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ZÜCKER is the NSFW art zine breaking out of Instagram’s oppressive beauty standards

By Kickstarter

Jan 12, 2021

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“It started when I realised I was constantly drawing a certain type of beauty standard for my Instagram page,” Lucie Finger says. “I saw I needed to challenge myself to draw different types of beauty, different types of femininity, and this was where I got the idea to make an art book.”

That idea became ZÜCKER, a Kickstarter project for an NSFW art zine about femininity, love, lust, and being queer—live on Kickstarter now. Away from the oppressive ideals Instagram repeated over and over again, she’s been able to poll her backers on the kinds of representations they want to see and to devote dedicated focus to a depiction of sexuality she feels is much more real.

ZÜCKER is the NSFW art zine breaking out of Instagram’s oppressive beauty standards

The problem with Instagram

For many creative people, Instagram is the default platform for sharing work. But it has a history of censoring lesbian art, acknowledging its moderation rules have been unfair to Black and plus-size women, and choosing to stay behind the times on sex education.

“It’s very difficult to present any slightly sexual or nude artwork on Instagram,” Finger says. Sometimes her art is taken down, but even what is allowed up seems to get hidden behind a shadowban. “I’m struggling a lot with the algorithm,” she says, “and I’m trying to make everything as ‘safe-for-work’ as possible on there.” Essentially, censoring herself.

In doing this, she’s noticed that artwork about heterosexual couples typically gets through moderation much more easily than anything with a queer couple. From what she can tell, the standards aren’t applied equally. “I think it’s very toxic,” she says, “It’s art and not porn that I’m doing. Not that there’s anything wrong with porn, but I think there’s a difference, and it is not inappropriate for people to see art online.”

Escaping the male gaze

Even when Instagram isn’t applying regressive social standards, it makes images into commodities, all competing for a limited supply of attention and likes. “On Instagram, you only have this one fast little picture that you maybe spent hours working on,” Finger says. The content that rises to the top tends to reinforce very traditional tropes of the male gaze? Big eyes, pouting lips, and hourglass figures.

When Finger decided to redirect her creative attention into her erotic art book project, she was able to develop a more feminine gaze. “For me, it’s more like an equal gaze,” she says, “you see the person you’re drawing as an equal, not as a purely sexual being or purely beautiful being, but you put all of the pieces together. And in the end, everything can be beautiful in a very different way. I feel a book makes it way more personal and way more in-depth.”

When you ask what the community wants, it’s more diversity

“I really try to not have this very typical view on beauty image,” Finger says. “I try to challenge myself more to see different aspects of beauty.”

Part of that, in her Kickstarter campaign, has been asking supporters what they think is beautiful and what they want to see more of. “I mostly had positive feedback about trying to include different queer identities,” she says. “Since I’m queer myself, I had especially a lot of trans people being happy that I’m trying to include gender queer and trans identities in my work. Everyone who sees that I’m including their suggestions, their requests, and their role models is very happy—it’s a very positive conversation, I think.”

It shows that, given the freedom and space to say it, many people want to see more than the narrow definition of beauty and sexuality allowed on Instagram.

Internet communities can build deeper definitions of beauty together

The feedback from her Kickstarter supporters has inspired Finger to think deeper on her work in general. “I learned to explore even more aspects of femininity and sexuality,” she says. “It was like, ‘Okay, I include body-positive and sexual images. How can I maybe include historic figures, trans people?’ I’ve been reading into trans history, and I’m learning.”

Spending the time reflecting on her book layout helped her treat these topics in a more intersectional way, too. “In the beginning, I tried to have an order with different themes but realised this will not really work. I want to have a flowy vibe to it.”

But maybe most importantly, the community of supporters who’ve been weighing in on her Kickstarter campaign have inspired her to keep learning and growing.

“I learned to trust myself and my work and be confident in what I’m doing,” she says, “because I’ve been struggling with my art early last year. Focusing on the positive feedback from followers, from friends, from family and personal reviews on my Etsy shop really gave me the push to just connect with people. If I’m being genuine, if I’m being honest, they will support my project.”

ZÜCKER is live on Kickstarter through February 4, 2021.

ZÜCKER is the NSFW art zine breaking out of Instagram’s oppressive beauty standards


By Kickstarter

Jan 12, 2021

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Duet Pro is the new customisable sex toy you can assemble at home

By Kickstarter

Aug 21, 2020

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When Ti Chang was studying industrial design at the Royal College of Art more than a decade ago, vibrators were a taboo shunted to seedy neighbourhoods. Chang recalls how she and her friends would visit “dark, sketchy DVD stores” to buy thoughtlessly designed sex toys—“these phallic things with a little bunny on it.” The experience wasn’t exactly palatable, but Chang nevertheless saw an element of power in it. “I felt like I had agency over my pleasure,” she says.

Chang also saw how the industry could clearly do more to cater to women—and the clitoris. She co-founded CRAVE to design and develop elegant products for pleasure. Now, those vibrators appear in such mainstream locations as Ann Summers, Goop, Saint Laurent, the Standard Hotel, and Violet Grey, and at events like Coachella, South by Southwest, and the global tech conference CES.

As she’s pushed to put pleasure front and center, she’s seen the many ways women and gender non-conforming people want to own their sexuality. So her latest orgasm-inducing offering allows users to program custom vibration patterns or even assemble hardware (with plenty of expert instruction). The Duet Pro, now live on Kickstarter, is a clitoral vibrator that encourages users to really pay attention to what they want—and learn how to create it.

Most of the products women use aren’t designed by or for women

Chang’s first industrial design job, at the women-focused hair accessory company Goody, didn’t involve much industrial design at first. “They were basically allowing business managers to shop off the factory shelves in China. It was not all about the consumer and their experience.” When Chang convinced the president of the company to let her do consumer research and lead an industrial design process, the result was the ‘Ouchless brush’, which became the company’s bestseller for nearly a decade.

At her next job, designing bikes for Trek, she was the first woman on the team. “They specifically wanted me to be able to bring a different perspective,” she says, “the design manager knew that it was time to diversify. The prevailing philosophy at the time in designing for women was to just shrink down male proportions. Having only a bunch of dudes in the room was selling themselves short.”

The takeaway was that more women needed to be at the table designing the products that women use.

Duet Pro is the new customisable sex toy you can assemble at home

Ti Chang’s entrepreneurial journey

Then 2008—and the Great Recession—hit. Chang was having trouble finding work, but had some money saved up, and had a “crazy idea” she just couldn’t shake.

Of all the products for women that didn’t really meet women’s needs, none stuck out to her as blatantly as vibrators.

“I think as a designer, you look at things in a different way,” she says. “You know how things could be and should be. You look at the language of an object and you can see the care and the integrity that goes into it. When I looked at the landscape of sex toys, I realised this is really not thought about. Our industry, our culture doesn’t think that women’s pleasure is worthy of serious design and engineering considerations.”

She started a company called INCOQNITO that she soon after sold to CRAVE and joined as a co-founder.

The Tesla of vibrators

“Our design and engineering aspire to be like that of Apple,” she says, “and we have a mission that is more in the spirit of Tesla, but with a rather…shall we say…different personality than Elon.”

From the beginning, both companies have created products to serve a higher human aspiration. For Musk, that’s creating a sci-fi-worthy solution for climate change. For Chang, it’s opening the conversation on female pleasure.

“For one, I wanted to start with the clitoris,” she says. “There’s plenty of research that something like only 18 per cent of women can actually orgasm via penetration alone. That for me was a really powerful fact. And there’s this gap between male orgasms and female orgasms in intercourse, it makes you wonder what’s really going on. It’s that the clitoris is not being focused on. We, as a culture, have almost designed the clitoris out of our basic human anatomy education.”

The clitoris wasn’t fully documented as a pleasure organ until 1998, and several prominent medical textbooks continue to omit or minimise information on it, while penises are covered in great detail. The misinformation and misunderstanding is so pervasive that activists have coined the term “cliteracy” to talk about it.

Chang’s vibrators aim to contribute to that movement by giving women better tools for achieving orgasms, selling them like a dignified product, and hosting events and conversations to destigmatise and normalise sexual pleasure.

“These products should not be in the gutter like how they’ve been presented for so many decades,” she says. “If every time you had to buy a bathing suit you had to go into some dodgy shop, you’d feel like you’re doing something wrong. That’s the language that we unfortunately put out there when we force women to make do with these really thoughtless products predominantly designed by men.”

A vibrator made for quarantine

One way Chang has approached normalising conversations around pleasure is making ‘sex jewellery’ like the Vesper, a stylish necklace that subtly doubles as vibrator.

“But launching a jewellery product during this time when no one is going out just makes zero sense,” she says. So instead, her team prepared to launch a vibrator that “embraces the diversity of experiences and allows people to really customise the vibrations they want.” In quarantine, they figured, more people have time to really pay attention to their pleasure.

The Duet Pro comes with four pre-programmed patterns, each with four different power settings. You could use it as-is—the team used years of preference data to determine popular configurations—or plug it into your computer, open a web browser, type in your vibrator serial number, and use a drag-and-drop dashboard to customise the pattern and power. “Then you just download what you just did online onto the body of the product so that it’s almost like a little zip drive,” Chang explains.

Duet Pro is the new customisable sex toy you can assemble at home

Own your orgasm—and build the tech to get you there

The Kickstarter campaign for the Duet Pro also offers backers the option to assemble the hardware itself.

“Build-a-vibe is something we’ve been doing since super early on,” Chang says. “We accidentally stumbled upon it when we did our first crowdfunding campaign and we didn’t have enough people to build everything. We had a pizza party, invited all our friends, and people built with us for days.”

That social environment, surrounded by vibrators, started some great conversations. “We noticed the environment was super cool. People were so happy, they brought even more friends, and it just became this really open, comfortable conversation that they normally would not have had.”

They’ve since done more intentional variations on this gathering with California Academy of Science, South by Southwest, Playboy, and HBO. For their Kickstarter campaign, they’ve developed a videoconferencing version.

“It’s something that allows us to kind of geek out over the design,” Chang says, “but at the same time, the DIY makes [participants] feel accomplished. Like one woman told me, ‘I don’t even build my own Ikea furniture, and I just built my own vibrator!’ That’s amazing. It creates this sense of ownership.”

The Duet Pro is live on Kickstarter through 3 September, 2020.

Duet Pro is the new customisable sex toy you can assemble at home


By Kickstarter

Aug 21, 2020

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