SAFE Celebrates female founders on International Women’s Day: SexTech Edition
Bet you heard International Women’s Day and threw it in there with National Margarita Day, and all those other “holidays” we now celebrate by overindulging in our vice of choice. But you’d be wrong, friend, because International Women’s Day originated in 1908 during the women’s suffrage movement. Fifteen thousand women marched for equality through the streets of New York City and, a year later, the Socialist Party of America declared National Women’s Day. The international part came a few years later when Clara Zetkin suggested adoption of the day, to the unanimous agreement of women from 17 different countries, at the International Conference of Working Women.
By 1975, the UN officially recognized the holiday, eventually choosing an annual theme. This year’s theme, “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change,” particularly resonates with the gang over here at SAFE Group. In their statement, the UN says, “we look to industry leaders, game-changing startups, social entrepreneurs, gender equality activists, and women innovators to examine the ways in which innovations can remove barriers and accelerate progress for gender equality, encourage investment in gender-responsive social systems, and build services and infrastructure that meet the needs of women and girls.”
Countries around the world celebrate International Women’s Day in a myriad of ways, in Italy la donna’s are given mimosa blossoms, in China many women have a half-day of work, Russians also give bouquets to the women who inspire them daily. In America, the president memorializes women through an annual speech. We don’t want you to suffer through that, so consider this a virtual bouquet, from SAFE to a few of our favorite badass ladies who make our work possible.
Cindy Eckert (nee Whitehead), founder of The Pink Ceiling and Sprout Pharmaceuticals, is a self described serial-entrepreneur who is here to make other women “really fu*king rich.” The Pink Ceiling, aka Pinkubator, is an incubator, VC fund, and consulting firm all rolled up in one, that focuses on mentoring and funding groundbreaking, mission centered businesses by and for women. Cindy’s investment of her personal funds and time into female fronted start-ups is only half the story. In the last decade, Cindy has made 1.5 billion dollars starting and selling two pharma companies, from which the first ever FDA approved drug for low-sexual desire in women was created.
The Pink Lady is still fighting that good fight, after re-acquiring Sprout Pharmaceuticals for the grand total of $0 from Valent, who let the drug flounder in pharma-purgatory by overcharging and under informing it’s users. The “female-viagra,” as many have dubbed it, is not covered by most insurance companies, though it’s male counterpart is by nearly 80% of insurance companies. Taking the reins at Sprout again, Cindy’s leading the charge of a steadily growing army of women, women who want to address the vast breach in care of, and black hole surrounding, women’s sexuality and health.
Andrea Barrica, creator of O-school, is just such a woman. O-school is an online platform that aims to give people a safe space to learn about sexual pleasure, identity, and communication in bed. Growing up in an abstinence-only home, Barrica had no knowledge or experience of sex. In her strict Catholic family, discussions of the act ended at, “don’t do it until you’re married.” Inconsistent and unreliable information abounds online, Barrica wanted to create a place where anyone could come without fear of judgement, to learn about their bodies and desires.”By making sex education positive, we teach people about desire, and when you teach people about desire, then you can start talking about consent and all these other amazing things that teach people how to be safe and how to negotiate boundaries,” she says.
With the rise of the #metoo movement, and the Kavanaugh investigation, consent is as relevant as ever. Sexual consent, with its intrinsic grey areas, must be navigated dutifully. If we can acclimate young people to speaking honestly of their desires, and boundaries, we can destigmatize pleasure, creating safer sex for everyone.
Cindy Gallop, creator of the social sex website MakeLoveNotPorn, agrees that starting an open, and honest dialogue about sex in the public consciousness will not only destigmatize pleasure, but will help remove negative associations with pornography. The disturbing, more extreme trends within porn, including hyper-misogyny, could be lessened with the availability of more realistic depictions of sex, the kind celebrated on her website. MakeLoveNotPorn curates user generated videos of real world couples being intimate, which can then be rented by other users. The stars of these videos can revoke their consent to be featured on the website at anytime, which is why users can only stream, not download, the videos.
Cindy wants sex to be celebrated and commemorated socially, just like an engagement or pregnancies are on Facebook. Gallop’s website MakeLoveNotPorn offers just such a platform. Like her compatriot Cindy Eckert, Gallop wants to support innovative, female founded ventures, so she’s started a fund of her own, All The Sky Holdings, which differs from Eckert’s platform by focusing solely on Sextech, the first VC fund to do so.
Another platform that celebrates women by tearing down outdated notions of female sexuality, is Amber Rose’s annual SLUTWALK. Amber Rose’s SLUTWALK calls for an end to rape culture and slut shaming. Held annually in downtown LA, the festival showcases DJs, educational booths, sign making, free breast cancer and HIV screenings, while revelers donning their ‘sluttiest’ attire proudly bask in the glory of living life free of shame, slut- or otherwise.
Rose has always been an outspoken advocate for feminism, and a self-proclaimed hoe. As an intersectional feminist, Rose advocates for all people identifying as female, regardless of race or class. She says, “we’re still living in a time where people think it’s impossible to embrace female sexuality and shun sexual violence towards women at the same time. I’m here to tell you that it’s not only possible, but necessary.”
The how may be different, but all these badass ladies want the same thing, to start a public conversation about sex. These women are using their platforms to destigmatize sexuality, in all its forms, from art to hormone replacement therapy. Until the world becomes comfortable with talking about sex in it’s messy, private, fun, awkward glory, we can’t progress past our restrictive and damaging social agreements. And as a woman co-founded company, SAFE is following in these formidable footsteps on our mission to ‘make the world a safer (and more fun) place to be. If we provide the tool for people to talk about sex without shame, we can teach people about consent, about their needs and wants. Today, let’s celebrate the women that came before us, and lay the road for those who will follow.