By: Amy Rosner By: Amy Rosner | November 24, 2021 | Culture
In February 2020, Serena Kerrigan quit her job at Refinery29 to launch her own company that would empower women to live their lives unapologetically and authentically.
During quarantine, Serena took her authentic persona to the next level when she changed the TV landscape by creating the first-ever Instagram Live reality show, ‘Let’s F—ing Date.’
The show, which ran for three seasons in the course of a year, streamed Serena’s virtual blind dates to her audience of 550k+ followers and amassed over 5 million views.
What started as a way for a single woman to cure loneliness while also entertaining her followers in quarantine was immediately dubbed by The Today Show as “Quarantine’s New Must-Watch.”
Let’s F—ing Date quickly became a viral phenomenon, as Serena disrupted the status quo by normalizing virtual dating for singles in quarantine. It was recognized as an honoree at the 2021 Webby Awards.
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Serena has also gained notoriety for her ability to write, direct and produce premium advertising campaigns for Nike, Absolut, and Love Wellness, amongst others. Numerous brands, including Bumble, Svedka, Bev, and Hint, paid premium rates to become sponsors and integrate their products seamlessly within the show’s ecosystem.
Charting her show’s rapid growth, Serena recognized the gap in the market for dating advice tailored to the digital age.
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To help her fans conquer the world of dating, Serena created ‘Let’s F —ing Date’ a card game to be enjoyed on first dates, in intimate group settings, and by couples. She released an X-rated version, ‘Let’s F—ing F—k’, in June 2021 and has sold twenty thousand units of the games to date. Her company is on track to be a million-dollar business by the end of 2021.
Now, she just released “Let’s F—ing Play” on 11/16 which is the latest installment of her popular card game. The newest version of the card game aims to bring the player closer to themselves in an effort to break down the stigma of self-pleasure and reframe it as the ultimate act of self-love.
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We sat down with Serena to discuss how her platform takes antiquated ideas of sex, dating, and self-pleasure and turns them on their heads.
You are the self-proclaimed Queen of Confidence. What sort of work did you do on yourself to reach this level of self-esteem?
I made the conscious decision to talk to myself like I would a best friend. Every morning I look in the mirror and hype myself up with daily affirmations. We’re so quick to fall into negative mindsets about ourselves which causes us to think poorly about who we are. If you’d never say it about a best friend, why would you think it about yourself? You’re your own best friend. Talk, think, and act accordingly.
How does your platform aim to destigmatize women’s sexual freedom and pleasure?
Since the beginning of Let’s F—ing Date, our goal has been to normalize talking about sex and remove the stigma that comes with embracing one’s sexuality. We’ve utilized our social presence to talk about sex and dating by leaning into pop and meme culture. From social assets like Try It Tuesday, Freaky Friday, and Single Saturday, we really look to creatively talk about these topics every day of the week. Recently, I’ve worked with brands like wisp to destigmatize STIs by talking about treatment methods and Plan B when contraception fails and you need a backup plan.
With our latest launch of F—ing Play, we sought to open up these concepts further by opening up the conversation around normalizing self-pleasure. People, women especially, are taught that self-pleasure is something to be ashamed of. I want to empower others to realize that it’s not something to be ashamed of at all — it’s the ultimate act of self-love and something to be celebrated. If you were looking for something to give you the permission to start this exploration, Let’s F—ing Play is here to do just that.
You aren’t afraid to talk about taboo themes of sex, dating, and self-pleasure on social media, which has received a lot of backlash. How do you use this judgment to further fuel your goal?
I’ve always utilized spite to motivate me. Just kidding. Kind of. I love proving people wrong and utilizing negativity to inspire me. It only acts as a catalyst for me to keep aiming higher. There was one comment from our Let’s F—ing Play launch that still sticks with me. They wrote “I thought you wanted to be the face of Chanel and attend the Met Gala” — as if to say these things are mutually exclusive and I can’t have it all. I’m tired of women being shamed for being empowered by their sexuality. I’m here to say you can have it all.
When we initially launched our OnlyFans announcement, I was appalled by the negativity and unfollowing — especially with no context to what kind of content we were producing. If I, a straight cisgender white woman, was receiving such a negative response, I can only imagine what it is like for LGBTQ+, non-binary, and BIPOC creators and sex workers. Since the initial idea of Let’s F—ing Play, we knew we wanted to make a real difference by supporting these creators — which is why I’m so excited that we’re donating 10% of our proceeds from the card game to The Sex Workers Outreach Project. SWOP Behind Bars is a national grassroots social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of sex workers and their communities with a focus on those currently incarcerated or seeking re-entry. While we all work to continue breaking down the stigma around sex I think it’s important to ask ourselves: what’s so dangerous about being sexually liberated and empowered?
Your work has changed the hegemonic narrative surrounding sex and dating. How have you been able to shift ideas that are so deeply rooted in our culture?
I’ve been so fortunate to be raised in a sex-positive household but recognize that many don’t have this luxury due to cultural and societal restraints. We live in a very puritanical country that values conservative and monogamous values — often as a means to control women. I think once we collectively realize the freedom and liberation that comes with embracing our sexuality — rather than see it as “impure” and a threat to religious values — we’ll have a much happier and healthier society. Let’s normalize sex for pleasure, not just procreation.
Women empowerment has been at the core of your brand since day one. How have you stayed authentic to your brand’s values, while also evolving over time?
Staying authentic is second nature when your personal values are so deeply connected to your brand’s and team’s values. We are all so aligned with the story and messaging of LFD that it is truly so easy to think about what is possible for the future. The brand itself is so malleable in terms of what we can do so the possibilities are limitless.
The term feminism is constantly changing. How would you define feminism in a modern-day sense?
There have been so many waves of feminism and it’s exciting to see us emerge into a fourth wave feminism that utilizes social media as a tool for empowerment and becoming more intersectional. It is my hope that with this new wave we continue to destigmatize sex and normalize sex for pleasure through these innovative methods. We also need to continue to push for sexual liberation and freedom for everyone — and that comes with the freedom to choose. Feminism to me means fighting for the equality and liberation of people of all sexualities and genders. The freedom to choose, to love, and to be.
You are a trailblazer in the industry. What does it take to be a disruptor in any respective space?
It takes confidence and connection. You have to believe in yourself and surround yourself with others that believe in you and your vision too. There will always be days where you doubt yourself and what you’re building, but in order to be innovative and create change, you have to push beyond that and remind yourself of your “why”.
You are oftentimes referred to as the “Real Life Samantha Jones.” Do you think society has made progress regarding sex-positivity since the ’90s? What improvements still need to be made?
In some ways yes and in some ways no. Hook-up culture has become far more prominent with the insurgence of dating apps and sex has begun to be more normalized with subscription platforms like OnlyFans. However, sex work is still being criminalized, abstinence-only sex ed is still being taught in schools, and abortion access is restricted in so many states. There is still such a societal stigma around sex for pleasure and controlling women and their bodies but I believe our generation can really work to make our country more sex-positive.
What is the thing you are most proud of, both personally and professionally?
Both professionally and personally, I am most proud of the community I’ve fostered. There is nothing more rewarding or gratifying than when young women come up to me on the street or at dinner and tell me that talking in the mirror changed their life or I helped them leave a toxic relationship or they quit their job to start their own business. I’m here for impact. I want to make a difference in others’ lives to ensure that they’re the main character of their story — writing, producing, and directing the whole plot.
If you could go back in time, what is something you would say to your 16-year old self?
Stop worrying about what others think of you and start worrying about what you think of you.
Photography by: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images