We are back for our second season of the #BEYOUROWN Boss Project whereby we are taking fantastic women to talk openly to us all about what it means to each of them to BE YOUR OWN Boss in the 21st century. So in the third installment of our 6 part campaign, we present Bryony Cole of Future Of Sex. Bryony Cole is the world’s leading authority on sextech. Since launching the top-rated podcast, Future of Sex, Bryony has been on stages across the world, defining the direction of sextech for governments, technology, and entertainment companies. Her wide body of research and annual Future of Sex report are considered the lead in industry insights.
I have always been motivated to explore how humans and technology develop and influence each other so the transition into sextech was a slow process of uncovering.
A couple of years ago I was designing an innovation lab for Absolut and I stumbled upon a team creating VR scent-releasers to simulate supermodels in a hot tub. I immediately wondered how this might change our future dating lives. Would everyone just stay home on the couch? How will family structures, falling in love, and having sex change when we have access to technology that might remove the need to meet someone in real life? I saw a real gap in conversation in the broader business and tech world around the impact technology is having on intimacy (and vice versa).
I launched Future of Sex, a podcast to bring ‘sextech’ into the public domain and consider how the innovations we create, invest, and use are influencing our behavior and human development. From there, it really gained momentum as people tuned in the topic, the industry grew and I started to host live events, accept global speaking gigs. The company has since grown to host sextech hackathons in a different region of the world every quarter (the first one was in Sydney, Australia!) and we just launched the world’s first sextech accelerator.
This month we are producing a month-long pop-up gallery called Sex Positive, in collaboration with Lips Zine and Lil’Sister gallery. This is my most ambitious project to date as it goes for 31 days! We will showcase a range of sex-positive artists, talks, screenings, and performances at Lil Sister gallery.
The mission behind this installation, and behind the wider company and my personal drive is to normalize sexuality. What better avenue than through hosting conversations about sex, identity, and expression with a city’s most creative and/or under-represented groups.
I definitely had my own journey to feeling comfortable talking publicly about sex. Podcasting felt relatively safe and anonymous at the time I started. I thought no one would find my name and associate it with sex, and there was a time I thought about using a pseudonym but I knew I would have to be a living example of what I was standing for. The idea that we should normalize the conversation around sex. I had such a positive response from people that were relieved and really excited to see it happening that I just decided to embody the conversation fully and I haven’t looked back.
Now I’m regularly on stages in foreign countries talking about what some cultures would consider the most shameful or taboo topics. It is a highlight that I can start to spark these conversations and help others think through how their sexual education, health, and wellbeing might be better served in the future.
The sextech industry is particularly brutal because of the hurdles you face that other entrepreneurs don’t. For instance, simple tasks that should be easy to start a business, from securing a payment platform to advertising on social media, are huge barriers largely due to morality clauses and outdated perceptions of what the sex(tech) industry is.
Because the hurdles are higher in the industry and women generally tend to underestimate themselves and keep out of positions of power, sextech needs the strength of women in numbers. Often the case is with lateral networks rather than finding a mentor.
I’ve been passionate about these sorts of alternative mentoring structures for a while now which is why I started hosting Future of Sex hackathons and events, creating a container of safe space for people that want to get into the industry.
Networks like the Women of Sex Tech are where I have found many close allies and collaborators. If you are interested in a career in sextech I strongly recommend you join Women of Sextech and research the Future of Sex accelerator program.
Twitter @bryonycole @futureofsexshow
Instagram @bryonycole @futureofsex