After more research, however, Kinard-Moore realized there was another important demographic this product could reach: people with erectile dysfunction or physical disabilities.
“We did not realize how many heterosexual men with erectile dysfunction use strap-ons until we started the research,” Kinard-Moore said. “That’s why we call this a lifestyle product instead of a sex toy.”
So, back to the awkwardness of strap-ons for a minute. For people with penises that are no longer able to achieve an erection, that awkwardness takes on a whole new dimension. As a wearable strap-on that can go from flaccid to erect at the push of a button, the VDOM acts much more like a penis by allowing for the kind of spontaneous sex that just isn’t possible with typical strap-ons. In other words, it’s another option - one beyond medication or surgery - that helps men with physical limitations that prevent erection regain some of the sexual freedom they’ve lost. (And just to note, it looks remarkably realistic as well.)
Read: Strap-On Wearing for Cis-Men
A 2019 review found that more than 76% of men experience erectile dysfunction in their lifetimes. The prevalence of gender-affirming surgery is also growing by leaps and bounds in the trans community.
In other words, the market for a product like this definitely exists, but that doesn’t mean the growth of the company hasn’t been without challenges.
After raising more than $100,000 from family and friends, Kinard-Moore has also had to tap into her own funds to keep the project going. In other words, she’s faced the same barriers to raising capital so many femtech founders (and Black female founders) face when it comes to funding, particularly those who run companies that cater to sexual health.
“Explaining to heterosexual white men funders why this product needs to exist is a challenge,” Kinard-Moore said. “Every time we get close to having someone interested, they start to feel uncomfortable about what the product is.”
COVID-19 has also made producing a product more challenging. Like many companies in the space, The VDOM has faced supply chain pricing snags and shipping issues. When we spoke, Kinard-Moore was just sorting out issues with packaging due to a paper shortage.
But Kinard-Moore is pushing forward with fulfilling pre-orders, which she notes are going out to some very loyal and patient fans of the idea.
“I will say that our consumers, our pre-orders, they’ve held strong with us,” Kinard-Moore said.
The enthusiasm and support may stem from the fact that marginalized groups are not well-represented in sextech. That’s something she’d like to change. Not only is The VDOM designed to appeal to some key groups that are often overlooked in tech development, but it also aims to gather data about how people use the product.
“For trans people, there’s very little data about what they want and need. We have an opportunity to create better knowledge around their sexual activity and needs,” Kinard-Moore said.
Read: Reproductive Health Care for Trans People
Kinard-Moore’s background in information security doesn’t hurt here, especially in an age where digital privacy has become so important. The VDOM is set up for top security, including two-factor authentication, encryption at every field in the app and the separation of personal information from user information into separate databases.
“I always tell my team we never want to be like Ashley Madison,” Kinard-Moore said.
So what’s next for The VDOM? Kinard-Moore says she’s currently finalizing the first pre-orders of the product, and expects to be able to reopen ordering soon. She also has upcoming versions of the product on the go, including adding stimulation for the product’s wearer and creating a device with sensors that can react to the wearer’s body.
It sounds pretty cool, right? If inclusive sextech is the future, we’re in.
Want to learn more about The VDOM or sign up for their waitlist? You can do that here.