Category Archives: Philosophy Of Sex

How I Went From Being a Psych Major to a Sex-Toy Creator

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Like many little girls, Alex Fine wanted to change the world.

Her approach was a little uncouth — by young adulthood she decided the best way to make things better would be to give people a better understanding of human sexuality. Alex and her partner Janet Lieberman founded Dame Products in 2011 to do just that — and to ensure every single woman could have an orgasm when she wanted one.

The women designed toys that could work WITH couples during sex to ignite arousal and pleasure. Their first product, Eva, launched on Indiegogo and quickly became the most successful crowdsourced sex toy in history. And Dame’s latest invention, the Fin, made news as Kickstarter’s first-ever sex-toy crowdfunding campaign.

“I grew up empowered by sexuality, but aware of its dark side. I have felt empowered by my sexuality since I was very young…”

Even very young, I was aware of my femininity. The only epiphany I ever had about sex was when I grew boobs. I remember waking up and being like, “Oh my God! I officially have boobs.”

I first experienced slut-shaming in sixth grade, when I kissed three boys in one night. They were all my good guy friends and they were like, “What would it feel like to kiss a girl?” and I said, “I’m a girl, I could show you what it feels like to kiss.” I’m an open person. That’s me.

It only bothered me the next day, when I got to school and everybody was talking about it. People were so mean to me that day and called me a slut. I did not kiss a boy for like two years after that.

I caught on early to the power of sharing stories about sexual experiences

In high school, I dated the same guy from freshman to senior year. I lost my virginity to him… and got HPV. I wanted to share what I went through with my health class. My teacher told me not to — she said it would be a really awful idea because kids can be so cruel. I told her that was wrong: “You are telling me not to share my experience and you are perpetuating the cycle.” I refused to shut down and pretend these things hadn’t happened. So I kept talking — and other girls started coming to me to talk through their own stuff.

As high school graduation approached, I was seriously considering becoming a sex therapist. I am so fascinated by the psychology of gender and sex and how it shapes our society. I wanted to be a part of this conversation. I ended up going to Columbia University for a masters in clinical psychology. It was during that time I realized this dialogue was one I wanted to have.

My goal was to figure out how to make the biggest impact

Growing up, my father really instilled in me the entrepreneurial spirit. It was a belief that there were no limitations on what I could do — and if I didn’t know how to do something, I could look it up on the internet and get the answers I needed. I think a good entrepreneur has this really ridiculous belief that they can figure out how to do anything.

I remember mapping possible futures out for myself in grad school. I could become a sex therapist, sex educator, teacher… And then I added, “I could make a vibrator.”

I circled that last sentence on my idea board. The thought resonated with me. My goal has always been to help people — especially women — feel empowered and aware of their own sexual identities.

So, it was in that headspace that I ended up working in a consumer goods company. I wanted to learn about what it means to be a brand and sell a product around the world — and that’s when I started drawing out what would eventually become the Eva hands-free vibrator for women to wear during sex in order to close the orgasm gap.

Complete Article HERE!

What’s Your Sexual Destiny? Your Sex Life Can Be Helped Or Harmed By Your Mindset

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Our inherent beliefs about sex can have a far-reaching impact on our relationships, finds new research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The way we think about sex may influence how satisfied we are with our relationships and sex lives, new research reveals.

The way we think about sex may influence how satisfied we are with our relationships and sex lives, new research reveals.

University of Toronto researcher Jessica Maxwell, a PhD graduate, and her colleagues created a new scale to measure people’s general attitudes on sexual compatibility. They then tested their scale out across a variety of six different studies that involved nearly 2,000 participants. Overall, they found that people who strongly believe in sexual growth — a mindset that a fulfilling sex life takes effort and hard work from both partners — had better relationship and sexual satisfaction than those who didn’t. Meanwhile, people who believed in sexual destiny — that a good sex life is more a matter of finding the right person for you — had worse relationships when they started having disagreements about sex with their partner.

“People who believe in sexual destiny are using their sex life as a barometer for how well their relationship is doing, and they believe problems in the bedroom equal problems in the relationship as a whole,” explained Maxwell in a statement. “Whereas people who believe in sexual growth not only believe they can work on their sexual problems, but they are not letting it affect their relationship satisfaction.”

The differences between sexual destiny and growth aren’t easily apparent at first, Maxwell added, since many new relationships have their “honeymoon” phase when sexual desire is at its peak. It’s only later on in a long-term relationship that they begin to show up.

“We know that disagreements in the sexual domain are somewhat inevitable over time,” Maxwell said. “Your sex life is like a garden, and it needs to be watered and nurtured to maintain it.”

Interestingly enough, women were more likely to have a sexual growth mindset, which may reflect a reality about female pressure. Said Maxwell: “I think that this could be because there is some evidence that sexual satisfaction takes more work for women, so they rate higher on the sexual growth scale.”

Most people rarely belonged exclusively to one camp or the other, which is often the case in psychology research. For instance, some might be all for the concept of a sexual soulmate, while still believing that any good sex life requires communication. And even wholeheartedly believing in sexual growth doesn’t guarantee a successful relationship. But Maxwell believes their findings can be a source of relief to both the average person as well as therapists trying to reassure their clients that a flagging sex life isn’t necessarily the end of the road. And she does think believing in sexual destiny may be more trouble than it’s worth.

“Sexual-destiny beliefs have a lot of similarities with other dysfunctional beliefs about sex, and I think it’s important to recognize and address that,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

What does YOUR sex fantasy say about you?

From threesomes to dreaming of sleeping with someone else, your raunchy dreams unravelled

By Tracey Cox

Good news if you enjoy having erotic daydreams. Research done by an Israeli psychologist has just found having sexual fantasies about people other than your partner doesn’t significantly harm your relationship.

So let’s skip to the second most popular question people ask about their fantasies: what do they mean?

Why does an image of your next door neighbor naked suddenly pop up in your head when you have zero attraction in real life?

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Why do we fantasise about things we have no desire to do in reality?

Analysing fantasies is a bit like dream analysis: it’s more about individual interpretation than general concepts. Dreaming of performing on stage is a positive dream for some; for others it would qualify as an anxiety dream.

So let your instincts guide you on what rings true and what doesn’t but here are some common female fantasy themes and what therapists conclude from them.

Being irresistible

It’s a universal need to want people to find you attractive.

But what if you were so attractive, people really couldn’t help themselves and were literally falling at your feet, begging you to let them kiss you, touch you, have sex with you?

Being adored rather handily removes responsibility for what follows: you’re being seduced by people who are desperate to possess you, how could you possibly resist? Because society frowns on women who instigate sexual encounters, our subconscious tries to find ways to make it ‘acceptable’ and this is one of them.

Sometimes, recurring fantasies of being irresistible mean there’s an unconscious fear that in reality the opposite is true.

In this case, it can reflect low self-esteem and fears of sexual inadequacy.

In most, it’s simply a healthy outlet for the recurring dream of going to bed as ourselves and waking up as a supermodel.

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No prizes for guessing this one is about power.

One person has it, the other doesn’t and we’re attracted to both for different reasons.

Stripped of it, we are completely at the mercy of someone else, absolving us of responsibility. This means we’re ‘forced’ to enjoy whatever the other person does to us.

If you’re a people-pleaser and usually the ‘giver’, this makes it impossible to reciprocate.

If we’re the ones in control, we’re given permission to be completely selfish.

Dominating men

This is particularly popular with women who are shy and undemanding in real life.

The desire to be the boss and be in control isn’t exclusive to men but being sexually aggressive is seen as male trait.

Lots of women are worried they won’t be seen as feminine if they act dominant during sex but our imagination (thank God) isn’t bound by the same rules which dictate society. We might choose to ‘behave’ during waking hours but in our dreams and our fantasies, our forceful, domineering sides are given freedom.

We don’t wait to be given ‘permission’ but take what we want, when we want it, without apology.

The goal isn’t to humiliate our lover, it’s to give us a total sense of control.

Forbidden people

Sometimes it’s a replay of what actually happened with a particularly desirable ex (we tend to marry for love not sex); if it’s someone new, the grass-is-greener philosophy is at play.

The more forbidden the person (our partner’s best friend, someone’s father, the boss), the more powerful the fantasy.

The ‘we want what we can’t have’ syndrome is especially potent in sex.

Him watching you have sex with another man

You’re insatiable – he alone can’t satisfy you

The person who craves sex more is seen as more sexually powerful, so this is a power fantasy as well.

It also hints at the urge to show off: we can only see so much when we’re having sex with someone because you’re necessarily physically close.

Watching from a distance, he gets to see how good you really look.

Romantic

No real surprises with this one: these fantasies are had by women who are more motivated by love than sex and tend to be sexually conservative.

Even if we can’t do it in reality, most of us can separate sex and love in our imaginations

Women who only have romantic fantasies tend not to be able to.

Seducing a virgin

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We always remember the first person we have sex with, so high achievers and those who enjoy being the centre of attention may enjoy this fantasy.

If someone’s never done something before, we not only get to teach them everything we know – putting us in a superior sexual position – they probably won’t criticise our technique

So it may mean you secretly feel sexually inadequate

Corrupting innocence is also a strong theme here: it’s forbidden, so highly appealing.

Sex in public or semi-public

This one’s about people admiring us – usually, onlookers are so impressed by our sexual skills, they’d cut off a limb to swap places with the person we’re having sex with.

It’s also illegal so can mean you’re quite rebellious.

Sex with a stranger

If you don’t know them and never will, you can let loose without fear of being judged. If they don’t know you, you can become someone else.

It’s sex stripped of all emotion, purely physical.

Often the stranger will be faceless.

Eye contact means intimacy, avoiding it is another way to ensure it satisfies the raw, primitive side of us we may mask in real life.

Sex with someone much younger or older

Having sex with someone much younger than us is an ego-boost: we’ve still ‘got it’ to be able to attract them.

Sex with someone older works on the same principle.

We see older people as wiser, richer, more intelligent, worldly and sophisticated.

Then there are Daddy issues.

Women who consistently fantasise about older men or date them in real life, can sometimes be working through issues with their own father.

We try to fix what’s happened in the past by recreating it, with a different ending, in the present.

Spanking fantasies

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Spanking is a common fantasy made even more so since Christian Grey came (ahem) into our lives.

But it also has biological undertones.

Aggression is common in the animal world: some female animals only ovulate if the male bites them and humans have also long linked pain and pleasure.

Wanting to be spanked can also originate from guilt: we need to be punished for liking something we shouldn’t (sex).

Stripping

This is all about ‘the looking glass effect’: seeing ourselves reflected in other people’s eyes. The more adoring they look at us, the more adorable we feel.

Strippers involve the audience in their own narcissism – they want to be looked at.

Most of the men who frequent strip clubs are voyeurs: all they want to do is look rather than touch.

Flaunting gives us a sense of power – and power is always sexy.

Exposing our naked body to cheers and applause in our fantasies also helps calm our fear of our body not being good enough in real life.

Threesomes, swinging, group sex

When women fantasise about group sex they tend to be the undisputed star of the session – and are nearly always on the receiving end.

For men, it’s more about being able to satisfy more than one woman.

These fantasies are a heady blend of exhibitionism, voyeurism, bi-curiosity (if there’s the same sex involved) and a human longing for excess (if one person feels good, more must feel better).

Watching others have sex vintage-voyeur

Countless surveys have shown women are as turned on by erotic images as men are so it makes sense that we’re also just as voyeuristic.

Watching people have sex in real life is even more fascinating than porn because it makes for more realistic comparisons.

We all love to think we’re great in bed and watching other people means we can see how we rate on the ‘best lover’ chart.

It also hints at sexual confidence: you could teach people a thing or two!

Women with women

It’s as common for women to have sexual fantasies about other women as it is rare for men to have fantasies about other men,’ says Nancy Friday, author of The Secret Garden, the infamous book about female fantasies.

Women are far less haunted by the social taboo of being gay, probably because society is far less homophobic about gay women than it is gay men

Most women who fantasise about other women, aren’t gay or bi-sexual: simply thinking about something does not mean you’re gay.

Be careful about sharing this one though: watching you with another woman happens to be one of the top male fantasies.

Especially if he’s been racking his brains about what special surprise he can organize for that upcoming birthday…

Complete Article HERE!

A graphic history of sex: ‘There is no gene that drives sexuality. All sexuality is learned’

Changes in sexuality over time have made the modern family what it is. What next? Homa Khaleeli asks the authors of a groundbreaking graphic guide, The Story of Sex

The Story of Sex … some images from the book. Illustration: Laetitia Coryn

The Story of Sex … some images from the book. Illustration: Laetitia Coryn

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Philip Larkin famously announced that sexual intercourse began in 1963 (“Between the end of the ‘Chatterley’ ban / And the Beatles’ first LP”). Being French, and a psychiatrist to boot, Philippe Brenot takes a rather longer view. In his latest book, The Story of Sex, a bestseller in France, he runs an anthropological eye over the sexual mores of human societies from prehistoric times to today. Yet Brenot believes that the sexual revolution did spark a dramatic change, creating the modern couple, which is the basis of our families today. Now, however, he thinks this partnership of equals is under assault from all sides.

The academic, who has the wonderful title of director of sexology at Paris Descartes University, has spent his life studying sexuality. The Story of Sex is an irreverent, graphic novel (in both senses), filled with fascinating – if alarming – history. Cleopatra used a vibrator filled with bees; the word “trousers” was considered to be positively pornographic in Victorian England. Illustrator Laetitia Coryn’s extremely cheeky, but never sordid, pictures liven up the page and keep the narrative zipping along. The book was a real collaboration, says Coryn, who says it was made easier by Brenot’s firm ideas – and the fact he liked her jokes.

The illustrator admits she hesitated slightly over collaborating on the book. “I told my publisher we have to be careful with the drawings and with the jokes – we have to be sensitive,” she says, because she wanted the book to have as wide an audience as possible. “I didn’t put any porn in it!” As a reader, however, the frankness of the pictures still shocked me (you, er, might not want to whip out the book on public transport or in the office).

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Philippe Brenot and Laeticia Cory.

Talking to Brenot over the phone (through charmingly accented English that becomes somewhat eccentric as he struggles with the complexities of his ideas) it’s impossible to escape the psychiatrist’s anxiety about our attitudes to love and intimacy today. We have never been freer to define our own relationships, and follow our own pleasure, he says, but despite this we are far from satisfied; and the modern couple is looking dangerously fragile.

“It’s incredible the difficulties couples have,” Brenot declares, in a tone that makes me imagine he is throwing his hands in the air in despair. Of the couples he sees in therapy, he says, “there is nothing wrong with them psychologically, but still they cannot communicate quietly, live calmly and have sexual fulfilment”.

While we think of lovers as a timeless relationship model, it has been the family that has been paramount in society for most of history, the 68-year-old says. “The couple used to get together for the sake of the family,” he explains. And the idea of equality in long-term pairings is even more recent, with “traditional” marriages putting men firmly in charge of their spouses.

“Love marriages have only been widespread for a century or so, and homosexuality was condemned until very recently,” Brenot notes.

“Since the 1970s, we have begun to invent modern couples with respect for each other and equality between the sexes,” he says. “This only came about after ‘marriage’ as a concept began dying out. Not because people stopped getting married, but because marriage stopped being seen as a sacred union – couples instead started developing on their own terms.”

Yet the rise in divorces since the 1970s and breakups of long-term relationships shows that the modern couple is not surviving, Brenot argues. In part, he says, this is because we are demanding more than ever before.

“It is difficult to live intimately, because we want perfect love and perfect sex and that is very difficult in a long-term relationship. We want a lot more than a reliable person to raise kids with.”

The solution, he says, is for us all to learn more about sex – which is where his book comes in. “It’s not possible to understand our intimate sex lives without looking at centuries of history, and even the origins of human life,” he says. “We understand what we live today if we understand from where we came.”

For instance, he says, if we look at the way relationships were formed in early human societies we can see echoes of our own problems. “We came from primates, but in chimp society there are never couples or families. There are lone males and females with children.” It was only as our brains evolved and emotions developed – including love – that monogamous relationships set in. For the first time (“somewhere between 1 million BC and 100,000BC”), it was possible to know the paternity of a child.

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While the beginning of family life may sound like a wonderful moment, Brenot argues that it was also the start of women’s subjugation, with men taking possession of their female partner and offspring – which traditional marriage legalised. “Paternity is the beginning of male domination,” says Brenot simply. “The day that happened, men took possession of women.”

In the animal kingdom, Brenot argues, there is none of the domination of female partners that has been a hallmark of human societies through history, nor is there domestic violence. Instead, among animals “males fight against other males and females fight with other females,” he says.

“Violence between men and women is only in humans – because of marriage, which puts men above women.”

During antiquity, meanwhile, a woman’s role was to provide a child – and female sexual pleasure was dismissed. But this role was also a dangerous one. “There were so many impediments to female pleasure. In the 18th and 19th centuries, one in six pregnant women died in childbirth. Then there were the infections and sexual violence.”

For men, of course, things were different. “Men have always done what they wanted,” says Brenot.

Even for men, sex for pleasure was something that happened “outside the home – for instance with prostitutes. Women were seen either to provide offspring or pleasure.” In ancient Rome, these rules were so strictly upheld that women could take their husbands to court for ejaculating anywhere but inside her body during intercourse, “because sex within marriage was for procreation, and the wife’s role was to receive sperm”.

Even during periods that today we think of as being golden ages for same-sex relationships, such pleasures were “reserved for the elite” – and the reality was often less accepting than we think. In ancient Greece, for instance, it was only the man who was “receiving” who was not stigmatised in a pairing. Similarly for the libertines in the 18th century, “there was a fluid sexuality, but it was also the top end of society – the intelligentsia and aristocracy. Throughout the centuries and the world’s rural populations, to be gay – or for women to have control of their own sexuality – has always been frowned upon.”

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Today too, Brenot argues, while much has been written about more people exploring fluid sexualities, entering polyamorous relationships and breaking down gender norms, “we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that this is trickling down to all sections of society”. And he warns too about a backlash from “new moralists” who oppose gay marriage, and will, no doubt, do the same for trans rights and alternative relationships as they gain more legal rights. Coryn says this is one of the reasons she enjoyed creating the book. “In France, people who don’t want gay people to be married, is a huge phenomenon. It’s awful. We say in the book this is a misunderstanding of sexuality; homosexuality is normal. I hope this is one topic on which people will change their mind in reading the book.”

For heterosexual couples, relationships began to look up about the time of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Up until this period, “men were having fun outside the home – hunting animals or chasing women. While women were always at home,” says Brenot. But the new spirit of education and the pursuit of knowledge changed this. Finally, says Brenot, men and women could be friends and even have platonic love.

Yet it took contraception for men and women to gain a semblance of equality. Previously “women were immobilised by marriage. They can’t get out of it, they don’t have the possibility of working or being free. The story of sex is, first of all, the story of marriage and the difficulties [it creates] for women.”

To start combating the problems that these historical inequalities have left us with, the psychiatrist insists, we need better sexual education, and one that starts at an early age. “People think sexuality is just an instinct,” he says, “that it is natural like eating and drinking. No. There is no gene that drives sexuality. All sexuality is learned.”

Because of this, says Brenot, the models for our sexuality are very important. Today, talking about sex is still taboo, and the dissemination of pornography has filled the void. “People say pornography changes adolescent life. But it changes everyone’s sexuality,” he says. “We have sex differently now; we try to imitate what we see [on our screens]. People feel bad and say, ‘I can’t do what they do.’”

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To displace this dangerous model, “sexual education should teach the rules that should govern relationships; it should teach us about communication, about consent and respect. This is not natural [to us]. We have to learn this.”

Coryn says that while the Story of Sex is not a sexual education manual, “we wanted it to be uninhibited”, to make talking about sex seem as natural as it should be.

“From the time children are little girls and boys, we have to teach them that everyone should be respected and to start accepting difference,” says Brenot. But, he says, while men and women are equal, that does not mean that they are the same. Railing against the teaching of “gender studies” departments, he says that a refusal to admit this difference is allowing gender inequality to become entrenched.

“They say, ‘Don’t speak of differences – a man is the same as a woman. Society is guilty of making differences, but underneath we are the same.’”

Unpicking these ideas, he says, is the only way to combat our most pressing problems. For example, “physical strength is different from a very young age. So [children] need to understand boys are stronger and take that into account – because that is the start of domestic violence, which is a real problem.”

If we leave this teaching too late, he says, the battle is already lost: “In children’s fairy stories it is the boy who seduces the girl, so there is power play early on.” Then there is the fact men have always been free to have multiple partners throughout history, because men don’t get pregnant. It is only by introducing the idea early on that “contraception is a joint responsibility” that we can challenge this.

Today’s modern couple, he points out, faces new challenges from the rise in options for dating to “new forms of relationship,” says Brenot. Yet Coryn stresses, as does Brenot, that there has never been a better time for people to live in terms of sexuality. Yet one thing has not changed, says Brenot – everyone still wants to find somebody to love. “People are afraid to be alone at the end of their life. They are afraid not to find the perfect person to live with. It is a difficult problem for everyone today.

“We have to learn how to live together anew.”

Complete Article HERE!

Screw Science: The Futuristic Sex Tech Aiming to Penetrate Your Bedroom

From fully customizable vibrators to bioelectronic headsets, smart sex toys are on the way up. But does personal pleasure necessarily make for better health?

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Pleasure is personal, mostly because it has to be, and not least because female scientists continue to face grinding discrimination regardless of their area of research. And when it comes to sexual health, breakthroughs are few and far between: in spite of increasing documentation of associated health risks, birth control hasn’t really been reformulated since the 60s, and last year’s much-anticipated release of Addyi, a pill meant to fix female sexual dysfunction, only worked for ten percent of the women who tried it.

It’s clear that sexual emancipation has not yet been freed from the bedroom. In spite of its roots in scientific misogyny—the vibrator was developed in the 19th century to cure women of hysteria, after all—a swathe of new devices have people looking hopefully to sex tech (or sextech, as it is also known) as the answer to systemic gaps in sexual health. History, it seems, is coming full circle; where the 1960s saw the vibrator de-medicalized and uncoupled from science, today’s consumer market is beginning to see pleasure and health unified in the pursuit of wellness. Yet what we call “sex tech” is tied more to the lucrative sex toy industry—worth $15 billion this year—than it is to scientific institutions, with much of its promise linked to idea that personal pleasure makes for better health.

These days, more people than ever understand that a woman’s ability to understand what turns her on and why is a crucial step in developing a healthy perspective on her sexual life. So it makes sense that we’re seeking out masturbatory experiences that are more tailored than your average stand-in phallus. It’s the driving force behind the popularity of devices like Crescendo, the first-ever fully customizable vibrator, which raised £1.6 million in funding to date and shipped out over 1,000 pre-orders after a successful crowdfunding round.

Designed to cater to the inherent complexities of female arousal, the vibrator can be finely customized, equipped with six motors and the ability to be bent into any favorable shape. An accompanying app allows users to control each motor individually; it remembers favorite behaviors, provides pre-set vibration patterns, and responds to mood-setting music.

“We were inspired by the concept of tech designed for the human, rather than the human having to adapt their behaviour to tech,” says Stephanie Alys, the co-founder of Crescendo creators Mysteryvibe. “Human beings aren’t just unique in terms of our size and how we’re put together genetically, but also in terms of what we like. What turns us on can be different from what turns another person on.”

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Mysteryvibe’s flagship product is the Crescendo, a customizable sex toy.

But in spite of the life-improving promises of consumer sex tech, the reality is that official, peer-reviewed studies remain crucial to reforming policy and education. Founded by Dr. Nicole Prause, Liberos Center is one of the few sex-centric research institutions in the United States. Much of its work investigates the relationship between psychology, physiology, and sex, with an emphasis on the hard data that is often lacking in sex tech.

Liberos presses on in a particularly antagonistic climate; the American government is famously skittish about sexual content. Sexual material is banned from government-funded computers, says Prause, making it difficult for researchers to, say, screen porn to test subjects as part of a study on arousal. She adds that congressional bodies actively seek to pull funding from research that addresses the topic head-on—four recent studies that had already been awarded funding were re-opened for assessment because of their sexual content.

“People report having certain types of experiences all the time,” says Prause. “But they’re often poor observers of their own behaviour, and don’t see anyone’s behaviour but their own. They don’t really have that external perspective, which is why I think it’s important to take both a psychological and laboratory approach. For example, in science, people haven’t been verifying that orgasm actually occurs. So we’ve been developing an objective way of measuring that, and of measuring the effects of clitoral stimulation—on how to best capture the contractions that occur through the orgasm.”

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Liberos is also investigating the effect of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and direct current stimulation (tDCS) on sexual responsiveness. Both are non-invasive treatments, meaning anyone seeking a cure for low libido may not require anything more than the use of a headset. TMS holds potential for long-term changes to a person’s sex drive; the technique, which uses a magnetic field generator to produce small electrical currents in the brain, has already been used to treat neuropathic pain and otherwise stubborn cases of major depressive disorder. DCS, on the other hand, uses a headset to deliver a low-intensity electrical charge, stimulating the brain areas where activity spikes at the sight, or touch, of a turn-on.

If using the brain’s electrical signals to control the rest of the body sounds like a dystopian fantasy, the reality is that these medical treatments aren’t far off. Bioelectronic firms are now backed by the likes of Glaxosmithkline and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and similar applications have already been established for hypertension and sleep apnea, while chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and arthritis are targeted for future development.

According to Dr. Karen E. Adams, clinical professor of OBGYN at Oregon Health and Science University, anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of women experience varying degrees of sexual dysfunction. Medication that targets neurotransmitters, like the SSRIs used to treat depression and anxiety, can fluctuate in efficacy depending on the unique makeup of the person using it.

Combined with the trickiness of locking down the nebulousness of desire (and lack thereof), it’s no wonder that Addyi, a failed antidepressant pursued because of its unexpected effect on serotonin levels in female mice, was a flop. Non-sex-specific studies have shown that electrical stimulation can be more adaptive to the brain’s constantly-shifting landscape than medication that interacts with its chemistry. For the 90 percent of women who found Addyi to be a sore disappointment, bioelectronic treatments could soon offer an alternative solution to low sexual responsivity.

“By giving women information about their bodies that they can decide what to do with, we’re enabling more female empowerment,” says Prause. “And by allowing women to decide which aspects of sex they want to be more responsive to, we’re giving people more control, and not with charlatan claims. We actually have good scientific reasons that we think are going to work, that are going to make a difference.”

Yet the field’s burgeoning successes are only as good as the social environment they take hold in. Sociopolitical hurdles notwithstanding, money remains a significant roadblock for developers, as the controversial nature of sex research has many investors shying away from backing new projects in spite of consumer interest. Whether they’re seeking government funding or VC investments, sex start-ups and labs alike are often forced to turn to crowdfunding to raise money for development.

“It’s pretty unsurprising that heavily female-oriented tech products do so well on crowdfunding sites; these are solutions to problems faced by half of the population, that are overlooked by a male-dominated industry where male entrepreneurs are 86 percent more likely to be VC funded than women,” says Katy Young, behavioral analyst at research firm Canvas8. “But the audience is clearly there—Livia, a device which targets nerves in order to stop period pains, raised over $1 million on Indiegogo.”

Outdated sex ed programs, which emphasize procreation and normalize straight male sexuality without addressing female sexual development, are ground zero for unhealthy social perspectives on sex. Acknowledging that change can’t just come from devices alone, New York’s Unbound, a luxury sex toy subscription service, is teaming up with “campus sexpert” app Tabù to bring both sex education and affordable masturbation tools to colleges across the country.

“There’s a national discussion right now surrounding consent, which is 100 percent needed and super important,” says Polly Rodriguez, CEO and co-founder of Unbound. “But for women to be able to engage in sex and address consent as equals, they need to learn about female pleasure—they should understand their own bodies so that when they are engaging in sexual activities with someone else, they know what feels good to them, they know how to communicate that, and they don’t feel uncomfortable about it.”

It’s tempting to buy into the idea of tech as freeing: that the increased presence of smart devices in our lives will help us form healthier habits and a better understanding of our ourselves, or that the availability of medically-approved tech will be a panacea in the intricately fraught landscape of female sexual dysfunction—which is as socially determined as it is biological, and as cultural as it is psychological.

But sex tech is still far from being paradigm-shifting. Its success will be dependent not only on consumer dollars but on government policies and public attitudes; at a level of engagement this intimate, tech is only any good if people feel free to use it.

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