How to Have a Healthy Sex Life with No Shame, with Alexandra Fine [Episode #489]
This week’s topic is: How to Have a Healthy Sex Life with No Shame, with Alexandra Fine
I am so excited to have my very special guest, Alexandra Fine, who is CEO and co-founder of Dame Products and a lifelong student of sexual health. Listen in as Alexandra shares how she went from experimenting with her sexuality to creating her own company selling healthy sex toys, to setting boundaries between self-care and her business.
How sex therapy became Alexandra’s life work…
Experimenting with sexuality…
Sexual wellness and connecting with a partner on all levels…
Moving sexuality from shame to openness and being widely accepted…
Feeling healthy sexually well into your 60s, 70s and beyond…
We discuss tantra orgasmic energies and power energies with someone we’re really connected with…
The pathway to creating Dame Products…
Maintaining creativity as your business scales…
Setting boundaries between self-care and business…
Balancing personal life, family life and business…
Alexandra’s take on feminism and the power of sexuality…
Experiencing prejudice in the wellness world…
Healing through trauma and growing in confidence…
About Alexandra Fine
As CEO of Dame Products, Alexandra Fine translates the nuances of our sexualities into human-friendly toys for sex. A lifelong student of sexual health, Fine earned her Masters in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in sex therapy from Columbia University.
Realizing that her skills would be best put to use making concrete improvements to people’s lives, Fine began by developing her own vibrators at home and asking friends to give her their feedback. In founding Dame Products, Fine intends to start necessary conversations, to listen rather than assume, and to create products that enhance intimacy.
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Note: The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate. This is due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
Kimberly: 00:06 Hey Beauties. Welcome back for our Monday interview podcast and I am super excited for our very special guest today. Her name is Alexandra Fine. She’s the CEO and co-founder of Dame Products and a lifelong student of sexual health. Cannot wait to get into today’s show.
Fan Of The Week
Kimberly: But before we do, I’m going to give a quick shout out to our fan of the week who is olive sterling. And she writes, “I first bought Kimberly’s book in 2011 when I had my fourth child. Love, love, love this podcast. It’s so interesting. It’s definitely helping me get through these times, working from home and trying to contain my teenagers. Buckle up everyone. It’s going to be a trying time over the next few months but Kimberly, you are helping us get through this. Appreciate this podcast to the max. It’s so amazing.” Olive, thank you so much for your review for being our fan of the week, sending you a huge big virtual hug wherever you are.
Write a Review and Subscribe
Kimberly: 01:07 I’m so grateful. We’re connected in this community together. And beauties for your chance to also be shouted out as the fan of the week, please take a minute and write us a review on iTunes. We were just talking about how important reviews are now and listen these things and it just helps other beauties like yourself energetically find the show, which hopefully will really benefit their lives. So thank you so much in advance. And while you’re at it, you can also subscribe to our show and that way you don’t miss out on any of these Monday interviews or the Thursday Q&A community podcasts where our questions come right from the community. All right, all that being said I’m looking right into the eyes of the lovely Alexandra. We are Skyping on opposite coasts. Alexandra, how are you, love?
Interview with Alexandra Fine
Alexandra : 01:54 Hi, I feel good. Yeah, no, I’m great. How are you?
Kimberly: 02:01 I’m doing great. So I was excited about this podcast for many reasons if I could share them quickly. Number one, I saw that Dame was named as one of the top companies for innovation and wellness in Fast Company magazine. So huge congratulations.
Alexandra : 02:18 Thank you.
Kimberly: 02:18 Number two. I love talking to other female founders and entrepreneurs, and picking your brain about success and everything that you’ve been able to cultivate amazing around your own interests. Number three, we’ve had a couple of sex therapists on here. I think it’s really important to talk about sex. I know you’re a student of sexual health, you studied sex therapy at Columbia University. And number four, you actually sent me a sex pillow. And it has been… Yeah, I’m super pregnant.
Alexandra : 02:56 That’s so [crosstalk 00:02:56].
Kimberly: 02:56 [inaudible 00:02:56] I don’t know if you can see my bump. I’m about close to giving birth. So we were using that pillow and very into our own ways. But I think it was really helpful. I think it’s really great. I love that this is a part of wellness because some people are shy just I always talked about digestion and poop and bloating. And there’s some topics that people aren’t so comfortable talking about. For many women, they’re shy about sex. So, many reasons I’m excited to have you.
Alexandra : 03:25 Yeah. All right, thank you. Just touched on so many amazing topics.
How sex therapy became Alexandra’s life work
Kimberly: 03:30 And we’re going to get into all of them my love. So let’s start with this. You have your master’s in Clinical Psychology from Columbia with a concentration in sex therapy. How did you become interested in sexuality? Sexual health? How did this become your life’s work?
Alexandra : 03:54 Really from when I was young, surprisingly young. I think that there were moments in my life that I can point to, that were early signs that I was intrigued in this energy, to just also experiences I had that really put me down the path. So, one experience I often point to is when I was six, my aunt brought me to a drag queen party. It was just a party in New York City. I was staying with my cool aunt. And I saw people in this party and apparently, just had to meet people. And I met some drag queens and I think they actually really taught me how to shock my stock and kind of embrace my budding feminine power. And they also answered all of these questions I had about what their identity was. And I went back to my first grade class as one does and explain the difference between being a drag queen versus being transgender and I got in trouble.
Alexandra : 04:58 Yeah, I mean, I think I definitely probably talked about genitalia but I was just very frank about my understanding of what I just learned, because to me it really blown my mind like, “You don’t have to dress one way, you don’t have to…” I had just left the suburbs and had risen to a different plane of existence and was sharing it with my first grade class and yeah, and I got in trouble and I think that also really got me stuck there. I was like, “This is important truth that is being shut down and nobody can explain to me why, what I had done was wrong.” So I think that’s where it started. And then I was horny.
Kimberly: 05:47 You’ve established you had an awesome aunt, were your parents supportive about you learning about sexual health at that age? What did they say when she took you to a drag queen show?
Alexandra : 06:01 They were not that happy with it. I think the way… Now I tell a story all the time and we’ve talked about it since, my mom she was like, “It’s so much about being a good parent in front of the eyes of all these other parents, and I’m the oldest.” They were just upset because then I was acting differently than all the other kids and causing issues among the parents. And they weren’t thrilled about that.
Kimberly: 06:32 I see.
Alexandra : 06:33 So, yes. Or that I had gone to this party as a six year old. But I had a great time. Yeah. So it’s funny because they’re both very liberal, but they also hold some more old school traditional ways of viewing the world. Parents.
Experimenting with sexuality
Kimberly: 06:56 I love this story about going to a drag queen show. And then you mentioned, just being horny like we all are, especially as we’re coming into our puberty years. I’ve gotten one Dame product and I loved how it was so open. There was pictures and images of homosexuals and straight people and all sorts of different ways that you could use the products. Was that influenced by your upbringing? I mean, this is a really personal question. I guess I’m just curious. Did you experiment all different sorts of sexuality? And you mentioned having different experiences?
Alexandra : 08:08 Yeah. I think personally, I think it’s really important. I enjoy to some extent talking about my own personal journey. I find it that it such a powerful way of sharing knowledge. And I learned so much. Yes. I had sexual relationships with different people, of different sexes and genders. But most of my intimate partnerships have been with men, predominantly. But yeah. I always learned through sexuality or one of the big learnings that I had is just how different we all are, and how important it is to tap into that one person and hear them as they are and learn what they like and what’s pleasurable for them and to kind of just really feel each other’s vibes. And just diversity is just such a beautiful part of the human existence and we want to just embrace that and show that representation.
Alexandra : 09:19 And yes, so we’ve always tried to include that in the products that we were making. I would say for me, so much of what I have learned about erotic power, about the way our sexualities are politicized or policed has been from both the queer community, women of color. So I think that has also been a major impact in my…, what we’re doing and how we want to represent the world in our images.
Sexual wellness and connecting with a partner on all levels
Kimberly: 09:56 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). And you and I were just briefly talking a little bit about how finally through more mainstream magazines, if you will like Fast Company, sexual health is seen as being a part of wellness. And as a wellness expert, if you will, I will say that even in my journey, I feel like now I’m married to my husband, soulmate. And it is a really important part of our relationship where we connect, and we just express. And it’s really important, I think, in relationships. And I did I didn’t always think about it as such a vital part of relationships in the past, but then I think when you really connect with someone, you connect on all those levels and sexual wellness is so important in relationships which I’m sure you can speak to quiet an extent.
Alexandra : 11:03 I think that, and that’s not to say… I think every relationship ebbs and flows naturally in how much sex we’re having. I think that that’s a beautiful part that our relationships kind of have their own breath to them. Yeah, I mean it was just, my husband and I, I think COVID has definitely kind of tweaked everybody’s relationships with intimacy, whether you’re having more sex or less sex, it does seem like quarantine is impacting it, and we’ve definitely we’re having a little bit of less sex for a while there. And we found the time this weekend and we made some things happen. And we were both just talking about how just more connected we really did feel. And I do think that that’s not to say that the week before our relationship was worse. It wasn’t a bad relationship, it was still really beautiful. But that we do get a lot of value out of finding that intimacy and having pleasure together, with some grace and silliness.
Moving sexuality from shame to openness and being widely accepted
Kimberly: 12:16 Well, and now I’d love to hear how the subject of sexuality and certainly products and sex toys and things can have a connotation of… When I lived in New York, you kind of, there’d be the sex shops and you would go in but they wouldn’t be open. You wouldn’t necessarily maybe go in there with your parents. But Dame products is really class. It’s just very classy, I think the way that it’s portrayed and the way that you are able to break through, again into this huge mainstream market, with these magazines that are putting you on lists. It’s funny too Alexandra, I found myself asking a similar question to, I don’t know if you know Dita Von Teese. But she’s been a long, long term client of mine. And we did a podcast a couple of weeks ago, our second podcast and I said, burlesque was something too that was kind of on the fringe and it wasn’t exactly seen in the light words. Dita put her spin on it, and she made it glamorous, and she made it really accepted and she’s Best Dressed list and featured in Vanity Fair.
Kimberly: 13:27 So I feel like in a way, you’ve done a similar thing with Dame where you’ve taken it out of like, “Oh, this is a little bit hidden or something.” I’ll say shameful, but something that people aren’t as open about, to something that is much more widely accepted and open and out there. How did you go about doing that?
Alexandra : 13:51 Yeah.
Kimberly: 13:52 Big question. But it’s really interesting how you broke through that?
Alexandra : 13:57 Yeah, there’s a lot of I think, really intentional decisions we’ve made in our branding and marketing. And the way the business moves through the world. For example, one, we always speak directly and straightforward about sex. We definitely like to be playful because I think sex is playful. We don’t want to only use euphemisms. We want to speak directly about the issues we’re talking about. And just use facts. That always really resonates with people. And then another thing we’ve done is we don’t [inaudible 00:14:40] like a lot of other brands out there, their websites will be very like, “Shhh, don’t tell anybody. You’re our little secret.” There’s a lot of [crosstalk 00:14:50]-
Kimberly: 14:49 But if you can-
Alexandra : 14:51 I get it. I think that that resonates with people because it is their secret and because they have so much shame around sexuality, is why that marketing is so effective. And we’ve made an active decision not to reinforce that idea. We just present these products like they are just part of your essential, personal care routine. Without sensationalizing it, without adding this idea that it’s funner, because it’s secretive. Which by the way like some part it is. And we just want to hold the open space to talk about it.
Kimberly: 15:34 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I also think the website, the branding like you said, it’s very classically done, and it’s also very accessible. I’ve seen women on there with silver hair, that are 60s and beyond. I’ve seen very normal looking people and so it’s not just like, “I have to be this sultry sex symbol to really explore sexuality.” And I think that’s a huge, important message to where this is for everybody.
Alexandra : 16:06 This is for everybody. I think that it really is important for everyone. Sex is something that like wine, it’s how we exist, right? It’s how we are alive. And then it’s not necessarily something we need in our day to day lives to stay alive, but it certainly makes us feel alive. And I think that that’s for everybody. Everybody is entitled to pleasure. Everybody is beautiful and sexy. And it’s about seeing that inside of yourself and feeling that way.
Feeling healthy sexually well into your 60s, 70s and beyond
Kimberly: 16:54 I love it. Yeah. And speaking about wellness, and circulation and just feeling really healthy, sexual health ideally would continue into your 60s, 70s and beyond.
Alexandra : 17:12 Exactly.
Kimberly: 17:12 And it’s not just for young people.
Alexandra : 17:15 Yeah, I mean, I definitely think that our sexual energy is a way of… I mean, my beliefs, not necessarily science, do keep our energy fresh.
Kimberly: 17:31 For sure.
Alexandra : 17:31 I think that it’s like our source of life. I think in Chinese medicine, that in traditional Chinese medicine the idea that that is where we have our creative energy and refresh our chi. So I think that, there’s just something there for me too. As we get older, being able to continue to connect to, I don’t know this base need. It’s very human. I think really does keep us grounded in reality.
We discuss tantra orgasmic energies and power energies with someone we’re really connected with
Kimberly: 18:04 I also think that there’s, and I can say as a mother too, I think that there’s a different electricity in a household, where the parents are continuing to connect on an intimate level and bond in that way and have that special time with just the parents. And so, I think as life gets busier, we go through different phases. It’s one thing when you’re in college or you’re just a new graduate and you don’t have a family yet, but as you go through… This word playfulness and playful it has an important part of connecting I think, so life doesn’t get so serious and we kind of push that part of wellness to the side. There was some segment a while ago, Alexandra, I think it was on Dr. Oz talking about orgasms, connected with longevity or something like that. And energy, as a student of yoga and Ayurveda and some Tantric. I do think there’s a lot. And of course, there’s a mindfulness and ways that you can work with orgasmic energy and kind of put it into your spine, but is powerful energies we’re working with, especially with someone we’re really connected with.
Alexandra : 19:20 Yeah. I think that the way I really loved the way Tantra and some of these other practices talk about this energy and this power, it’s not that sex is… So sex is just powerful, this is just a powerful experience that we can have. And it’s not necessarily always good or always bad. We need to have an intentional practice with it in some ways, or cultivate it and put our attention towards it, in order to try and have those more positive experience as often as we can and eliminate the negative ones.
The pathway to creating Dame Products
Kimberly: 19:55 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). So this is obviously a lifelong passion of yours, starting with a drag show at six, studying this in college. So what was the pathway to actually creating Dame Products? Was it a small start up in your home with family members involved? How did you go from, “Okay I like this,” to happen to create a whole brand around this.
Alexandra : 20:25 Okay so I mean I went to college. I actually went to art school first and then I ended up doing… which was really, really helpful. I’m very happy I did that. So I have my minor in fine arts and my minor in women gender studies and my major in psychology and a minor in business. And my mom was like, “What are you doing? Your ADD is crazy. You are all over the map.” I was following my pleasures and it all worked out. So after I got my masters I was working for a little bit at a small startup. And I had this idea for our first product Eva. Eva is a hands free vibrator that you can wear while you’re having penetrative sex, so it doesn’t block the vaginal opening. And the whole idea here is that over 70% of women or 70% of people with vulvas get most of their sexual pleasure from external clitoral stimulation.
Alexandra : 21:24 And that is not something we talk about enough. It is not necessarily seen in media or discussed there. And it’s, during sex, people don’t always get that type of pleasure. So I wanted to create a product that gave that sensation in a way that didn’t necessarily get in the way. I definitely started making these in my kitchen.
Kimberly: 21:49 How? You just got raw materials-
Alexandra : 21:49 I had [crosstalk 00:21:49]. Okay. The very first thing I did because the way it’s uses the labia folds to stay in place. So it’s like, “Oh, can you even fit anything in this part of your body.” So the very first thing I did was I took a half dollar coin. I wrapped it in cellophane, I put it in between my labia lips, and it stayed in place. This is like not how the product ended up working at all, but it was just a really small first step. If you’re ever trying to invent something, or you want to create something in the world, I think trying to think of that one, that very first little step that you could take, and make it as small as you can, and see how that goes. Make it a really tiny step. And that’s what I did. And I was so excited. It gave me that sense of like, “Oh, I’m onto something. This is the right path.” And then from there, I ended up buying other vibrators, taking them apart. I went to the art supply store and got moldable plastic and I would mold around the motors to make new shapes.
Kimberly: 23:00 Wow.
Alexandra : 23:00 See that art minor.
Kimberly: 23:06 Yes.
Alexandra : 23:06 Very helpful. Was very happy.
Kimberly: 23:09 I was going to say it all fit together. Your life is artistic rated background.
Alexandra : 23:14 Totally. And then, so I started making them. I had friends come over and try them out. And I would make them play. Bend their knees to make sure it was staying in place. I have very great friends. Then I met my co-founder, Janet who went to MIT for mechanical engineering, and she was able to take the prototype. So at that point, I had learned how to solder and learn how to 3D print, but I was bad at it. I know I was so proud of myself. I said like I’m not trying to put myself down. It was amazing that I learned how to do it. I’m very impressed with myself, but I was very impressed with her. She was able to recreate everything I had done over a months in a week. And we were using 3D printers. And we were able to make a prototype and then we launched on Indiegogo. And we raised $575,000 in 45 days for our first product.
Kimberly: 24:15 What?
Alexandra : 24:15 And that is how I started my business.
Kimberly: 24:18 Wait, is that a crowdsource?
Alexandra : 24:21 Yes, it was a Kickstarter competitor. Because at the time Kickstarter wouldn’t allow us on the platform.
Kimberly: 24:27 Really? So once you’re on that platform, how did the word get out? Is it [crosstalk 00:24:32].
Alexandra : 24:32 I think I got a press article. I got a Refiner29 in an article.
Kimberly: 24:38 Wow.
Alexandra : 24:38 And then which, friend of a friend in New York, kind of just asked everybody I knew, that this is what I was doing if anybody knew anybody and somebody put me in touch with a journalist at Refinery29. I don’t know how, BuzzFeed saw it. They saw the article and they reach out to us, and that BuzzFeed article, really, it got 1.4 million hits and it really took… We just shot up from there.
Kimberly: 25:10 Awesome.
Alexandra : 25:11 And it was awesome.
Kimberly: 25:12 It was meant to be.
Alexandra : 25:14 Yeah.
Kimberly: 25:15 Wow. So you got funded from that in two months and you’re like, “Okay. Now I have to get staff and an office.” And did you try to figure it out as you went along?
Alexandra : 25:29 Yeah, yeah. And we did. Just kept on making those small steps and you know it was hard. I think, again, we make consumer electronic products, a really inventory heavy business. So we were constantly buying more inventory to meet our demands. It is a cash flow drag. And so, it has definitely been a crash course in accounting and finance and all of that. And I really enjoyed it and I love it. As you continue to grow, because the revenue gets bigger and you hire more people, the stress or the issues don’t just go away. If anything your issues kind of gets bigger.
Kimberly: 26:24 Yes.
Alexandra : 26:28 I think I’ve just gotten better and better at responding to them. Or I like to think that. I’m trying to do that. That’s the goal.
Maintaining creativity as your business scales
Kimberly: 26:38 Well as you scale that Alexandra, are you able to… it sounds like you love the creative part. The parts of your business like the creativity, the invention part. Have you been able to maintain that as you’ve scaled?
Alexandra : 26:54 It’s so hard. It really is. I think kind of, what I tried to do is just, every now and then I hit a point where I am not living the wellness life that I am promoting. And I think I’ve come to realize that is part of a little bit of my nature. I think I get better and better realizing that’s happening and resteering. I think that quarantine has been eye opening for me in some ways and making me realize, new joys that I was missing out on, that I want more of.
Kimberly: 27:36 I love that.
Alexandra : 27:37 So, yeah. So for me I just think it’s about recalibrating every now and then. Sometimes I feel like I’m steering the business, and sometimes I feel like the business is dragging me along by the foot. It’s just going and I need to be here and I need to be there. And then when I have those days, it’s just like, “Oh wait, I’m going to take a day off. I need to take a half day on Friday. I’m just going to do whatever my body wants to do and try not to beat myself up for it and redefine my priorities and make sure that this feels good.” Because ultimately, I want my days to be pleasurable days. That to me, is what it’s all about.
Setting boundaries between self-care and business
Kimberly: 28:21 So, on a day to day, week to week basis, how are you with boundaries? So for instance, “Here’s my lunch break, I finish work at a certain time. I always have dinner with my husband.” Whatever it is, does that-
Alexandra : 28:36 I’m not good at routine. I’m not [crosstalk 00:28:38]-
Kimberly: 28:37 Yeah. I get it.
Alexandra : 28:37 So I’m learning because I’m naturally like ADD. I’m very like, “Oh, what’s this?” I work well that way. That’s just I think, how I move through the world a little bit and I’m trying to work with that and also learn some more routines because I think that those are really powerful. And we are creatures of habits. So I’ve gotten better and better. I almost always move my body in some way in the morning. My husband and I tried to, though do not always do it, dance a little bit together in the morning.
Kimberly: 29:19 I love it. Is that naked dancing?
Alexandra : 29:22 [crosstalk 00:29:22] isn’t naked dancing. It depends on if it’s pre-shower, post shower, when it is.
Kimberly: 29:29 Sure.
Alexandra : 29:29 Sometimes it’s naked. Sometimes it’s a slow dance. Sometimes it’s a disco. Sometimes it’s two songs. Sometimes it’s literally just 20 seconds of a song and just a shake in our butts for just to connect, just for a second.
Kimberly: 29:44 That’s awesome. I love this wellness practice. This is the best thing I’ve ever heard.
Alexandra : 29:50 Thank you. And I think for me the other thing that we’ve committed to is… just like if you’re fine with it being 20 seconds too. I just don’t want to make any of my wellness practices work, even though they kind of are sometimes.
Kimberly: 30:03 Yeah.
Alexandra : 30:03 There are days I want to get to the mat. Yeah, it’s so finding that right balance. So yeah, I guess that there’s some boundaries that I’m good at. And then I think for me being okay with the fact that there are some Saturdays I wake up and I want to work and that’s okay. And there’s some Tuesday afternoons where I feel like I need a mat, a nap. And that’s okay too. Trying to do what I want to do when it’s right, and also to keep to my accountabilities and make sure I’m committing to things I can do. That’s the hardest part for me. I love saying yes and no also. They’re both so powerful. But I want to do all these opportunities that come my way.
Kimberly: 30:52 Yeah. That is a really big challenge, for I think all entrepreneurs. I remember reading when Steve Jobs said, “The most important skill I’ve learned is to say no.” But when especially when you’re building a business, “Oh, maybe if I go to this event then… if I don’t go to this event I’ll miss out or this is really important.” It’s really hard like you said, to turn down things I think, especially when you’re rising. But then there is the balance of really taking care of yourself and not getting worn out. And as we’re balancing and in and of itself, it’s so hard people ask me about work-life balance, being a mom and having a business and doing all this stuff. I mean, balance is so different for every person and for me, it feels different every day. I will say for me, and I’d love to hear your perspective on this Alexandra. Is really hiring your weaknesses and making a really great team? That’s one thing I’m really proud of, is I have an amazing team and I feel like it’s a family and I really connect with them.
Balancing personal life, family life and business
Kimberly: 32:02 Can you talk a little bit about that? Your partner? How many people are in your team? Do you guys work remotely? Do you have an office? How did you structure your business family?
Alexandra : 32:13 Yeah. Some people are remote, but we’re mostly in an office in Brooklyn. We have about 15 people now. And it’s definitely been organic growth and always just trying to hire people who, fit some of our core values. We’re always looking for people who are compassionate or accountable, who value pleasure in some way, is included.
Kimberly: 32:49 Of course.
Alexandra : 32:52 And then also, we’re always looking for people who are going to add something. And I definitely think it’s about knowing your weaknesses, and hiring people that are going to really help you grow. Trusting other people, or at the very least also being like, “I want to work towards trusting you. And here’s what I need in order to get there.” I think communication is definitely still the hardest part. I think that so much of what I learned in building my relationship with my husband, is translates to the way I want to love my employees and my co-workers, and I want to help them thrive and grow while helping the business do it and I want it to feel good for them as well. And yeah. It’s hard. It’s hard because I’m also not their therapist. I thought about being a therapist for a long time. That’s not what I’m doing right now.
Kimberly: 34:08 Right. I mean, that’s a natural pathway, I suppose for many people that study sexual therapy and health. But you went the entrepreneur way, very different.
Alexandra : 34:20 Yes. Which is a weird way to go in that community. I’m a feminist and a capitalist. And a lot of people feel like that’s oil and water.
Kimberly: 34:34 I disagree. It’s like when people say, “Oh, if you’re spiritual, you can’t care about money or you can’t care about looking good.” I mean, I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive. I think that your-
Alexandra : 34:51 Oh then, have you ever been to any church, all churches look good with the most spirituality-
Kimberly: 34:54 Yeah.
Alexandra : 34:56 Is a bit really obsessed with appearances and pageantry. Love that stuff. One of my favorite books is this Buddhist book. It’s called Work, Sex, Money by Chögyam Trungpa. And it talks about just the Buddhist path and his take on those three subjects. Which I think we often view as non spiritual subjects, and he talks about them and how they weave into our spiritual lives and they’re just, how we need to dance with these realities and how they can be part of our path to enlightenment. I loved it. I think it was great.
Kimberly: 35:35 It’s Work, Sex and Money?
Alexandra : 35:37 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Alexandra’s take on feminism and the power of sexuality
Kimberly: 35:39 Wow. Amazing. So, while we’re speaking philosophically. And I know you focused on gender studies and psychology. This ongoing discussion about feminism today, Alexandra, especially with social media. We talk about the power of sexuality. I’ve talked to [inaudible 00:36:02] about this a million times too and just feeling good, feeling empowered. But then there’s this, there’s different sides and some people will say, “Okay. There’s a lot of girls that are just more and more naked on Instagram, on social media to get likes or to get attention, and that’s actually disempowering. And then there’s some people that will say, “But being a sexual as you want to be, is part of feminism.” So kind of a complicated issue. I think there’s a lot of different voices in this discussion.
Alexandra : 36:33 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Kimberly: 36:34 So I’d be interested in hearing your take on this.
Alexandra : 36:38 My take is this. I think sex is an incredibly powerful currency. It is real. It is empowering and it is powerful. I think it is problematic though, when it is the only currency that you know and have or feel like it’s being given to you.
Kimberly: 36:58 Oh my god, you couldn’t have phrased it better. I just got this [crosstalk 00:37:01].
Alexandra : 37:00 It’s so much clear. That has been from a million other books I’ve read, you knowwhat I mean? That sentence is… I feel like I’ve heard that from other people.
Kimberly: 37:09 But I love that saying, it’s a form of power. But if we think that’s all we have to offer, then it becomes almost diminishing, I think, to our connection with ourselves. Because it is an aspect but if we feel like, “Oh, God, I have to post my ass again. I don’t really want to, but that’s what will let people want to see from me.” That doesn’t feel as authentically powerful, perhaps.
Alexandra : 37:37 Mm-hmm (affirmative). I mean, I think it always depends on that individual and that person.
Kimberly: 37:43 Or feeling.
Alexandra : 37:44 Right. Yeah. So it’s like nobody can tell you whether or not you’re being empowered except for you.
Kimberly: 37:50 Exactly.
Alexandra : 37:51 You’re the only person who knows. But I do feel like, you can be feeling empowered. And we were being empowered in that moment and also look back on that same, what felt empowering and realize that you were also being extorted at the same time. And that can be true. Both of those can be true at the same time. I mean, those are tough.
Kimberly: 38:31 Yeah.
Alexandra : 38:33 And it’s hard and I don’t have kids yet, but I’m excited to have this conversations with them one day.
Kimberly: 38:41 Well, I think, I have a good friend and they started having kids really young. So they have teenagers now, they have three daughters. And I see this, them struggling with this with their oldest daughter who’s still quite young, she’s like a tween but she’s on Instagram. And she’s just figuring out her sexuality and the very sexual pictures she puts up. And I can see this ongoing discussion. I can see all the different sides. Just interesting time for women and feminism, I think.
Alexandra : 39:14 Yeah. I can just say that when I was 13, I was horny. And I was sexual. And I-
Kimberly: 39:17 If you were on Instagram then, you will be on.
Alexandra : 39:24 Oh my God. I mean, I was really feeling a new power and a new adultness. And that mostly did not really get me into any trouble at all. It was mostly a really great experience and I would want my daughter to have that experience especially because I feel like your relationship with sexuality it does change, and when you’re coming into it, that is this really cool energy that… I don’t know. I think it just changes as you get older.
Kimberly: 40:07 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. The growing up process, figuring out who you are, yourself, your identity, your power.
Alexandra : 40:16 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Kimberly: 40:19 Yeah, it’s really interesting. So do you find that most of your customers are women or men, or both? Or gender-
Alexandra : 40:29 35% of my customers are men. So first of all the information I know is based on Google. And Google’s only going to tell us as men and women, and it’s making guesses based off of, I guess your data. But it does say 35% of our purchases come from men. I do also know from other research that we have a queer community. Most of our business is, people who have sex with people of the opposite genitalia. But we also have a lot of people who are single. About mid 25 to 30% of my audience, they’re single. They’re looking for these products to cultivate their own sexual energy on their own.
Kimberly: 41:18 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Love.
Alexandra : 41:21 Yeah. And which is great. I think that this is about self-care. And this is about relationship care. And I think that they both go hand in hand and that wellness right now, I think we really think of it on a personal level, kind of individual level. But there’s also interpersonal wellness.
Experiencing prejudice in the wellness world
Kimberly: 41:45 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Now, I guess how will I phrase this? How much prejudice have you experienced, in the wellness world? Expo West or some of these magazines or whatever. Again, it’s like, “You’re going to-
Alexandra : 42:03 I wonder Expo West would let us come. I’ve never tried to go to Expo West. But I wonder, I’ve been like for [inaudible 00:42:12]. We have had a lot of prejudice in just.. it’s like I knew when I was getting into this category that I wanted to change the taboo, that I just felt the way these products were being marketed and the way that they were being discussed in the world, was so different than the way they are being discussed amongst my friends and the reality of them, which is that over 50% of women, I’ve tried them. Yet that makes it mainstream, these are mainstream products. But we do not talk about them in the mainstream. But what I didn’t realize was that that taboo is get institutionalized and was going to impact my ability to grow the business. Everything from getting SBA loans has been a challenge. I’ve been unapproved for leases. So it’s been hard to find office space.
Kimberly: 43:04 Wow.
Alexandra : 43:04 At some point it’s been hard to had to find. Yeah, it’s been hard to find lines like loans. Facebook has denied a lot of our advertisements and it’s been… Facebook won’t let me advertise. I was featured in The New York Times. And I wanted to promote my personal brands. And we’re saying, “Look, I was in the New York Times.” “Thank you so much. It was an honor.” And that I couldn’t use that as an advertisement because they said that the New York Times article was inappropriate.
Kimberly: 43:35 Oh my gosh.
Alexandra : 43:37 Yeah. And then of course, my biggest one, even though honestly, Facebook is the biggest one. Facebook at the end of the day is one that’s really hurting my business. Though they’re trying to work with us to figure out ways that we can… It’s complicated. It is a taboo. It is a social construct, and we’re trying to navigate it. But the MTA is, which is the New York City subway system.
Kimberly: 44:07 Sure.
Alexandra : 44:08 They really also put me through it. Where they said that I could run advertisements. I made the advertisements. They approve the advertisements. We send them an invoice and they just ghost us and they didn’t respond.
Kimberly: 44:23 Oh my gosh.
Alexandra : 44:24 And it was my whole budget plans, and we had bought inventory. You make plans around these things that people say you can do and then they’re like, “Must have moved up the ladder or something.” And all sudden we get this letter saying, “We have not and will not ever work with any businesses that are sexually oriented.”
Kimberly: 44:42 Wow.
Alexandra : 44:44 Meanwhile, the [crosstalk 00:44:44].
Kimberly: 44:45 In 2020?
Alexandra : 44:46 It was 2019 but at the time you had a erectile dysfunction medication was all over the subway.
Kimberly: 44:52 Right.
Alexandra : 44:53 “Get that breast augmentation.”
Kimberly: 44:55 Sure.
Alexandra : 44:55 It’s or sheets that you can have sex in. You know what I mean? There’s so much sexual advertisement on the subway and advertisements for products of a sexual nature. And that was not a good answer. I made-
Kimberly: 45:13 So frustrating.
Alexandra : 45:14 It was so frustrating and the only… And honestly, if it wasn’t the MTA any business can treat me like that. Businesses are allowed to do that. They can think they’re going to work with somebody and then decide that they don’t want to work with you. Facebook gets to decide they don’t want to take my money.
Kimberly: 45:36 Big Brother judging.
Alexandra : 45:38 It’s wild.
Kimberly: 45:40 Do you find that now that you’ve made this Fast Company list? I mean, I guess the New York Times piece didn’t help Facebook, but hopefully this will change as you are this pioneer helping to bring sexual health to wellness. I can’t imagine it’s going to stay like this, hopefully.
Alexandra : 46:03 I don’t think so. I mean, that’s kind of why, I mean, we’ve decided to sue the MTA. So I have filed a legal complaint. Because that’s also the way we make change in the world and realizing that that is part of what the system is there for. And that that is another tool society has set up. My business is being treated unfairly. We don’t harm people. We are not trying to make people feel aroused on the subway. We’re trying to minimize sexual harassment and increase sexual pleasure. I think what’s interesting to me is that, sexual pleasure is viewed… Healthy sex. Good sex, not good. Just healthy sex. The way your body feels sex, is supposed to feel good.
Kimberly: 46:49 Of course.
Alexandra : 46:50 Sex is painful, you should go see a doctor. So the idea that promoting pleasure as a part of sex is bad. To me, I just think, it assumes that everybody knows that sex is supposed to feel good. And there are a lot of women out there I think actually, I think it’s something like 70% of women, have painful sex at some point during their lives.
Kimberly: 47:18 Well it’s so ironic, isn’t it? When pornography and these so called hidden parts of the sex market are enormous billion dollar businesses. But yet when something’s very high quality and for empowerment and for everybody, of all age groups, of all types is put out there, then that gets regulated.
Alexandra : 47:44 Yeah.
Kimberly: 47:44 It’s so interesting. I wouldn’t think that and even Banks and Facebook that’s really surprising to me.
Alexandra : 47:58 Yeah.
Kimberly: 47:59 Or maybe it’s not, in this patriarchal sort of antiquated ideas we have.
Alexandra : 48:06 Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s true. I think, though that for me, it has been surprising. I think, especially in New York City that we were ultimately denied. Especially our advertisements are so… we know where we are in society. We want to make people feel comfortable. We want people to approach this category with a little bit of levity and comfort and safety. I think that’s really what we’re trying to do, so to see those ads get shut down, especially while all these erectile dysfunction. There’s these big cactus ads, which I’m sure they’ve had around LA as well, where it’s like a soft cactus and it’s like, “Make hard easy,” or something like that.
Kimberly: 48:54 I haven’t seen that. That’s hilarious.
Alexandra : 48:56 Right? I mean they’re great ads. They’re amazing. And it’s just like I look at that, and she’s like, “We seem to view male virility as hell, but female pleasure as frivolous and unnecessary.” And I just think that that is a real problem.
Kimberly: 49:18 Definitely.
Alexandra : 49:19 Yeah. I just think that the pleasure gap, or the idea to that one sex or one gender is having more sexual pleasure is a, is allegory the right word? It shows that there is inequality in the rest of the world. Because-
Kimberly: 49:39 Oh, for sure. Oh, my gosh, that’s deep. And it goes down to control issues.
Alexandra : 49:47 And power. Oh yeah. Yeah.
Kimberly: 49:49 Yeah.
Alexandra : 49:50 I mean, it’s all about power.
Kimberly: 49:53 Well, it’s a lot of courage.
Alexandra : 49:59 And that’s why sex is so cool, right? It’s like, “Oh, look at this power. People want me.”
Healing through trauma and growing in confidence
Kimberly: 50:01 Well, it’s very courageous. I think what you’re doing Alexandra and I know I’d mentioned your upbringing. We talked about your upbringing a little bit. But when you’re up against Facebook or there’s these huge gender inequality ideas. And you’re like, “Oh, F. What am I going to do or this feels so much bigger than me.” How have you grown in your confidence? Or is that something that you’ve been cultivating since childhood, if you had really supportive parents? Or what was your pathway? Was there healing and trauma? Just in my journey, there was a lot of different learnings and I backpack for three years and I’ve had traumas that I healed with that made me stronger. So I’m just interested about, how this courage which you-
Alexandra : 50:57 Yeah.
Kimberly: 50:57 You stay soft too and sweet but there’s a strength there.
Alexandra : 51:03 Yeah. It’s interesting because I feel like at different points in my life, I’ve intentionally cultivated different parts of that. But mostly I’ve been really really confident, and really strong and I just really can’t help falling. I’m just like, “I’m just little loud Jewish girl.” I don’t know why that trope exists but I just highly identify as that. I do need to work on it. The business, it is hard. I have had my competence shock. I’ve had some traumas and some moments where, I don’t understand what happened and why I let it happen, which is, not that always the right mindset to view something in.
Kimberly: 51:59 We all do our best as we go along.
Alexandra : 52:01 Go along.
Kimberly: 52:02 Yeah.
Alexandra : 52:02 And we think, “Wow” and in the [crosstalk 00:52:04]-
Kimberly: 52:02 We learn.
Alexandra : 52:05 We learn. We learn. Yeah. So for me, it’s been a really nonlinear path. I’ve traveled a little bit. I think reading has always been really helpful for me. And I mean, honestly, my favorite thing to do is a little morning journaling, too.
Kimberly: 52:29 I’m a huge journaler, low.
Alexandra : 52:32 Yeah. Yeah. I just-
Kimberly: 52:33 I love that.
Alexandra : 52:34 That’s been great. And, yeah, I don’t know. I just try to have a few things that I’m really proud of. And whenever I’m feeling down or not impressed enough with myself or whatever it is, I just kind of go back to that little list and remember that, I have done a lot. And now honestly now I’m at a place where I’m like, “What are our accomplishments?” Like, “Who are my accomplishing all these things for?”
Kimberly: 53:10 Wow. When we get to that point and we pause, the question what really is success? Like you were saying, “Hey, if I’m not pleasuring every day, what’s the point of doing all this?” And I’ve definitely gone through that too. To me it’s like, “Oh, I should be growing faster, I should be getting more funding or doing this and that with my brand, Solluna.” And I just think I actually really enjoy the team and the pace of what we’re doing. And so that’s success to me. It doesn’t have to fit into everybody else’s contrive standards.
Alexandra : 53:46 Yeah. I think that’s it too. Yeah, I totally agree. And just the more aligned I am with that, the better. Which is actually funny because I’ve actually struggled to raise money. And I’ve always blame it on the… it is harder because of the industry I’m in that has been challenging. And now I look back and I think it’s been such a blessing. I don’t have a ton of, I taken in some money, we’ve grown. So my investors are happy they’re not particularly diluted. And I don’t have any big investors that are expecting me to triple every year.
Kimberly: 54:26 Yeah.
Alexandra : 54:27 And that’s also been a real blessing but it felt like such a curse at the time. So look at that, the world is amazing.
Kimberly: 54:37 Oh my gosh, Alexandra, I could talk to you all day. But I have one last question for you here. And this has to do with, in our community, in my personal journey I’ve been really fascinated by the concept of beauty. And beauty in our society, beauty as a word, beauty what it means. It’s really evolved for me over the years. Four out of my five book titles have the word beauty in them. And it started off I think, in a image focused society as a young girl, wanting to have great skin and be, to your point get attention and be thought of as beautiful. And then I got really into yoga and meditation and the beauty that Rumi and Yogananda talk about. The beauty of the soul and the beauty in the spiritual way. So for me, I define beauty as being really deeply connected.
Kimberly: 55:32 So you’re connected to yourself, to your uniqueness, to your essence, soul, whatever that means. And then you in turn become more connected to other people. You can love more. You can connect with them. I think the most beautiful people are connected.
Alexandra : 55:48 Yeah.
How Alexandra defines beauty
Kimberly: 55:49 So, how and that’s put you on the spot, but in a brief few sentences, how would you define true beauty?
Alexandra : 56:00 I mean, I would very just very much echo I think what you said. And then I think it’s like when you see somebody that just seems really in their element. It’s just like somebody tapped in, somebody who feels comfortable in their own skin.
Kimberly: 56:21 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Alexandra : 56:23 Confidence always seems really beautiful. But it can be subtle confidence. It doesn’t have to be allowed, show weak confidence. And then I always find curiosity so beautiful, and forgiveness so beautiful. And I think both of those, like you said it so well. It’s like when you’re in alignment with yourself and you have that connection to who you are, so then are you going to connect to other people, then it’s easier to approach the world with curiosity. It’s easier to have forgiveness and understanding. So it all seems related.
Kimberly: 57:08 Amazing. I love your answer Alexandra and I have to say that you are truly beautiful. I feel you really have an authenticity of warmth. I can feel your soul and I’m just really happy that you’re doing this work in the world to empower women. So thank you so much.
Alexandra : 57:28 I know you can’t see but I’m hugging my computer right now. Very nice. Thank you so much. That’s so nice. I’ve also just really enjoyed this conversation and yeah, thank you so much. You’re so beautiful but on the inside and outside in personal opinion.
Kimberly: 57:50 Thank you my love and thank you Beauties for tuning in. We are going to link to Alexandra’s information and her company’s website which is dameproducts.com. Directly in the show notes which are going to be over at mysolluna.com. So check them out, they are super high quality. There’s something for everyone. Why not have a little fun, add some playfulness, spice it up. I think that they’re great and Alexandra was kind enough to send me some, so definitely check them out. And thank you so much for tuning in. And Beauties we will be back here Thursday for our next Q&A podcast. Till then take care and lots of love.