omgyes: the sex-positive start-up demystifying female pleasure
And empowering women.
"What is a sex start-up...? I don't really know," says Lydia Daniller over the phone from the headquarters of OMGYes, her sex start-up in the San Francisco Bay Area. The project is hard to define, because, like so many important projects, it's a venture into uncharted territory.
Launched at the tail end of 2015, by Lydia and her friend Rob Perkins, OMGYes is a website that hopes to break the taboos surrounding women's sexual pleasure by conducting and sharing new research in the field. The field being the female orgasm. Accessed through your browser, the site offers users (for a one-time $39 fee) a library of over 40 interactive, instructional touchscreen videos featuring a cast of real female volunteers. It's suggested you use it like "a position book from the future."
Rob and Lydia met 20 years ago at UC Berkeley — Lydia studied comparative literature, Rob studied neuroscience — and their joint project began during a conversation with friends. "We were sharing different stories about sexual pleasure," says Lydia. "And people got really deep into the details. It was so refreshing. We thought, 'What if we could collect those insights and get them out to the world?' Because the taboo around this isn't helping anybody."
They talked to more friends, then their friends' friends, then they put a call out to a wider group of women. When they eventually reached out to sex educators and researchers to see if the trends they were hearing about were representative of the population at large, they were met with the answer that there were no official studies on what women enjoyed during sex.
"Sexual pleasure in general — people just have a gut reaction that it's indecent," says Rob. "People have this sense deep down that's improper to be discussed and researched, which is why big institutions have never researched it."
This is particularly true when it comes to women and sexual pleasure, they emphasize. "It's a hangover from another generation. Women have been subject to difference in culture and religion for so long that it's only fairly recently that sexual pleasure is being freed from taboo," says Lydia. The goal of the company — now over 20 employees strong — is to dispel the long-held idea that women's bodies are mystical, unknowable entities, by modeling a language for honest, empowering conversation about sex.
And so Rob and Lydia partnered with the University of Indiana to conduct a first-of-its-kind survey of over 2,000 women between the ages of 18 and 95. "We asked all sorts of questions — some of them were directly linked to stimulation techniques, sort of them were about general habits, and relationship happiness factors," they explain.
The results, which they're sharing in multiple releases of videos (Season One dropped in December), are intended to instruct and benefit both men and women. OMGYes is like "The Bible" from American Pie, but digital, intelligent, and based on the wisdom of real adult women, not fumbling adolescent boys. "We say it's like a book," says Rob. "You can read it alone, you can read it with someone. And it's sort of a spark for exploration and conversation."
The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive. But where there are women on the internet, there are trolls. "We actually anticipated more haters," Lydia laughs. "Of course, there have been some jerk-y responses but that just means we're doing something right." "And what's lovely is that when there are jerks in the comment section, women come to our defense," says Rob.
"We think that shifts are ready to happen," he continues, "and that people are ready to talk about this stuff openly, but companies aren't. So institutions won't fund the research, they're risk-averse. Google and Facebook and Apple still think anything with nudity or the word 'clitoris' is indecent." It's going to happen, so we thought, 'Why don't we just do it?'"
So that's what makes them a start-up, Rob concludes: they just started something. But he notes that, unlike most start-ups, their main goal is not to "grow huge," (financially, at least). More important is bringing about real change. Eventually, Rob and Lydia would like OMGYes to appear in the Wikipedia entry for the sexual revolution, under the heading for 2016. And, in the meantime, they hope it will help you have better sex.
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Images courtesy OMGYes