True Love No Shame: Talking about pleasure with Alex Fine, founder of Dame Products

For the third episode of True Love No Shame, I spoke with Alex Fine, from Dame Products, which makes Eva, the world’s first truly wearable vibrator.

Dame Products vibrator, Fin

You can listen to our conversation in full on iTunes or Stitcher, or read the edited version below.

Dani: You’ve described having a lifelong interest in human sexuality, and then of course you make this product for couples. Have you always been passionate about sex education? What was kind of the spark that got you started?

Alex: I think it was an internal spark. Hormones. But definitely before the hormones, when I was six, I had a cool aunt that lives in the city, and we ended up at this awesome drag queen party when I was six, in downtown Manhattan, and I just had an amazing evening. I was like, learned how to strut my stuff, and it was just feminine empowerment and, I don’t know, drag queens are amazing. Also, they’re sparkly and I’m six and they’re like princesses, and I was also able to ask a bunch of questions that I had about it in a really, like, “I’m six, so give me a break if I don’t know” kind of way. I got all this great information, and then I brought it back to my show and tell class in first grade, and as you can imagine, it didn’t go over well. My parents were called and my parents were mad at my aunt, and I was definitely scolded. You know what I mean? I got negative reinforcement for that experience.

Dani: Right. Was this public school?

Alex: Yeah, it was public school. I mean, I’m from a very liberal- I’m Jewish, and I had no idea that everybody wasn’t Jewish growing up. My high school was 80 or 85% Jewish, which is insane. Insane when you think about the population of Jews worldwide. Anyway, that definitely got me really interested in sexuality, gender, and the “you’re not supposed to talk about it.”

I very much at a young age didn’t understand why you weren’t supposed to talk about it, loved talking about it, and got pretty comfortable, not that I don’t still have uncomfortable moments in sexuality. I do all the time, but I think, I don’t know. I just wanted to talk about it. Like, oh, I’m not supposed to talk about it, and there was no really good reason. It’s not hurtful. It’s not a hurtful conversation.

Dani: So your parents sort of had that reaction then, but as you got older were they more open to sort of learning about it or talking about it?

Alex: Yeah, definitely. Just the other day I was talking to my mom about some of the worst advice she had ever given me, I thought, and she really was like, “I didn’t say that to you.” She couldn’t believe she had said that to me, which was really interesting to me, because I can’t imagine that I made that up. I have so few memories. My memory is awful, so if I think I remember something, I probably do. I remember my mom casually saying to me one time, I think she had just watched Oprah’s rainbow blowjob. Was that on Oprah? I don’t know. She was just like, “Only whores give blowjobs,” is what mom told me once. She was just like, “No way.” She didn’t say straight up, “I give blowjobs, I would’ve never said that,” but that was clearly her reaction, so they’ve continued to become more liberal in talking to me about sex, but definitely we started off pretty liberal too. When I was 16 and I started having sex, I talked to my mom about going on birth control and it was because I was having sex, and she knew I was dating an older guy, so.

Dani: Yeah. How are they about you sort of having your career and job working around sex?

Alex: Okay, so sex was the first thing they had to get over with me was that I was a sexual being. It was something that as a child, like literally, when I was in first grade also, my principal called me the class seductress.

I just was sexual and interested in power dynamics between genders, and so I think the first thing they ever got over about me and who I was going to be, and all the ways I might disappoint them or make them proud or just question them and challenge their view of the world, the way my awareness is going to impact their awareness, that was the first thing they got over. Then I wanted to be a therapist, and then I decided I wanted to, with sexuality and be a sex therapist, and then I decided that I wanted to do something that was more capitalism and more entrepreneurialism, and they’re so proud of that. They’re also pretty proud of the other stuff too, but I feel like because the sex part of my identity, or that I’m going to talk about sex in public all the time and that I am a sexual being was something that they got over probably. They’re really comfortable with it. My dad is so proud, and he tells everybody what I do.

Dani: I’m on a similar journey where I’ve kind of, at least with my religion and my views on that have changed, have kind of brought my parents along and had them get more comfortable talking about it with me.

Alex: Yeah. It’s so interesting. I just think that the intersection of religion and sexuality is really amazing. For me, if anything, being a sexual being has made me feel closer. Oh my god. Like, closer to love and closer to what people would say one way of expressing what God is. For me, I have this very, I feel like sexuality has helped me become more spiritual, while I think most people have a very different view of sexuality and religion.

Dani: It’s true. So many religions are based around kind of controlling these desires and it’s like the body versus the spirit, but sex is actually very spiritual. They’re very intertwined.

Alex: I think life is about the intersection of body and spirit often, right? Sometimes my body doesn’t want to do things that my mind wants it to do. It’s not even about the judgment about that, but of course, I think religion has tended to have judgment, like the way Judaism in my life is definitely fairly could be kind of controlling.

Dani: Yeah. So tell me about Dame. Tell me about the name. How did you come up with that?

Alex: That’s a great question. We spent a lot of time talking about the name. Janet and I both trying to start sex toy companies. I don’t know, and we immediately partnered up.

We had an arranged marriage essentially. We weren’t friends, and we’re definitely friends now. It’s an intense partnership, and we just jumped into it. We recognized that both had complementary skillset. We both had baseline vision, and I do think I’m really lucky to have met her. Anyway, but I wanted to name the company Eva because that was the name I had thought of already. She wasn’t as excited about Eva, and I kind of also was like, “You know what? We’re together now. Let’s make a new name together.” Yeah, we just sat down and wrote out a ton of names. In the vein of Eva, I wanted it to be sexual, strong, and still relate to something that feels like what is feminine in some way or what is related to having a vagina, which is something I think about a lot. Eva has both a V in it, it feels sexual, and it’s pretty sounding. It’s got nice mouth feel as they say in branding. Dame was just on the list of Ella. All the words that you can think of for woman.

We also went through a lot of Greek, all goddesses. Any goddess of any type ended up on the list, and Dame just stood out as so not that, but still so womanly, just strong and confident and badass, and then it has this duality of Dame being both a very high society title, and a very low society title, like brought on a date. I don’t know. Those were just things we liked about it, and it just stood out in the list. At first I hated it. Day one, I hated it. I was like, I don’t know, why did that make me feel so many feelings? Why did I not like that? Then by day two I was like, I love this. I feel like Janet and I had such a similar experience where we both came back the next day and we were like, “Yes.”

Dani: Yeah. Right. The Eva couple’s vibrator, hands-free doesn’t get in the way, and so it’s for couples, but it’s also very focused on women’s pleasure. Talk to me about the thinking behind that and this issue of men and women not having equal numbers of orgasms.

Alex: Yeah, sure. I think it’s more than just orgasm. I think that a lot of people, both men and women, have a hard time fulfilling their sexual identities or just integrating their sexual identity into who they are as a person in a way that feels right. It does feel like women have a harder time with that than men, and one way you can look at that is the orgasm gap, which is just that men are twice as likely to have an orgasm, or the idea that sex is over when a guy has an organism. That’s a social construct. I get it. I see where it came from, but we can go beyond that now. We really just wanted to create tools that focused on female sexual pleasure and that help women achieve more sexual pleasure, and hopefully orgasms too, in a way that really kind of benefits the whole. We believe that in itself benefits the couples, so that’s why they’re tools for couples even though they ultimately are about female sexual pleasure.

Dani: Why is it so hard for women to orgasm? What are some of the reasons for this?

Alex: There is everything from sometimes women can orgasm when they’re masturbating and they can’t when they’re having sex, so there’s a few factors about that. Sometimes it’s literally just about getting clitoral stimulation, having a longer arousal period often than their partners. Sometimes that kind of leads to things moving faster than the lady is naturally inclined to do. Sometimes it relates to body issues and self consciousness, which I think is just tied into this idea of being a sexual person and being the kind of partner that you want to be for your partner. Anyway, I think there’s a bunch of reasons why women have a hard time. Some are mental, some are physiological. We’re obviously making tools for a physiological reason, but we know that those tools are wrapped in the socio psychological reasons, so we’re also always trying to address those.

Dani: Oh, yeah. One thing that was really interesting to me is kind of having an orgasm, like your mental state is kind of like your brain can’t process fear and pleasure at the same time, but if you’re with someone and you’re nervous about it or you’re trying really hard to have an orgasm, that can be a blocker and get in the way of actually doing it.

Alex: Yeah, and there’s also a dialogue about when it comes to sexuality we have accelerators and then we have breaks, and they can both work pretty strongly. If you’re ever super in the mood and there’s just one thing that kind of kills it, and it’s like you look down at your body in a certain way or you just don’t like what you see or if I relax into this orgasm, I don’t know. Letting our animalistic instincts shine for a second can be challenging.

Dani: Yeah. The other thing I thought was really interesting about the Eva is what I didn’t know when I started having sex was that you needed the clitoral stimulation first, and then you can kind of move into this vaginal orgasm. Is that a big part of talking to couples and what they were kind of looking for, what was missing from their experiences?

Alex: Yeah. 80% of women, it was 70 to 80%, and I actually read an article that had even higher stats kind of about the importance of clitoral stimulation in order to achieve an orgasm or to have sexual pleasure, or where women seem to get most of their sexual pleasure from. I think it was 70$ of women can’t achieve an orgasm unless they’re having clitoral stimulation. That’s the most conservative number, so that really puts an emphasis on this external part when so much of the conversation and the dialogue and especially the male narrative is about this internal part, though I think that’s starting to change, which is really exciting. But yeah, that’s why our products are focused on that part of the body.

Dani: Yeah, and you also mention kind of the idea of that sex is over after the male orgasm. What do you kind of feel like is sex etiquette today, and how is that changing or how do you hope it will change?

Alex: I think that right now, we have a lot of our egos really wrapped up in our sexual experiences, this idea of for men there’s a really strong feeling of wanting this concept of natural, doing it themselves and it being natural sex, while we’re augmenting in so many ways and using tools in so many other ways in every other aspect of who we are, and we’re not like, “Oh, we don’t ever walk again.” Sometimes you still go for a walk even though we have cars. I think that is starting. I would like to see that change, which is just the etiquette of bringing in a sex toy and the comfort level of people feeling like that, and also like I was saying earlier, the concept of when sex ends, asking. The female orgasm, a lot of women don’t have physical release. They don’t squirt, so sometimes it is hard to tell, and sometimes I think we have this whole idea that like, “Oh, you’ll know,” but I think it men could, starting off right by asking is a good place. Like, “Did you have an orgasm?” And for women to express if they had or hadn’t. Maybe we should stop faking it.

Dani: I think it is really hard to let ourselves really focus on our own pleasure.

Alex: Yeah. I think that’s true, and I think that a lot of that is true for both sexes in some way, but I do think the narrative around sex being for a guy, it being your wifely duties. Women, I think, for so long were just kind of trained to be scared of sex and the repercussions of sex, and in some ways rightfully so, it did used to lead to pregnancy in a way it no longer does. There’s so much of how we interact with each other from a young age, telling women to do it only for a guy and not to express it themselves. Yeah, let’s change that.

Dani: What’s one thing someone sort of newly discovering their bodies should, what’s the most important thing for them to know about sex?

Alex: I would say that there is no normal is a good one. You should just of listen to your body and do what feels right for you. That’s hard because I think you want to learn, and learning is like, “Well, what is everybody else doing? What’s working for so and so?” Puberty is such an interesting time. Some of us go through it earlier and have urges earlier than our peers. That’s also an interesting aspect of it. Whatever is feeling right for you as you’re discovering that part of who you are is right for you.

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