This Changed My Life is an ode to the small, seemingly chill purchases bought by Autostraddle writers and editors this year that made our lives infinitely better. Did these items LITERALLY CHANGE OUR LIFE? No, we’re being gay and dramatic. But perhaps a pair of sunglasses really did change your life — who are we to judge?
I was a late bloomer when it comes to all things sex and sexuality. My first experience with porn was through my first girlfriend, who had a subscription to Crashpad, a queer and ethical alternative to mainstream porn sites. Through her, I learned about why paying for erotica is important, what makes porn ethical, and what inclusivity could really look like. Up until then, I never went venturing for sexual content because I assumed it would just consist of white cis men with white cis women. Plus, it just never seemed real or convincing.
Once my ex and I broke up, I explored — and admittedly got a little lost in — the world of unethical erotica. Still ashamed and confused, even as a full adult, I went looking for something I didn’t have to pay for since I was a student, had no money, and no ex to mooch off of. Through this long phase of exploring, I stumbled upon a queer audio erotica site through one of my favorite podcasts at the time, FANTI. The hosts were big fans of this app, and I trusted the hosts, so I gave the free download a try. At first, I didn’t totally get it. Why would I want to listen to long, drawn-out stories between people I don’t know who may or may not satisfy my needs? I figured I must be missing something because the reviews were all so stellar, so I dove a little deeper.
Dipsea is a queer audio erotica site that offers mini podcast-style episodes and series that follow some type of kink, arc, or general plot. I started playing around with the app by simply searching for tags I liked such as “Her + Her,” “Voyeurism,” or “Bondage.” It then became a process of listening and liking or disliking, very similar to how you might “like” something on Spotify or Apple Music. I started with short little stories about dating app hookups where we were in and out of the scene within 10 minutes. Then, as the algorithm learned what I liked, I was introduced to longer stories about ex-lovers, friends with benefits, a person with their repairwoman, a married couple trying to do home renovations, two soccer players and their coach. As I waded through new territory with patience, I was learning that instant gratification isn’t what I wanted or needed at all.
Dispea was created to replace patriarchal porn with what a lot of us are searching for in the bedroom: something that envelopes our mind and body. The five to 20 minute buildup stories work with your imagination. It drops you into a completely new world, and you can co-create within the world of the episode. If it wasn’t obvious already, Dispea changed my life because it introduced me to a part of my own sexuality I didn’t realize I wanted or needed. It allowed me to explore a world where I wasn’t forced to look at something I had no interest in, just to find the small gems of content I am interested in. I didn’t need to worry about how young the sex workers are, because they’re paid employees of the company. I didn’t feel like I needed to worry about Asian fetishizing, because they all feel real to me, but other people of color have given backlash about tokenizing and lack of representation, especially with Black stories, and not just Black voices. Over the past two years as a loyal subscriber, I’ve certainly seen the diversity of their content grow. While I can’t speak to how authentic each story is to the race and ethnicity it’s claiming to represent, I will say it presents a range of voices and is expanding.
For $59.99 a year, I’m given access to bedtime stories, astrology stories, guides, episodes, and mini audiobooks about anything I could imagine. The context of each audio clip feels like a safe haven to explore parts of myself I may be unfamiliar with. It seems like every time I’m on the app, I discover something I didn’t realize I liked. I now have all types of preferences saved, so it knows my go-tos and what could potentially interest me, and it gives me updates when a certain series expands or a favorite actor records new content. It’s fairly simple to use, mostly guilt free, and versatile. Most importantly, it really has changed the way I see my own sexuality and how some of my friends and lovers see their own as well. Just a few weeks ago, I was telling my friend about Dipsea and she was so deeply excited that any type of mainstream audio erotica existed. She figured that because she’s blind, erotic content just wasn’t made for her and everyone else with visual impairments. She was so taken aback that we even listened to one of my favorites together on the phone, and she was thrilled the content existed in this form. Her experience of accessibility isn’t everyone’s, but it was a very meaningful moment.
Queer audio erotica certainly exists outside of my discovery of Dipsea, but this was my entry point. The streamlined organization, one-stop-shop layout, and minimalistic, hassle-free app hooked me into discovering completely new ways of working with pleasure. Most importantly, it helped me connect my mind and body to itself, and when it comes to sex, that’s the firmest foundation I could ask for.