Rythm is the trusted destination for nontoxic intimacy essentials that enhance your sexual well-being. We are on a mission to strengthen your vagina-mind-spirit connection. 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.

Lilly Sparks is the founder and CEO of Afterglow, a platform for sexual learning and erotic wellness. She went from accountant at PwC to Sextech founder. In between, she co-founded the largest ghee butter in the US and grew it from 0 to $40m in 4 years.

After gaining extensive CPG experience, Lilly realized that the natural foods industry wasn’t solving big problems and wanted to create a change in the world. 50% of women don’t orgasm during sex, and 60% of people are dissatisfied with their sex life. Despite running a business doing tens of millions of revenue, in her private life, Lilly didn’t orgasm until she was 24 and struggled with a lack of resources to connect with her authentic pleasure.

That’s why she’s building an online universe—where porn is made by and for the feminine gaze. Where doing guided masturbations and partner exercises is as normal as reading the morning paper. Where women can be both celebrated and centered. 

Read below to learn more about Lilly Sparks, a Liberated Libra, awakening authentic sexual pleasure for women everywhere.

Where were you born, where did you grow up, and how was sex perceived in your culture/household?

I was born in LA, and grew up in the suburb of Claremont California. There’s a college there so I went to school with a lot of the professor’s kids. It was a beautiful place to grow up, very typical suburban life, kind of like what you see on TV. My family is Jewish, though not super religious,  they are both conservative. We did not talk about sex growing up. It was a topic that was avoided. I remember when I got my first boyfriend in highschool, who eventually became my husband, but that’s another story, my mom kind of gave me this really awkward sex talk. She was like “boys don’t like to wear condoms but you should make them do it anyway”. I just remember that it was really awkward.

What’s a funny or embarrassing memory you have from when learning about or experiencing sex?

It’s part of my Afterglow founding story that maybe we can get into later, but like I said, I had this highschool boyfriend, we got together when I was 15 and were together until I was 30. A lot of my first sexual experiences were with him. The funny story that I remember is about a time we were making out. Like typical teenagers we’d make out in cars for hours in the back roads where people couldn’t find us. So, I remember one time we were making out and it was really great and sensual, he was above me and I was adoringly looking up at him. He then comes down to kiss me but he just had too much velocity and smacked my face and chipped my tooth!  My tooth is chipped to this day because of that experience. I mean we both just laughed at it at the time, but it was kind of painful. It definitely cooled things off for a minute there! 

What is your profession and why did you choose to pursue it?

I am the CEO and founder of Afterglow, and it is ethical porn that you can learn from. So I guess I am a pornographer, that’s how you could describe me. 

What made me want to get into porn relates to my experience with this highschool sweetheart. We loved each other but we were each other’s first partners, so when we had sex it felt good but I wasn’t orgasming and I didn’t even really realize that I wasn’t orgasming. Sex was this thing that everybody else talked about as being really incredible and amazing and life changing, and for me it was nice but I didn’t really get what all the fuss was about. I didn’t know how to fix that problem, what I was missing or what I didn’t know. I wanted to find the answer through porn, but when I went to the porn that was out there it didn’t really feel like it represented the sex I wanted to have. It definitely didn’t help me orgasm or help me figure out how to access my pleasure, or how to experience more pleasure in my real sex life.

That’s why I created Afterglow. It is basically porn that you can learn from and porn that is supposed to help you have a better sex life. We have a mix of videos, some are purely erotic and hot and meant to turn you on and meant to masturbate to, and then we also have a whole category called edgy porn, which is still hot and sexy but very explicitly educational as well. It covers topics on how to hook up, how to have period sex,  and a whole range of other topics. Then we also have partner exercises, like a guided cunnilingus exercise, which is in audio form, and something that you do with your partner as a guided experience. So it’s this whole picture of sexy, hot content that can also give you a really awesome sex life. 

Touching upon that, sex on your period for you, yes or no? 

Yes, definitely yes. 

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?

Porn is such a “secret” industry. Everybody watches porn but nobody talks about it and nobody knows what’s going on behind the scenes. I think a lot of people believe there is a lot of exploitation and trafficking within the industry; that a lot of the stuff they see on a typical site is child sexual abuse material or like revenge porn which is sexual abuse material. Those horrible things do exist within the industry but they are not widespread. When you go on pornhub and you see  a browser’s video, usually they were made with a basic level of standards. 

So I kind of say there are different levels. At Afterglow we are ethical porn and I define that as people who care about the impact of what they are making on the world. For the different levels of ethics I would day at the bottom there’s that exploitation and trafficking that’s illegal and should be prosecuted, but it’s a very small part of the industry. And then the next layer is the tube sites, which I like to call douchebag porn, where everything they do is totally legal but they are in it to make money. They are going to pay people as little as they can pay, and treat people fine but do just the minimum they have to do to continue to operate and stay within the laws etc.That is actually how most industries are run, there’s exploitation in every industry. It’s just when it comes to porn, the consequences are greater because you are dealing with sex which is so personal and so intimate in people’s lives.

 I think the main takeaway is that what surprised me was that most of the industry is professional and wants to do things in the right way. It’s more professional than people think it is. 

What’s been the biggest challenge in starting your business or within your industry?

The biggest challenge is that people think porn is bad. They hear the word porn and they are scared of it and scared to talk about it. 

How do you go about acquiring new customers?

One of our biggest channels is through influencers talking about us. We also have pretty good organic traffic for people looking for ethical porn. We’ve gotten on a lot of ethical porn type lists. Those are really our main sources of customer acquisition. 

Could you speak more about using Indiegogo, a crowdfunding website, when you first started Afterglow? 

Yeah! When we first started, we launched with an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. It was really awesome but it was a ton of work and we definitely had to bring our own audience to the crowdfunding because we are sex and porn. Thankfully they let us on their platform, but they didn’t do any kind of promotion on us. For example, they didn’t send any email with us included, nothing like that. We were funding from our own community and didn’t get a lot of bump from Indiegogo on that. This was in 2020. 

Would you say it was successful/would you recommend other sex tech founders to use the platform? 

Yeah, I think it was a success. I’m glad I did it, we reached our funding goal and beyond which is pretty awesome. I think it’s a good way for other sex tech founders to get validation of their idea and see if people were willing to put money down for it. That was why we used it. I would just caution people not to expect a lot – I had this naive idea that we’d put it on Indiegogo, it would take off and go viral and everyone would want it –  and that was definitely not the case. I had to hustle for every contribution to make it happen. 

Any fun facts about the space that you can share with us? Interesting things you came across from research or customer testimonials?

30% of people who watch porn are women. So, a lot of women watch porn and it’s totally normal! 

People who watch porn have better sex, better communication around sex, and are generally happier in their relationships. There are of course the outliers for whom porn is a negative factor in their lives and might be used compulsively, but for the large majority of people porn is actually a positive in their life. 

There’s also a super interesting study that showed that for both casual sex and for porn, if you believe that it’s bad for you or against your values then you’ll suffer negative psychological consequences from it.  However, if you don’t believe that, and see that it could be good, healthy and make you happy, then it does make you happy and has positive psychological benefits. So it’s kind of got an interesting self-fulfilling prophecy depending on what you believe is true. 

How would you describe your customer? Is it a mom, a young teen, etc? 

Definitely a woman, I would say 25 to 45 in age, who either has got orgasms down and knows how to please themselves but when it comes to being with a partner there is a little more inconsistency and they might struggle to orgasm. Or they’ve been with a partner a really long time and got to a place where sex is routine and boring and they are looking for ways to reconnect to themselves and bring the pleasure aspect to the forefront. We really just try to help women to tap into the pleasure that’s innately a part of us that gets blocked off all the time. 

Is there any advice you wish a parent, guardian or caregiver had told you about pleasure, relationship and the female body when you were growing up?

Based on the relationship I have with my parents it would have been super awkward but I wish that they had given me a vibrator or encouraged me to get a vibrator, to explore my body and understand what it was that I liked and brought me pleasure. 

How do you find your rythm in connecting with your body and yourself? Any lessons you learned along the way to help find your rythm?

I love to dance, it is one of my favorite ways to let loose, flow,  express myself and get unstuck. I practice ecstatic dance, which is a practice of dancing like nobody’s watching, but with a group of people. It’s tons of fun, I highly recommend it to everybody. It helps you break out of trying to put on a good face and just move your body. It just feels so good!  

What can a partner do to increase intimacy for you both in and outside of the bedroom? 

I think it’s really just showing that they care about me and making me the focus. A lot of us women were raised to be givers, so I’ve definitely struggled with receiving, to just chill and be taken care of, I’m not good at that. So both in and out of the bedroom whether it’s like cleaning up, doing the dishes, or any little thing that says “ I’m going to take care of you” just makes me swoon. 

What’s your go-to song to get in the mood? Or, what song helps you find your ‘sensual rythm’?

I have an Afterglow playlist that I made in the inception of Afterglow.I thought I was going to keep making a bunch of playlists but I really haven’t. That playlist is my go to playlist. I love music. One of the songs on that playlist that I especially love is by Sade, Love is Stronger Than Pride.

Nombe and D’Angelo are amazing artists for a sex playlist too. Put those together and hit play and you’ll definitely be fucking by the end of it. 😉

What is your favorite sexual wellness product that you can’t live without?

A super basic vibrator that is the same model as the one I got in my early 20’s. I have just stuck with that,  you can not pry it from my cold, dead hands!

You can find Lilly Sparks’ work on the following platforms:

Website: https://xoafterglow.com/

Use code RYTHM for a free 7 day trial at xoafterglow.com

(Enter code RYTHM on Step 3 of checkout to activate your free trial!)

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/xoaftergloww/

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