Even the most experienced among us can use an extra hand in the bedroom from time to time. (And, no, we’re not necessarily talking about a threesome here!) We’re talking about those little tips, tricks, products, and services that can take a woman’s love life from jalapeno hot to scotch bonnet scorching in the blink of an eye.
Lucky for us, five female founders are working towards that very goal. Whether creating a new type of background check site to keep you safe on your next date or building a smart vibrator to make your next solo sesh truly toe-curling, these entrepreneurs are leading the way when it comes to sexual health, safety, and satisfaction.
Anna Lee, co-founder and VP of Engineering, Lioness
Anna Lee’s journey into sex-tech began not with a vibrator, but with a skateboard. As a mechanical engineering student at the University of California, Berkeley, Lee wanted to learn how to skateboard, and she figured the best way to study decks and bearings would be to make them with her own hands. This proved to be Lee’s ah-ha moment.
“I was like, this is what I want to do,” she recalls of her first build. “I want to be able to think of something that I want to learn about…and actually physically manifest it.”
That desire to create led her to a job at Amazon Lab126 working with the concept engineering team. Being a part of a predominantly male team crafting supposedly “unisex” products helped Lee realize that she would always be seen as something of an “other,” and she wanted instead to create products for people like her—people with vulvas and vaginas. But sex-tech wasn’t exactly on her radar: Lee had grown up in a conservative Korean family that immigrated to the U.S. when she was 8 years old.
“We never talked about sex, and I was actually really scared of my own body until my mid 20s,” she says.
But just as she had learned about skateboarding by building a skateboard, Lee would learn about her body by building…a smart vibrator. A chance introduction through her roommate led Lee to co-founders Liz Klinger and James Wang, with whom she launched Lioness in 2017. Their aim: to improve women’s sex lives through data.
The rabbit-style Lioness Vibrator comes equipped with multiple sensors embedded in the insertable portion that measure pelvic floor activity while in use—essentially charting your orgasm as it happens. That biofeedback, synced with the Lioness app and your own tags and notes (how many margs you had to drink that night; whether you got frisky with Drop-Dead Gorgeous Daniel or Kind and Courteous Chris) shows what makes your orgasms better or worse over time.
”We’re really empowering people to be able to track the different factors that could be affecting or changing their arousal,” says Lee. “It’s bringing back this mindfulness aspect to your sexual pleasure.”
And it’s helping women like Lee learn more about their bodies in the process.
“As someone who has used this vibrator for years, it’s kind of cool to see how [my orgasm] has changed, how it changes during different times, and it gives me a tiny second to pause and reflect on what it could be and why it might be a little bit different.”
In the case of Lee and Lioness, there’s no denying the old adage: Build it, and they will come.
Related: Welcome to the Brave, New World of All-Access Sex Toys
Cindy Gallop, CEO, MakeLoveNotPorn
Entrepreneur Cindy Gallop is not shy about her fondness for younger men. In her 60s, she routinely dates men in their 20s. But about 15 years ago, she began noticing some curious behavior from these younger men: their sexual performance and expectations were informed, almost exclusively, by hardcore porn.
“I realized that I was experiencing what happens when two things converge,” Gallop explains. “When today’s total freedom of access to hardcore porn online meets our society’s equally total reluctance to talk openly and honestly about sex. It’s when those two factors converge that porn becomes sex education by default.”
To be clear, Gallop is not against porn. But she thinks the male-led and male-dominated porn industry should not be the only arbiter of what’s sexy for men (and women).
A self-proclaimed woman of action, Gallop felt she needed to do something. So, in 2009, during a now-infamous TED Talk (she used the phrase “come on her face” multiple times), she announced the launch of MakeLoveNotPorn, a website dedicated to adult sexual education. (Sample copy: “Porn world: Women come all the time in positions where nothing is going on anywhere near the clit. Real world: There has to be some sort of rhythmic pressure on the clit in just the right way to make a woman come.”)
After an outpouring of positive feedback, Gallop realized she had to spin the site forward. So in 2011, she launched the social video component of MakeLoveNotPorn, through which users could share videos of themselves having real-world sex.
“We are not porn. We are not amateur,” Gallop says. “We are building a whole new category on the internet that has never before existed.” (In Gallop’s words, she wants to be “the Facebook of social sex.”)
In order to build this category responsibly, Gallop and her small team put each video submission through a rigorous approval process to ensure all participants are of legal age and consent. Every participant (including those behind the camera) must submit two forms of government-issued ID, and MakeLoveNotPorn curators watch every frame from beginning to end. After a video goes live, the team monitors comments closely and quickly removes those that don’t adhere to the site’s guidelines. Revenues are split 50/50 between the site and the video makers (Gallop calls them MakeLoveNotPorn Stars), and the site currently has 1 million members from more than 220 countries.
For some, says Gallop, MakeLoveNotPorn is the first time they’ve seen love reflected during a filmed sex act or a body like theirs on-screen.
“Social sex videos on MakeLoveNotPorn are enormously reassuring,” she says. “Because we celebrate real-world everything—real-world bodies, real-world hair, real-world penis size, real-world breast size, real-world vulvas.
Gallop wants MakeLoveNotPorn to be more than a site—she wants it to be a real social revolution, and she has big plans to make that happen. Getting the funding to expand her vision has been hard (no pun intended): While numerous investors say they love what Gallop is doing, few are willing to put their names on it. Undaunted, she just launched a $20 million funding goal in the hopes of operating on a truly global scale.
“I talk about MakeLoveNotPorn as my attempt to bring about world peace,” says Gallop. “And I’m not joking.”
Stacy Baker Masand, founder, Lunatic Femme
“I’ve been on many sides of the beauty and fashion industries throughout my career, and without a doubt, what I love most is when women step into and own their power,” says content strategist Stacy Baker Masand, founder of the lingerie brand, Lunatic Femme, which launches in October 2022. “I wanted to offer lingerie that’s not just luxurious and beautiful but also makes the erotic experience about women—not their lovers, not the male gaze, not what they see in media as ‘sexy.’”
A fan of body movement and pole dancing classes, Masand came by her market research almost accidentally: She noticed during those classes that women tended to change their lingerie based on their mood—to impressive effect.
“In making those changes, they either stepped more fully into their power, expressed their emotions on a deeper level, or simply found a much richer level of pleasure, self-love, and self-discovery,” she says. “It’s that powerful flow state that I want to ignite with Lunatic Femme. It’s a sensual, creative, spiritual energy—which we believe is essentially all the same—that’s your superpower.”
If that flow state is a woman’s superpower, then Lunatic Femme is their proverbial cape and cowl. Masand says she leaned heavily into luxurious fabrics, lace, and metal for her materials to encourage discovery and play, and pieces can be mixed and matched based on your ever-changing moods.
“We’re very much targeting a mindset that’s unapologetic, free, expressive, messy, playful, and curious,” says Masand. “We want to reach women who are experienced hunters, who want to ignite all expressions of their moods and desires and slip into their power.”
Related: 8 Tips to Help You Feel More Comfortable Taking Erotic Photos
Kathryn Kosmides, founder and CEO, Garbo
Kathryn Kosmides is on a mission to help people date safer. And it’s a personal one: After leaving an abusive relationship, Kosmides was repeatedly stalked and harassed by her ex and spent $150,000 in legal fees to try to get him out of her life. Driven to help others avoid a similar situation, Kosmides created the background check platform Garbo in 2018.
“I set out to build a new kind of online background check—or safety check, as we like to call it today—to help proactively prevent harm in today’s digital age, not only through technology, but tools and education, as well,” says Kosmides.
With just a first name and phone number (details often available after an online match has transitioned to texting), users can perform a simple check of violent/harmful arrests and convictions, in addition to sex offender records, for just $2.50. Almost as important as what Garbo includes in its results is what it doesn’t include: Sensitive information like addresses are excluded, as well as non-violent arrests and convictions for offenses like marijuana possession and loitering, as these often disproportionately affect marginalized communities.
“It’s really finding the balance of privacy and protection,” says Kosmides.
What also sets Garbo apart from the competition is its focus on education and resources. Garbo’s blog includes articles on topics like recognizing narcissistic behavior and the concept of stonewalling. The site has also partnered with the National Domestic Violence Hotline, allowing users to talk to an advocate online without ever leaving the Garbo website.
Kosmides emphasizes the importance of all three tenets since the site can’t possibly access every record out there—and not every violent offender will even have a record.
“We say Garbo is a tool in the safety tool belt; it is not a silver bullet.”
Still, with a tool like Garbo, you won’t have to go into your next blind date totally blind.
Related: Watch our interview with Kathryn Kosmides HERE!
Leslie Busick, co-founder and CEO, Pique
“Just because our bodies age, does not mean we have to age out of having amazing, pain-free sex.” That, says co-founder Leslie Busick, is the overarching principle behind the new sexual health platform, Pique, which serves women ages 40 and up. The idea was born out of Busick’s own struggle to get adequate care for a sexual-health-related issue—one many women can likely relate to.
“I went to my gynecologist to try to talk to her about it. Her response to me was basically, ‘Oh, it’s no big deal. It’s just part of being a woman. Just deal with it,’” Busick recalls. “I went to nine different doctors—all who, more or less, had the same type of response—and I was like, ‘Wow, this is kind of ridiculous that something as basic as your sexual health is so underserved, dismissed, and taboo. No one seems to have the resources or the answers for this kind of stuff.’”
Busick originally thought she was building a service for women in their 20s and 30s, but when she and co-founder Max Savage started doing beta testing, an interesting statistic emerged: More than half of their customers were over the age of 45. That’s when they pivoted.
“A lot of the symptoms of menopause are similar to the symptoms of sexual dysfunction,” Busick says. “Many of these women are dealing with things like vaginal dryness, painful sex, low libido, as well as more emotional issues—maybe they’re newly dating after the end of a long marriage or trying to keep a long marriage interesting.”
Launched in May 2022, Pique currently offers two core products (with plans to expand in the future): vaginal estrogen (typically prescribed for vaginal dryness) and sex therapy, both of which Busick says the company is offering at a lower-than-average price point.
“There’s been a huge struggle with women trying to get affordable prescriptions for vaginal estrogen—it’s anywhere from $200 to $500 a month for a very basic vaginal estrogen cream,” she says. “If you come to us, it’s $20 a month. On the therapy side, most therapists charge $250 a session these days. We charge $125, and we waive your first session—a full 50 minutes, free. That’s how we’re addressing those needs, and how we’re making it accessible to everyone.”
In the future, Busick plans to offer services for women of all ages, but for now, she knows there’s plenty to be done for women in their 40s and beyond.
“Half the population goes through menopause, and yet this category receives hardly any attention up until recently,” she says. “It’s a $15 trillion dollar market. That alone gives us enough to stay busy for the time being.”