The sex toys changing women’s lives
STEPHANIE Alys is on a mission to make people feel better about themselves - what else would you expect from someone with the job title of Chief Pleasure Officer?
Although it sometimes takes some explaining.
Ms Alys, 28, is the co-founder of Mystery Vibe, a British pleasure brand that is intent on changing people's perceptions of pleasure in a positive, empowering way.
She studied politics at university, but had always been intrigued by the way sex and pleasure have been perceived by the public.
In 2014 she and her business partners launched Mystery Vibe and two years after that the product Crescendo was born. Billed as the world's first body-adapting sex toy, it has a rubber skin that moulds to a users shape.
"The idea (for Mystery Vibe) came from a couple of different places," Ms Alys told news.com.au. "We kept on talking to older friends who wanted to keep their sex lives exciting because they'd been together a long time. And when you think about marriage as an institution it was created when we lived until the age of 30, and we now live a lot longer than that, so it can be a real struggle for couples."
The entrepreneurs found people were obsessed with technology so they decided to use that to help people "connect, enhance and elevate" their connections.
Crescendo was inspired by Ms Alys's goal of building a physical product that could adapt to the body.
"We just thought 'why isn't there some kind of intimate product that adapts to the person," she said.
She described it as a highly personalised vibrator.
"You can bend it and shape it any way you want and make it vibrate any way you want. We designed it almost in prop form in a sense so that you can almost project your own likes and wants and desires - it can be whatever you want it to be."
The biggest hurdle in creating a vibrator that achieved this was getting the technical aspects right, like how it bends.
"The bend and the way that it holds that shape...we took inspiration from a laptop hinge. If you can bend a laptop so many times and it retains a bit of stiffness," she said.
Mystery Vibe had to get inventive to solve the problem of allowing for the wiring that runs the motors to bend. They came up with a solution in-house.
"We design, we invent, we manufacture, we sell. The whole process. There's technology in here that's actually incredibly advanced," Ms Alys said.
The reaction from people when she spoke at conferences, like Lisbon's Web Summit, was mixed. There was often nervous, embarrassed laughter, but that soon gave way to curiosity.
"It normally comes from a place of insecurity and surprise...like 'why is this topic being talked about in this forum?'" she said.
She found as soon as the conversation began, people felt almost as if they had permission to talk about sex toys, but the challenge was still to overcome the "social stigmas around sex" especially for women.
For those that do buy her products, she gets "a lot of happy emails".
"The thing that touches my heart is when I get emails from someone who says they have been in a relationship for a long time and it has helped them rekindle some of their sexuality or even connect with their partner in a way they didn't before," she said.
Men also use her products, such as the Tenuto, which is basically a wearable vibrator for men.
"The more we looked at the market for penis owners... we realised it was such a ripe space for innovation. I feel like the female side of the market has gone through this incredible revolution from moving from pink, plastic genitalia shaped products to these beautiful designed gorgeous products," Ms Alys said.
The male side of the market was typically poor-quality material that "tried to mimics vaginas".
"Many women I spoke to felt so intimidated about bringing those sorts of products into the bedroom," she said.
"They felt like were being replaced, so we wanted to create something for couples and penis owners they would be pride own and use."
The Tenuto certainly looks unusual. Its made of a smooth material - that like the Crescendo bends - to fit around a penis.
Ms Alys told news.com.au she hoped Tenuto would change the market and also continue to fuel the changing perception of the sextech industry which is expected to be worth $29 billion by the end of the decade.
"I think it's very easy with sextech to pick on topics that creates a stir, like sex robots, and its very easy to think of it as kinky people who are doing even more kinky things," she said.
"But if you look at the sector and what some of us are doing you can actually find some pretty powerful examples of people who aren't able to have a pretty basic sex life suddenly became able too and that's thanks to technology."