Inventors of the 'Eva', Alexandra Fine and Janet Lieberman. [photography credit: Seth Caplan]
In a clear case of if you build it, they will come, a wearable couples' vibrator over the weekend smashed through its crowdfunding goal of $US50,000 to raise over half a million dollars. The invention, named Eva, is the work of Dame Products, a new sex toy company founded by two Brooklyn-based twenty-somethings, chief executive officer Alexandra Fine and chief technology officer Janet Lieberman. The company's mission statement? "We are trying to make the world a happier place, one vagina at a time."
The vibrator was the brainchild of Fine who was dissatisfied with the couples-focused sex toys currently on the market. "The concept came to me after having several discussions with women about our disappointment in vibrating penis rings. I already knew that I wasn't alone in my desire for clitoral stimulation during sex, and that a hands-free vibrator which would allow me to have sex as 'naturally' as possible would be desired by many." She wasn't wrong, with thousands of units now pre-purchased and the initiative going on to become the most successful crowdfunded campaign ever for a sex toy.
Lieberman, who has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, had also experienced similar displeasures with the available range of adult toys, but unlike most realised she had the technical prowess to create something better.
The 'Eva' uses a pair of flexible wings that tuck into the labia majora to keep the vibrator in place to provide clitoral stimulation.
"I'd become resigned to feeling unsatisfied with the sex toy industry. I'd buy four products at a time in the hopes that one would work out. It suddenly occurred to me that I had the power to change that. I'd been designing consumer electronics products for seven years and I've always had a passion for the space where human interaction meets product development. Initially, starting a sex toy company was just a bit of a joke answer when people asked me what I was going to do next. It became less of a joke every time no one laughed. Well-engineered sex toys were clearly something that resonated with women as something the market wanted."
Part of the buzz over the device is due to the unusual hands-free and strap-free design, which incorporates a pair of flexible wings that tuck into the labia majora to keep the vibrator in place to provide clitoral stimulation. But given the wide-ranging disparities between female bodies, getting things right proved a challenge.
"We really learned that every detail matters when you're dealing with female anatomy," says Lieberman. "Changing a dimension by a millimetre one way or another would have a huge effect on results. This meant that, when designing the two flexible wings that tuck under the labia, we had to go through a lot of prototypes. 3D printers allowed us to iterate quickly and inexpensively on concepts to get to the right ballpark."
The Eva was created to address what has been termed the 'pleasure gap' in sexual relations. "The pleasure gap is about the disparity between men and women and how they subjectively feel about pleasure. It refers to the fact that, statistically, women are four times more likely to refer to sex as 'not at all pleasurable' than men," says Fine, who has a masters in clinical psychology concentrated in sex therapy from Columbia University. "As a feminist, I believe that we should aim for equality across all sectors of life including sexual pleasure."
One advantage the pair has over other sex toy companies is being led by two women. "I am continuously surprised by the male dominance in the sex toy industry," says Lieberman. "There aren't that many female designers, and even fewer female engineers — which is counterintuitive given the nature of the products. There's no substitution for being able to really test how your product works when designing. We are the consumer. Every woman's anatomy is different, certainly, but at least we start out with a frame of reference." The pair also received recognition for their start-up skills, being named Indiegogo's top campaign run by an all-female team.
The Eva might be firmly focused on female sexual satisfaction, but from the orders placed and responses received Fine says much to her pleasure it's both men and women who have been interested in getting hold of the product. "Nothing makes me happier than seeing men taking an active role in better pleasing the ladies in their lives."
While the crowdfunding period is now over, the product is still available for purchase with global delivery at the Indiegogo website, with pre-ordered units starting to ship out from February next year. "We're hoping that Eva can bring the benefits of a vibrator without losing some of the great parts about toy-free sex – connection and intimacy," says Lieberman. "We want to give couples more tools in their tool belts, so to speak."