A new musical video game by the Danish studio Lovable Hat Cult is spreading the self-pleasure gospel with an app that gameifies the female orgasm. It's called La Petite Mort, which means "the little death," French slang for orgasm — and it's intended to teach people to explore the diversity of female orgasms.
"We want people to honor and be able to talk about female pleasure," designer Patrick Jarnfelt told Mic in a Skype interview. "The game is an artistic experience."
The game, which is available for download for $2 on the Google Play store, features four "levels," or unique, pixelated vulvas modeled after those of real women. Players can "unlock" the vulvas to produce three different types of orgasm "experiences," which are named after classical music patterns — one, for instance, is a slow building crescendo, while another is more of a fast-paced and exhilarating burst.
"We hope it's a small contribution to demystifying the vulva," game producer Andrea Hasselager told Mic over Skype. "It's very different from the goal-oriented focus of porn. It's all about reading the person and responding to that. If anything we're trying to tell people to stop and listen more."
As the player draws closer to simulating female climax, the music swells and the digital vulva reddens, mimicking the biological process of female arousal. Every vulva in the game has different "preferences" regarding where and how it reacts to touch, so observation and experimentation are crucial to the player's success.
Sexologist Timaree Schmit said this is a crucial aspect of the game. "The diversity of bodies is incredibly important," Schmit told Mic in a phone interview. "There's no one-size-fits-all model."
According to The Guardian, the idea for this erotic game first took shape after a discussion at the Copenhagen Game Collective, the same network behind Europe's annual romance and sex-themed tech convention, the Lyst Summit. The collective and summit alike explore the artistic and educational potential of erotic mobile games, featuring workshops on LGBTQ representation in video games and playful approaches to sexual relationships in art.
"We have had a focus on expanding games as an artistic medium in general," La Petite Mort's designer Jarnfelt told The Guardian. "We felt like erotic games was a very unexplored area."
La Petite Mort isn't the first digital simulation to help users play their way to better sexual stimulation. Last year, OMGYES, an online orgasm training program, enlisted thousands of real women to record footage demonstrating exactly how they make themselves come. Users are able to replicate the variety of self-pleasure techniques on an interactive touchscreen, enabling them to bring the women onscreen to climax.
OMGYES created a lexicon of new, pleasure-oriented vocabulary to describe different female orgasm techniques, such as "edging," teetering on the brink of orgasm while avoiding climax. The website's real-time feedback provided a crash course in female sexual pleasure.
But La Petite Mort takes the concept further: For instance, while the touch screen can't identify pressure it can measure the speed, traced shapes and patterns of touch. Failing to adjust to the visual and musical cues for pleasure the pixelated screen projects might trigger a text message saying something like "Slow down" or "I'm sensitive."
For Hasselager and Jarnfelt, it was important their new mobile game celebrated orgasms without coming across as goal-oriented, or arguing that orgasms are the be-all and end-all of sex. They were careful to add video game staples, like levels and features that can be "unlocked," without assigning players points for each level.
"We don't want it to be associated with achievement and goal-oriented [play]," Jarnfelt said over Skype. "We wanted it to be about the experience."
Yet the team will likely face resistance if they want to offer their app on a mainstream platform. For instance, Jarnfelt said that during their negotiations with the Apple store, they were asked to change everything from the concept, to the name. "It doesn't have any explicit images, so it's not the visuals," Jarnfelt said. "It's more about the concept. They wanted us to go completely away from the idea."
Hasselager said her frustrating experience trying to distribute the app reflects the way society views female pleasure as a whole. "Explicit and crude don't apply at all to what we've done," she said. "We're a bit puzzled. Just the thought of it [female pleasure] is too much."
The stigma surrounding female pleasure manifests itself in a huge gap between rates of male and female orgasm. The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior found that 91% of men got off during their last sexual encounter, while only 64% of women came.
Games like La Petite Mort could go a long way towards starting conversations and allowing users to explore pleasure, without the pressure of interacting with a real-life partner.
"When we think about the orgasm gap and the idea that the female orgasm is 'elusive,' it has to do with this traditional view of sex," Schmit said. "Women are shamed away from playing with their bodies and learning what they want. So they may not even know what to ask for. It's not that it's hard [to make a woman climax], it's just that people don't know."