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Alive with Pleasure and Passion: Lessons from a vibrator entrepreneur

You may be uncomfortable reading a blog post about a vibrator inventor written by a sixteen-year-old, but bear with me. I have a great deal of admiration for Alexandra Fine, who graduated Columbia with an advanced degree in Human Psychology, and started a successful business at the age of twenty-six. She is quite clearly brilliant and driven, and neither negate her lively spirit. She speaks of her accomplishments with genuine levity, simply stating, “why not dedicate your life to [love]?” I am interested in Fine’s positive approach, rather than her products, and I believe that she can serve as a sex-positive role model for parents, growing girls, and others.

Fine, along with Janet Lieberman, founded Dame, a company whose mission is “to design well-engineered sex toys, to heighten intimacy, and to openly empower the sexual experiences of womankind.” Beyond their revolutionary products, Dame’s mission contradicts so many mainstream notions of sex, like the idea that sex is not an intimate act.

You may be thinking, “intimate sex is revolutionary?!” but unfortunately, for many teenagers, it is. Eighty-nine percent of teenagers learn about sex through the internet, mostly in the form of pornography, which is devoid of tenderness, and depicts only the mechanics of sex. This is where Dame comes in; their products challenge these unrealistic and emotionally sterile portrayals of sex.

Healthy sexual relationships require a lot of information and communication. With the internet as their educator, young adults can be misled in a variety of ways. Some might point to parents and schools as two entities that should step in to help, but no one wants to talk to their parents about sex, and- given that only 13 of 50 states require that accurate information about sex be taught in school, it’s no wonder that the internet remains the predominant source of information about sex for teenagers. There is a good chance that the next teenager you encounter doesn’t know what a clitoral hood is, and if teenagers can’t name basic sexual anatomy, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we don’t understand the complexities of sexual intimacy.

Even good sex-ed curriculum often leaves out pleasure, a main motivation for sex. Pleasure, in general, is complex. Imagine trying to teach someone what flavor of ice cream to like. Preference is individual. My favorite flavor is strawberry, while my best friend likes mint-chip. We are different people who like different things, and sexual pleasure is similar. The fact that pleasure varies so much person to person, combined with the potential discomfort of sharing such a personal sentiment, makes it complicated to teach about pleasure; therefore most sex-ed just avoids discussing it. When the subject itself is avoided, there is still a widespread assumption deeply ingrained in our society that inevitably comes up: men find sexual interactions pleasurable while women don’t. Without other resources, girls can be left feeling that their satisfaction is secondary, or even that it’s unimportant.

Fine refers to what she calls the “pleasure gap,” the fact that men are twice as likely as women to have an orgasm during sex.  By contrast, she believes that sexually satisfying relationships can be empowering, and has made this satisfaction more attainable for other women. She helps women walk the path of sexual and self-discovery. By having open discussions about vibrators, Fine helps young women, whether sexually active or not, think about their needs, feel they have the power to express them, and feel that it is their right to have them met.

Fine talks about sex bluntly, and by doing so, has provided my generation with reliable information, allowing us to have informed and thoughtful relationships, whether sexual or not. This information has widespread influence that goes beyond sex. In an era where eating disorders are on the rise, letting girls know that they have the right to physical pleasure can change how they see their bodies. It sends the message that our wellbeing is about how we feel and it should not be repressed to meet the standards of others. Fine’s empowering message lets young women know that they have the right to equality and power in general–in situations varying from school to the soccer field.

Alexandra Fine has achieved something more profound than making award-winning vibrators. She saw a need and decided to fix it, not just for herself but for everyone else. She didn’t half-ass it either, she got a great education, the best materials, and an outstanding business partner. She has used her expertise to benefit others, achieving the greatest form of success. Reading her articles and interviews, it seems to me that Fine, while doing important work around such a serious topic, has stayed true to the values behind Dame: living with pleasure and passion. And every young woman can use a little pleasure and passion, whether her interests are in sports, fashion, psychology, or engineering!

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Alexandra Fine and Janet Lieberman
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Alexandra Fine and Janet Lieberman
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How to cite this page

Abusch-Magder, Aliza. "Alive with Pleasure and Passion: Lessons from a vibrator entrepreneur ." 28 December 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 14, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/alive-with-pleasure-and-passion-lessons-from-vibrator-entrepreneur>.

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