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Leika co-founder Billie Quinlan on creating a ‘sensual Headspace’ audio coaching app

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Leika is an audio-based sex coaching app, launching early 2018. Think of the product as the ‘sensual Headspace’, and you’re halfway there, with audio coaching clips and programmes to help women discover what they want from sex.

SEXTECHGUIDE spoke to its co-founder and CEO Billie Quinlin to find out more about this sextech product that is bringing something aural to the market.

Hi Billie! Can you explain what Leika is?

“Leika is a sexual wellbeing company and our first product is an app, launching early next year. The app will take women on a journey of discovery so that they can truly unlock what brings them pleasure, both sexually and in themselves. Society tells us it’s not OK to love our bodies, to explore our desires or feel comfortable owning our sexuality. As young girls we’re told it’s dirty to explore our genitals, as young women we’re taught to fear sex – sex ed teaches us about STIs and unwanted pregnancy, never about pleasure.

As grown women we have to walk a fine line between being a ‘slut’ and a ‘prude’. If we speak up during sex we’re told we’re too sexually confident, aggressive even and if we gently guide our partners during sex we’re at risk of damaging egos. Sex is a bloody minefield!

With Leika we’re breaking all that down by providing phenomenal content (move over Cosmo), experiential learning and a community of incredible women want more. Leika will be a space for women to discover, play freely and feel supported. No shame, no ‘normal’, no rules, just pleasure!”

What does Leika mean?

“Leika means ‘to play’ in Icelandic and Iceland has consecutively been voted the best place for gender equality (therefore a great place to be a woman). Our dream is to create a playful experience for (all) women that truly celebrates all that it means to be a woman.”

What gave you the initial idea to launch Leika?

“Myself and Anna decided to launch Leika after experiencing firsthand the inequalities around sexuality and the negative impacts it can have on a woman’s mental and emotional health. Anna was raped by her boyfriend when she was 15 but only realised what she had experienced years later when, as an adult, she started to explore her sexuality and issues around consent. In contrast, I was sexually assaulted by a senior colleague when I was 25 and was sexually harassed by multiple others at my company. I didn’t speak up about it for months as I felt it was just something I had to put up with, working in a male-dominated environment. In both cases: shame, a lack of knowledge and social constructs of what is ‘normal’ for women to endure, kept both of us from speaking up. So when we met in October 2017, tasked with the mission to build a business that would address women’s mental and emotional well-being, we knew instantly that this was an issue we were hugely passionate about. Yet for both of us, creating a business that would empower women and help prevent these scenarios was more aligned to our values than building an offering that would support women after the fact. By no means does that mean the work others are doing to support survivors isn’t absolutely essential.”

What research has been involved in the development of the app?

“Primary research has included interviews, surveys, workshops, site visits and panel events. We’ve spoken to roughly 400 women and a handful of men. We listened to their stories, had them user test our prototypes, observed them interacting in a community space and engaged with them via different forums so they can provide constant feedback on our ideas and features. We’ve also engaged with experts from psychosexual therapists to somatic body workers, obstetricians and gynaecologists, sex educators, Behaviour Change experts and digital learning labs.

We’ve also pulled on research from a multitude of sources including the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL), the Kinsey Institute, Masters and Johnson and many, many more.”

Leika co-founder Billie Quinlan did a TedX Talk about a sex-positive future for women

Will you be able to connect Leika to smart sex toys?

“This isn’t in our initial plan but our vision is to create a multi-sensory experience while our users are discovering the product, so maybe down the line this is something we will explore. If you’d really love to see this, or something else as part of the product, drop us a note on [email protected] as we love to feature requests!”

How integral do you think innovation is in sextech?

“I think it’s important to consider the problems and pain points people have first and then think about how we can use technology to enhance their lives. It’s incredibly important to consider the ethics of any product and what it’s intention is. Are we building tech for tech’s sake or is it addressing a human need? Will the tech allow people to liver fuller, more joyful lives?

There’s a lot of backlash around tech products at the moment, especially apps, because they’ve typically been designed to keep people hooked to their phones, holding them hostage to their virtual lives rather than enhancing or enriching their in-person experiences with people. However I do think it’s incredibly important to keep innovating in this space because [sextech] innovators haven’t been diverse enough before and therefore we don’t have products or services that cater for everyone. By talking about sextech, hosting hackathons, and encouraging a more diverse set of individuals into this industry I hope that we will see exciting innovations that represent the needs of all people, no matter how niche a need is.”

Has technology been good or bad for our sex lives?

“I don’t think technology is good or bad, it’s what we decide to do with it that can have positive or negative consequences. There’s a responsibility for those creating to be more ethical and aware of how their creations will be used but there’s also a responsibility on us, the consumer, to be more mindful of how and why we’re interacting with technology. There’s certainly an argument that phones in the bedroom have left many couples having less sex and I would argue that apps like Tinder have created quite a toxic hook-up culture in which we’ve come to see each other as disposable and therefore there’s a lack of trust and vulnerability, both of which are essential ingredients in fostering intimacy – and with intimacy comes more pleasurable sex. Conversely, tech has allowed couples living on the other side of the world to still explore a physical relationship, bringing them closer despite the distance!”

Where’s next for Leika?

“The team at Leika are busy building away, the product is being tested and refined on a weekly basis. In fact, if anyone would like to get involved, the team run a weekly user testing meet-up on Friday nights from 6pm-8pm at their London office. Drop the team a note on [email protected] if you’d like to join them! All we ask is for you to explore the app for 30 mins and provide feedback – it’s absolutely not an Ann Summers sex party!

We’re planning on releasing the app into the wild early next year but if you can’t wait until then, sign up on their website and you’ll be amongst the first to get your hands on the BETA mode.

Also, if you’re a female engineer, we run a monthly mentoring session and the next event is on 6 December. So, if you’re considering a career in sextech or would like some advice on navigating your current industry, sign up here to get involved.”

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