Questions About Sex? There's an App for That!

What is the G-spot, and where is it? How important is foreplay? Is there a difference between sex and gender?

Seventy-year-old sex educator/activist Joyce Lisbin, the focus of this week's cover story, "Sex Marks the Spat," and business partner Paul Froehlich, a 64-year-old videographer and producer in New York, want people of all ages to be confident, cautious and curious about sex — and they’ve launched an iPhone app, SmartSex, to deliver confidential and accurate information to users.

“A lot of people use the app for questions about performance issues, and, yes, we have helpful hints in terms of positions and how to make things more sensual,” says Lisbin. There’s also an emphasis on improving foreplay — “a lost art,” in her opinion.

Still, the app’s primary focus is on health — both physical and emotional well-being — as it relates to sex.
During her twelve-year tenure as health educator at the University of New Mexico, Lisbin created a decision-making chart to aid people who were determining whether to have sex. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex before,” she notes. “You can go through the decision-making process every single time.” After she left UNM, Lisbin wanted to revive the chart but wasn’t sure how to do that — until she met Froehlich at a convention.

“We were kicking around ideas for ways to work together: I’d studied under some faculty sex experts at Hunter College, and I had an interest in that,” Froehlich says. Working in the media, he was more tuned in to the possibilities of smartphones than Lisbin, and suggested a product that would provide sexual education via the phone. “From there, the idea evolved into what is now SmartSex,” explains Froehlich.

“Some of the information is a little playful, but it’s all accurate,” says Lisbin.“I’m a sex educator by trade, and there’s nothing salacious about what we are presenting.”

SmartSex is free to download and includes a word search with over 400 words, quizzes to test users’ sexual knowledge, sex questions and answers supplied by Lisbin and Froehlich, and weekly polls, along with regularly updated news snippets designed to keep users informed about current topics in sex. 

Today the three-year-old app has nearly 2,000 users in 37 countries, and the founders have just recently begun pushing it on college campuses, including Columbia University, NYU, UNM, and such local institutions as the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Denver and Colorado State University, where Lisbin hands out promotional bookmarks.

“We’ve gotten some interesting feedback from college students,” Froehlich says.

Last year, for example, SmartSex made an appearance during spring break in Florida, when two students — fans of the app whom Froehlich had recruited on Craigslist — spread the word among the groups partying in Daytona Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

The reactions were mixed. “People were there to have a great time and play around. Some found [SmartSex] refreshing, and some mentioned it was nice to know that the app had information about relationship safety,” says Froehlich, who adds that women were particularly interested in how to manage their relationships and create boundaries.

And boundaries, Lisbin notes, are important for everyone, not just college students.                       

“The morals were very different,” she says of her own college experience. The biggest change today? “Sex isn’t seen as an incremental process anymore,” she notes. “It’s all or nothing now.”

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