This content was created by Girlboss and funded by Pure App.
Pleasure is defined as “a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment,” so how did the word become solely associated with sex? Sure, it could be a mind-blowing orgasm or it could be simply enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a long day—however you define it, there’s no denying the power of satisfaction and empowerment. We chatted with five trailblazers who are shaping the future of pleasure—and sex positivity—and defining sexual empowerment on their own terms.
The future of pleasure is sustainable
Not-so-fun-fact: Approximately 53.6 million tonnes of electronic waste were dumped globally in 2020, according to a Global E-waste Monitor report. And only 17.4% of it was actually recycled. (Yes, this includes vibrators and any other sex toy that has batteries or cords.) There’s nothing that’ll kill your lady boner more than the thought of the planet burning up. But, brands are revolutionizing sex toys as we know it, from Gaia’s Biodegradable Vibrator, which will naturally break down within 47 to 90 days in a commercial compost facility, to the Womanizer Premium Eco, the first pleasure air sex toy made from sustainable, reusable materials. It took two years for Womanizer to create Biolene, a biodegradable bioplastic made from cornstarch. It still has the same soft and supple feel of the other products, but it’s much better for the environment. “The majority of people are happy to buy a sustainable alternative but they want the same quality, they want the same features,” says Johanna Rief, the head of sexual empowerment at WOW Tech Group, which owns Womanizer. “Compared to fast fashion, where the problem is that people buy too much and then throw it away too early, we try to produce products that last for a long time.”
That’s the key to being a more conscious consumer: Invest in a few high-quality toys that are made from long-lasting, innovative materials (like Biolene) from companies with sustainable practices. Because the sex toy industry is not regulated. If you want to be really eco-friendly, opt for toys made out of upcycled wood, silicone, glass or porcelain that don’t contain any electronic parts. But say, your beloved vibe finally dies after 5 long and wonderful years. Make sure to check with your local sex shop to learn the best way to recycle your sex toy for your area.
The future of pleasure is virtual
“I believe that we are heading into the metaverse era, and naturally, getting pleasure will be an integral part of that virtual reality,” says Olga Petrunina, CEO of Pure, a sex-positive dating app that creates a safe space for its users to explore their deepest desires. “Most of the sextech industry will be moving into AR/VR, connected devices and AI digital personalities. The future will closely resemble Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One.” Somehow, the thought of getting through that awkward first-date small talk with a new match doesn’t seem so bad in the metaverse. At least IRL, you can stay on the couch in your pajamas.
Pure is revolutionizing what it means to date and hook-up in 2022 by fostering online connections that no other dating app has done before. “We’re building a geo-agnostic and fully virtual world of communication and working on implementing digital avatars and Artificial Intelligence to create an immersive experience that has never been done before. The experience will bring the freedom of exploration to the forefront of people’s dating lives.”
The future of pleasure is educational
Remember that Mean Girls scene where Coach Carr goes on a rant about the dangers of having sex? “Because you will get pregnant, and die.” That’s about as comprehensive as American sex education in public schools is these days (kidding… but are we?). Abstinence is king. “There’s this puritanical blanket over sexuality that we’ve been trying to unveil for years,” says Lora H DiCarlo, the founder and CEO of the award-winning sex toy company, Lora DiCarlo (Cara Delevingne is the co-owner and chief creative officer, NBD). “The biggest roadblock to anything we’re afraid of always starts with a lack of education.” Through their tech-savvy toys, DiCarlo is tackling some of the biggest medical challenges in sexuality, like pelvic floor dysfunction and vaginismus, by creating products that are grounded in science and pleasure. “We want to be one safe place where you can ask all of your questions, find all of your solutions and have all the fun you can—and feel like you actually have data-informed, medically-based products that are custom-made for your physiology,” she says.
Ev’Yan Whitney didn’t have resources like this when they were growing up. Whitney was raised in a culture of purity (where a woman’s virginity is sacred and her sole purpose is to be good wife and mother and support her husband) and never had a comprehensive sex education. “I had to unlearn a lot of heteronormativity, anti-Blackness, misogyny, internalized sexism and compulsory sexuality (the assumption that hereosexuality is the norm). I was given so much shame, dogma and misinformation about my own body and sexuality, so a lot of the things I had to unlearn I’m still processing and dismantling from my own body today,” says Whitney, who works as a sexuality doula to help people connect to and uncover their authentic sexual selves. “It’s a process. I’m not 100% ‘healed’ and I don’t know if I will get to that place in my lifetime, which I’m okay with.”
The future of pleasure is about more than sex
One thing Whitney says we get wrong about pleasure is that it can only be experienced in the bedroom. “To me, pleasure is about feeling good in my body and because that definition is so open-ended, it allows me to explore pleasure in many different ways, both in and out of a sexual context. There are so many ways I make my body feel good that’s not sexual: eating something delicious, taking a hot shower, listening and dancing to music, going for a walk and taking in the nature around me. You don’t have to be a sexual person to experience pleasure and once we realize this, a whole world of possibility opens up to us.” As someone on the asexual spectrum, Whitney hopes that we canl move towards a future where sex is something that everyone can define for themselves. “When we open up that definition of pleasure, we unlock so much potential for sensuality and connection and intimacy—with ourselves, with others, with the world around us—and that will absolutely enhance the relationship we have with pleasure during sex.”
For Yasmin Benoit, a model, author and asexual activist, pleasure is something she only shares with herself. “Pleasure for me is very instinctive and independent. As I don’t experience sexual or romantic attraction, my pleasure isn’t reliant on anyone else, it doesn’t involve the sensation of lust or romantic love for someone else. It’s a very personal thing,” she says.
And maybe that’s what the future of pleasure is: something that cannot be confined to a singular definition or experience. As Whitney says, “personal liberation—sexual or otherwise—is a journey not a destination.”