Have you ever been close to climaxing when your vibrator gives out? It turns out it’s not so uncommon, especially considering there are no regulations surrounding sex toy functionality and safety, according to Raven Faber, founder of EngErotics in Westminster.
In a $30 billion sex toy industry monopolized by people who look nothing like her, Faber, a Black woman, set out to change the stigma around intimacy devices. She leveraged her engineering career to develop not only better products, but to also create a more inclusive environment in the world of sex technology.
“I didn’t know there was such a thing as a toxic sex toy,” Faber said. “There’s nothing that holds manufacturers accountable for the quality and safety of the sex toys they create. A lot of people will believe that ‘If I buy this dildo it will be safe,’ but nothing could be further from the truth.”
Flawed design, toxic materials and misleading packaging all contribute to low-quality products, on top of stigmatizing sex positivity, Faber explains. Her ultimate goal became to blend sensuality with science, especially utilizing CBD as a key component for its natural ability to enhance sexual experiences.
Faber officially launched EngErotics, which develops and manufactures intimacy devices and CBD body care products in July 2016. She continues to combat the misrepresentation of what empowered intimacy looks like as it infiltrates many aspects of mainstream media and technology.
When Faber was hosting sex toy parties as a side hustle while in graduate school in her early 20s, she was told by the head of corporate, whose name she wishes to remain anonymous, that if someone had a penis they could not attend the gathering. Nonbinary and trans individuals didn’t check the corporate box of a “cisgender ladies-only” party, who these products are marketed specifically towards.
“I started meeting ladies who were living their best life as ladies, post-transition or maybe they haven’t had any sort of transitioning at all,” she said. “[Corporate’s] answer was disgusting.” She later added, “I didn’t want to add to that struggle.”
Her final push was in 2015 when someone asked her to host a 50 Shades of Grey-themed party. It made her stomach turn. Kink and BDSM enthusiasts nationwide denounce the series for its inaccurate depictions of a consensual dominant/submissive relationship.
“[50 Shades of Grey] doesn’t describe a proper BDSM relationship,” she said. “I’ll do a Kink 101 party for you, I’ll do an Intro to BDSM party for you, but I’m not going to do a 50 Shades of Grey party for you and pass this off as [if] this is actually how BDSM works. Anybody who is educated about kink or BDSM would know this; they want to give good education to people who are interested in that sort of thing.”
As a structural engineer, Faber knew she could reimagine sex toys but in an environment that accepts everyone.
“There aren’t many founders that look like me in this space,” Faber said. “I don’t see very many Black women in sex tech.”
Black women account for less than 4% of female-led tech startups, according to a study called Women and Girls of Color in Computing. But Faber is the founder of a sex tech startup, which is a niche in the technology field. Making Faber even more of an anomaly is her background in engineering. A report by WFCO revealed Black women make up just 1% of the U.S. engineering workforce.
Faber is also a dual business owner. She splits her time between EngErotics and her other business, Faber Anderson Development and Design, an engineering design and land development company where she utilizes her architectural and civil engineering degrees. She describes it as “run-of-the-mill engineering work,” tackling projects throughout Colorado like developing raw farmland and structural remodels.
“I’d love to say I had this dream of founding a ‘CannaSexTech’ startup; I had no idea,” she said. “When I started my career I thought I was going to be doing what every other engineer does, or is taught to do, rather.”
Instead of climbing the corporate ladder, Faber turned to a gap in the industry she could not ignore. Thus, her career in sex tech was born. Her decade-long experience in STEM prepared her to tackle the issue head-on. However, starting her own business hasn’t been easy. Taboo and shame have played their role. She’s run into companies who back out of working with her once they realize what she produces.
Nonetheless, today EngErotics uses the method of internal engineering where it analyzes products already on the market and redevelops and improves their performance. Her small, local team pulls from their collective knowledge in regards to ingredient use, molecular behavior and structural design, among others, all to ensure their products are safe for the user’s body while still being pleasurable.
Faber says her team is in the works of developing more accessible designs after the success of their ‘Shroom toy. Clients with hand and wrist pain praise the device for its ability to slip between fingers rather than requiring a strong hold.
“When it comes to other toys that are accessible, things like looped handles, ergonomic handles and designs that allow you to easily palm the toy and/or slip it in between your fingers are winners,” she said.
To Faber, a sex toy is more than just a mere device, it is a vehicle to sexual freedom. It symbolizes her perseverance against an industry that’s excluded those who don’t fit into an enclosed box of sexuality.
“The sex tech industry is a beautiful space, but I also believe that it has quite a long ways to go,” she said.
Enjoyed this story? Help us keep the lights on! Supporting local press ensures the stories you want to read keep coming, become a member for free today! Click here.