changing the conversation around sexual health


If there’s one thing we’ve learned about during the pandemic – other than Netflix and baking – it’s health testing. Scratching our tonsils, sticking things in our nostrils, popping bodily fluids in mailboxes, downloading QR codes, scanning us all the time. It has become second nature. (Just like having analyzed various pieces of us, from our gut microbiome to our DNA structure, for the sake of health sustainability, ancestral curiosity, etc.).

Particularly since Covid, discussing and sharing our state of health with others has become second nature – so why not apply this new awareness to our sexual health?

Let’s talk about STIs, baby. No seriously. Whether you are a serial monogamist, a sex adventurer, or engaged in recreational sex with others, questions about your sexual health will inevitably arise. STIs – chlamydia, HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis B and C – have always existed; pox, clap, VD were the shameful names they used to be.

Transmitting or catching an STI can happen to anyone, and in the 21st century, everything is fully treatable. But the thing is – how do you go about it? How do you ask a new sexual partner about their state of sexual health without turning an erotic situation into something clumsily clinical?

Bianca Dunne, a 36-year-old sonographer from Dublin, and her friend Georgia Di Mattos, a 36-year-old architect from Brazil, have found a solution – a sexual health app that allows you to discreetly share your sexual health. status with others through your phone.

The two met when their children were babies, in an upscale area of ​​southwest London – think AbFab meets Motherland – and a friendship developed.

During a conversation, Di Mattos told Dunne how she and her husband, a hedge fund manager, were regulars at high-end sex parties like Killing Kittens – and how that often led to the question of sexual health. . And inevitable clumsiness.

Unlike the porn industry, you usually don’t have to prove your sexual health at sex parties. It is not a prerequisite. So how do you ask someone you’re about to have sex with about their sexual health? How do you approach it?

“Test conversation is a passion killer,” says Bianca Dunne. “And when you’re young, it can be a particularly difficult conversation to have. Two years ago, that led Di Mattos to share a business idea with Dunne.

A home sexual health kit that tests for the STIs listed above, via blood and urine samples taken not at a clinic, but in your own bathroom. Six tests for £ 99, delivered to your door. Once your samples are sent for lab analysis, the results will appear on your phone a few days later. #

Which means you are able to share your health status with other interested parties making sure everyone has a good sexual health record. They called it the iPlaySafe app.

“It helps normalize the behavior of the tests,” Bianca Dunne tells me. “STIs are coming. It is a fact of life. It’s how you treat them that matters – responsibly and without shame. We test proactively rather than reactively. In other words, you take control of the situation, rather than taking a risk or waiting for symptoms to develop to investigate further. Yet even if you take control and are fully open and grown up about your sexual health, it can still be tricky; I remember taking a partner to a walk-in sexual health clinic a few years ago and meeting a friend there with her partner. As she and I chatted, the two men seemed close to death in discomfort. An app would have been so much better.

“My mother-in-law is a former sexual health nurse who is almost 70 years old, and she totally agrees,” Dunne told me, adding, “I have two boys and I don’t want that. they suffer from embarrassment about their sexual health. “But as Di Mattos and Dunne developed their idea and raised funds for it, the pandemic struck, and all the labs they wanted to partner with were suddenly inundated with Covid scans. Now, however, things are moving.

“We’ve spent two years putting it all on the line, and now it’s all about making it work properly,” says Dunne. “We’ve had several thousand downloads of the app – the entry point is buying out of the box. We are in talks with the NHS, and Ireland is our next stop. In Ireland there was a spike in syphilis – and the problem with Ireland is that because it’s a small country, ordering a home test kit means people don’t have to go. go to the clinics where their neighbor is at the reception. She continues: “Overall the app has been a pretty Irish affair. It was developed by Zendra Health, a medical technology company run by twin brothers from Cork. It’s not just for people who go to sex parties. Dunne would like to stress this – that it is for anyone who has sex.

“Georgia’s lifestyle isn’t the same as everyone’s – so we want our app to have the universal appeal of, say, Love Island,” she says. “This is for two people who are having sex with each other. However, their brand ambassador is not an adorable Love Island, but a promising MMA fighter, Ian Garry, whom Dunne calls “the next Conor McGregor” – Garry’s fighter name is The Future.

“Georgia and I are boxing in a club in Richmond [in south west London], where we learned that before every MMA match, fighters had to be tested for hepatitis B and C and HIV, ”says Dunne. “We wanted to hire more men – so we took a punt on Ian Garry and sponsored him.” Such inclusion and a positive sex attitude made the two women wonder why they didn’t just run a dating app – but that’s not where their interest lies. Or more specifically, why don’t dating apps, especially those associated with casual and casual sex, integrate sexual health checks into their software?

“Dating apps are run by conservative American men who don’t want to be associated with sex,” says Dunne. “We would like our test app to be standardized – we have no interest in running a dating app ourselves, just the testing aspect.” What’s amazing is that dating apps don’t rush to tie the test app to their own platforms; their disgust seems counterintuitive. As if they were missing something.

Forbes estimates that by 2023 the global sexual well-being industry will be worth $ 37.2 billion, well beyond leading novelty outlets like Goop, with their jade eggs and scented candles. to the vagina.

OPEN THE WAY

Sextech is expanding beyond apps and gadgets – many of its innovators and entrepreneurs are women, keen to research women’s sexual health, which as we all know has been a long neglected area. . Bianca Dunne and Georgia Di Mattos are in good company.

Lioness sex research platform

Launched during lockdown by Liz Klinger and Anna Lee – inventors of the first smart vibrator to collect biofeedback on female arousal and orgasm, collating anonymized data from over 50,000 female orgasms – the female-led sextech platform continues its pioneering mission to advance research on female sexuality from the 1980s to the 21st century.

Make love not porn

Launched by Cindy Gallop in 2009 and converted in 2013 to the first ‘human-made and user-created social sex video sharing platform to promote consent, communication, good sexual values ​​and good sexual behavior The goal of MLNP is to combat rape culture and the traditional porn industry by showing real sexual behavior. So your kids don’t grow up thinking that the porn on their phone is the way sex is in real life.

Quinn Audio porn for people of all genders and sexualities, developed by Caroline Spiegel, sister of Snap CEO Evan Spiegel.

Originally describing her app at a TED talk as “a much less disgusting and more fun porn hub for women,” she soon realized that it wasn’t just women using it. Men were too, despite expectations regarding male preferences for all-visual pornography – Quinn is a non-visual medium.


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