Rythm is a platform that is on a mission to strengthen the vulva-mind-spirit connection. We want to normalize a world where humans with vulvas have a better connection with their bodies, parts, and partners. For our blog series “Humans of Rythm,” we interview founders, thought leaders, and experts in the sexual wellness space and share their responses with you.
Anna Lee, a Forbes 30 Under 30 alum, is the co-founder and Head of Engineering of Lioness, the women-led sexual wellness company that built the world’s first and only smart vibrator that improves understanding of sexual pleasure and orgasms through biofeedback data and science. Anna was previously a mechanical engineer at Amazon, launching the Amazon Dash Button’s original concept and the Kindle Voyage Page Press Technology.
Keep reading to learn more about the genius Gemini, Anna Lee, who is a big advocate of Lioness’ mission to expand understanding and research in sexual health, and destigmatize female sexuality!
Where were you born, where did you grow up, and how was sex (the act) perceived in your culture/household?
I was born in LA but I grew up in Korea, then when I was 6 years old we moved back to the US. I grew up in a very strict and conservative Korean family where we never talked about sex, so my mom and I never had like really a conversation around sex. It was a pretty taboo topic and so it was really great that when I decided to leave Amazon and start working on Lioness, she was so accepting. This was the first time we ever had a sex talk – we talked about everything we’d experienced like when I lost my virginity when she lost hers. It brought us closer together.
What’s a funny or embarrassing memory you have from when learning about or experiencing sex?
I don’t think there’s one story in particular… I think to this day there’s always a funny thing that happens once or twice, but what’s different now is how I receive it. Now I think it’s funny but when you’re younger it’s such a horrifying moment of like ‘oh my god it did not go the way that I expected.’
In middle school, I remember someone saying you put a penis in a vagina and I really thought they meant hot dog style – in between the buns – I was so confused about how or why that would even feel good. Even after the sex education that we briefly had, I still didn’t understand how sex worked.
Have you ever walked in on a family member ‘doing the deed’? Is there a funny, or interesting story you can share with us about your experience? How old were you when this happened?
Maybe when I was very young I heard my parents having sex or like something, but I feel like I’ve never really caught anyone… not my family members anyway. College dorms were a whole different story.
What is your profession and why did you choose to pursue it?
My background is in mechanical engineering and the reason I decided to pursue is that I always loved the idea of being able to think of something to build and actually build it so I can hold it in my hands. I had an ‘aha’ moment at Amazon where I realized how few women there were in mechanical engineering at the time, so I felt like I had a superpower. My unique perspective meant I could build these products for people that look like me. I never wanted to be in sex tech in the first place, but it happened and I felt like we could help create better products for the people out there.
What about your industry surprised you when you were first getting started? What is something about your industry that might surprise those who are not in your line of work? Is there anything that surprise you when you were first getting started?
At first, I was surprised at how male-dominated the sex tech industry was and has historically been and that shows through in small things like vibrators often being pink and purple because males in the industry just thought ‘women like pink and purple.’ Vibrators weren’t designed based on user feedback so they designed what they thought was best. We think things are designed a certain way for a reason or that there’s a meaning behind the design, but sometimes it is just because that’s what has always been done.
What was something you were surprised to learn about your body, relationship with self, and relationship with your vulva in the past decade? How has it changed?
When we first started this company I actually just wanted to be a good mechanical engineer – my cofounders make fun of me to this day – I didn’t want to be particularly associated with the sex tech industry because I was still so scared of my body. For the first interview we got, I didn’t want to be in interviews, I didn’t want to see the words vulva, clitoris, orgasms, or anything like that. In the past six or seven years, I feel like reading so many research papers and working to understand the science behind sexual function has helped me understand my body from a physiological perspective and feel more comfortable. With partners, I’m more comfortable and open and that element of confidence changed for me. There’s also a new curiosity to explore the billion and three ways that people experience pleasure.
What can a partner do to turn you on in and out of the bedroom?
In general, I’m turned on by partners who are open, down for exploration, and can also have a comfortable conversation about that exploration.
How do you find your rythm in connecting with your body and self? What wisdom can you impart to us regarding lessons you’ve learned along the way to finding your rythm?
I’ve tried all the self-care trends but they’re always changing, so my honest answer would be to be good to yourself.
What is your favorite song you are jamming out to these days?
I love R&B and hip hop now, but I was such an EDM baby in college… as of right now my go-to song would have to be Devault – Heaven’s Gates feat. Izzy Camina (Manila Killa Remix).
What is your favorite sexual wellness product that you can’t live without?
Definitely cannabis lube (specifically THC lube).
You can find Anna Lee on the following platforms:
Tik Tok: @annatheaverage