Liz Klinger is co-founder and CEO of Lioness and is one of the inventors of the Lioness Vibrator, the first and only vibrator that helps you improve your orgasms. Our team had a chance to sit down with Liz to ask about what's going on over at Lioness and also to get her take on how we can break down the stigmas associated with female pleasure.
Hey Liz, it’s so great to get to sit down with you. For people in our community that don’t know you yet, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the Lioness story?
Sure! The inspiration to start Lioness initially stemmed from my own needs. I’ve always had a lot of questions about sex and my own reproductive health and learned early on that information is hard to come by. I’m originally from the midwest, and while my family is amazing and is super supportive of my work, when I was a kid sex was just not something we really talked about. It wasn’t that it was wrong… we just didn’t talk about it—at least not beyond, “don’t get pregnant.”
Lacking an outlet to deal with all the questions I had, I turned to art as a way to explore my sexuality and our attitudes about sex and pleasure. It was like bringing something that felt hidden and taboo into the light so it could be seen from a new perspective.
One time, I ended up creating a giant photograph of my vagina (particularly the vulva and clitoris) as a metaphor for an “elephant in the room” when it comes to discussing sex and pleasure. The piece ended up in my first public art show. I felt so vulnerable and nervous about how people would handle it and how they’d see me afterwards… only to discover that a lot of people didn’t recognize it was a vagina when it was person-sized and right in front of them!
I still remember eavesdropping on two old women who stood in front of the piece for a long time...and then decided it was “two figures dancing”. My college wanted to buy it from me even though I listed it as Not For Sale… until they learned what it was. I was both relieved — and horrified — by how much a lot of us don’t know.
Flash forward past my time in finance (that’s another story) to my time selling sex toys to women at “tupperware-style parties”. There, I very quickly learned that I was by far not the only “weird” person who had a lot of questions about sex and pleasure. Whether a person is 18 or 108, everyone has questions about sex. The questions just change over time.
I was still a young 20-something who really didn’t know that much, but I found myself to be the first person many of women asked deeply intimate questions about pleasure and sex—questions that significantly affected their self-confidence, health, and relationships. Just by being present, I created a space for discussion.
Everyone’s questions and situations were so nuanced and so dependent on their own unique bodies and experiences. I realized there had to be a better way to teach people about sex and to allow them to explore their own bodies on their own terms. These conversations—and the questions from which they were born—became the basis for Lioness.
At Brazen, we talk a lot about how your period can be an important indicator of your overall health. What about your orgasm? What can you learn from tracking your orgasms?
Like tracking your period, tracking your sex life can give you a lot of information about your life and overall health. One of the more surprising instances we’ve heard was when an athlete discovered the severity of her concussion from seeing a change in her own orgasm data practically overnight from her Lioness Vibrator. Before that, she was trying to get back into her sport, but the data was pretty telling that she needed to rest and heal for a bit.
More generally, people have used Lioness to see how different factors in their life affect their experience of pleasure — things like medications, stress, hormones, alcohol, cannabis, and more. It’s like having a sex diary to track what works and what doesn’t for you, so you can learn when and how to have your best experiences.
And, of course, people use the data to experiment, understand themselves better, and have better orgasms (with and without the vibrator) — after all, as the saying goes, “never measured, never improved.” ;)
Part of our mission here at Brazen is to break down stigmas around female reproductive health — what are some of the stigmas that you’ve encountered around female pleasure, orgasm, and sexual function? How is Lioness helping to break down those stigmas?
Oh gosh, there are quite a few… One we’ve seen a lot is that masturbation is seen as unimportant, something you might only do when you’re single. Another is that sex and masturbation is straightforward — it’s a basic human function… right?
Likewise with Brazen, our mission at Lioness is to breakdown stigmas around masturbation and sexual pleasure. Besides creating the Lioness Smart Vibrator, another way we’re doing that is by sharing stories about what people have learned from their experiences with sexual pleasure and data using the Lioness. Through efforts like this, my hope is that we can show pleasure from a new perspective and just how much we still don’t know.
After all, if you look at the history of research and pleasure, especially physiological pleasure, there hasn’t been a lot of historical shifts on our understanding of how arousal and orgasm work from a physiological perspective since the 1980s. With that and our lack of sex education (as kids and into adulthood), it’s not our fault that we’re not on the up and up when it comes to knowledge of sex — history hasn’t been on our side. But no matter where we start, we can take initiative to improve our knowledge, be happier, and have more fulfilling relationships.
It wouldn’t be a Brazen interview if we didn’t talk about sex and masturbation on your period — we know that a good orgasm can help with menstrual pain, but do you have any other protips on how sexual pleasure can transform your period?
Besides having sex and masturbating as a way to combat menstrual pain, I’d say don’t be afraid to do it. If you don’t like the mess, get a towel or do it in the shower (a detachable shower head helps here). If you feel uncomfortable about it, think about how about half of the population has experienced the same thing you do about every month or so. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. You deserve some relief (especially if your period sucks).
What’s new with Lioness?
One of the cool things about Lioness is that we’ve continuously been adding new experiences and ways to explore your pleasure over time. First there was Artgasm, the ability to create your orgasm into a work of art.
Most recently, we introduced an option for real-time feedback so you can see a visualization of your orgasm from the app. People have used it when they’re curious to see what happens in the moment when they try something. Paired with the option to use Lioness as a remote control vibrator, there are a lot of opportunities for solo and partner play.
What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve seen a customer do with Lioness?
A pop star launched her career by creating music from her own orgasm data using the Lioness, which ended up being covered by Vice and a bunch of musical publications in NYC. As an artist myself, I love seeing people use our work to create their own projects!
More about Liz and Lioness
Liz Klinger is co-founder and CEO of Lioness and is one of the inventors of the Lioness Vibrator, the first and only vibrator that helps you improve your orgasms. Precision sensors let you literally see your arousal and orgasm to experiment and understand yourself—after all, as the saying goes, “never measured, never improved.” The product not only enables people to take control of their pleasure, it is also, in collaboration with researchers, one of the first significant pushes in understanding pleasure and orgasm since the 1980s.
Klinger has been featured in The New York Times's Women of the World and has presented at TEDx and top universities around the world including Stanford, UC Berkeley, MIT, and Chalmers about entrepreneurship, product development, and sextech. She has a B.A. in Studio Art and Philosophy from Dartmouth College. She is also an award-winning artist with work featured in a number of publications and independent shows.