We all knew the pandemic would redefine the way we think about and approach sex, intimacy and relationships. However, it also highlighted how we could use technology to teledildonics bridge physical gaps and Zoom to help with our social needs. Something that's been less talked about though is how to tackle the emotional issues that come with being separated from your partner — and this is where Angie Rowntree's Soirée comes in.

A pioneer of the ethical porn and porn for women, Rowntree owns an adult entertainment studio called Sssh, which specializes in ethically shot, women-led porn that prioritizes female desire. So during lockdown, Rowntree began working on Soirée, a new project that allows two people to virtually engage with the company's pre-existing library of content, and it even comes with a video chat module on the side.

"When COVID hit, we were getting a lot of people saying that they felt really lonely and isolated," as Rowntree explained. "And this was my solution to it."

Technically though, the seedlings for Soirée were planted in 1999 when Rowntree introduced an ongoing Sssh member survey about what they wanted to see. This means that everything you see on Sssh — feature films, audio stories, guided masturbation, podcasts and more — is the product of an actual member request. Granted, this is easy enough for Sssh as a company that produces its own content, films its own movies and, to keep up with member demand, leases a curated collection that tackles a diverse variety of genres and kinks.

"We are always looking for what compliments the site and what are the members looking for. We always ask, 'Do they want this?,'" she said. And what do they tend to like? Fleshed out narratives, tenderness, female-focused play, real orgasms and that "first penetrative thrust."

After all, Sssh differs from mainstream sites like Pornhub in the sense that it focuses on storytelling, meaning the platform has films incorporating genres like horror and science fiction, as well as topics like superheroes, magic and witchcraft.

"A lot of the requests are also heavily influenced by what's happening in the media and what our members see on TV, so then they're requesting it here," Rowntree said. "They want a lot of story-driven movies, that's the kind of movies I love to shoot."

Not only that, but as Rowntree noted, Sssh and Soirée are important counterbalances to these mainstreams sites because of how their bite-sized, penetrative sex-focused content ends up allowing adult users to finally get the sex education they need and deserve. As such, Sssh and Soirée are also filled with educational content about sex and sexual practices, such as shibari.

Additionally, Soirée also gives you the ability to also share and discuss its podcasts, instructionals or educational videos with friends as well, which Rowntree explained can even create deeper friendships since you're bonding over shared experiences when it comes to discussing intimate topics like edging and masturbation.

"In this case, tech is actually bringing you closer together," Rowntree said, mentioning that in beta-testing she ended up talking for hours with "friends I hadn't spoken to in 10 years."

She continued, "We just sat here and talked about the beauty of it. It was almost like we were really connecting in a way you don't usually have tech. I just thought, 'My god, this is literally the coolest thing ever."

While some would argue that you could just replicate the experience via FaceTime, Rowntree said that Soirée is "just a lot more elegant" than "seeing you on my phone I'm holding up with a [selfie] stick." Not to mention much more sensual than sitting with your partner and watching Pornhub together on a laptop.

As for the timeliness critique, Rowntree explained that, even if we're no longer in lockdown, things like travel and long-distance relationships will always exist. So while phone sex is great, the need for an emotional connection forged over an intimate, sensual experience will never go away, whether your partner is on a business trip, on a sabbatical or in the military. And what will make Soirée even better, she said, was its forthcoming foray into sex toy pairing.

Until then, though, Rowntree's just happy to help support couples separated by distance in more ways than one, saying that Soirée is trying to "connect you through a shared experience." And that sounds pretty nice to us.

Welcome to "Sex with Sandra," a column by Sandra Song about the ever-changing face of sexuality. Whether it be spotlight features on sex work activists, deep dives into hyper-niche fetishes, or overviews on current legislation and policy, "Sex with Sandra" is dedicated to examining some of the biggest sex-related discussions happening on the Internet right now.

Photo via Getty

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