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How LoveSync went from sex technology to viral joke

Lauren Stutzman's bedside table has a pair of black and silver buttons the size of a palm. Once mutually activated, both light up with a flashing green ring. The light cheerfully circles over the smooth black surface to announce some exciting news: your partner wants to have sex with you.

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Stutzman is one of 442 Kickstarter donors who have thrown their support behind LoveSync, a project that promises to help couples with problems in the bedroom. By tapping it, users can express their interest in sex without words. If both people press their buttons within the set time window, the LoveSync lights up. It wants to be both informant and instigator. "With the LoveSync button you can realize many more opportunities where you can have sex," the campaign said. "Get happiness out of happiness and take your step full of confidence!" The hopeful slogan was accompanied by images of a generic white couple: the man in the fist, while the woman laughs reluctantly. Later a poison showed him how to take off his shirt to reveal the abs worthy Marvel film before he plunged into bed.

At a glance, the campaign, launched by a couple from Cleveland, Ohio, could be a serious solution to the death of the marriage bed – or an extensive troll. The field, with its informative copy and stock photo pair, can be read as painfully healthy or brilliantly self-aware. A graph conveniently determines the "LoveSync zone", a good point between "where sex is taking place today" and "no sex here". The makers, Ryan (41) and Jenn Cmich (39), high school sweethearts who chose to launch this project – their first crowdfunded effort – assure me it is the first of those first assumptions.

The couple had enough knowledge to understand that their approach to resolving sexless relationships might seem silly to some, but they soon found that everyone had missed the point. The LoveSync was intended to let people express their interest in sex without putting pressure on their partner. "Sex is not about being firmly warm or cold on the idea," says Ryan. "We often just turn around nicely." In other words, we could certainly have sex – or we could sleep.

The project went viral almost immediately, but the couple radically underestimated how people would respond online. LoveSync went through the wringer while the media dropped on it with snark-driven joy. Headlines stated it "the worst thing about sextech& # 39; And compared to the nut button meme. others gave LoveSync a new name: "The fuck button." "Break that horny button from that MF"Here with The edge, we explained (actually) that "the earth is dying and this couple crowdfunding a sex button." It even got a place The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as part of a segment named & # 39;The best (and worst) Valentine's gifts. "Colbert roasted the" glorified pager of the restaurant "and joked" you can start with mutual pleasure, the button has spoken. " "The attention did not go unnoticed by the couple."Why can't you just tell him you're horny?& # 39; Says Ryan, simulating communication criticism.

It's not a dirty secret that are pairs have less sex then … in the past. Blame adults who later get married, porn, Tinder, depression, political climate, social media – the options are endless but equally unsatisfactory. If the Cmichs could even help a few to have a healthier sex life, wouldn't that be worth it? "We want it to be light," Ryan says about the campaign's approach to discuss sex. And they don't have the illusion that it's a cure, or even that their product is for everyone. "If you have major relationship problems, this is probably not the solution for you."

For Stutzman: "the buttons are exactly what was promised." LoveSync is a shot in the arm for her marriage. "We both realize that we are more interested in sexual activities than one of us realized," she says about herself and her husband. "It was an interesting revelation for us, because we didn't want to disappoint the other person. You often get signals crossed … especially if you've been in a relationship for a long time."

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For this couple, flirting brought back into the mix – a fun and funny way to keep track of their sex lives. But online, the reputation of LoveSync was determined before the product was even launched. The internet dictated a clear result: when something so painful Arriving seriously on the banks of a place steeped in irony, snark and memes, the spot of LoveSync was inevitable. Most people laughed about it and went on with their lives, sexless or not. The rest paid the Cmichs $ 21,600 and waited patiently for their buttons.


The best funded Kickstarter campaign is a smartwatch. More than 78,000 donors have contributed more than $ 20 million for the privilege of checking email from their wrist and living without fear of wetting such a gadget. Other popular projects range from Bluetooth coolers, video games and even a new-found campaign Mystery Science Theater 3000. Every project is only as meaningful as the people who feel they have to support the product. Tens of thousands of people may have mocked LoveSync, but it only took a few hundred money backers to succeed.

Whether you think the LoveSync is ridiculous or not, it's a simple truth: it's exactly the kind of thing that crowdfunding is made for. Certainly, Kickstarter has received attention for many of its larger, flashier campaigns, those that surpass goals and shoot up in exorbitant amounts. But the real promise of crowdfunding is the democratization of creation. Crowdfunding removes the gatekeepers, falls on the side of makers who come up with an idea and allows them to directly appeal to their potential audience, even when – mostly when – it's a small one.

The Cmichs had collaborated with a marketing company with a specific focus on Kickstarter to better spread the word, but viral fame was always a possibility in their mind. From the start, Ryan considered the idea contagious: "People like to talk about sex." That may be true, but there are some exceptions. People less like to talk about their expired sex lives, especially because their bodies do the same. There are so few contemporary performances from having sex until old age. The lazy joke that marriage equals less sex does nothing to investigate the factors surrounding it. And it was easier to fool the LoveSync than to investigate which other tools have long-standing couples to openly discuss and solve problems in the bedroom.


Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Instead, critics are focused on the idea of ​​communication – not about consent or desires, but rather that the LoveSync completely killed the conversation. "It came across to people like:" Oh, your relationship is falling apart, you are not communicating about sex, here are a few physical buttons that will make it all better, "says Ryan. This is perhaps why Ryan is asked when asked to describe his wife, enthusiastically bursts out for the first time: "She is hot. Still very cute. I still feel physically attracted. (A moment later, he adds that she works hard, is responsible for tax and is a friendly friend to those in her life.)

The media, he claims, did not receive the LoveSync and had the habit of saying wrong or misunderstanding how it worked. Based on this apparent face value, writers approached it as "instead of your partner rolling and poking, you can press a button," he says. "You don't have to physically touch them." Even more frustrating for the couple was that the LoveSync would completely eliminate the need to talk to your partner or replace the physical initiation of sex. The LoveSync is not here to take away your ability to talk to your partner.

But the device campaign felt so campy, intentional or not, that the larger conversation was lost in the package. Jenn & # 39; s personal view of LoveSync is more concerned with stereotypes about sex and sexual drive between men and women. She rejects the tired idea that men are always in the mood and that it is women who need to be convinced. A device that could cut the cruft and offer equal footing, without any words, seemed a valuable undertaking. "If you see both buttons light up … you know they are really interested and so the pressure there decreases a little," she says. "It doesn't let one person feel that he is always the one responsible for initiating."

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She portrays the typical LoveSync lender as a married couple like her and her husband. "You are out of the honeymoon, you probably have children, jobs, just a whole lot, you know, the life that can get in the way," she says. It is normal for the sex life of couples to slow down.

Despite the pressure that all sex must be steaming and exciting, it can sometimes be a bit everyday. Sometimes couples have to rediscover each other with what the Cmichs & # 39; maintenance sex & # 39; – make a conscious effort to make physical contact with your partner. Sometimes you have dirty, degenerate sex on the nearest surface; sometimes you just take one out after eating too much pasta. "It's not the most passionate, but you just keep the machine working," Ryan says, referring to what he calls "mature" relationships. "If you do that, your hormone levels will stay high, so you can have more of those real passionate encounters."

LoveSync has been sent and is now in the homes of the people who supported it, but the couple already have plans to launch new products. That includes a free app that functions as a digital button, which will be released in early 2020. (Teaser photos on the LoveSync website show a simple interface with the same time constraints as the physical button. A promo recording contains the encouragement that it is time to "Put the phone down and go for it !!")


Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Ryan says the couple takes the future of LoveSync seriously. They are not here to make a product that ends one day as "a gimmick to buy at Spencer Gifts." Yet he is not sure how the world views LoveSync. “If I do not pay any consultancy fees, I think that as an outsider in the media you can share what the conversation is about this? Is it seen as a joke? & # 39;

The answer is subjective, best handled by the people who supported it in the first place. Backers such as Stutzman have embraced the supposed absurdity. Sex will always be uncomfortable for some people to talk about because it is impossible to determine. But really, it's easier to talk about with the certainty of irony, detachment, or sarcasm than to discuss the ways in which attraction, intimacy, and desire change when people feel comfortable with partners and try to enrich other parts of their lives.

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Sex between older adults and how they choose to navigate in their relationships are even more likely the biggest part of a joke – if it is discussed at all. The dunks on LoveSync were funny, but they also avoided the real reason why the button on his face seemed ridiculous: "Sex is taboo," says Stutzman. "People still don't like to talk about it." Why does anyone need a button at all? Because the conversation cannot even be conducted without it going viral.