The Lioness Vibrator is Basically Your Sexual Fitbit: An Interview with CEO Liz Klinger

People deserve pleasure, period.

We are huge pleasure advocates and we feel that it’s important to care about, talk about, and learn about our own pleasure, the pleasure of our partner(s), and the pleasure of our fellow human beings in general. Learning is something that can end up being rather intimidating, often the less we know about something, the less comfortable we are asking questions for fear of sounding stupid or being judged. Also, when seeking to learn it can be difficult to know where to look or who to ask.

When it comes to our own pleasure, who could possibly know more than ourselves?

So, rather than allowing magazines, friends, porn, the internet, and any other secondary source to tell us about our own bodies, let’s take matters into our own hands (literally).

INTRODUCING: LIONESS

 

Like we said, it’s all about pleasure, but in order to really reach wyour full pleasure potential, you’ve got to get to know yourself, your body, and your sexuality. The Lioness Vibrator was created with all of this in mind, and we could not be more excited to share it with all of you! Lioness is a smart vibrator that tracks your arousal to help you understand your body to the fullest extent and achieve the best sex possible (with yourself and with others). The vibrator itself is 100% silicone, phthalate-free, and water resistant. The battery is long-lasting, the vibration is nearly silent, and there are custom vibration settings that you can adjust at your leisure. The vibrator is fantastic all on its own, but what is truly remarkable about Lioness is the technology that comes along with it, tracking everything right to your smartphone and gathering data to be used however you like. We like to think of it as your sexual Fitbit.

 

Because we are obsessed with this idea, so excited that innovations such as this are beginning to emerge, and eager to learn as much as possible about this kick-ass business, we sat down with Liz Klinger, Cofounder, and CEO of Lioness Health. We spoke to Liz about sexuality, masturbation, her background as a sex toy salesperson, how Lioness came to be, and how the heck Lioness works (because you’re probably dying to know like we were).

 

IT ALL BEGINS WITH SEX POSITIVITY

In order to first recognize that a product such a Lioness is not only beneficial but totally necessary in today’s society, we must first recognize sexual exploration and sexual pleasure as a human need. Looking at sex as something which is positive, healthy, and important is central to the progression of our sexual expression and sexual education. So, eager to understand what Liz Klinger’s relationship with sex positivity was, we asked her what exactly sex positivity meant to her. She responded beautifully and eloquently with the following:

“Three things primarily:

1. Acknowledging that different people have widely different experiences of sex — there are as many different experiences of sex and sexuality as there are people. You could be married and in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship, in an open relationship, asexual, anorgasmic—anything. There is no one way we should experience and express sex and sexuality.

2. Acknowledging that we all have our own journeys of discovering ourselves sexually — there are no particular milestones we all need to “achieve” in any sort of order. Nothing is outright right or wrong so long as we treat each other with respect.

3. Having an open mind. All of us are coming to this topic with varying levels of knowledge, language, and bias, and that’s O.K. as long as we’re open to talking, listening, and learning from each other. The most “sex negative” thing is to have a very narrow view on what sexual expression and pleasure should be.”

Well, we could not have said it better ourselves! A sex-positive mentality (or the opposite) can begin as early as our first interactions with sexuality, and for most individuals, these interactions are conversations with their parents or other influential adults in their lives. Even just the ways in which sex is discussed around a child can deeply affect the way they come to understand it and relate to it as an individual. So, curious what Liz’s early experiences with sexuality were like, we asked her if she ever received “the talk” from her parents.

“Like most folks who grew up in the Midwest or in more conservative families, I didn’t get much of a talk from anybody. My parents did nudge information my way a few times though. When I was very young (maybe 5 or 6?), I remember receiving a book on anatomy as a kid and being very confused why the boy had “something extra” on him.”

For us, this sounds all too familiar. Most people we’ve asked received little to no information about sex from their parents, and those who did commonly received a few facts about avoiding STIs and unplanned pregnancy. Furthermore, most of us received less-than-ideal sex educations from our actual educators.

“In fifth grade, I remember we watched different video series — the ones I remember in particular were someone delivering a baby vaginally, and another on HIV/AIDS. I transferred schools in high school, and because of the schedule and how the different schools handled classes, my new high school determined that I “didn’t need sex ed” and was exempted. Most of my sex education growing up was on the internet — not even necessarily porn sites, but sites on sexuality that also often talked about sex. Go Ask Alice was a classic go-to,” Liz told us while reflecting on her own sex ed experience.

Again, not ideal! Kids are relying on their equally uninformed peers to teach them about sexuality rather than those who actually have the resources and information. How can someone commit to sex positivity is they hardly know anything about sex in general? It’s during reflections like these that we feel especially grateful to do what we do, life in the time that we live in, and are able to utilize products such as Lioness to promote pleasure and learning in the realms of sexuality.

Sex positivity does not mean the celebration of one type of sex between one type of individual, it means the acknowledgment, support, and celebration or all types of sexuality, and this includes masturbation.

WE ALL DO IT

Do you remember asking your friends if they have ever masturbated when you were younger? Did you remember how for males the answer was typical “well, ya” and for females, it was more along the lines of “what!? No! Omg!” For lack of a better word, we think that’s a pretty big bummer. Masturbation, in general, should not be stigmatized or given negative connotations, and this should especially not be the case for only specific groups of individuals. We said it before and we’ll say it again: how can we ask for what we want in bed if we have no idea what that is!? We asked Liz about masturbation and stigmatization and we think you might really like what she had to say:

Psych N Sex: How do you feel we can change the way we look at and talk about masturbation?

Liz: Have fun with it and explore. It’s easy to use masturbation as just a way to blow off some steam. It’s easy to think that masturbation is for people who aren’t in a relationship, or if they are, there’s something wrong with them (all of these thoughts have been expressed to me by some people over time). But if you think of masturbation as simple as that, you’re missing out on an array of experiences and ways of learning your body. You can learn what you like, you can try new things, practice and test out different fantasies, or just fantasize for the sake of fantasizing. I also think you can use it as a gauge to see how your body is doing, as the way we experience pleasure can be different if we are stressed versus if we are not stressed. There’s just a lot we don’t know, the topic of masturbation is a very open field and it’s really exciting to explore the topic in general and to know yourself better personally.

Psych N Sex: How do you feel we can work as a collective to de-stigmatize masturbation, particularly female masturbation?

Liz: Talk about it. Listen and enter the conversation with an open mind. There’s a lot we don’t know, there’s a lot we don’t even know we don’t know. And that’s completely fine. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge a person has now or where they start in their knowledge — what matters is their attitude, aptitude for curiosity, and openness towards changing their mind as they learn more.

Hear that? Talk about it, friends! It truly is the first step. Let it exist, let it exist in a real, ubiquitous, shameless way.

FROM SEX TOY PARTIES TO SEX TOY INNOVATION

 

You may be wondering how Liz got her start in the world of sex toys, technology, and sex tech. In this industry, there is nothing we love more than a good origin story because the innovators of sex tech come from wildly diverse and often unexpected backgrounds. So, here’s a little bit about Liz before Lioness:

Psych N Sex: As we know that you have a background selling sex toys and accessories at private events, we are curious how you got into this industry?

Liz: My interest in sexuality was first expressed through my art. Not knowing exactly what to do after college and having limited choices (jobs as creatives were at an all-time low in the late 2000s), I took a job working at an investment bank after college. I found the job interesting but I quickly realized I was happiest when pursuing what I loved — making things and working on something related to sexuality.

After leaving the bank, I did freelance work in marketing and design and one day came across an opportunity to sell sex toys at private events. You could make your own hours, so I could juggle it with everything else I was doing and it was a great way to get back into doing work related to sexuality to see if I wanted to stick with it.

Psych N Sex: While working in the field of sex toys and accessories, what sorts of individuals, conversations, and questions did you encounter that helped you come to the conclusion that a change was needed in the ways in which we engage with sexuality, the sex industry, and in our relationship with sexual pleasure?

Liz: All sorts — college students, women about to get married, mothers, grandmothers, even great-grandmothers. Something I noticed was that there were people across the board, no matter their age or background, who had questions about sex.

Some people even had these questions lingering in the back of their minds for literally decades. Sometimes these questions caused problems in their relationships, their self-confidence, and their wellbeing. Think questions about the g-spot, how to have better orgasms, how to have an orgasm for the first time, how to communicate with your partner (it isn’t always as easy as “just talk to them”). One woman mentioned she was 80 years old when she discovered that she had a particularly inset clitoris— she always wondered why she needed a lot of intense (magic wand vibration) stimulation to orgasm, and one doctor pointed it out to her during an annual exam. A lot of things set into place for her after that realization.

These questions were sometimes simple, sometimes individual and complex. And they were asking some 20-something saleswoman selling vibrators. But they said they hadn’t been able to find better people or opportunities to really ask their questions. The ones who asked someone else before usually asked their OB/GYNs, and they were often rebuffed or not given enough sufficient information because pleasure education is usually not the primary focus of OB/GYNs (pregnancies and infections are). Here I thought I was the weird one who always had questions about sex, and I quickly discovered that…everyone had questions about sex.

Humans are curious creatures, we are constantly longing to know more about everything we encounter on a daily basis. We all have questions, we just need to know the proper ways to go about getting answers.

 
MORE ABOUT LIONESS WITH LIZ

Psych N Sex: Can you tell us a bit about how the idea for Lioness specifically was born?

Liz: We initially started out with the idea of how to design a better vibrator experience. Based on what I heard from people from my sex toy selling days, we wanted to make something that used materials that were vetted to be safe for the body and easy to use. The easy to use part is surprisingly uncommon — at every party, I went to, someone, at least once, had trouble turning a vibrator on or off, and it was always an awkward, clunky experience. But worse was when a vibrator didn’t work for someone and became a paperweight in their drawer. I hated that because I wanted to provide a great experience for people that’d help them enjoy themselves sexually.

So the first idea was to make a vibrator that was easy to turn on/off, carefully designed and had a wide range of settings, and for folks who needed a little more guidance, a vibrator that could self-adjust to their body’s own responses. We quickly found that was more of a “nifty” experience for people, but not really something that truly got people excited. Because our early prototypes dealt with sensors and data, we started thinking about giving people information about themselves, kind of like a Fitbit would. We were kind of skeptical given that the talk around Fitbit was that the data told people what they already knew, but when we started talking to our beta testers about it, there was a reaction like “Wait, what? Can you do that? I’ve been wondering about…”. They’d be asking many of the same types of questions I had been asked when I was selling sex toys, the questions that nagged in the back of their minds but didn’t know they could do anything about. That’s when we knew we came upon something that could actually be helpful for people, and the rest is history.

Psych N Sex: Why do you believe it’s important to collect data such as this?

Liz: There is very little information out there on female sexuality, especially from a physiological standpoint. A lot of the research (and a lot of what we’ve based our initial set of knowledge) was done back in the 1980s. Since then, all research has suffered in the US in particular due to a downturn in federal funding. Sex research was particularly hard to hit though with universities deemphasizing it in their competition for a shrinking pot of dollars. Other fields compensated by getting industry funding—for better or worse, as we can see from the recent revelations on how industry affected nutritional research, for example—but there wasn’t anyone to really take up the torch here.

As such, we actually know shockingly little about female sexuality, especially relative to how much our knowledge has expanded everywhere else. At this point, a lot of the same dynamics I mentioned affecting sex research since the 1980s still apply, and in some cases are even more intense with the politically-charged environment of today. Basically, the view is that research into sex is less important—which I obviously wholeheartedly disagree with.

Sex (be it solo masturbation, intimacy with a partner, anything that could fall under the umbrella of sex) directly affects our relationships, our health, and our wellbeing. By ignoring sex research, we’re missing a key puzzle piece in understanding what it means to be human since regardless of what people think, sex is a big part of everyone’s lives in some way. If we focus on learning more about sex, I’ll bet that we can help people lead much happier, healthier lives.

Psych N Sex: So, break it down for us, how exactly does it work?

Liz: You use the Lioness like a regular vibrator (no, there isn’t Bluetooth or apps running as you use it). When you have a session you’d like to see, you can upload it to your app to see what happened.

You can see your body’s movements throughout the session. Each individual session usually is a bit like a Rorschach blot—it’s hard to know what to take out of it. It’ll look different depending on each individual and their experience (everyone’s pleasure looks somewhat different!). The real power is from using it over time. As you start to get more familiarity with your data and how your body reacts to things, you can start visually correlating your experience with what the app displays. At most basic, you can start to recognize what it looks like when your experience is good, and when it’s not so good.

From there, you can start recognizing what your orgasm looks like, how it looks as you get aroused, how that entire set of experience changes based on notes you keep on it (and what’s automatically set for you, like time of day/month/week). It’s like keeping a sex diary, which has been shown to help people looking to improve their sex lives—since you start to realize things about what contributes to good sex and bad sex that you might not recognize at the moment. Normally, it’s hard to keep one though and most people drop off after only a day or two. We make it easy here where part of the diary is automatically tracked for you and the rest is made easy with an intuitive interface.

Psych N Sex: How do you think Lioness can help change the way we engage with sexuality, masturbation, and our sexual selves?

Liz: We provide a place for people to explore on their own terms. They can keep the information to themselves, they can use it as a conversation piece to discuss pleasure with their partner. We’ve even seen friends buy Lionesses and organize informal get-togethers to talk about their unique experiences of pleasure using the app as a way to describe their different experiences. Regardless of how someone interacts with the Lioness, it allows people to advance their knowledge of pleasure and themselves, no matter if they’re a self-described sexpert or someone who’s just getting started on their journey of sexual discovery.

 

Lioness is the perfect example of just how far we’ve come in terms of sex positivity and sex education.

The technology exists, all we have to do is take initiative and utilize it. If we want to see change, we need to get active, plain and simple. The thing is, when we think of activism we often think of marching and fighting against something, but it can also be personal acts of revolution such as claiming your pleasure, learning about your body, and sharing your findings with your communities and partners so they can lean too. Activism can be fighting for something rather than against something, so why not fight for your own sexuality?

Check out Lioness, read about their journey, and ask yourself this: how much do I really know about my personal arousal & sexual preferences? If the answer is “holy moly…not a whole lot” you may just want to invest in your own.

Britanny Burr

Britanny is a Freelance Writer and Editor with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She grew up in the Rocky Mountains and is currently dwelling in Vancouver. She loves pool parties (though they are few and far between because she lives in Canada), hairless cats (though she hasn't yet met one in real life), and people who make her laugh. You can find her dancing, reading, drinking coffee or wine (dependent on the time of day), and watching Boy Meets World re-runs. @britburr

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