I have been working at design and manufacture of intimate pleasure products for women and their partners, for the past 25 years.
My mission is to make a product that enhances the life and wellbeing of women, to engage with their power as women.
I have designed and developed 45 products and have a number that are currently in development. As technology has advanced our options for product performance have likewise advanced. It is a very exciting time to be an experienced design developer in the sex tech space.
The work is a passion-I started to do this work with a partner and my goal then was to please only her. Once I started to think about the ways a woman can experience pleasure my goal became to design the best product for a range of women. Over time, I learned that women are all different in their own way. Some like particular sensations and these differences seem to occur in groups of women, so I consider this when designing a new product.
Also what happened as I have aged, is an appreciation for design elements that result in fully ergonomic handling and operating of the products – it is very important for those of us with sporting injuries and those with arthritis and other issues. The important part of using intimate products is that the user should not be distracted by the product, it is only a means to an end – if a woman does not feel empowered and energised through robust sexual health, everyone misses out. At the end of the day, I love women. Having known a few women who have self-confidence and know their own power. I understood that control of her own body was key to this light inside.
This is where I start – empowered women inspire me. I want every woman to know her own power.
3) Would you consider what you do sex tech, and what is sex tech?
Yes, of course, we are part of sex tech. I use the latest technology to create new tools for empowerment. When I started it was because of the technology that created body-safe silicone rubber materials that were compatible with sensitive parts of the body. This was in the early 90’s and the prevailing materials in this space were completely ignorant of safety and often of anatomy. This was particularly true of products for women.
I continue to develop products for commercial markets. Because I was part of that group that pioneered the use of body-safe materials in intimate products, I understand that the next challenge is broadly about ergonomics and understanding what will work for women. Safety, ergonomics, sensibilities, all factor into the design process. It’s important that we use the technology available to us.
I am always interested in new products being offered and find that truly new ideas are rare. Downunder is no exception. My back-catalogue of products is currently being redesigned with new technology so that good design can be made better – lighter, more ergonomic for example. For us it’s mostly about finding great electronics so that we can make sustainability part of what we do – new is ok, but I don’t want consumers to throw away a product to try something new. AVA is an important development for Downunder because AVA is designed with sustainable principles. The electronics and the silicone are designed to be separated – which is great for cleaning but also for trying a new design. The user can select a new silicone part, different shape or colour, when they want a new sensation. Throwing away the electronics is a waste that we want to reduce. I hope other manufacturers consider this more often. We must reduce the amount of waste we create.
5) How might somebody with an idea for a sex product hire or work with you?
We offer confidentiality when discussing product ideas and will offer and NDA so the client is protected against copying. I will then ask for information about the product and offer our service for prototyping, in the first instance, and after that we would typically advise a client to take their finished CAD work to a manufacturer who can give the best price for commercial manufacture.
There are many steps in between and I will make design suggestions to enhance the concept, if the client is open to that. I have many years in the industry and have seen a lot of new product ideas. I know many that have found their market and many that have not, and sometimes I know why not. I bring all of that to the process, so the client has the best chance to successfully commercialise their idea.
Martha, you and I spoke about some product ideas that were interesting. I told you about a health product that I had an idea for, many years ago. As a student I spent some time in aged care homes, interviewing elders about their experiences, for my history course. I was fascinated by the absolute goldmine of knowledge and experience in these homes and lamented the fact that so many of our elders are lonely and miss human touch. Unless there was a programme for hugging elders, I couldn’t think of how to give these wonderful people that “high touch” experience. I thought of making a “hug vest” something that was warm and felt human and would gently squeeze the wearer, so that the experience felt like a hug.
Of course, this idea was not something I developed further, it was just an idea. What our elders need most is human contact, touch that is a comfort to them and conversation that is respectful and engaging.
I still like the idea of a hug vest but it’s not something I expect to make real.
For people with an idea that they feel is a strong idea that could be commercialised, we offer a service in the early stages – we can get an idea to the prototype stage so the client can prove their idea and then decide to go further or not. Our service is a very cost-effective way of developing a new idea, and we keep it confidential.
6) What do you wish people who think of coming up a sex product would know?
There is always a balance between high touch and high tech. Our job, as designers, is to make that balance workable – technology should enhance our lives, not alienate us from our humanity. It should be easy to use, made for us.
7) What are some of the rules of engagement in getting into sex toy industry (dos and don’ts)?
Oh that’s a hard question. I am just a participant in a capitalist economy – engaging in any industry is a very individual decision. I have respect for people who take a risk in starting a business. Try your best!
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Disclaimer: Dr. Martha Tara Lee has neither vested interest, investment in Downunder nor did she receive any monetary exchange or incentive in doing this interview series. Downunder did not influence or tell Dr. Martha Tara Lee what to ask above either.
Surrounded by friends who were sexually inhibited and struck by dire lack of positive conversations around sex and sexuality in Singapore, Dr. Martha Tara Lee set out to make a positive difference in embarking on her doctorate in human sexuality before launching Eros Coaching in 2009. Today, she remains dedicated to working with individuals and couples who wish to lead self-actualised and pleasure-filled lives.
She also holds certificates in counselling, coaching and sex therapy, and her fourth degree – a Masters in Counselling in May 2018. In practice for more than nine years, she is the only certified sexuality educator and certified sexuality educator supervisor by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) in Singapore.
Often cited in the local media, Dr. Lee is the appointed sex expert for Men’s Health Singapore, and Men’s Health Malaysia. She was recognised as one of ‘Top 50 Inspiring Women Under 40′ by Her World in July 2010, and one of ‘Top 100 Inspiring Women’ by CozyCot in March 2011. She is the host of weekly radio show Eros Evolution on the OMTimes Radio Network. She has published three books: Love, Sex and Everything In-Between, Orgasmic Yoga and From Princess to Queen.
Martha works with individuals and couples in private coaching sessions, and conducts her own workshops. She takes prides in making sure all her workshops are also fun, educational, and sex-positive. This comes easily to her because even though she is extremely dedicated and serious about her work, she fundamentally believes that sex is meant to be fun, wonderful, amazing and sacred. As such, this serious light-heartedness has shone through again and again. For her full profile, click here. Email her here.