- Shava'sha Dickerson, a commercial voice actor and singer, plays the character Cory for audio erotica company Dipsea.
- To prep for recording sessions, she avoids dairy and eats green apples to minimize mucus, which can make her voice less clear-sounding.
- Unlike visual porn, Dipsea uses original storylines and audio editing to make narratives that center the emotional and mental aspects of sex.
- Dipsea only accepts 15% of voice-actor applicants and matches them with storylines that fit their personal sexual and gender identities.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
In a Los Angeles recording studio, voice actor Shava'sha Dickerson sits behind a microphone and speaks into it.
Dickerson usually lends her voice on musical and commercial projects, but not anymore. Instead, she's performing in erotic short stories, voicing the character Cory, a queer woman on a steamy camping trip with her lover Tyler.
The voice clips were used in an episode for Dipsea, an audio erotica app two women founded in 2017 after they saw a lack of sexy content geared towards female pleasure.
Recording for a 30-minute story usually takes an hour, and as one of Dipsea's most recurring talents, she's paid $400 for each hour of work. One-off characters make $200 an hour.
According to Dickerson, the pandemic has made her even more proud of her work, because people are looking for new ways to pass the time while cooped up at home.
"You're not working so late, you're at home more, and everything is closed, so you have to outsource to other things," to add meaning to your life, she said, and Dipsea could be that thing for people who want to get in touch with their sexuality.
What makes a good erotic voice actor
It's not an easy feat to be hired as a voice actor — only 15% of applicants are chosen. According to Gutierrez, Dispea looks for actors with accents they don't already have and people who make the stories sound natural, not forced.
"If it starts to feel that it's acted in some way, we can really lose that suspension of disbelief that matters so much. And so often it's people that are just very embodied, confident people who can express that believability that's so core to the stories," Gutierrez said.
Until Dipsea, Dickerson had never worked in erotica. A friend notified her about the opportunity, and she voiced a few pre-written lines about meeting a first date as part of the initial application.
Dipsea matches voice actors with fictional characters that fit their own sexual identities
After Dickerson passed the first test, she was asked to do a more in-depth audio recording for a specific storyline.
Dipsea ended up assigning Dickerson, a queer woman who is married, to the Cory-Tyler storyline, which is about two queer lovers on a road trip.
Dickerson said Dipsea makes an effort to match voice actors to narratives they can relate to, "which I really liked because they put me in a position to be the best, and they really take their time making sure the storyline fits the person, and vice versa."
After running lines for Cory, who Dickerson described as "gusty," "pensive," and "vulnerable," she was hired to voice Cory full-time in the four-part series.
After becoming a voice actor for the platform, Dickerson began to use Dipsea herself.
"What Dipsea does is they bring in such a level of inclusiveness and comfortability around sex and relationships that I've never witnessed," she said. "So it really got me into more intimacy in my personal relationships, with myself and with my partner."
Recordings have shifted to home studios during the pandemic
When recording a short story for Dipsea, Dickerson typically heads to their LA studio since it isn't far from where she lives, but recording from home is also an option.
Before her first session, Dickerson was nervous the experience would be awkward — she was recording erotica, after all.
But once she met the studio manager, he put her at ease and her anxious energy dissipated. She said the team often asks for her input and allows her to improvise lines, so she feels like a valued part of the team.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Dickerson continues to voice Cory, but from the comfort of her home studio.
Dickerson eats green apples and avoids dairy before recording
To prep for each session, Dickerson avoids dairy, which can make her voice too phlegmy, and drinks room temperature water.
She also tries to speak in a soft or normal-level so she doesn't strain her vocals before recording.
She eats green apples beforehand, too, because the acid helps to remove excess mucus from her throat.
Dipsea focuses on the mental aspect of sex
The pandemic has pushed people to exist largely on their screens, as they seek safe ways to connect with loved ones and work remotely. Dipsea's audio-only platform is much-needed relief from this new normal, and potentially headache-inducing, screentime overload.
Unlike pornographic films that focus on the look of sex, Dipsea's erotic short stories center the way sex makes you feel on a mental and emotional level.
Dipsea's in-house team creates each narrative in-house from scratch, and hires voice actors like Dickerson and producers to bring the stories to life in your headphones.
After talking with friends about their sex lives for years, Gina Gutierrez, Dipsea's co-founder and CEO, realized an audio-only approach to erotica was the way to go.
"It struck me as really interesting that when we thought about sex, even self-pleasure, we were talking just about the body. We weren't talking about the brain or the mind," Gutierrez, who has a background in brand marketing, told Insider. "And that seemed like the big missed opportunity to me because those times you really do feel deeply in your body and really able to tap into those feelings, it's because you're able to reach that mind state."
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