Over the past two years, a collective of Berlin queerdos have designed a new brand within the AMORELIE universe and created the first collection of sex toys specifically designed for queer couples: Constellations.
Product designer Jon Derman Harris and his team’s mission was to give same-sex couples the opportunity to enter previously unknown territories of simultaneous stimulation. Harris, a Stanford graduate, has been living in Berlin over the last three years and designing sex toys at Germany’s most lovable startup. Screen Shot met him at a riverside café on a sunny Berlin afternoon, with a box full of spacey sex toys and exclusive behind the scenes insights on building a revolutionary sex toy collection from start to finish.
After the launch of Constellations, I looked up for a second and realised how groundbreaking it is to have created a completely gender-neutral brand of sex toys. In the future, I hope that products like these continue to push the industry to be adamantly inclusive of people who identify as men, women, gender-queer, trans, gay, lesbian and whatever descriptors people want to rock. Everybody should be able to find their toy.
Most bodies can find a toy that will work for their body as an individual, and there is a myriad of toys out there for straight couples that can stimulate a penis and a vagina at the same time. However, there aren’t any toys that are explicitly for queer couples. We wanted to fill the gap this niche represented and to make it as inclusive as possible. We have made sure that each toy in the collection is described by the genitalia that it stimulates and not the gender the person has.
The creative process is a lot less linear than people think is, and we usually develop multiple ideas and different design streams at the same time. For this collection, marketing and communication were crucial from the onset and throughout. When you create something this new, you have to communicate it properly and put in the necessary energy to tell the story. For example, we have included little how-to illustrations of gender-neutral astronauts getting down and ‘astronaughty’ for each and every toy.
The blessing and curse of working in the sex tech industry is that I get constant feedback from everyone. It is a great party trick but also makes it hard for me to know when to take which feedback seriously. You can come up with a concept and show it to someone, and she says “I love it, but it is too big,” and then show it to someone else and they’ll say “I love it, but it is too small.”
Because sex and pleasure are so subjective, this feedback spiral can endlessly go on. I have to take a step back and focus on the problem that each particular product is actually trying to solve and decide how to adapt it to make the biggest impact. I’d rather make one person really happy with a 10/10 experience, rather than sort-of please many people and for each of them to have a mediocre 5/10 experience.
That greatly depends on what we’re making. If it is an improvement on an existing toy, like the douche, for example, I can make the changes quickly, iterate and be pretty secure about giving the final go-ahead. With something new, like Pavo, the toy for two vaginas, we’ll do around 50 prototypes and samples until we have enough confidence to make that decision.
Sometimes you’re out of time, you have a business deadline and know it is as good as it can be with the time and resources. However, the perfectionist in me does sometimes grind things to a halt because making a necessary change is essential for the product and the team.
Hire more women. Period. Thank God there are women making important design decisions around me, I am but just a piece of the entire product development process.
Definitely more of our own branded toys. As we look forward, I think more radical products are necessary to really push the conversation in this space. We are in a unique position to bring all different types of sex to the mainstream and break taboos. For me personally, I want to create more funky stuff and enter new territories. I hope these products do well, and hopefully next time I do something a little risky I can do it with way more confidence.
The rise of the teledildonics industry, also known as connected sexual pleasure products, creates new fun ways for us to pleasure ourselves and our partners, with inventions such as vibrating Wi-Fi-enabled butt plugs and webcam-connected dildos. But teledildonics, just like everything else in our modern age it seems, are another privacy nightmare ridden with security flaws. Since 2018, there have been a number of reported hacked sex toys, and the most recent case makes me wonder: should we go back to good old non-connected sex toys just to avoid them getting hacked mid-sesh?
Evidently, I’m not the only one. Most recently, a woman had her butt plug hacked and controlled while she was presenting on stage. It later turned out to be a stunt designed to demonstrate to the audience just how susceptible these devices are to getting hacked. This incident sparked a frenzy as people feared it would happen to them. Not only would having your vibrator hacked be very strange, but it would also be done without your consent—just like the data-collection techniques that are used by Facebook, Alexa, and most technologies.
In 2017, a man called Alex Lomas walked around Berlin and had to use only his phone in order to pull up a list of Bluetooth discoverable Lovense Hush butt plugs, ready to be hacked, just to manifest how easy it was. Last year, SEC Consultants looked at sex toys from Vibratissimo and demonstrated how they could be broken into by hackers not only to “remotely pleasure” people, but also to access owners’ account details. Even more worrying, a Wi-Fi-connected dildo’s internal camera was found to be easily accessible.
What can be said about hacking sex toys and consent laws? Because these are quite uncharted territories, we don’t know just yet what to do when someone hacks a sex toy or its data. In some countries, such as the U.S., laws that define what constitutes sexual harassment or assault vary from state to state. In many countries, the law is still vague about the definition of assault and sexual harassment. In the U.K., sexual harassment is defined as: “unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which violates your dignity, makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated, and creates a hostile or offensive environment.” The lack of precision surrounding sexual harassment and assault laws prevents us from taking concrete action in the event of a sex-toy hack. Worse yet, we don’t even know whether our data can be hacked into and stolen in the first place.
While the aim of this article isn’t to inspire anxiety and ignite a global wanking paranoia, it should force you to sit back and ask yourself, “What are the privacy implications of using a Bluetooth-connected sex toy?” Last time we ignored such concerns we ended up with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Trump as the President of the U.S., and a moronic Brexit. Even though hacking sex toys isn’t yet defined as assault or sexual harassment, it may very well be regarded so once lawmakers start tackling the issue. In the meantime, maybe it’s worth dusting off the old non-connected sex toy hidden under your bed and relieve the stress with some alone time, if you know what I mean.