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OMGYes! Female pleasure gets scientific

Good news for people with clitorises: research on pleasure and the female anatomy is finally a thing.

by Chelsey Delaney
about 3 years ago

Between the 15th and 18th centuries, a few different scientist guys argued over which one of them could rightfully claim they “discovered” the clitoris. Once they realized the small sexual organ functioned solely for female pleasure (while some maintained it had no function at all), interest started to wane.

Today we still have no idea who “discovered” the clitoris, but we can be pretty sure it wasn’t any of those dudes. Science has certainly advanced since then, but research focusing on female pleasure hasn’t. After years of clitoral neglect from the science community, many of us have accepted the standard justification: “Everyone’s different! You just have to figure out what works for you.”

Yet some of us never figured it out. In my 4th grade “sex ed” class I was told female masturbation = not a thing. It wasn’t until freshman year of high school that I learned the truth—that I had missed out on years of skill-building. (Even today, it’s not like you can just Google “female masturbation” and find a Wiki How step-by-step instruction guide. Like, not at all. I tried.)

That’s why when I found out about OMGYes, it struck a chord. The service was created by Rob Perkins and Lydia Daniller, friends who suspected that while yes, everyone’s different, there must be some patterns or themes to female pleasure. Perkins and Daniller started doing research with friends, then friends of friends.

One thing led to another—and “another” in this case meant teaming up with some independent researchers from Indiana University and the Kinsey Institute. This research produced a few key findings:

  • Everyone is different, but there are patterns when it comes to which techniques people respond to.

  • Because these patterns and techniques don’t have names, people struggle to discuss, explore, and refine them.

From these findings, the team developed a strategy: First, they needed to identify the scope of the techniques and patterns they’d observed. Next, they needed to create a vocabulary to talk about them. Finally, they needed to transform this work into tools people could use to discuss what they like, give feedback to romantic partners, and discover new methods to try.

As the research continued to clarify patterns and techniques, the vocabulary list grew into a full-fledged menu. Previously undefined techniques finally earned titles such as “edging”, “framing”, and “hinting.”

Once Perkins and Daniller had a solid list of techniques, they realized their pet project had become the real deal. It was time to share everything with the world, and they decided to go all-in: They’d use the best technology to build and share the sexual wealth.

“The tech took a lot longer than we thought,” Perkins said. “We tried lots and lots of different things, some of which are pretty funny failures in terms of prototypes.”

OMGYes eventually landed with “touchable video” technology to teach anyone who interacts with a clitoris how to harness the power of sexual pleasure. What convinced me to subscribe: the techniques OMGYes teaches have been proven to work through extensive research with thousands of women.

The online service works sort of like a video subscription: For a one-time fee ($29 at the time of publication), you subscribe to a “season.” Within that season, you have access to a library of techniques and instructions for performing them. Then you practice. On a vagina. On a touchscreen.

Why? After testing many a prototype, it was clear users wanted the service to be more human than not. They needed an experience that felt as if they were learning from a good friend, or as Christina Vasiliou, OMGYes’ Director of Content Development, puts it, “a friend who is a teacher who is showing you her vulva.”

Yes. Brave women volunteered their vaginas to be artificially intelligent user interfaces that detect the shape and speed of gestures. Different gestures trigger different types of feedback (e.g. “you’re going too fast”) depending on the technique being taught.

With the tech in place, the service pitched itself as a way to upgrade one’s sexual toolkit and score more sex cred with one’s partner(s). As OMGYes evolved, it proved it could serve a variety of people and use cases. For example, it’s amazing for people like me who missed out on some sexual basics and still feel pretty awkward about it.

At first I felt similarly awkward practicing on another woman’s virtual vagina. But then it was fine. You realize everyone has their pants down, not just you, so it’s okay.

Ultimately, OMGYes is the opposite of my 4th grade “sex ed” class. I’ve learned techniques, words to describe techniques, and most importantly, more about my own preferences. It’s like I got the years between 4th and 9th grade back, plus interest!

Awkward or not, classy how-tos in sexuality are out there in Internet land—and they can be pretty legit. This is especially true when what’s behind them is a great application of science—one that goes beyond the discovery of the clitoris and acknowledges that, intimately speaking, we’re in charge of our own discovery.

Chelsey Delaney is a designer, writer, and comedic womyn. She works as a UX designer, concentrating on the user experience of health care websites and applications.

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