Okay. Well thanks so much for joining us here today.
No problem. Happy to be here.
So I’m going to start out by reading a quote that I found in an article that you had written. And it says, “In the past four years of running a vibrator company, which has involved countless focus groups, and rounds of product testing, I’ve absorbed a thing or two about sexual preferences, fears, aspirations and misconceptions.” And so kind of opening with that, I’d love for you to just give our listeners a bit of context and tell us about how you came to be where you are today.
Yeah, so it’s hard to think of my own personal origin story, but I think it really does start from being really young. I remember feeling sexual as a child, which is something that I think we don’t really discuss, and we ignore in children and get very uncomfortable, feel very uncomfortable by it. But I did feel that way when I was young. And when I was six, I went to a drag queen party, my cool aunt, I was staying with her in the city. She brought me to a party and I met some drag queens. I learned so much about my own femininity and what feminine power could be from them. As well as the idea that sex and gender are two separate distinct things. I went back to show and tell, I explained it to my class. They called the principal. The principal called my parents. My aunt got a strong talking to, and it really sparked this why can’t I talk about this? What, why is there a truth in the world that isn’t hurting anybody, that I’m getting in trouble for sharing? Because for me, learning those truths felt very liberating and I was so excited to tell my peers about it. I think that was really the beginning of Alex wanting to be a sex educator and talking about those topics. When I was in middle school, the continued, I’m a very overly friendly person. I’m definitely going to embarrass my children by saying hi to everybody in front of them. And I was also really excited to explore sexuality, as when I started to feel this was the age appropriate time to really explore it. And I remember the first boy I kissed, he got high fives and I got slut shamed.
How old were you?
I was 12 or 11, it was middle school. Yeah, I was 11 or 12. It was my first french kiss, which was gross. And in front of a bunch of people. There were 20 people were watching, and then they counted down, and then we kissed. And literally, right after everybody was giving him high fives, and I didn’t exist. And if anything, I was spoken poorly of. And it really sparked this whole thing for me, where I really shaped the way I was going to explore sex to make sure that people weren’t going to say negative things about me. And I don’t know if I always did a great job with that, but I remember really wanting to have sex with a boyfriend and making him wait. I was trying so hard to wait until I was 16, because I was so scared of being slut shamed.
I don’t think I made it all the way there. But going back and thinking about that, it is so silly. I wish, I was ready. I was excited. It was what I wanted to do, whether it was for the right reasons or. It was what I wanted, and I prevented myself from experiencing life because I was so scared of being slut shamed. So, there’s that. Then I got HPV and I wanted to tell everybody about it. And all of these things essentially led me to wanting to become a sex therapist. I got my master’s in clinical psychology from Columbia and was going down the researcher path. I started realizing that I wanted to talk to people more, than researching was going to allow. And I wanted to just do more. I’m really impatient.
I have a lot of typical entrepreneur characteristics and started to realize, Oh, I can take this passion I have for redefining what sexual pleasure is supposed to be for us, what it specifically really means for women, and do it in a different way by creating products, and creating a brand that offers services. So that’s what I ended up doing. The universe put me in touch with my co-founder, who went to MIT for mechanical engineering. She took this crazy idea I had and made it into a reality. We launched it on Indiegogo. We raised $575,000.00 in 45 days, for our product Eva. Which is a hands-free clitorial vibrator that can be worn in between the labia, during penetrative sex. So it stays there, hands-free. And it’s a really great way of getting additional control stimulation.
Now, five years later, we have a line of vibrators. We have an all-natural aloe-based lubricant and a body positioning pillow. So yeah, we’re really expanding, and I think my path kind of starts with where a lot of your other guests have started. And I think for me, if you are drawn to sexuality in some way, if there’s something about your soul that’s pulling you to this topic. I think growing up for me it felt like academia was the only way. And I’ve been able to find my own path that allows me to have the conversations and impact in the world that I wanted to have. That aligns better with I think, who I am and what my skill sets are.
Right. That need to, at least for present day, step outside of academia into at least the space that I think startups have allowed us both. In order to hopefully, have that society and cultural influence that can eventually work its way back into, and evolve the academia, and the opportunities within that realm.
Yes, that’s actually something I’ve really noticed is that, a lot of academia is actually funded by private institutions. Often, whether it’s the research or, they’re not siloed. The world is this really [inaudible 00:07:14] collective space. And the more private institutions that are trying to champion sexuality, the more likely then, the researchers will have the proper funding in order to do a lot of the research they want to do.
You also touched on that story of you as a child and feeling sexual when you were a child. I wish I had even known what being sexual was. I think that language plays such a huge role in shaping how we think, and therefore who we become. And so, if we don’t even have the exposure to certain things and the language to identify those feelings or those characteristics, then I think that definitely can kind of trap us. So, I think, one, that was cool that you did have the language to identify as such. And you’ve touched on the femininity, and I’d love to hear, again going off of how language is so important in operating definitions. How you would define femininity and then how you would define masculinity?
Oh my God, those are such big questions.
We like big questions.
I think it’s a really exciting thing to think about. Because well one, I think that femininity and masculinity, I do really think that ultimately, that they’re social constructs. Of course, I think that they, both characteristics can exist within one person. One person with one sex can feel the alignment. You can be female at birth and feel very feminine, and you can be female at birth and feel very masculine. And I think that, in a lot of ways I think that those terms are really socially constructed, and that we’ve made them up. I think that there’s some, maybe biological? I think about this a lot, what’s truly feminine? What is 100%, whether it’s in a visual, versus what is masculine? And I guess I would say, to me, femininity tends to be softness and curves and masculinity is right angles and sharpness. And femininity, again, I think this is all made up. But I can maybe understand how since women have the ability to bear children, nurturing is now viewed as a feminine quality. While men in general, were hunters, and gatherers, and the fighters and therefore aggressiveness is viewed as an inherently masculine quality. When I’m negotiating, when I’m doing business, I often really do feel, I try to tap into what feels like the masculine part of me. And I do think again, all of that’s made up. These are layers of socially constructed things that maybe had a seedling of truth at one point. But I still find the constructs really helpful for me, and how I move through the world.
Yes, I think going off how you were saying, how much are they a social construct. And I too, feel as though I have many, I guess what would be considered masculine attributes, or masculine energy. I think it’s more what it stands for, and how it kind of pigeonholes femininity into this one thing.
Well one, I struggled with this too because, does the binary truly serve us? And, I don’t really have the answer for that. I know that the binary is what I was raised in, and it was the language I was given. And I believe that language shapes our reality. So it is often how I still see the world. But I think that ultimately, it’s so much more fluid and boldness and these two distinct things. I visualize it as an amorphous blob, that moves through time and space and that’s our identity, because it just is constantly changing, and fluxing. And I think what it means to be a woman in your early twenties, versus what it means to be a woman in your forties is just a whole different experience. And I also think, when I think of nurturing, I think of fierceness in nurturing and this really powerful love that feels really strong to me. And I think that we can expand on femininity, so it does feel stronger. The idea that masculinity is strength, and femininity is weak, that’s got to go.
What role do you think culture plays in the development of our identities, or that shaping of the blob?
What is it, form is emptiness and emptiness is form? Just a Buddhist saying. And I don’t think we exist without culture. I think the idea that we even exist at all, is questionable. I think our culture shapes us tremendously, and we exist within it.
Going off of what we were talking about before, with the [inaudible 00:12:49] there being binaries, throughout everything, but that dance between, or blending of, or contradiction of. This amazing photo of you in your wedding dress. It says I’m a lady and I poop. I’m big and I am tiny. I’m a wife and a child. I’m a successful business owner and I’m truly lazy. I am a many of identities. So, I’d love for you to just to speak off of that, and to that contradiction that does exist within each one of our own identities, and in culture [inaudible 00:13:20].
This is me on the toilet in my wedding dress, right? First of all, that picture, it’s my favorite picture of the whole wedding, and I’m not even joking. I think getting dressed up in a wedding dress feels so silly, and in a lot of ways, I did not feel like myself in that dress. I just think that there are simultaneous truths that exist in all of us. And that they are so beautiful to just hold all of them all at once. And to acknowledge that like you can be strong, and you can be soft. I can be all of those things. It makes me have a lot of self-love, when I hold space for my contradictions. What are you?
Oh, what am I?
Are you small and big? How are you, small and big?
Oh, that one. I think that one, the way it speaks to me is, in presence, sort of, and how I, around certain people or people I don’t know well, or in situations that I am either not interested in, or I sometimes also just love to listen. And so, I think that I can have a very small presence. But, at the same time, that can easily shift with one question. The whole interaction could be based on what somebody else is saying, but if the one question that you asked is what led to it, I think that’s a way of being big. I also have a lot of energy sometimes. Sometimes it’s not present, but then sometimes, again, around other people, maybe you are the person carrying the energy, versus helping people kind of dig into and bring out their own energy as that, more in the background.
I totally get what you’re saying. First of all, that was beautiful. I feel, now I know you a little bit better. And I do feel that, hearing you speak about the way you know yourself in these different contexts, and how there are different versions of you, or different waves of you. You can bring those to the table depending on the day or the need. I don’t always need to be a boss, but I can be. I definitely don’t always want to be.
Yes, I was just about to say, and sometimes you feel like you can’t. [laughter] I remember when people ask, what the definition of love is? And I think it’s different for everyone, but I have toyed around during the past, played around with the idea of just being with that person helps you love who you are more, or brings out your favorite version of yourself. And sometimes that’s very different, and sometimes in one relationship, it’s that. But then, three years later it brings out a totally different version of yourself. But maybe certain things have changed and that then, becomes kind of the version of yourself that you want to be.
I think that when we try to understand love, it’s best understood as an action, more than a feeling. And I think that the action, this is somebody else’s quote. Well it’s not their quote, but defining love is really challenging. I’ve read a bunch of different definitions, and the one that I’ve always really liked, “It’s the choice to spend your energy to help somebody else grow, or yourself grow. When you love somebody or when you love yourself, you’re giving it the energy and the time to spiritually grow.” I like that one because it’s beyond just this idea of good feelings. Like tough love. When you really love somebody and you want to push them, because you love them so much, and you think they could be doing more. Or you think they’re struggling with something and you want them to stop doing ‘x’. That can be a loving act, even if it doesn’t make them feel good.
And there’s the contradiction. Love doesn’t always feel good.
Yes. Love is interesting, but love should make you feel like you’re growing.
Another important part of love, and be it romantic, or with friends is, people connecting with somebody who’s weird, in the same way that you are is just so beautiful.
And so, finally, when you find out you both secretly really liked this weird cartoon. Or both really listened to Real McCoy back in the day. I’ll loved The Real McCoy. [laughter] Yes, those are nice moments.
And I think, the last thing I guess I would say about that is, you spoke earlier about those versions of ourselves. And I think people really focus on trying to be a certain version of their self, rather than trying to find as many different versions of themselves that they can.
Oh, my god. That is beautiful.
Because you can’t grow, if you’re not expanding, and trying these other things, and putting on somebody else’s shoes, a different pair of your own shoes, per se. And so, I think that exploration and learning require being different versions of ourselves. And that’s okay that there are many different versions, and there will certainly continue to be.
It’s so cool to think that you really can wake up and be a different person. I think a lot of people think that they can never change, but really, we can change. And also, when you were talking, it felt like a good analogy to sex. Which is, I think it’s really important in sex, and finding our sexual selves, and the things that we like and don’t like. To explore different things to find out if we like pressure, or light touch, or our nipples touched, or the back of our necks touched. And I also think, part of that discovery, it is so beautiful to find out what you don’t and who you don’t want to be. So whether it’s you try anal sex, and you realize you really didn’t like it, and you’re just going to let that one just stay a fantasy thing, that you like to masturbate to. But you’re not going to do it in real life. That’s awesome. You know that about yourself and that’s really wonderful. And if you go out there and you try to be a boss, or be a different type of yourself, and personality. And then you wake up the next day and you’re like, you know what, I don’t feel good about how I acted. Or, I didn’t like ecstatic dance. Great. I think who you are is predominantly the things that bring you pleasure, and knowing the things that bring you pleasure, and knowing the things that you don’t like.
Yes. Because I often say this too, because people are constantly looking for what they like, or what they want to be, or who they are. But I think that, just as people are looking for success and that definition is so different. The only way to get there is failure. Not to say any of this is failure. But not only important but actually vital, necessary part of ever finding out who you are, if that’s possible. Because it’s constantly evolving, and if you ever get there, it would be static. But I think that figuring out what you don’t like, who you aren’t, trying careers that you don’t like, those versions are the only way to get closer to what it is you do want to be, or receive, et cetera is yes, to just tick off the things you don’t like. Because you’re never just going to wake up and know, without having tried things that were either similar or the complete opposite. And so I think that rather than, as we discussed before, with that binary, and creating, expanding, so it’s this range or this melding. I think people even within that, already narrow binary [inaudible 00:22:21] pick just this small part of it. And that is their part, rather than sliding along it, or up and down, and kind of slowly working from the outside in to narrow down from the things they’ve tried, the people they’ve been with, the lessons they’ve learned, to then find that place. Rather than just assuming from the beginning that’s where they want to or were meant to be. And so to bring it back to [inaudible 00:22:54] and particularly, some of the work of yours, that I’ve been following, and that we’ve similarly struggled with, is kind of the restriction on advertisement, and exposure, and so–
Conversation. It’s a restriction on conversation and sex. Here’s my pitch in general, sex as I’m sure you already know, is an incredibly part of the human society. It’s an important part of our personal health, it’s an important part of our romantic relationships. And we do not have the words and are actually not even really allowed to talk about it. If I can’t think of anything else that is this important, that we just don’t talk about. And the conversations are just censored. And it’s harder to have a podcast in this category. It’s harder to start a business in this category. Everything about wanting to make sex better, is met with such institutional, societal resistance in a way that just seems so illogical to me. So profoundly stupid of us as a society. Like we exist because of sex.
We have become very aware of how unhappy so many people are with certain sexual experiences. Whether it’s sexual assault, having pain during sex. I think if you ask men how is sex supposed to feel, they’re all going to tell you it feels good. If you ask a woman, a young girl who’s about to have sex for the first time, how she’s feeling about it, she really might tell you that she’s scared it’s going to hurt. We can make it better. We’ve made so many other things better. We have, made sex better in a lot of ways, but now, we just need to talk about it, in order to improve it. It’s wild to watch those congressional hearings with Zuckerberg, and listening to him talk about connecting people, freedom of speech, raising voices, helping businesses grow. And I’m sitting here and I’m like, you don’t help me do any of those things. You have shut down my voice and you are putting free speech in front of truth. And my advertisements, my messaging, it’s all based on science. And we work really hard to say truthful statements about, what we think sex should be. Sex should be safe, consensual, and pleasurable. You get a defined pleasure of pain, feels pleasurable to you, that’s wonderful. And I cannot believe how controversial that statement is.
You kind of mentioned they sensor conversation, and part of our, what is a book club that’s actually email content curation. We talk about changing the conversation in the culture surrounding intimacy and relationships. But we once tried to run an ad that said, I almost did it as a joke just to see what happened. It was a picture of somebody hiking and it said love your family. And it was denied for obscenity. So it’s then going back to, the entire profiles, entire companies being flagged, and can’t run anything. So then, it’s people, it’s thoughts, and ideas that are being censored, which takes it even further. Because as we talked about in the beginning, if you don’t even… it’s not even you’re not able to take part in a conversation you’re already having in your head. It’s denying you the capacity and the exposure necessary to spur those thoughts and ideas in your own head, to start that conversation in the first place.
And there is a conversation happening too, which is often one about sex and fear. About, sex only inside of the marriage or that I know people who were shown a flower, and then that flowers crumpled up. And that was used as an analogy for what will happen to them if they have sex before marriage. I’m going to get this stat wrong. I think it’s only nine States that have medically accurate sex education. I mean it is…
Yes. It used to be 13.
And it’s dropped.
Right. Well that’s what we need. That’s what the Me Too Movement was about. I think for me, just kind of going off of the ads that I’ve run, because I think people don’t really understand. I think they assume that I’m trying to run an ad that shows a vibrator. And is, buy a vibrator here. One, I wish I could do that, because I can target that, and then you would know what you were clicking on. But what I was doing, is I as a person, was running advertisements that featured… Because I knew that I could not push people to Dameproducts.com, because it sells vibrators. So, I thought I’d be clever, and I ran advertisement and it was, “Thank you so much to The New York times for featuring me, and my story of female entrepreneurship”, or something to that extent. I did the same thing with the BBC video. Megan Kelly, yes, head of Today Show. She put us on there. I tried to run ads there, to the W Magazine article, and essentially, all of these articles were shut down, because Facebook said those articles were inappropriate. Facebook said that The New York Times article about my business was too risky, and that some of their viewers might find it insensitive. I just think whose sensitivities are you guys worried about? Because the lack of information is causing harm. And we were suing the MTA because, the other thing about this, is I’m sure you feel it, you see it too. But Facebook prompts me to try and boost my posts all of the time.
Right? Yeas. They’re like, boost this, never mind.
They’re like, spend money here and then, they like slap you on the wrist. Well, same thing happened with the MTA. While I’ve been suing the MTA, they’ve reached out to me to see if I want to run ads.
Again, it’s not an ad per ad basis. For ours, it was literally and their policy states it. It’s basically a blanket ban too, where they don’t have to tell you why your ad is denied. It just, if it falls even close to some imaginary category that has no clear line, nor definition. If they’re probably just computer AI technologies senses it, then, there’s not even the chance to have somebody actually look at it. And say, this is a picture of a human being hiking, and it says, love your family. Can you explain to me how this isn’t appropriate? It’s just, they have this power to censor our thoughts, and therefore, our conversations. Actually, just yesterday, came across a quote by Jim Morrison that says, “Whoever controls the media controls the mind”, and that feels fitting.
Yes. I think a lot of powerful people have tried to also own media companies exactly for that reason.
And you, in the beginning of this interview, in some of your writing before, have touched on not necessarily disregarding any of, all of your preconceived notions. But maybe, challenging them thinking about things differently, giving things a chance. And as you said, what your goal with Dame is, is to redefine sexual pleasure. And so I’d love to hear how it is that you would define sexual pleasure.
Yes, I think for me it’s, I think our understanding of sexual pleasure is mostly locked in our collective shadow conscious. Sex is bad. Sex is naughty time. Sex is for dark times, at night. And I think all of that’s fun and I don’t think it should go away. But I think that we need to be able to have conversations about sex in the light, where we frame sex as something that’s beautiful, and good, and important. I personally like to use the word sacred, but people get a little, that word means different things for different people. But for me it’s a really profoundly special way I get to connect with my partner, or myself or, who else in my life. And viewing it, instead of this dirty thing, as something that can help feed, and help us thrive, and live our best lives.
And I think that a lot of people tend to see pleasures as being outcome-based, rather than either being measured by something else, not necessarily an objective measurement of pleasure.
Yes. We also talk about the pleasure gap. And I think before we were talking about the pleasure gap, a lot of people were talking about the orgasm gap. And we decided internally, we really wanted to refocus the gap on pleasure, because orgasm doesn’t mean pleasure. It’s not the same thing. I also think the idea that orgasm is the goal of sex, is a really limiting. And I would argue the male centric idea of what sex can be. I think it’s about just reframing pleasure in general. I think pleasure is a beautiful goal. I don’t really believe in hedonism, just constant pleasure as the only goal of living our lives. Because I think that it ultimately leads to unhappiness in so many ways. And for me, it doesn’t feel all-encompassing and fulfilling. But, feeling good, feeling pleasure in our lives is what makes us feel alive. So, I think not feeling pleasure, not feeling joy, not enjoying the sensations in our breath as we breathe is what makes us feel dead, when we’re really alive.
In this week’s episode we speak with Alex Fine, CEO and co-founder of Dame Products, a company aimed at closing the “pleasure gap” by engineering sex toys made by women, for women. We discuss everything from the effects of “slut-shaming,” the limitations of the gender binary, the endless definitions of love, and the dangerous implications of censoring sex-positive content.
The Slut-Shaming Double Standard
According to a study conducted by the American Association of University Women, “slut-shaming” is one of the most common forms of sexual harassment faced by female middle and high school students. While adolescent boys are praised and rewarded for their sexual experiences, the double standard leaves adolescent girls with feelings of humiliation, shame, embarrassment, and pain.
What’s worse, research shows that women with more sexual partners were perceived more negatively than women with fewer sexual partners (by both men AND women), while a man’s number of sexual partners had no influence over his peers’ perceptions of him. Because of this. researchers are stressing the importance of increasing positive conversations surrounding female desire and pleasure, especially in popular culture and school sex education.
Normalizing Female Masturbation
While our culture is slowly shifting, female masturbation is still deeply stigmatized. As one study states, “Traditional gendered sexuality scripts usually leave initiation and pleasure seeking to men, while women tend to have more passive or gate-keeping roles.” By normalizing female pleasure and masturbation, women can begin to feel agency over their own bodies and eliminate the shame attached to expressing their natural sexual desires (and have an amazing time doing it).
Breaking the Gender Binary
To quote a National Geographic article, “Gender is an amalgamation of several elements: chromosomes (those X’s and Y’s), anatomy (internal sex organs and external genitals), hormones (relative levels of testosterone and estrogen), psychology (self-defined gender identity), and culture (socially defined gender behaviors). And sometimes people who are born with the chromosomes and genitals of one sex realize that they are transgender, meaning they have an internal gender identity that aligns with the opposite sex—or even, occasionally, with neither gender or with no gender at all.” In other words — gender, and our identity as a whole, is incredibly fluid and mutable.
I just think that there are simultaneous truths that exist within all of us and that they are so beautiful to just hold all of them, all at once, and to acknowledge that you can be strong and you can be soft. I can be all of those things.
Embrace All Your Selves
Like gender, our identities as a whole are far from fixed. We should view our identity as something that is fluid and constantly shifting. As Walt Whitman said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” We all carry so many different versions of ourselves — to deny yourself this is to reject the richness and expansiveness of your never-ending evolution.
The Endless Definitions of Love
Defining and expressing love lies at the core of our human existence, but we’ll never collectively settle on a finite definition (nor should we). Here’s Alex’s take on what it means to love and be loved: “When you love somebody or when you love yourself, you’re giving it the energy and the time to spiritually grow. Love should make you feel like you’re growing.”
I think our understanding of sexual pleasure is mostly locked in our collective shadow conscious.
Censoring Sex-Positive Conversations
Alex’s company, Dame Products, is suing NYC’s MTA for alleged sexism after their product ads were rejected by the MTA. While the MTA has accepted ads for products that treat erectile dysfunction and breast augmentation, the company’s “innocuous-looking devices with subtle captions like ‘You come first’” were denied. The lawsuit speaks to a larger cultural issue at hand — the censorship of sex-positive content, specifically content that centers female and LGBTQ pleasure. In another example. Instagram’s “shadow bans” are under fire for censoring the content of marginalized groups — namely queer and plus-sized bodies — because of “sexually suggestive” images.
Pleasure ≠ Orgasm
Alex emphasizes the importance of not equating pleasure with having an orgasm, nor viewing sex as simply a means to achieving orgasm. Sex is so, so much more! Plus, placing too much pressure on having an orgasm can cause anxiety for everyone involved. It’s not the end-all, be-all. Take your time, revel in the details, and focus on pleasure, not performance.
About the Expert
Alexandra Fine is the co-founder and CEO of Dame Products, and Well+Good Changemaker. Her company Dame Products "engineers for sexual wellness by building welcoming community, designing innovative tools, and bringing life-changing education to your bedroom." Alex got her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University in 2011, focusing on an interest in sexuality. In 2014, she teamed up with mechanical engineer Janet Lieberman and they launched Dame Products, a line of vibrators that are aimed at closing the 'pleasure gap.' Their two products have both broken crowdfunding records, with the hands-free 'Eva' becoming the most successful sex toy crowdfunding campaign in history. She is self-described as a “Positive vibe slinger.”
Alexandra Fine is the co-founder and CEO of Dame Products, and Well+Good Changemaker. Her company Dame Products "engineers for sexual wellness by building welcoming community, designing innovative tools, and bringing life-changing education to your bedroom."
Alex got her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University in 2011, focusing on an interest in sexuality. In 2014, she teamed up with mechanical engineer Janet Lieberman and they launched Dame Products, a line of vibrators that are aimed at closing the 'pleasure gap.' Their two products have both broken crowdfunding records, with the hands-free 'Eva' becoming the most successful sex toy crowdfunding campaign in history. She is self-described as a “Positive vibe slinger.”