“A very National Geographic experience.” That’s how Stephanie Berman describes her recent attempts to have a baby with her wife. The process involved a toolbox of medical technology and donor sperm that left the couple feeling like they were part of an awkward anthropological experiment.
Most lesbian couples get pregnant with the help of a doctor in a medical office, a setting that may be conducive to fertility at the expense of emotional intimacy. “It’s very clinical and sterile,” Berman says. “In the doctor’s office, you’re a patient. Each try for pregnancy can cost a $1,000 to $2,500, and there’s no guarantee that the procedure will work. It’s either that or the classic turkey baster method at home.”
Berman, a Vice President in her family’s reproductive health devices company, saw firsthand how impersonal the pregnancy process was for lesbian couples and single women. Same-sex couples want intimacy and closeness just like straight people, Berman adds, and there was no solution for same-sex couples who wanted both privacy and fun. She felt she was the right person to bridge that gap (her friends don’t call her Spermin’ Berman for nothing).
She began sketching a new product to put intimacy back into the mix, and which also capitalized on the fact that most lesbians were already comfortable using sex toys: The Semenette. Essentially, the Semenette is a dildo with silicone tubing threaded through the shaft. One end of the tubing has a hand-operated pump; the other end is flush with the tip of the dildo and locks in place during intercourse. The wearer fits the Semenette into any standard harness, draws the donor sperm through the tubing and squeezes the pump to release it at the right time.
“The idea just started to take flight after I began drawing the prototype, and now I’m working with an engineer and manufacturing company to produce it. It’s a novelty item, designed to appeal to a wide range of people, but it’s also a sex toy with a purpose,” she says. Down the road, she hopes to diversify the Semenette’s appearance; right now she’s focused on designing Semenettes with Caucasian and African-American complexions to appeal to the widest audience. Every Semenette is crafted from toxin-free, medical-grade silicone in the United States, and starter kit comes with three disposable silicone tubes. (Each tubing system should only be used once.)
So far, Berman has been spreading the word about the Semenette at LGBT expos and product shows. This summer she’ll be hitting the road and traveling to Pride festivals in major cities to show lesbian couples there’s a more intimate way to start a family. She also donates a portion of each sale to charities around the U.S.
And yes, some of her friends have gotten pregnant with the Semenette. “To have a part in helping people create a family and intimacy with each other is the most rewarding part of this,” Berman says.
The Semenette is available for pre-order exclusively at TheSemenette.com. Each order takes six to eight weeks for delivery.