With the exception of 50 Shades Of Grey, erotica is a taboo topic that you won't often hear spoken about in public. While porn is super accessible to anyone with a Wi-Fi connection, more intimate and realistic narratives seem to have been left out of the conversation. Sure, there are retro romance novels graced with images of Fabio, but where are the stories that feel catered to the modern women who have design on the mind?
Gina Gutierrez and Faye Keegan had been contemplating this question and finally figured out a solution. Research shows that 90% of women use “mental framing” (or scenario conjuring) to get turned on. That means sparking the imagination is the first step to feeling yourself. So the duo came up with the idea of creating an app that curates sensorial audio stories, creating bite-sized narratives that can empower women to tap into their sexuality and integrating awesome illustrations to allow the viewer to place themselves into each scene.
The final product is Dipsea, a subscription-based iOS app for sexual wellness. Stories are inclusive and offer up exciting narratives for listening alone or with a partner. Plus, the high-quality audio production lets you truly escape into each clip.
We also love how the company uses beautiful modern illustrated designs for both their site and as cover art for each story. Artists like Anna Sudit, Elena Miska, and Neryl Walker all lend a hand to creating the aesthetic for each narrative. Say see ya to cheesy book jackets and hello to cool and sexy branding that feels way more appropriate for 2019.
While the app just launched in December, we have a feeling it's going to change up the erotica space. We asked co-founder and CEO Gina Gutierrez to give us some insight into her innovative new company. While Dipsea might be NSFW, this inspiring story is one you'll want to share.
Lonny: How did you first come to be interested in erotic stories?
Gina Gutierrez: I’m deeply interested in the psychology of sexuality. I remember having conversations with friends in college who hadn’t yet experienced an orgasm. Of course, their 20-year-old partners still probably had a lot to learn about pleasing a woman. But my intuition was to ask, “Well, what are you thinking about in bed?”
So much of sexuality is psychological. How good you feel that day, how a partner is acting and what they’re saying, whether the context feels sexy, whether you feel stressed or distracted. And while it’s amazing the progress the sexual wellness and technology spaces have seen in the last few years, I didn’t know of anyone taking a mind versus body-first approach to sexuality or pleasure. As a consumer, I felt like there wasn’t anything out there for me. I was interested in creating that “just right” mental place, encouraging imagination and fantasy, and empowering women to tap into their sexual feelings in a more accessible way.
Why is storytelling a medium that feels so much more fitting for women?
GG: Storytelling has been central to erotica long before we founded Dipsea. Romance literature is a $1.4 billion per year industry and 84% of readers are women. Internet search data shows that men prefer images, and women prefer stories. Stories include context, explore characters, and celebrate human connection beyond just the act of sex itself.
Our team at Dipsea is excited about innovating in audio as the new medium for erotic storytelling. It’s immersive, it’s imaginative, and it’s intimate. It opens up a rich new experience, whether you’re imagining yourself as a character or as the voyeur, to really be immersed in story.
We love the design aesthetic behind the brand! What was the inspiration behind creating that modern illustrated look?
GG: We wanted to create a beautiful, elevated, identify affirming brand in a space that wasn't offering a lot of options in that regard.
Do you work with any particular artists to curate these illustrations?
GG: We work with a handful of illustrators that we love. We occasionally post about our art on Instagram and tag our amazing artist partners.
What made you decide to actually start Dipsea?
GG: My co-founder Faye and I are part of a group of people who would occasionally bring to table the experiences they’d had with fun, sexy content. It always sparked the idea that there was actually very little of it. Faye had read “Outlander,” and we’d talk about sharing STARZ passwords to watch the show. Or someone might have one specific chapter dogeared in their nightstand since 12th grade.
I thought it was so interesting, that these women who are interested and curious and explorative weren’t finding what they were looking for. Then I was listening to Headspace and I had this revelation that guided audio had so much potential beyond building the practice of meditation. It had the power to really change how you felt. The future of entertainment to me is sensory, and sexuality is so psychological.
Suddenly the conversation around Faye’s kitchen table wasn’t “Why isn’t there more amazing sexy content for women?” But rather “Why isn’t it audio?” and, “Why hasn’t anyone done this yet?” Faye and I knew that with our backgrounds we would make a great team, and were equally excited about the idea. Having each other made the choice easy.
What was the process like to transform your idea into a real working app?
GG: Faye had experience building products, and I had experience building brands. But neither of us had any experience creating erotic content — let alone in audio. We decided the first step was to see if we could produce a handful of stories ourselves, and to see how people responded to them.
We bought a mic, reached out to our networks to find voice actors, partnered with sound designers, and created the first couple stories as part of our Alpha. When that saw great response and shareability to six audio files hosted on a simple website, it encouraged us to take the next step and build the app. We hired a small core team, grew our network of writer and voice actor partners, developed several dozen stories, and released them on a Beta app that we built in-house.
That was the first time we were able to get broader feedback not only on what women (and their partners) liked about the stories, but what was working and what wasn’t about the app experience. We launched our iOS app for short, sexy audio stories in December.
What is it like curating and recording each story?
GG: It’s a really fun, very complex, nuanced process to make a Dipsea story. We make important, subjective calls around how to reflect sexuality positively, put consent front and center, affirm and make our listeners feel comfortable, but also create fantasies that feel really sexy and exciting. Then, we listen to user data and learn where we did and didn’t get it right.
What has it been like to see the response from women using Dipsea?
GG: It’s been incredible hearing from women and men using Dipsea. So many women have said they’ve never felt so safe and reliably turned on by erotic content before. A woman told us she’d listened on the bus, and in her imagination the male character in the story transformed into the cute guy she was sitting across from. I just spoke to a couple who said Dipsea saved their weeknights from being a tired, sexless routine.
How do you hope Dipsea will grow in the years ahead?
GG: We’d like to become the destination for sexual wellness — an obvious answer for where to go to tap into your sexuality accessibly and on your own terms.