Anna Maresova is a young, beautiful and extremely talented, award-winning Czech product designer. She is also the creative mind behind the Whoop.de.doo line of erotic toys, a range designed especially for women.
In 2011, Maresova made it to the public eye when her master’s thesis, “A Set of Erotic Aids for Women” – which was awarded the National Prize for Student Design the same year – found itself receiving a great deal of media attention.
Given the generally positive reaction, Maresova decided to invest, literally, in her own ideas and used her savings to turn one of her designs into a real world product. Thus was born the Venus Balls, a sex toy which, as well as bringing a great deal of pleasure to happy customers, has the added benefit of strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor.
So, it makes sense that with the Venus Balls being such a great success, Maresova decided, as the product’s Indiegogo campaign puts it, “to breathe life into the centerpiece of the collection” and begin the process that will hopefully see the brand new Whoop.de.doo Vibrator on the market.
With the Whoop.de.doo Vibrator being a much more complex piece of Sex Tech, getting on the market requires a lot more in the terms of resources than the Venus Balls did, which is why Anna decided that crowdfunding – and the Indiegogo campaign – was the way forward. If the campaign is successful, it will help to finance with all that is necessary to have the Vibrator delivered to customers in time for Christmas 2015.
I had the pleasure of talking to Anna about the new Vibrator, and about the Whoop.de.doo range and philosophy, and of course, the Maestro herself. Below is a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for brevity.
Part of the subject of your Master’s thesis, from what I can gather, is why do sex toys remain a taboo topic for the majority… what made you choose that as a topic exactly?
It’s funny. My major project before was the tram for Prague. It was a really male topic. And after that, two years later, I had to decide to make something different for my major project for my thesis. And I was thinking I would like to make something smaller… and something for women. I wanted to be a little bit focused on women. I wasn’t sure what it should be, and my friend, he told me I should try this [sex toys], and I was surprised because it was a university project; it was impossible. Finally I spoke to my professor and he just said, okay Anna, I trust you, and I did it!
The reason I chose this topic was I didn’t like the whole presentation about products like this. I feel now it is much better than it was four or five years ago, when I was thinking about it. It was strange because it’s a product that is really close to your body. If it’s ugly, it doesn’t make sense.
What was the problem with the product?
I didn’t like the presentation. You’d go to a sex shop and you’d find these… shapes. And usually they were made from strange materials. So I tried to focus on high quality products made from high quality materials and to make everything in a package that would be nice for women.
It’s not just about the product; it’s about the whole process, for some of us.
In one press release, it’s stated that your extensive research into sex toys shed new light on the differences between men and women in their perception of sex toys. Can you elaborate on that please? What was that research and what were those differences?
It’s interesting because when I did the tram, I did a questionnaire as well, and when I started on this topic I made another, but I separated it for women and for men. Some questions were the same and some were different. We had the same questions, for example, and presentation and packaging. Men [the study found] would like their sex toy in a square black box; and women preferred something white, something organic.
What is it about the Whoop.de.doo range that makes them so special? What were the factors you considered most important in designing the Whoop.de.doo range? Form, function, feel, materials…?
I think for me it was special, asking people questions, making historical research; it was interesting for me. And then I tried to find the form that could touch the people in a good way. I tried to find the border of erotic and medical (and I knew I’d hit something because after that I was invited to some symposia from doctors here).
If I go back to design, I just wanted to focus on quality material, and hygiene… It takes a long time, because when I started, I started with the shaping, before I researched the material, and then I applied the material to the shape to make prototypes. It’s a flow.
There was a big discussion with my graphic designer because he preferred a black box and I was, ‘oh my god, what is it with black?’ and I needed to talk to my friend. She told me, ‘Anna, stop, go back and make it how you want it.’ It was very important to stop with the protests, and just be there, and look back.
So tell us more about the Whoop.de.doo Vibrator. What’s so special about it? What sets it apart from other Vibrators on the market?
I really like the shape first. Then, inside, there are three motors vibrating in there and still it is flexible. It’s pretty cool. There is a [tactile] sign, a plus and minus, because I think it’s very important to be able to use it without the eyes… you just find the right position for the finger. It works really well because it’s more intuitive and closer to the human body.
What made you decide to go for crowdfunding? Has it been difficult to find finance from traditional means given the nature of the product you wish to market? We’ve found that to often be the case with Sex tech start-ups…
I had some offers from investors, and usually they want to make a lot of pieces in the cheapest way. It was a big problem for me because I want to achieve a high quality, good product. My thesis was made up of four pieces and I decided to start with the one, the Venus Balls, because there were no electrical parts inside and it was easier to produce them.
I was surprised that people really liked it and bought it and I decided, okay, I have to go on with this, and every year release another product. If the Indiegogo campaign doesn’t go well, there will still be some money there and it will still be very helpful, but I think, maybe in the future, I will ask some investors.
But the company is alive now; the products are like this, the quality is accepted; it’s easier for me to take it through this [investment] process. The company has a philosophy. It’s much safer than two years ago.
On the campaign page, you say that some women feel intimidated about buying a sex toy. Why would this be?
I tell people I’m making sex toys for people who’ve never had sex toys before, because usually these people don’t want to go to sex shops. I mean if somebody wants to go to a sex shop, they will find these products as well, but I’m just looking for different channels to sell them.
It’s funny because right now we’re in this studio, and it’s like a gallery. People are coming here to buy the sex toys and they are like, ‘Oh, it looks like a gallery, it’s nice,’ and they feel normal.
I still think the topic should be intimate. Okay, yes, I have a vibrator on my table, but it should still be intimate inside. I can tell my friend, but it still needs to be something personal. It’s not public, but it’s still necessary to know how to talk about it without embarrassing feelings.
There are going to be some out there who think it is interesting to see a woman heading up a sex tech start-up. To me it makes sense that a woman should design toys for women; after all, you know what you want and what makes you feel good, but of course you are also there at every level, functional, aesthetic, technological… how do you see the role of women in sex tech developing and changing over the next few years?
I think it’s changing a lot because when I started five years ago it was different, and I feel like it has grown. Everyone is trying to find something new in this field, and if you read the newspaper you can see how much money is in this industrial area, and people want to take from this big cake.
It was different with Whoop.de.doo, because I didn’t want to make this real, it was just my thesis. The reason I did, was because people asked me, Anna I would like to buy... And four years later I’m still on this.
Well, we hope Anna stays with the sector even longer. It’s great to have such a multi-talented woman helping to drive the sex tech industry further. Show her your support by visiting the product’s Indiegogo campaign page today.