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The Next Sexual Revolution

The Helm's CEO Lindsey Taylor Wood on the significance of pleasure, female founders, and the #metoo movement on the future of sex.

There’s a moment in The Post when Meryl Streep, playing Katharine Graham, quotes 18th-century author and moralist Samuel Johnson, quipping: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

I found the quote a strange choice. It was meant to convey transcendence: a moment when women moved into power. But as I continue to witness the realities that women face each day, I admit, it felt more ironic than hopeful. This isn’t to say that progress isn’t being made, but it does invite a reframe of what progress actually means—especially as it relates to sexual liberation.

Perhaps because I had been researching, thinking, and writing about sex for weeks, the absurdity of Johnson’s POV brought me right back to our second issue and the realization that it isn’t just our bodies being regulated but our pleasure. I brought this up with sexual medicine vanguard Cindy Whitehead in our interview. A modern-day Erin Brockovich, she went head-to-head with the FDA when they refused to greenlight a drug meant to boost female sexual libido (spoiler alert: she won), and went on to sell the company for over a billion dollars. Further proof that not only is our right to know and experience pleasure as important as our right to choose, it’s profitable.

This is something maverick Cindy Gallop is banking on. Her thwarted attempts to raise capital for her platform Make Love Not Porn led her to raise the first ever sextech fund. In her piece Dirty Sexy Money she muses on the timeliness of it all, and why she believes sextech is a trillion dollar industry.

Polly Rodriguez’s irreverent take on the systemic barriers female entrepreneurs face was also a real education. In addition to the pervasive bias she faced while raising, she sheds light on the ways in which sextech companies are cut off from the software and marketplace tools necessary for growth and success. Despite her company Unbound going from $20k in revenue in 2015 to $2.3M in 2017, she was still hard-pressed to find banking partners or advertisers. The upside? It led her to coalesce the Women of SexTech, a female and femme-identifying founded businesses that are dedicated to improving sexual health and wellness for humankind.

And speaking of the betterment of humankind, Bryony Cole invited us to consider the ways in which sextech and pleasure can be used to heal. She noted the importance of both an empathetic lens and an inclusive community of innovators as we think about the future of sex; something she happens to specialize in. The Helm’s Managing Partner, Erin Shipley, closed out the issue with a look toward the future as well, evaluating new technologies, trends, and companies to watch in the category with her column, Tech of the Town.

I would be remiss not to mention that we produced this issue amidst the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. And though it may seem odd to elevate founders innovating around sex at a time when women worldwide continue to fight for basic freedoms, rights, and safety, I would argue, it’s exactly the time when we should.

A quick google of “sexual revolution” will tell you it began in the 1960s and concluded in the 1980s with outcomes that include “an increased acceptance of sex outside of traditional heterosexual, monogamous relationships and the claim that contraception, the pill, public nudity, pornography, premarital sex and homosexuality, alternative forms of sexuality and the legalization of abortion have all been normalized.” I can tell you after a few short weeks of researching the matter: they lied.

#MeToo. #TimesUp —The sexual revolution is now.

Now is the time for us to reevaluate, reclaim, dictate, denounce, and demand the things that do and don’t work for us. And in addition to our health, safety, and rights, the future must include our pleasure.

I hope you enjoy reading about some of the women who are fighting for yours.

Onward.

Lindsey

The Helm

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