Looking at the cute little cartoon character that serves as HappyPlayTime’s mascot, you’d be forgiven for wondering why the app has just been banned from the App Store. What beef could Apple possibly have with a brand headed up by such a non-threatening little thing? It’s not until you look a little closer that you slowly realise that the cartoon character? Is actually a vagina. And the app? It’s going to help you masturbate.
We spoke to Tina Gong the developer and illustrator behind HappyPlayTime about why she felt the need to create such an app, how come it’s been banned and what she’s going to do now.
Why did you go about creating the app?
I grew up in a conservative family, and was really sensitive to the expectations placed on me, so much so that I grew up alienated from my own body, despite recognising my own desires, and doing my own thing when my parents weren't around.
In college, I was already conceiving the idea for the app. For me, college was when the whole sexuality thing became much more real and, where sexuality is concerned, masturbation naturally comes into the picture. When this was taking shape in my head, touch screens were becoming pretty popular, I was thinking about characters and mascots, and how they made products and brands more human, and for some reason, it all clicked together.
I was never able to actually create anything until a few years later. I launched the landing page using start-up principles: ‘Create a landing page, see if people even give a shit. If they do, build something’. And it accidentally blew up in my face. I had nothing to show but the design. That summer was a summer of nervous breakdowns for me. Nevertheless, the whole process of making this game has been, in many ways, a healing process for myself, and I feel like a much stronger person for creating it.
Why do you think some women have such a stigma about their own sexuality?
I’m no historian or sociologist but my guess is that there’s this world of duality in the role models and icons that we’re presented with. When I was younger, there were only good girls and bad girls, virgins and whores – or perhaps I was way over-sensitive as a child and saw everything on some epic scale, a battle between good versus evil. Who knows? Despite the social changes, I think those archetypes still exist in our collective unconscious, and it takes a lot of work to leave those behind, and create one of your own.
What sort of people have been contacting you since you started working on the app?
I’ve got so many great messages from a whole range of people: younger girls who’ve experienced the same thing as me, mothers that don’t want their daughters to go through the same thing as them, and a lot of dudes. A damn whole lot of dudes that just want to learn how to make their partners happy.
How does it work?
You use your touch screen to play with the mascot, who is also your teacher. The more orgasms you achieve, the more moves, educational content, objects you unlock. Inbetween game sessions, we want to cover everything from the anatomical aspects of the female body, the science of orgasms and arousal, and the social aspects of masturbation.
And why did Apple ban it from the App Store?
The format is admittedly a bit raunchy, and I’m guessing Apple thought it was crude like, ‘Really? You're fingering a cartoon vagina on our devices?’ But the format is what’s important. I want to emphasise that I’m definitely in no shape or form a sex expert. I’m just a regular chick. I will never know enough about human sexuality to be an expert, but I am a designer and a lover of technology, so what I can offer is a new form of absorbing education, and that’s important. We have to make sex education modern and interactive to give it momentum again.
How did you pick the design? I know some people have been averse to the use of a cartoon character...
The whole ethos behind this is that masturbation (and sex) is inherently innocent. Your vulva and your sex is just an innocent gal that wants to have some playtime and she’s not shy about it. So I made her cute as fuck, gave her the dirty mouth of a sailor, and the sex drive of a hundred rabbits.
She’s provocative and yet adorable. I think the clash of all these factors are what make a personality endearing. And humorous – humorous is good, because it makes you laugh and not take things seriously. And she had to be a bit abstract, because I thought that would help with avoiding the banhammer from Apple. Guess not...
What will you do now you’ve been refused twice by the App Store?
First I’m going to do one last last final push, and hassle the Apple executive that runs the App Store to see if we can at least get a call to make our case. If that fails, we’ll just build it for web devices. But it does suck losing such a huge platform. I’m also a little nervous about Google Play as well, as they’ve started to ban sex-related apps as well, somewhat recently.
Follow Tina on Twitter @Milkmusket
Picture: Eylul Aslan
This article originally appeared on The Debrief.