CEO of Dame Products Alexandra Fine shares with us Dame’s journey and the importance of sexual wellness.
EP: Dame has a cool backstory. Can you tell us about it?
AF: I’ve always been interested in sexuality. As far back as I can remember, it seemed like a really natural thing to be curious and passionate about. I went on to earn my Masters in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in sex therapy from Columbia University. I loved learning and studying human interaction. My true passion will always be passion.
I soon realized that my skills, my heart, my everything, could more effectively improve our culture’s sexual psyche by designing and marketing vibrators. So that’s what I did, I began developing my own vibrators at home and asking friends to give me their feedback.
Eventually, after I put the word out that I was looking to start a sex toy company founded by people with vulvas, for people with vulvas. I met my co-founder, Janet Lieberman, who is an MIT-trained mechanical engineer, at an event. She too was working on starting a sex toy company, and after we got to talking, it was clear that we could have a really valuable partnership. She had the skill sets I didn’t, and together, we made for a really powerful team.
We are two smart, savvy, young women trying to make the world a happier place. We really believe that we can do that by starting important conversations, designing superior tools for sex and, well, by being ourselves.
EP: What is it about sex that fascinated you so much from an early age?
AF: Everyone does it! Sometimes, when I’m introducing myself to a crowd, I like to start off the conversation by asking everyone to raise their hand if they’ve had sex. Most of the room then raises their hand. THEN, I like to ask them to raise their hand if they come from sex. It helps set the tone that — of all human acts — sex is one of the most universal. At Dame Products, our #1 goal is to enhance communication about sex and our sexuality. We’re creating a platform for honest discussion about pleasure and promoting a shame-free understanding that humans are sexual beings. We hope our products & campaigns prompt open conversations about sexual experiences, desires, and fears, and that these conversations shift us away from silence and repression.
EP: When introducing Eva to the world, you broke the record for raising the most money in a crowdfunding campaign in 45 days. How does that make you feel?
AF: It was a really important turning point. We were grateful that our hard work was getting the recognition and support we knew it deserved, and we were happy that people were talking about a sex toy specifically made to enhance a vulva-owner’s pleasure. It confirmed what we already knew to be true – people with vulvas were looking for a more pleasurable experience, and we’re providing the tools to help them get there.
EP: What is it about Eva that got backers so excited?
AF: Design, credibility, our mission, and honestly, being unlike anything that was on the market at that time. Putting our face on the campaign was also huge. The sex toy industry was impersonal and often shady, but by putting our faces forward, I think we really helped demonstrate that we weren’t going to play into the shame often associated with the category.
EP: What kind of feedback did you receive from the early beta testers?
AF: What was really important to us during the feedback process was the open and honest conversation about sex and pleasure. Eva was only possible with user testing to help determine wing flexibility, motor size, power, etc. We then honed a lot of these elements after even more feedback after the release of Eva, which led us to design Eva II. Eva II’s wing adjustments, lighter body, button placement, and waterproof design are all thanks to the input of our community.
EP: The adult toy industry has undergone significant change, but there’s still a disconnect between what the customer wants and what is on sale. Where do you think the problem stems from?
AF: When you treat an industry with shame, it means we can’t talk about it openly. We can’t talk about what we like, what don’t like and what we want out of our sex products, so it’s of course difficult to create products to cater to real needs. There have also been a lot of companies that take advantage of that shame and create lower standard products, expecting that nobody will speak up.
We are dedicated to learning more about our community of users. We take returns for feedback, we’ve opened our design process up to the public (crowd sourcing, pretty much) with our Dame Labs program, we host focus groups, and we strive to spark larger conversations in the industry that have both micro and macro cultural impacts. We want to talk about sex the same way we would any other topic, and treat these consumer goods with the same standards and respect as good within any other category.
EP: What has changed recently in the way women interact with these toys?
AF: Sex toys used to be kind of a novel gag gift or something you bought in a seedy store with no windows. Women are exploring toys for sex to enhance their sexual pleasure and are (seemingly) more open about owning their pleasure.
EP: Self-care is just as important as sexual wellness. How do you incorporate self-care into your daily routine?
AF: Self-care can look so different for different people. For some, it means a bubble bath and a face mask. For others, it’s ensuring you’re drinking enough water, or making time to create a monthly budget. No matter your style, I think self-care can always include sexual wellness. For me…
EP: Isn’t sex considered self-care too?
AF: Absolutely. Whether with a partner or solo, sexual pleasure is a healthy part of any self care routine. One of our customers said in a focus group that masturbation is her meditation, and I think that’s true for so many people. Explore your body, see what feels good.
About Alexandra Fine
As CEO of Dame Products, Alex Fine translates the nuances of our sexualities into human-friendly toys for sex.
A lifelong student of sexual health, Fine earned her Masters in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in sex therapy from Columbia University. Realizing that her skills would be best put to use making concrete improvements to people’s lives, Fine began developing her own vibrators at home and asking friends to give her their feedback. She was gaining startup experience with an organic shampoo company, and decided the time was right to put her passions and her business acumen to use in the world of sex toys. In founding Dame Products, Fine intends to start necessary conversations, to listen rather than assume, and to create products that enhance intimacy.