Local vibrator company invites you to come as you are

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Lioness has one desire: To get women to have better orgasms. It’s a noble goal in the day and age of $12,000 sex robots and virtual reality pornography. Given that today’s technology is both fast-paced and impersonal on one hand and intensely interconnected on the other, Lioness brings the tech boom into the bedroom with what it claims to be the first vibrator designed specifically for self-experimentation. On June 22, the sex-tech company hosted an open house in its Jack London Square office to share its product with the community and create a space for dialogue about sex and sexual wellness.

Staged in Lioness’ own office space, the event was intimate — less of a sexy art show with plenty of dark corners ripe for an art heaux rendezvous, and more of a night at home with a significant other, one paired with a bottle of wine and candles. The room was peppered with plants and string lights. Eventgoers mingled throughout the space, but many congregated at its far end. There, blankets were carefully laid out to allow people to lounge and watch a slideshow of anonymous sexual confessions that ranged from steamy to outright stressful.

There wasn’t much to see at the event: Some vulva artwork made out of the balloon-animal type of balloons, a graveyard of the many prototypes that led up to the current iteration of the Lioness vibrator, the slideshow flicking through embarrassing and erotic experiences. The staff had vibrators on hand for attendees to caress and hold. Liz Klinger, the company’s co-founder and CEO, showed off on a cell phone all of the the charts and tags that set Lioness apart from other vibrators in its ability to track what works (or doesn’t) on any given day.

The only strictly artistic part of the event was “Artgasm,” made up of artful renderings of the three “orgasm patterns” that Lioness identified based on previous research and its own products’ biofeedback. Labeled “Ocean Wave,” “Volcano” and “Avalanche,” the charted orgasms pulsed, leaped and spilled across the screen, attempting to render the contractions and quivering that make up, well, orgasms.

It’s a feature so provocative and techy that it borders on dystopian. If nothing else, one would expect that orgasms get to remain private from the looming gaze of Big Tech. As much as Lioness cares about its customers, as much as it promises to not track private identities, at the end of the day, it is a company — no matter how artful and sensitive its self-styled image appears.

And the night wasn’t really one for art. As two of Lioness’ co-founders, Klinger and Anna Lee — a UC Berkeley alumnus — explained, their intention was to extend themselves to the East Bay. They hope to open their space to the community whose resources helped birth the vibrator that’s been receiving so much buzz.

As much as the event was held in celebration of this “smart” vibrator, so too was it a night to honor the contributions of those who had come before it: not only those in attendance, but the engineers, designers and salespeople whose work made the “Fitbit of vibrators” possible. Lioness’ staff mingled freely and happily with the attendees, answering questions when needed, but mostly chatting — presumably about life, love and how to have the best orgasms possible.

The event’s culmination was contained in a small fishbowl that had been filled over the night with written sexual confessions from its own attendees. Taking a card and passing the bowl along, staff and community members alike read aloud the room’s fantasies, truths, awkward and embarrassing stories and steamy exploits. The confessions were so popular that a second round — a bit bolder, a little sexier — immediately followed the first, sealing the night with the subtle vibration that sparked to life a consensual conversation about sex.

Lioness is a people-centric vibrator. Its buttons feature Braille. The arm that stimulates the clitoris is flexible enough to accommodate many differently shaped genitals, and its handle was designed for easy use by people with limited mobility. The company’s interest in, care for and attention to community was made evident nowhere more than in its June 22 event, which centered people and pleasure in a way few companies seem to do. The event certainly kicked off Pride weekend with a bang.

Contact Sarah Elisabeth Coduto at [email protected].