It’s night 47 in quarantine, and it’s time for my before-bed routine. Some lemongrass tea, a hit of my favorite hybrid vape, an overwrought skincare regimen and finally some toggling between Instagram, TikTok and Pornhub until the sandman carries me away. But this particular night I’m hoping for a different type of erotic stimulation—one that’s a bit meditative rather than the usual vigorous and frenetic. I open the Dipsea app, something that’s been bouncing around on my self-pleasure to-do list for months and that I finally have time to pursue.
I pop on my headphones and find an entire library of audio erotica, heavily curated according to sexual scenarios, identities and “heat levels.” To be clear, I rarely engage aurally with adult content. For years I watched porn on mute after a horrifying college incident when I realized too late that my earbuds weren’t plugged in. I had trained my brain to get off on visuals alone, so I wasn’t expecting a lot from an audio erotica app.
The first story I randomly click on is a 15-minute narrative about a tattoo-shop visit turned hookup. I push “play” on the next scene, a yoga session that’s hot in more ways than one, and move on to a wet and wild adventure in the rainy Irish countryside. I feel transported each time, and before I know it I’ve spent an hour swiping through scenes, spellbound.
Wanting to know more about the minds behind this sexual innovation, I decide to call Dipsea co-founder Gina Gutierrez at home in San Francisco, where she’s currently quarantined with her partner. I find out Dipsea began—like many great ideas—around two in the morning with close friends and a bottle or two of wine.
“To me, sex is so psychological,” says Gutierrez. “The big miss was that people weren’t talking about sex in any way related to the mind. It’s always very physical. What are you thinking about when you’re having sex? What are you thinking about when you’re touching yourself?”
Gutierrez began asking her female friends what kind of sexy content they commonly found when they went searching for it. The answers were grim.
“A friend was like, ‘I’ve searched the internet top and bottom, and it’s scary out there. You find a lot of stuff that makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, and it makes you not want to keep looking.’ Those were the kinds of answers we were getting. The problem was so pervasive, and Faye [Keegan, Dipsea’s other cofounder] and I just kind of got obsessed with the idea.”
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