By Molly Freeman
Photo courtesy of Ed Yourdon.
It turns out the modern cliche of “There’s an app for that” rings true even for the most controversial tasks. Take for instance discovering sexually transmitted diseases, menstruating, or assessing your skill in the bedroom. For all of these to-do’s no one wants to brag about, there are indeed apps for each.
Some of these smart phone apps aim to make a subject less taboo, as HappyPlayTime wants to do with female masturbation (though the jury’s still out on whether the app will achieve its goal). Others provide a means to navigating some touchy subjects, like STD Triage.
Although these apps might be useful and sometimes fun, they deal with some pretty touchy issues and you might not readily admit you downloaded them—even if you swear it was only to try it out for “work” or “research.”
In 2009, the Apple Store approved MyVibe, the first app that turned an iPhone into a vibrating sex toy. However, MyVibe was removed from the App Store either by Apple or the app developer, but don’t worry there are plenty of alternatives. Now, when you search “vibrator” in the App Store you’ll come across apps such as iVibe and Finger Tingle, which claim to be simple massaging apps. Finger Tingle is supposedly a hand massager, though the screenshot image of a woman biting her finger and looking seductively at the camera insinuates otherwise.
The most confusing aspect of these “massaging” apps isn’t their marketing though, it’s the question are people too lazy or embarrassed to go out and buy an actual vibrator?
Female masturbation is a bit of a controversial topic (and we’ll get back to that later) so for a woman it can feel like a giant glare neon sign reading, “YES. I DO IN FACT MASTURBATE AND/OR HAVE SEX” is hanging over your head when you purchase a sex toy, but that’s what online shopping is for. As for the laziness factor, most people keep their cell phone within reach at all times so having a vibrator app is rather convenient.
The number of apps available for men to keep track of a woman’s—or multiple women’s—menstrual cycle is both horrifying and dismaying. Every woman knows their time of the month has some sort of effect on their emotions whether it leads to snippy comments, unwanted tears, or just a touch of crankiness.
But these menstruation-monitoring apps will not save a man every month by telling him to steer clear. In fact, she’ll probably notice the monthly disappearing acts.
Periods aren’t scary; they aren’t a mystical wonder created by Mother Nature to befuddle men. If a woman seems testy when it’s insinuated that her time of the month is causing her anger or sadness, that might have less to do with her period and perhaps more to do with the feeling that her emotions have been invalidated because her body is going through a naturally occurring process.
These apps act as if a woman’s cycle can end a relationship, or that her time of the month is going to turn a docile woman violent all of a sudden—Cycle Aid’s logo is a angry-looking woman wielding a rolling pin—but that’s just not true. (And if she has homicidal thoughts on her period, she probably has them during the other three weeks of the month as well.)
Whether you’ve contracted a sexually transmitted disease or not, health classes and regrettable Google image searches sufficiently instilled a sense of terror at the mention of either. Similar to purchasing a sex toy, nothing screams, “I’m having sex,” than having to get tested for STDs. Additionally, there is a level of shame and degradation associated with someone who has contracted an STD no matter their gender. But the fact is, STDs happen whether or not it’s embarrassing.
STD Triage aims to cut out some of the inherent awkwardness in the process of getting checked for STDs. The app allows users to send in an anonymous photo of any skin issues. Within 24 hours, a licensed dermatologist will respond with medical information as to what the skin condition could be, how it could be treated, and whether an in-person visit to a doctor or clinic is needed.
The app description however does urge that it’s not supplemental to a doctor’s visit, but rather more like an internet search. That means you will eventually have to face the awkwardness if you really want to be sure.
Any sexually active person can attest that talking about a partner’s ability in bed can be a touchy subject at best. Spreadsheets aims to take the subjectivity out of the equation by supplying quantifiable data about the user’s in-bed performance. The app monitors movement and audio in order to provide information on how many thrusts per minute the user is averaging, how long the sex lasted, and how loud it got. Spreadsheets also stores the data from each encounter, though it does not record or playback audio or video because, as the website says, “That would be creepy.”
Of course, there are other factors that contribute to good sex that Spreadsheets doesn’t—and possibly can’t—include into its rundown like the type of relationship between the users as well as their personal preferences and tastes. What’s wrong with just talking about what you and your sexual partners enjoy? There’s also the possibility that two people aren’t sexually compatible. Let’s face it: there are just certain things that technology can’t tell us.
Is there a more controversial topic than female sexuality? HappyPlayTime is an instructional app that informs users on the female anatomy. The mission statement for the app explains the developer’s reasons behind creating HappyPlayTime: “Unfortunately for many women, there has been a cultural stigma that blocks access to self-stimulation. HAPPYPLAYTIME is here to eliminate this barrier as much as possible. By talking openly and lightheartedly about female masturbation, we are taking the first step to becoming truly sexually liberated.”
However, some people think the app doesn’t go far enough in breaking down the barriers that prevent everyone from talking about female masturbation. HappyPlayTime has received criticism for its pink and peach color themed website, the cartoon vagina mascot named Happy, and the site’s patronizing tone within discussion of female sexuality.
In her article for Salon, EJ Dickson wrote, “it’s predicated on the notion that women will only be interested in self-gratification if it’s presented in a cute and cuddly and quirky light, rather than as a healthy part of everyday life.”
The app is incredibly girly and opening up the site to an onslaught of various shades of pink is much like walking down the girl’s aisle of a toy store. But in HappyPlayTime’s defense, it’s the first app of its kind and it has opened the door for more possibilities. Maybe a developer will look at HappyPlayTime and come up with a different way of approaching female masturbation so we can keep the discussion going.