Dame Products is a sex-product company founded by Alex Fine and Janet Leiberman-Lu in 2014 that continuously sets an example for what it means to create consumer products while advocating for a better, sex-positive world.
Fine and Leiberman-Lu met after attending several Brooklyn entrepreneur meetups where they were mistaken for co-founders of the same startup by their peers, before ever meeting one another!
Lieberman- Lu learned that the other mysterious individual on the same path as her was Fine and reached out to set up a meet! One breakfast meeting later and the two entrepreneurs realized they had something special.
Both individuals had an interest in the sexuality space, particularly in addressing the discrepancies in quality and pleasure accessibility, but with different skill sets.
Lieberman-Lu is an MIT alumna who had extensive product development experience and wanted to use her background and ability to bring a higher-standard to the sex-toy industry.
Fine grew up being curious about sexuality and pursued her passion for changing our society’s relationship & experience with sexuality through earning a Masters from Columbia University in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in sex therapy.
“After realizing sex is something society still struggles to discuss, I knew it was time to make a difference. [So,] we decided to create Dame to make the world a happier place, one vulva at a time, to close the pleasure gap, and to encourage open conversations around sexuality,” writes Fine.
Their complimentary skills paired harmoniously to create Dame Products and the two set out to create their first sex-toy, Eva.
“We launched Dame in 2014. Our first product, Eva, launched on Indiegogo that fall, and we raised $575,000, making it the most successful sex toy crowdfunding campaign ever,” tells Fine.
Eva was created to address one of the gaps vulva owners often experience during partnered, penetrative sex– a lack of clitoral stimulation; Something many vulva owners need to have a pleasurable, sexual experience.
The hands-free, couples vibrator solves this by being tucked between the labia and gently held in place with attached wings so the vulva owner has an added clitoral stimulation while being able to participate in penetrative sex.
Eva’s rousing, crowdfunded success gave Dame the ability to sky-rocket into the industry, becoming the extremely successful company it is today.
Fine says, “We began with a bang– we sold over 10K vibrators, amounting to over $1M in revenue, within a year of our founders meeting each other. Now we’ve sold hundreds of thousands of products, we’re in retailers around the world, and have an incredible full-time team.”
The success that Dame had didn’t blind it’s founders to its original goals of sharing educational information about sexuality, closing the pleasure gap, and creating a more sex-positive society.
The company works to address these goals through a number of initiatives including their customer-oriented process of creating new products.
“When developing any of our products, we apply extensive research, smart design principles, and –perhaps most importantly – empathy,” writes Fine.
She explains, “We do beta-testing to make sure that how we’re executing our designs aligns with what our consumers want it to do. Each device serves a different purpose or benefit depending on what you are trying to achieve. When we build our color palette, we want to include elements of femininity and masculinity, elements of bright and fun and elements of more muted and discreet– because we know that people view sexuality differently. We want to make sure that whatever products we’re offering, we’re bringing it in colors that mean different things to different people.”
Dame’s customer-based design doesn’t just end after considering the consumer; The company works to design every product based on direct customer feedback and interaction through their research arm, Dame Labs; An initiative implemented in 2018 in order to gain a broader and more diverse feedback from the company’s audience, igniting curiosity and sexual exploration.
“Our customers inform so much of our product development process. From the type of stimulation a product provides to where each button is placed, we test every detail with real people to ensure we’re providing real solutions for the bedroom–not just prescribing what we think people want/need. The Dame community is working to humanize a product space that isn’t always speaking to the audience it serves,” writes Fine.
This method of customer interaction has led to every product Dame has created so far, so when creating a new product, Fine explains that one product has led to another as the company learns what is most important to their audience and what wide array of tools individuals are looking for to expand their sexual experience.
She shares, “Each device serves a different purpose or benefit depending on what you are trying to achieve. For example, Fin is a choose-your-own-adventure toy, since it can easily be integrated into whatever you’re already doing with your hands. Pom offers both pinpoint and broad stimulation, continuous intensity controls, and the most powerful motor of any of our products. Kip is a small, easy-grip vibe designed to bring clit-enveloping stimulation, and Pillo is a soft-yet-firm wedge that supports you in a variety of sex positions to make sex more comfy. By offering a wide array of devices, we can provide pleasure for all types of experiences and people.”
Using this customer-centric approach places pleasure-positive advocacy at the center of Dame’s core principles, leading the company to take on an active role in their community as a business pushing for change in the sexuality industry.
“Aside from our product lineup, in recent years we’ve served as a leader in exploring well being from every direction, including our activist efforts, community events, and educational content,” explains Fine.
Swell, Dame’s content platform, was launched in March of 2021 as a way for the company to support its’ consumers’ well-being “from every direction” writes Fine.
She explains, “Swell seeks to honor all experiences and leave the door open for alternative, creative, and holistic ways of experiencing pleasure.”
The platform is a space curated by Dame featuring journalists, therapists, activists, sex educators, health experts, and other writers; All dedicated to bringing fun, important, and engaging education to Dame’s customers’ fingertips. They’ve even created a Intimacy Glossary that is continuously updated with new & classic terms defining sex, methods, anatomy, and more; Demystifying sexual wellness and relationships “without taking themselves too seriously,” Fine adds.
The company’s commitment to making the sexual wellness conversation inclusive and accessible to all even led to an extension of Swell through a virtual workshop series.
“Last year, we launched our new workshop series to help our community enhance intimacy with a suite of courses, exercises, and materials developed by experts such as sex therapists, yoga teachers, and massage specialists. The workshops center around different themes in the world of sexual health and wellness, with subjects like relationship help, communication, breath work, and re-igniting the spark– because sex is about so much more than what we do in the bedroom.”
However, Dame also faces a huge roadblock in their ability to advocate: The platforms most people go to seeking out information are platforms Dame is banned from using just because the company addresses sexuality.
“We are fighting against the very stigmas and taboos that affect our business by fighting unfair and sexist advertising policies. Having a conversation about these issues is an important change to educate people about issues that they have deeply rooted assumptions and biases about,” says Fine.
One of the ways Dame is currently working to change these advertising policies is by suing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for not allowing them to advertise.
“We hope our lawsuit with the MTA is the first step to open doors for businesses like Dame’s to advertise with the MTA and beyond, which will bring us closer to closing the pleasure gap. When I started this company, I never thought I would be filing lawsuits. But I hope this legal route opens up conversations about the larger societal tropes at play here– lack of education about women’s sexual health and pleasure, and prioritization of men-focused products and businesses. Those are the conversations that can create long-lasting change for sexuality businesses and give us an even playing field to be successful.”
Update: They won the lawsuit. Check out how my family & I got to be involved here.
While the road hasn’t been easy and the way towards a more just and sex-positive world will be filled with roadblocks just like the one Dame faces now, Fine remains hopeful and persistent in Dame’s efforts to create change.
“One of our greatest roadblocks has been in situations where there is no opportunity for an open dialogue. When we have the chance to explain exactly what we do, and why opening up the conversation about sex is crucial to so many aspects of our lives, we see the lightbulbs go on. While it’s sometimes been challenging to have the opportunity to be heard, we’ve also made incredible strides as a company to dispel sexual shame and help more people have pleasurable sex. For every naysayer, there are always more supporters and testimonials to our work– that keeps me going!”
Want to help Dame make a difference? Here are some ways you can get involved and support a truly bad ass company.
- Learn, learn, learn! Explore Dame & our blogs & workshops (especially her reviews of Dame’s Products!) to get up to date on all the important information you need to know (and most likely weren’t taught in middle school) Oh! And check out the Swell article Rachel was quoted in, Readjusting to Touch and Intimacy as the World Reopens.
- Sign up to be a product tester by visiting Dame Labs page and filling out a basic survey! Any respondents who meet Dame’s research criteria will be sent follow-up surveys to show interest & engagement and then, upon product development, may be selected for prototype testing & reviews.
- Keep an eye out for exciting new initiatives by Dame to create more space for research & education like creating a clinical advisory board composed of therapists, herbalists, doctors, and scientists, pioneering a more thoughtful, human-centric, and accessible sexuality industry.
- Purchase Dame products here– Don’t forget to use the code RACHELWRIGHT!!