In an unflinching exploration of sexuality, pleasure, and motherhood, we delve into the candid world of Dame’s founder, the genuinely one-of-a-kind Al Fine. Here, we strip down the barriers of conventional discussion, broadening our understanding of the physical and emotional changes during pregnancy and how these shifts can affect intimacy and self-perception. At the intersection of feminism, entrepreneurship, and parenthood, Al offers an authentic perspective, merging the realms of sexuality and motherhood that are often kept apart.
As the driving force behind Dame, a company centered on “the pleasure gap,” Al sheds light on their journey through the lens of sex and pregnancy, setting the stage for a conversation often shied away from. Al’s story goes beyond the products Dame offers, diving into the deeper societal structures and misconceptions that stand in the way of women’s pleasure and agency.
Al! How are you feeling?
I’ve been feeling very pregnant. I’ve been really trying to appreciate it because I will soon not be pregnant, and who knows—maybe I’ll never be pregnant again. There are things that are cool about it, but mostly, if I could never be pregnant again, that sounds pretty good. I would be into that.
This is your second pregnancy. How is this one different from your first one?
I’ve been more uncomfortable in general, physically speaking. But I think the second time around, [my partner and I are] both enjoying my pregnancy form more. He tells me that I look beautiful, and he loves my belly every day. I don’t think he did that as much the first time around. I think we’re more aware that it’s fleeting.
[My first pregnancy] I had a belly birth—that’s my way of saying C-Section. I’m hoping this time to do a vaginal delivery. That will also be different and have different implications for my body.
What was your experience like during pregnancy in terms of sex drive?
I’m still pissed that I didn’t get that libido [boost]! I guess that was surprising to me. Maybe it’s because I’ve been waiting on bated breath for it, like: am I going to get horny? I think there’s this misconception that because I love sex, I have a lot of sex. I do not have a lot of sex – and becoming a parent has definitely made sex harder to find time to have. I think it really does change the dynamics. I’ve never felt closer to my partner ever in my entire life. We are such a phenomenal partnership and phenomenal team.
But it’s hard to get in the mood after watching 30 videos of our child. And that’s what you’re going to do, you know? You’ll watch your kid until you’re sick of them. But then, one minute later, you take out your phone and start looking at videos of this human you’ve created. It’s amazing, but it’s not very sexy to think about having sex and having my daughter crying simultaneously. All those things are a little hard to navigate.
So given that, what do you think is the role of masturbation during pregnancy?
For a few weeks while I was sick, every time my husband tried to initiate, I was like, fuck you. I think masturbation gives you a way of connecting with your own pleasure. There’s so much hormonally going on there. Solo play will always be easier to access than partnered play. Whether it’s because of timing or scheduling or because it’s easier to connect with your body without considering a second person, it’s a lot easier.
If you’re pregnant and you decide you’re not going to masturbate at all, if you have no libido, that’s totally fine. There is nothing wrong with that. Everybody’s libido really shifts. Many women, not me, report having an increased libido, especially in their second trimester. Your blood volume doubles, meaning extra blood is in all the juicy parts. Connecting with yourself and reminding yourself that you’re a sexual being is fantastic.
It feels good to feel sexual. It feels good to feel your confidence in that way. And, of course, I like solo play. Masturbation can be a fantastic way of staying connected to sexuality. I also think it’s good to stay sensationally connected to our vaginas because we will have a lot of sensations there. Serotonin and oxytocin, the neurotransmitters, they’re good for our brains. They’re good for babies, too. It’s a relaxer. I think having those things in our bodies is positive all around.
Do you have any postpartum sex tips?
Nap times are the time. I’m about to have my second, and one of my friends mentioned that I’m about to not have the same nap schedule between my two kids. I was like, f*ck, you’re totally right. As for tips, I would say take your time. Remind your partner that there are other ways of having sex besides vaginal penetration, which would be very heteronormative now. But for the heteronormative couples, men don’t seem to remember that there’s non-penetrative sex.
He can touch your clitoris, he can lick your clitoris, you can suck on his penis, you can touch his penis with your hands. Massage can be very erotic. I think foreplay is very limiting because foreplay could be midplay to after play. It could be the middle of the day texting and sexting. Just reminding each other that you still find each other sexy in this way.
I’ve found my husband being a loving father to be the hottest thing ever. My new kink is men being like: “Hey, babe, do you want me to take Charlie home so you can stay at the party?” I saw my friend’s husband do that and thought that it was so sexy.
How do you connect sexuality and motherhood?
[At Dame], we’ve been doing Mother’s Day campaigns since our first year in business. I remember people thinking I was crazy. At that point, I wasn’t a mother yet. My team was thinking and talking about their moms. And yes, their moms, too—your mom is a sexual being and does deserve pleasure and joy.
I think what’s truly beautiful about motherhood is the way you put others, especially your child’s needs in front of yours. That is beautiful, but it’s what you’re reduced to. Why are women constantly putting other people’s needs first and not their own? Their needs are also important. It should be a balance, and it’s all about reminding them that we give men so much freedom in their sexuality throughout all their life stages. We don’t necessarily give that to women. Women only have that in their maiden stage.
That gets into what you at Dame refer to as “the pleasure gap,” right?
Women are four times more likely to say that sex is not at all pleasurable. So much research points to the idea that cis-heterosexual women have way less sexual pleasure than their male counterparts. One of the most powerful ways of understanding gender inequality is who feels entitled to pleasure. Seeing how large that gap is, I think it’s related to power. It is pretty concerning.
It’s also directly related to education and our understanding of sex. If you ask most people what sex is, how do you know if you had sex, they’re going to tell you if the penis was in the vagina, you’ve had sex. How do you know sex is over? The penis ejaculates. Our whole story around what sex is is a story about a penis.
When women talk about having bad sex or being sexually harassed or in pain, all those things are because women’s pleasure is not viewed as important. If you go to the doctor and say you’re having pain, it takes seven years to get a diagnosis of endometriosis. That’s crazy. We just aren’t prioritizing pleasure. And that’s even harder when you’re pregnant.
I can imagine that’s even more so the case when you’re running a business.
As far as working and pregnancy go, my big hot takes are:
- The idea that we don’t talk about our first trimester. If you don’t want to share it, that’s totally fine. But to me, it’s wild that we’re not sharing that we’re in our first trimester in the workspace. It is when you’re the most tired, often the sickest, and pretend everything is fine.
- Companies should give equal parental leave. I think that should be illegal when you have a maternity leave and a paternity leave policy that isn’t aligned. There is absolutely no way you are hiring people [equally knowing] one person might need to take 12 weeks off, and the other person will only get four weeks off. You also are setting up all those couples for a specific dynamic.
Shifting gears a little, what would you say is your pregnancy style?
I wear a lot of button-downs in general. But at this stage of pregnancy, I wear a lot of dresses, and I don’t normally ever wear dresses. I feel like a lot of pregnancy clothing is more fem for sure, which is challenging for me. But right now I’m wearing a shirt dress.
I do love high-waisted, but now I’m having a hard time because the belly is just so big. I do love to wear the belly out. It’s super fun. You walk around, and everyone notices, and it’s really a provocative thing to do. But it looks good. I’d rather have my belly out or wear something form-fitting or trying to hide it. It wasn’t long ago that we said “her condition, her state.” You wouldn’t leave your house pregnant, let alone Rihanna it.
I just think this is an innovative campaign. I remember six years ago, during one of our first Mother’s Day sales, people thought we were crazy. Just because we’re parents doesn’t mean we’re not sexual anymore. That’s how we become parents. There are so many other ways to become parents, of course.