Women have been struggling with how to have it all since, well, ever. For Caroline Spiegel, the answer may lay in the bedroom. Her view on it: We can’t fully show up for ourselves or others until we’re really, truly “served in the most intimate parts of our lives.”
It’s a mission that drives Spiegel, the founder and CEO of sexual wellness app Quinn. Built for women by women, Quinn is designed to provide an alternative to conventional visual pornography.
In 2019, Spiegel was recovering from anorexia and one of the side effects she experienced was a lack of libido. Unable to orgasm, she turned to porn in hopes of getting back into her groove but became frustrated with the content available on major sites like Pornhub and YouPorn. Not seeing her arousal reflected in the content was, simply put, not sexy.
“We can say that it’s an act and fantasy and play, but it’s actually contributing to a very large industry,” Spiegel says. “That is the sort of studio porn model that historically has really exploited women.”
She eventually found an audio erotica Internet community and fell in love with the medium. Captivated, she dropped out of her computer systems program at Stanford and moved to New York to start Quinn. By removing the often-degrading visual elements of porn, audio erotica allows listeners to focus solely on the fantasy at play. There’s nothing quite so thrilling as hearing someone focus all of their energy on you, whether you’re in the mood for some gentle aftercare or something rougher. Spiegel describes the experience as “closer to Headspace” than to Pornhub.
For $4.99 a month, the app offers subscribers a library of various erotic audios uploaded by creators called “voices.” Content categories include gentle and rough, dominant and submissive, friends to lovers, and even historical for those looking to get their Bridgerton fix. Male and female voices are included in the library with MLM and WLW audios offered as well.
“I can really get lost in these worlds,” Spiegel says. “Whether I’m in an audio about the Victorian era, or a fight with your ex-boyfriend that turns steamy…whatever it is, it really can transport you.”
For Spiegel, gender equality goes beyond equal pay and fights in the courtroom—it extends to the bedroom as well, and providing an imaginative ethical porn platform ultimately services women. “Zooming out, the public sector can only go so far,” Spiegel says. “At a certain point, it’s up to the private sector to be like, ‘Okay, what are the products and services women need to be more fulfilled, happier, and just served as customers in our society.”
For Glamour‘s Doing the Work series, Caroline Spiegel shares her experience navigating the porn industry as a female CEO, plus the advice and routines that help her along the way.
Do you have a morning routine?
Caroline Spiegel: I walk to a grocery store near me, and I sometimes bring my dog on the walk. I get two cold brews. One is for around 11 a.m., and the first one is for the morning time. I take a shower and whenever I take a shower, I listen to a podcast. My favorites right now are Pivot and Acquired. I have no routine other than those three things.
So beyond the two cold brews, are you a breakfast person?
I’ll get a breakfast burrito at Erewhon, or they have this really good almond butter smoothie. I can’t say I’m a huge breakfast person, but when I am hungry, I’ll do one of those.
What was your first childhood dream job?
Oh, I know this one! Olympic swimmer.
Did you swim?
I did—well, kind of. I just remember I loved swimming. I was obsessed with it. I thought Michael Phelps was the coolest person ever.
And what was your first actual job?
I worked in a robotics lab at USC, actually. It was called the human-robot Interaction Lab. I was an intern, and I was an assistant to researchers.
How do you typically deal with any rejection or setbacks?
I take a moment and ask, “What can I learn from this?” Are there any productive insights we can glean from this situation and why I was rejected? I pick those up and take them with me. The rest of it, I just throw away. It’s not of service anymore to sit and mope on or ruminate on why they didn’t like me, or why wasn’t a fit. If there are any concrete lessons I can take, then I’ll put those in my little metaphorical backpack and keep on trucking.
What is the best piece of career advice that you’ve personally received?
I think it was from my mom. It was something about how bees go to honey. That was the general premise of the advice, but it was basically: Be someone that people enjoy working with. Don’t be a dick. Just be kind to others—even and especially if you really don’t like them.
The porn industry is a very male-dominated one. What is your experience navigating it as a female CEO?
Whether it’s with an investor or just anyone I’m talking to about Quinn, a lot of their views have already been shaped by consuming Pornhub-type content once, twice, three, four times a week since they were 14. It puts me at a disadvantage going into that conversation, especially because I don’t even know: How does this person feel about porn? What kind of shame do they have? Do they have no shame? Are they interested in this? For some people, it can be a sensitive topic.
What is your biggest at-work challenge?
Something I’m working on is prioritization. Even if I think to myself in the morning, “What’s the one thing I need to get done today?” versus the nice-to-have. It’s kind of the name of the game because you could do really great work on something, but then it’s just not particularly impactful and not high-priority.
Explain a moment where you realized, “I might actually be successful.”
I’ll go on Twitter and search “the Quinn app.” Not people who have tagged us, but people who are talking about it. When we first started Quinn, all of them would be technical issues or, “This is such a stupid app, it’s broken and it’s not working.” Probably a year ago is when I saw, “Oh my gosh, every woman needs Quinn” or “Download Quinn.” I just felt so relieved and happy that it was working. That was a big moment.
After a long productive day, what is your favorite treat for yourself?
What is your go-to thank you gift?
I have to say flowers. Particularly, tulips.
If you weren’t currently CEO of Quinn, what career do you think you would be in?
I think I would probably be working at a startup or in the tech space. I worked at this company called Protocol Labs in college, which was a company that was trying to decentralize the internet, sort of like Pied Piper in Silicon Valley, and I really love that. So I feel like I would be doing something in that vein.
Originally Appeared on Glamour