With Dipsea, co-founders Gina Gutierrez and Faye Keegan are taking a “mind-first” approach to sexuality. Inspired by the idea that sex is as mental as it is physical, the two launched the subscription-based audio erotica app in 2018 to create a space where women can freely and safely explore their own desires.
After quizzing the user in their sexual preferences, the app, which looks like a sexy version of Netflix, offers curated recommendations from its selection of over 500 audio stories. Stories span categories such as pillow talk, threesomes, rough sex, and beyond, and thoroughly represent queer, as well as non-binary, narratives.
In this interview, I asked Gina and Faye to share more about what goes into running a platform for inclusive, feminist smut.
Adolescent Content: What was the genesis for creating Dipsea?
Gina Gutierrez: Our moms’ generation had romance novels, and then our generation was just kind of handed pink vibrators and told, “That’ll do it!” But there’s a reason erotica has existed for centuries—arousal and desire are as mental as they are physical—and a reason the genre hadn’t gotten an upgrade in decades: misogyny. One night we asked a few friends, “where do you go for erotic content?” and they literally didn’t even know what we meant. They either told us they had stopped trying with porn or had this one chapter from this one romance novel dog-eared on their nightstand.
Faye Keegan: So we decided to create a better option ourselves.
Adolescent: For those unfamiliar with the genre, why do people consume erotica?
Gina: Research out of the Kinsey Institute shows that 90% of women use “mental framing”—or scenario conjuring—to get turned on. Erotica is one of the best ways to do that.
Faye: Dipsea stories also provide a really safe space to learn about what you might like. You can play out desires you can’t or don’t want to play out IRL. You can even become better at understanding what you like and asking for it. Each story is consensual and sex-positive, so you’re totally safe to explore.
Adolescent: Dipsea prides itself on publishing erotica that empowers people of color, women, and non-binary people. What have erotica and the overarching pleasure industry gotten wrong in the past? What is Dipsea doing differently?
Gina: The vast majority [of the industry] is based on men, for men. And you can see the stamp of the male gaze everywhere. Erotica has traditionally been a more female space but is also riddled with all these clichés and very old-school views of both men and women.
Faye: The bar was low. But we’re excited to set a new standard. Over 50% of our voice actors are people of color, and over 30% of our stories are queer.
Adolescent: Can you expand on the idea of sex being as mental as it is physical? In what ways does one’s mentality inform sexual experiences?
Gina: Whenever anyone has a blocker to sex, nine times out of ten it’s mental. It’s because you’re stressed out, or can’t stop thinking about that one thing that icks you out, or are even disassociating and your brain and body feel disconnected. That’s why tools that help you turn on your ons and turn off your offs are so incredibly powerful.
Adolescent: What drew you to the format of audio?
Gina: Audio is amazing for erotica because it’s so immersive, intimate, and imaginative. It’s the blueprint for you to fill in with whatever bodies, faces, and settings you like.
Faye: The power of reading is special in a different way, and Dipsea now also offers sexy stories you can read.
Gina: Some people are really turned on by the sounds of kissing and sex, but others are less so. Different strokes for different folks!
Adolescent: Can you walk readers through the start-to-finish process of producing an audio story in-house?
Gina: Our editorial team pitches ideas, brainstorms together, and writes scripts, sometimes in collaboration with external story collaborators to help us capture certain storylines authentically. Scripts then get passed to our production team, who cast voice actors for the roles and direct those actors remotely in studios all over the world.
Adolescent: What advice do you have for female and non-binary readers seeking to explore their sexuality while prioritizing safety, pleasure, and feminism?
Gina: All you need is you. The answers to what you’re excited about and what doesn’t feel safe to you are all inside you—you just have to listen. Too many of us have been taught that good sex is a relay race toward orgasm with a partner, and that leaves a lot of people wanting more out of their sex lives. But if you keep reminding yourself that all you need is you, you’ll prioritize getting in touch with your own needs, preferences, and boundaries. And be primed for empowered, pleasurable sex with yourself or others.
Adolescent: As a women-led sexual wellness start-up, can you describe the experience of launching Dipsea? Were there any difficulties in accruing investors or pitching the company because of the prevailing stigma around erotic content and the larger porn industry?
Gina: It was, and still can be, incredibly challenging: fundraising, finding a banking partner, advertising, you name it. At Dipsea we know that we’re held to a higher standard, but instead of getting frustrated about how unfair that is, it puts a fire under us to prove people wrong. We know that the business world is still dominated by men, and [changing that] requires makers. Faye: We’d rather be doing something hard and important than something easy. What we’re doing has never been done before, and we’re breaking down barriers as we go.