Designing the Female Orgasm: Omgyes and the Virtual Disciplining of Sexual Pleasure

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Nell BEECHAM, London School of Economics, United Kingdom
Clio UNGER, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London, United Kingdom
Since 2015 the sex education platform OMGYes has been working on "closing the orgasm gap" (Allen, 2016). A website aimed at improving and exploring the female orgasm, the pay-to-view service offers videos and ‘hands-on’ touch screen interaction to teach their users different techniques of sexual stimulation.

Through the mediation of motoric practices the website contributes to the regulation of the sensorial experience of the female orgasm. OMGYes operates within the context of a widespread emergence of disciplinary technologies and discourses of the quantified self. It thus requires critical analysis into the affective performance and sensorial expectations of the sexual wellness and its associated technologies.

Bringing together design and performance studies, this analysis of the female-focussed sex education platform OMGYes explores the entanglements of neoliberal iterations of the sexual entrepreneur and design thinking. Taking Parsons’ definition of design as “the intentional solution of a problem, by the creation of plans for a new sort of thing” (2015), the paper explores the platform’s utilisation of design thinking in the context of the website's aim to "close the orgasm gap". Emphasising the gendered dimensions of product design and the domination of male thinking within design practice (Schroeder 2010) and engaging with debates about asymmetries within sextech design (Devlin 2015), the paper explores OMGYes’s attempts to centre the female body within design processes. It uses Harvey and Gill’s (2011) framework of the contemporary sexual entrepreneur to analyse the website's emphasis on technique (over fantasy or desire), its sterile design, and its techno-plastic transference of erotic touch. It examines OMGYes within the conditions of neoliberal subjectivities and sexual commodification and draws out key questions surrounding OMGYes claims of neutrality and feminist emancipation.