Liberté, Egalité, Sexualité
A century after Lady Liberty, Another Historic Gift From France: A Sex Toy Line by Lesbians, For Lesbians
TOOLS OF LOVE FROM THE LAND OF LOVE: THE WOMEN BEHIND WET FOR HER/OUR WAY ON THE RISE OF THEIR NEWLY LAUNCHED LESBIAN SEX TOY EMPIRE
It was one of those “ah-ha” moments, which, in retrospect, seems almost painfully obvious. One day, 35-year-old Paris native Alice Derock was doing something (she won’t say exactly what) that made her remember a gripe that she and her friends often shared: why, in this day and age, with all the products in the world, wasn’t there a sex toy designed specifically by and for lesbians? Alice’s mind started churning: if such a toy did exist, what would it look like? What would it do? How would it be different? Then it came to her in a flash: the image of two female fingers, elegantly extended side by side, “the living symbol of what a woman who loves women uses to make love to a woman, to please her partner.” With this concept, Wet for Her was born.
Of course, as with all creation stories, the full truth is a lot more complex. Though Alice founded the project about a year and a half ago, she didn’t do it alone; she turned to her two best friends, fellow Parisians Yoanne Magris, 32, and Emilie Perello, 29, who hopped on board without hesitation. They pushed aside careers, family and social lives to enlist full time in pusuit of their vision. At the start, they were just three women who shared a social community (the French lesbian scene), a profession (the French restaurant and hospitality business), and a dream of a world where women who love women could obtain sex toys designed and made just for them. Their tremendous drive, combined with their creativity, initiative, and perseverence, turned that dream into a reality.
In a sense the entrepreneurs’ foray into the lesbian sex toy arena is both benevolent, because other lesbians will gain from it, and also self interested, in that they admit that their product line fills a gap in their own lives. “The sex toy industry is huge,” Emilie says. “Globally, it’s enormous. And yet there is such a lack of variety and understanding, specifically for lesbian products. All you see in stores over and over again is something phallic-shaped, modeled after male genitalia, or those rabbits. There seems to be no notion of a discrete lesbian sexuality and no attention paid to the particular needs of lesbian sex toy customers.”
Alice vehimently agrees. “It was like a wasteland. You’d walk down aisle after aisle in store after store and never see anything identifiably lesbian; there was no lesbian gesture,” she says. “This is why I created my first product. The idea was to take something specifically lesbian, something that lesbians do—like penetrate with fingers as a tool—and stylize it and make it elegant and useful, and symbolic.”
The point the women make has political as well as practical ramifications: they feel the prevailing attitude in the sex toy industry towards women is that “‘anything will do -- just throw them a toy and adapt it.’ The perception is that women’s sexuality in general and lesbian sexuality in particular are not that important. It’s almost like ‘Just give them any old thing that you’ve got.’ Even in gay sex shops, it’s the same thing. They mean gay men. Lesbians are never, or rarely, included.”
Alice, Emilie, and Yoanne are all extremely passionate when talking about the toll that this invisibility and lack of inclusion takes on lesbians, individually and collectively. “Right now there are a lot of people making a lot of money off us. They’re using our sexuality for their own purposes, to sell products, without necessarily contributing anything to our community. Why should men be the ones to make money off female sexuality? Why should straight men profit from and drain income from the lesbian community?”
With their ideological framework firmly in place, the trio turned to the challenge of creating and marketing their actual product line, no easy feat. “There’s a gap between having an idea and actually creating something,” Emilie explains. “We had to do more than just chat with our small circle of lesbian friends in Paris, all of whom said how interesting, howfun, how great our product idea was.” The three women conferred with their designer and brainstormed images of a product line; they hired researchers and statisticians to conduct polls; they even distributed test products and questionnaires to more than 100 women in France, London and northern Europe. The response to these tests and queries was, encouragingly, near unanimous: across the board, women — lesbian, straight, bisexual, and those who occasionally had sex with other women but did not care to classify themselves — expressed a strong interest in a toy or a series of toys “that was created for them by women who love women and which they could use to make love to a woman, or to themselves,” says Yoanne.
The overwhelmingly positive response to their product line has major implications for lesbian consumers as well as for the entrepreneurs. “The sex toy business is tremendously lucrative in today’s economy,” Emilie tells us. “Before our research, no company had really bothered to test out the lesbian market for lesbian-specific sex toys,” Yoanne chimes in: “Our results showed that there was a market out there.”
Armed with this data, the company spun into production. Soon, Wet for Her/Our Way had designed and produced an elegantly-packaged prototype with a chic French sense of style and a feminine edge. The box for “Two,” their first product to be released in the U.S., features a tasteful photo of a topless woman tattooed with the company logo and a purple, pink, and white color scheme that nicely offsets the hot pink silicone of the toy inside the box.
A toy unlike any other on the market, “Two” is best described as a quasi-dildo made of soft-to-the-touch silicone molded in the shape of two extended female fingers that you insert your fingers into like a glove. The shape of “Two” and its stylized design have a direct impact on its utility: the toy lengthens the fingers on the average female hand, giving them, shall we say, a certain degree of reach and firmness that they would otherwise be lacking. To put it in the words of one of their distributors, Babeland, “the silicone allows you to feel both the temperature of your partner’s body and the contractions of her orgasm…give it a try—you’ll soon be a believer!” Only a few days after its listing on the Babeland website, the toy had already garnered four out of five possible stars in customers’ ratings. In addition to “Two,” several other Wet for Her/Our Way toys are available in the U.S., including “One,” the larger version of “Two”; “Three,” a vibrating remote controlled egg; and “Three Luxe,” a higher tech vibrating remote controlled egg. Another toy called “Four” is in the design stage.
Babeland is only one of numerous outlets raving about the Wet for Her/Our Way product line. Two other distributors, Purple Passion in New York City and the online storefront Blowfish, have also eagerly added the product line to their catalogs. The past year has been a major one for the three businesswomen: they have gone from wistful dreamers to successful inventors and lesbian sex toy entrepreneurs who own their own company, distribute their custom-designed products, and share the wealth by donating a percentage of their earnings to gay and lesbian causes. In their spare time, they tour the world publicizing their nascent venture. (Their U.S. line had its official launch in New York City at GO’s 4th Annual Reader’s Choice Nightlife Awards; the section of the club set aside for the product’s debut was swarmed by hundreds of eager women.)
While benefiting the community professionally through their philanthropic efforts and their business model, the three women stress that their main contribution to the lesbian community remains a line of products designed specifically for lesbian sexual enjoyment. “What we’ve demonstrated, and what we’re offering,” Emilie concludes, “is that there is a demand for sex toys for women and by women to make love to women, and that what women consumers out there want, what is lacking, are toys that speak to the lesbian market and that epitomize and represent lesbian sexuality in an elegant and classy way.”
Wet for Her/Our Way Toys:
WFH products including t-shirts, briefs, posters and lube, are available through www.wetforher.com - WFH toys can be purchased at Babeland (babeland.com), Purple Passion (purplepassion.com) and through Blowfish (blowfish.com)