The co-founder of Dame, the game-changing new line of female sex toys, chats with us about the pleasure gap, and how the right vibrator can be the “icing on cake of sex.”
After earning a master’s degree in clinical psychology with a concentration in sex therapy, Alexandra Fine realized her calling in life: “My true passion,” the 31-year-old says, “will always be passion.” The co-founder of Dame, the new line of modern, tech-forward female sex toys, means this quite literally. After meeting and teaming up with Janet Lieberman, a MIT-trained mechanical engineer in 2014, the two realized that well-designed options to enhance female pleasure were woefully missing from the market.
Inspired to fix that, the two launched Eva, a vibrator that delivers clitoral stimulation during sex and now has been updated to the smaller and lighter Eva II, and Fin, a handheld vibrator meant for foreplay, sex or solo use. The goal with every new release, Fine says is to “start necessary conversations, to really listen to people, and to create products that enhance intimacy — in an age where a lot of technology detracts from it.” Here, Fine gives us a Dame primer.
Why sex toys specifically — where did your interest start?
“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. For example, I went to a drag show as a kid — my aunt took me! — and got in trouble for talking about it excitedly in school. It was moments like these that made me realize about just how stigmatized the topic was to an outside audience.
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. I soon realized that my skills would be better put to use making concrete improvements to people’s lives, so I began developing my own vibrators and asking friends to give me their feedback. After gaining startup experience with an organic shampoo company, I decided the time was right — aka I got fired J — to put this passion to work in the world of sex toys.”
Take us through how Fin and Eva II work: what makes them unique?
“Eva II is an updated version of Eva, which was our first product. Eva quickly became the most highly crowdfunded sex toy in the history of…well, the world — and provided a unique alternative. It’s the first hands-free, strap-free, couples vibe and was created to be worn by a vulva owner during penetrative sex. It tucks inside the labia and provides clitoral stimulation — something that over 75% of vulva owners really require. It’s very seamless; Eva II was updated to be lighter and fit even more vulvas.
Fin is a finger vibrator that we developed in order to amplify natural human touch. It’s great for providing really natural clitoral stimulation in a range of positions, and obviously for masturbation as well. It’s a big fan favorite, because it’s remarkably versatile and can be used by most people.”
What’s the common reaction from partners about Dame toys?
“As many people know, men tend to get a bit defensive when it comes to introducing a vibrator. They can sometimes feel replaced or irrelevant, which obviously they’re not, but that doesn’t negate the fact that these sentiments exist. Because Eva II can be worn during penetrative sex and it’s not shaped like a penis, it doesn’t replace a partner, it just is the….icing on the cake of sex.”
Do you find that your toys increase sexual wellbeing and confidence?
“Exploring your own body is a wonderful — and I’d argue, essential — part of being able to really demand what you want when you eventually are with a partner. You can do this with your hands, or you can do this with a sex toy — either way, it gives you a chance to learn what you like, what you don’t like, and what you want to explore.
I also think that, by having a sex toy that caters to clitoral stimulations — and specifically one that can be used during partnered sex — really also shows people with vulvas that their pleasure is a priority. It’s not ‘normal’ to just ‘go with the flow’ during sex, and it is OK and encouraged to really know and ask for what you want. This is a really empowering message.”
Why do you think there’s this stigma around self-pleasure for women but not men?
“A lot of this messaging is ingrained into us from when we’re young. We’re taught that the boys can’t control their sexuality, that masturbation is almost out of their control, and that girls must protect themselves against it. Women’s pleasure is thus set up as being not only subordinate, but irrelevant.
We also struggle as society to view female sexuality as natural — and we either totally deny it, or sensationalize it (hello Madonna-whore Complex). This means that there’s not really a space for everyday, normal, healthy female sexuality — so women often aren’t primed to prioritize that, and society is primed to accept it.
All of this is to say that, female sexuality is OK if it’s through a male lens, and it’s not OK if it’s for women-only, which ultimately makes pleasure yourself outside of the narrative we’ve been exposed to for decades (centuries? millennia?)”
Many women find it hard to climax during sex, which can lead to a lot of negative feelings and emotions. Did this factor into your decision to create Dame?
“First of all, it’s worth saying that we definitely don’t believe that orgasm is the sole goal of sex, or even the only way to define ‘pleasure.’ Pleasure can mean many different things, and orgasm isn’t always the end goal. That aside, there is something called the Pleasure Gap, which means that four times more women than men say that ‘sex is not at all pleasurable’ — so there’s obviously a disconnect. This definitely factored into our decision to create Dame. The core of this issue is that female pleasure is not often prioritized during partnered sex, which stems from a lack of education — particularly around the clitoris.
What other ways to practice self-love and self-care in your own life?
“There are tons! Whatever calms you down, centers you, and makes you a better person for both yourself and the people around you is valid. Whether that’s therapy, meditation, working out or even simply allowing yourself to indulge without shame, being gentle with yourself and prioritizing your physical and mental health are great ways to keep you healthy — mentally, physically — and make sure you can show up for the other people in your life.”
What do most people say when you tell them you design sex toys?
“Well, I was recently at a reunion, so I can tell you what my friends said: ‘I can’t imagine you doing anything else.’ ‘That is such a perfect job for you.’ ‘What do your parents think?’ (By the way, my parents also think this is the most perfect career path for me.) Generally, though, the response is intrigue. Everyone’s looking for permission to discuss these topics, and by working in this category, I sort of automatically give that to them — and I think many people find that refreshing.”
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