Meet The Queer Women Behind The First Vibrator For ‘Self-Experimentation’

Take a second to dream of this: a dazzling utopia where the orgasms are bountiful, women aren’t marginalized, and the government is finally off its bullshit. *comedic record scratch sound effect* But hey, we’re living in 2018 where somehow it’s still being communicated to women that pleasure should be a hidden or off-limits topic. Nice.

Especially in a year where technology is at the forefront of society, you’d think that conversations and ways to approach previously taboo subjects would be improving (if not solely because of the anonymity that social media offers to talk about sexual experience, but also because it gives a platform to those ladies who do want to build on a brand on sexual liberation), but it feels like we’re still falling short in an essential area of women’s basic sexual satisfaction.

Luckily, a few queer women and one Lioness vibrator are working to make technology do its part. And in celebration of Pride Month, they told Her Campus about all the ways they’re improving the lives of women and pioneering inclusivity – specifically, using a robot with a flexible clitoral nub.

Founded with the purpose of giving women a platform to understand their own bodies and sexuality, Lioness is obviously a trailblazer. To fight outdated stigma surrounding female sexuality, the founders and creators designed the Lioness vibe specifically for “personal-experimentation” which like, hell yeah to that.

So, how does this magic little device work? Well, first ya gotta buy it here (totally worth the money, just a PSA). Once you get yours, sync with the corresponding app to see orgasm patterns, track experience, and overall learn what does and doesn’t work during ~you time~. It’s the first toy that helps you learn about your body’s sexual response – so you’re not only having a good time, you’re also embracing all the unique things about your downstairs and learning what you like, dislike, and would like but don't know yet. It’s honestly some sort of empowering-vibrator-tech-witchery, and it’s exactly what Pride 2018 desperately needs.

In a time were sexuality isn’t concrete and acceptance is spreading, the queer women behind Lioness know that the time for change is now.

For Lioness co-founder and CEO Liz Klinger, her identity as a queer woman is an integral part of who she is and an inspiration for innovation. At a young age, discovering her sexuality often overlapped with exploration of sexual pleasure, but living in a not so LGBTQ+-friendly area, she had to find another way to get answers to her burning questions.

“I was pretty quiet about my questioning, instead [I turned] to the internet to learn more about what I was feeling and how to make sense of things” Klinger says.

What she found expanded far beyond what talked about in sex ed or even with friends. Klinger discovered that there was a whole world of self-pleasure hidden from the conversation.

She credits this widespread gap in knowledge and her desire to understand her own sexuality as two of the reasons for pioneering Lioness.

“Growing up in the ‘90s with a conservative family from Wisconsin... I was made constantly aware that how I felt sexually was ‘wrong’ and something that I should be ashamed of. I don’t think I would have reflected on or thought as much about both my own sexuality and the topic of sexuality if it hadn’t been for that,” she says, and also notes that these experiences obviously carved a path to where she is today. “In some ways, I think if it wasn’t for me being a queer, nerdy, somewhat introverted girl, I wouldn’t have gone down this path and eventually started Lioness.”

In college, Klinger’s job selling intimacy products only continued to spark her curiosity: “It’s what made me so aware of my own sexuality and from there how much need there was for both better products (in general) in the space, but also products that helped us overcome a lot of the knowledge gaps created by different societal norms and structures of how sexuality ‘should be.’ That’s why I wanted to create a product to let people self-experiment and help support them along the journey of sexual self-discovery.”  

With Lioness rockin’ masturbation sessions everywhere, Klinger and co-founder Anna Lee are working towards the goal of expanding women’s understanding of self-pleasure, but because there’s still a huge gap in mainstream sex-tech markets – specifically for LGBTQ+ folks – there’s a lot of work left to do.

The Lioness solution: make sure that you have people across different backgrounds and viewpoints contributing to the whole process.

Klinger explains: “We have a lot of conversations that many companies with less diverse voices (LGBTQ+ being a big one) wouldn’t have, and all sorts of aspects of that comes out in our product.”

One of these contributing voices is Maggle Stiggleman, a Lioness software engineer whose queer identity is an important part of her work as well. When she was young, Stiggleman notes she “mostly bought what [she] was sold about gender and sexuality,” meaning that, like Klinger, she was in the dark about the vast world of pleasure. It wasn’t until college that Stiggleman had her “sexuality crisis” and became passionate about preaching pleasure and masturbation.

“I was studying Computer Science and Gender Studies in college, and had a particular interest in sexual health and female sexual pleasure. I was passionate about telling women masturbation is good,” she says.

When she found out about Lioness after college, Stiggleman knew she had to join the team. “Really cool coding? Orgasm data?” She was all in.

Stiggleman has a heavy hand in the creative process as a software engineer, so she has the chance to use her personal experiences to make product as inclusive as possible. “As a rule we do not use pronouns in the app, because of course we cannot assume the user’s gender. I relate it to how period-tracking apps have often made me feel alienated. It took me a few different apps before I found one I liked that didn’t assume I was straight and needed to track straight sex.”

She continues: “I can’t imagine how someone who doesn’t identify as a woman feels on those same period-tracking apps. So, I do my absolute best to never assume the gender or sexuality of our users.”

While remaining inclusive is a huge goal of Lioness, helping women to understand masturbation and sexuality is the intention that always guides the team. When research originally showed that only two types of orgasms existed, Lioness did their own research and quickly found a third orgasm type, proving that there was so much more to be discovered in the world of sexual response.

“This was the first time it really hit me that the potential of studying female pleasure is huge” Stiggleman explains. “Just from expanding the circle to our group of testers we found something new, imagine what we’ll discover as we keep going.”

As Lioness keeps discovering, they’ll continue to dissolve taboos surrounding masturbation – even if just through starting conversation. During a Pride Month where intolerable people are rampant in the U.S. and when women and LGBTQ+ folks alike could use a boost, this smart-vibrator is a beautifully nerdy moment, inspiring all of us to spend a little extra time loving ourselves and living our best lives (bountiful orgasms included).

Makena is an Editorial Intern, the Style Section Editor and a National Feature Writer for Her Campus. She is a sophomore at Marist College majoring in Communication with a concentration in Journalism and an Interactive Media minor. Loving everything that has to do with fashion, she hopes to one day put her writing skills to work at a major fashion publication.

 

She is an obsessive reader and almond butter enthusiast. Follow her on Instagram @makenagera.

Gina is the Associate Editor of Her Campus. She graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2017, where she studied English and Theater. As an undergrad with Her Campus, Gina was a national contributing writer, first ever national viral editor, editorial intern, and editor-in-chief of her chapter at Cal Poly. In her spare time, Gina enjoys cuddling her friends and family, petting other peoples' dogs, and eating donuts. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @ginasescandon.

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