Let’s talk about BLEX, baby!
Every month of 2020 has felt like 2 years where we’ve struggled to maintain our sanity while clinging to any semblance of normalcy in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic.
Many of us were lucky enough to have a boo (or someone boo adjacent) while everyone else spent months alone, lonely or indulging in risky shenanigans leading up to the saddest Cuffin’ SZN since the made up phenomenon began years ago.
At this point, it’s safe to say 2020 was the worst year ever that somehow managed to give us a sliver of joy (Verzuz), excitement (Championship Lakers basketball), long-awaited culture shifts (Black luxury boom–see: Telfar) and innovative tech like Blex–the first-ever app dedicated to strengthening melanated sex, intimacy and relationships.
With Blex, users can build confidence and boost wellness to enhance their sex life, even if they’ve never had a successful relationship or love life.
The app gives you access to qualified therapists with an option for one-on-one guidance at your convenience and delivered through a private and secure chat.
There’s also a diverse community of members to connect with in forums and a network of sex and relationship coaches to give you expert advice through the anonymous app.
We linked up with Blex developers Toneisha and Carl who told us everything about the next-level app you may have not known you needed until now.
Blex is dedicated to strengthening melanated sex, intimacy, and relationships —
Toneisha: Yes it is! That is the mission and vision essentially Carl and I started this project–I want to say almost a year and a half ago and we used to be together. We were once upon a time engaged and are now re-engaged (laughs) and back together but through that journey we were looking for a coach or a therapist that looked like us and had shared similar experiences in terms of intimacy and what we found was we couldn’t really find anyone who was doing that.
And I was based abroad in Singapore and Carl was in Seattle and to try to find someone virtually, you know, within a particular price point just seemed impossible. So we took this into our own hands and developed a mobile app meant for Black people because, in our research, what we found was African-Americans are having the most sex out of any other race in the U.S. yet statistics show us that we have high rates in divorce, pregnancies and low rates in a lot of things and it all goes back to systemic racism and the lack of sexual education offered in school.
So, basically, this app was developed to really give Black people an opportunity to talk to sex coaches and relationship coaches and build what’s lacking in their relationships with people who look like them and sound like them and share those experiences and I think we’re super proud of what we’ve developed thus far with that app.
And, in doing that, we have about 300 users on the app and 10 coaches and the feedback has been great. We’re getting okay traffic, but yeah, this hasn’t existed before and we think this is a powerful tool that will really give Black people the opportunity to take on their sexual health and not have to rely on other things that were never really meant for us.
You said that Black folks have the most sex in the U.S. yet when Black folks talk about sex a lot of things are taboo, or we’re just super shy. Why do you feel like Black folks are so shy about sex? We’ll joke about it and we’ll have conversations about it but we’re never serious about it. Why do you think we’re so shy?
Toneisha: I think there’s a conversation that we just we haven’t had in our households. I think there’s a bit of a push and pull–like you said: sex is embedded in our culture, in our music, right? It’s all over. I mean, look at “WAP” that just came out and that conversation we had but think about, you know, the Isley Brothers “In Between The Sheets” and classics with a sexual connotation that are put on a pedestal yet when you want to have this conversation around friends and family it’s ‘oh no, no don’t be fast!’
So I think Black people just haven’t been comfortable in our own sexuality because of white people making us feel like our bodies aren’t great or fetishizing over our bodies.
I think it stems really deep and those are conversations we haven’t had but that’s why it’s so complicated that we can talk about it openly in our music but we can’t talk about it in the context around safety and health and wellness and testing and we’re not serious about it because of that negative connotation that really infiltrates throughout our community.
When we’re talking about taboo topics and Black folks being sexually repressed–how do you think the pandemic will affect that moving forward in 2021. What kind of shift do you see coming?
Carl: I think one thing the pandemic has done is force us to listen and open our eyes. We weren’t distracted by sports, we weren’t distracted by movies, we’re all stuck in the house and were forced to talk and I think those things that we have access to like social media–you’re seeing more things being talked about like Black Trans lives and more people are being exposed to things that aren’t being talked about in the household particularly in the Black community.
So I think the pandemic has been beneficial to allow conversations like that to spread and I think the Black Lives Matter movement was powerful in the sense that it embodied everyone within the Black community: Black LGBTQA+, you know, anything under the rainbow so I think that has been elevated because of COVID.
I went through the app–let’s talk about the specs and I noticed you can scroll and find a relationship coach. There’s also an anonymous Message Board etc. Let’s talk about ALL of the features.
Toneisha: Yes! So, when you sign up for the app, there are four questions that we ask you and they’re just demographic questions: where do you live? What do you identify as? it’s just more information we want to get from the user and we also ask you ‘why are you here?’ and we offer multiple choice so that we can get that data to really understand why you downloaded this app? And what do you want to explore?
But within the app you get to choose your coach and it’s an anonymous text conversation that you have with these coaches. Each session is 30 minutes and you can buy the sessions in packages. They come in three different packages. If you’re not ready to talk to a coach, that’s fine. The app is free. So we’re never forcing you to only buy a subscription and talk to a coach.
We have blog content under the little light bulb at the bottom–Blex blog–and that’s tons of content you can read, learn and get information from as well. We also have Blex Finder which allows individuals to put in their zip code and find a family planning doctor or center near them. You can also find other specialists if you’re dealing with anxiety or addiction–we added this in here because our coaches only talk about sex and relationships.
So, if someone does come on the platform and has other issues that may stem from sex our coaches are not really trained to have those conversations but we do offer the opportunity for people to find a specialist in their area.
And lastly, we have Blex Community which is an anonymous message board that allows people to ask questions and talk to one another, answer other questions and put the conversation out there in an anonymous way without being judged because we know there’s still that perception that having a conversation around sex shouldn’t be happening.
I have to ask. There’s no DM feature?
Toneisha: (laughs) There’s no DM feature because this isn’t a dating app. We don’t have the users DMing each other, no, but maybe that’s something we could think about 2021.
But we do really want to have couples counseling–right now, it’s just one-on-on–you and that coach–but we do want to have an opportunity for people to bring their partners in and have that conversation so that’s definitely on the horizon for us next year.
And you also send subscription boxes to users?
Yes. So there’s two brands under Blex Technologies: We have Blex app, which is a mobile app, and Blex box. It’s not a subscription box anymore. It was, and what we found was that people were not signing up for subscriptions. They’re not going to sign up for subscriptions with sex toys. They’ll do that with Netflix or with games, but not really with a sexual health and wellness kit.
So we do a ‘Surprise and Delight” where every quarter we drop a box and tie it to a particular moment in time. We just dropped a holiday box and we’ll do another box for February but the products in the box range from sex toys to lubes to a massage candle. It’s different things and are all created with melanin bodies in mind.
We make sure that the products are made with high grade silicone and that we don’t have things with a lot of Glycerin because that’s not healthy for a Black woman’s vagina. So our team does go through and choose our partners who have a particular alignment with the ingredients that we’re looking for and the type of material that they use for their products.
You’ve really done your research, thoroughly!
Yes, we have! Carl and I sat down and created a business plan in July 2019 and we did tons of research and learned so much about the digital landscape. It’s been a really great journey for us this year with the pandemic and everything going virtual. I think that also helped us and will continue to help us because people are looking for things that are at their fingertips nowadays.
What’s the forecast for Blex in 2021? How do you feel like you want to grow this platform?
Toneisha: We are continuously looking for more coaches and hoping to also roll out a program for our coaches. So, right now, the relationship between Blex and the coaches are super transactional. We would love to get to a place where we’re actually building a community for our coaches and continuous learning opportunities for them.
When you join the platform as a coach, you go through a rigorous interview process and have to take a test on the importance of digital communication, nonverbal communication in counseling, things like that.
We would love to continue to build out a training program for our coaches so they are continuing to get the resources and support they need to continue to service the clients that come on the platform. So that’s also to come next year.
Carl: I’d also like to add that with hiring additional coaches one thing that’s really important to mention is that all of our coaches are Black. I think that’s really important to mention as a small business employing Black individuals as well as servicing the Black community.
For more info on BLEX (that’s available in the Apple app store), click here.
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