LIFESTYLE

Meet The Women Who Want To Help Other Women Orgasm

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30/03/2017 08:02 BST | Updated 31/03/2017 14:21 BST
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As society has neglected and often suppressed female sexual pleasure, is it any surprise that many women have fewer orgasms than men and are more likely to fake them?

A recent US study showed that heterosexual women are less likely to orgasm regularly (65% of respondents) compared to bisexual and homosexual women (66% and 86% respectively). These numbers cowered in comparison to male orgasm rates (95% heterosexual men, alongside 88% bisexual men and 89% gay men).

So why the so-called orgasm gap? According to the NHS, there are many reasons why women may struggle to reach climax including a lack of knowledge or fear of sex, not being stimulated sufficiently and concerns over sexual performance.

But while the female orgasm may have a reputation for being elusive, it doesn’t have to be.

We spoke to six trailblazing women hoping to revolutionise female pleasure in a variety of ways. From masturbation experts to adult filmmakers, these women want to help other women reach orgasm again and again.

The Masturbation Guru

OMGYes

Lydia Daniller, 39, co-founder OMGYes

Lydia is co-founder of OMGyes.com, a members-only website dedicated to helping women explore and reach orgasm, which was famously endorsed by Emma Watson. The site conducted large-scale research drawing on the experience of 2,000 women, delivering the findings to members through video testimonials, as well as detailed tips and demonstrations. 

When was your sexual awakening?

“When I was 21 – I had a lover who gently (and sexily) whispered ‘let yourself go’ - which meant so much at the time. It opened me up to really discover what I liked, and gave me a sign to let myself go deeper into the pleasure we were sharing. Having a lover so committed to my pleasure let me ‘feel all the feels’. so to speak.”

How did you start working in women’s sexual pleasure? 

“We [Daniller and co-founder Rob Perkins] started this project out of our shared desire to see and hear real people’s insights around the specifics of pleasure, and what women really enjoy when it comes to stimulation.

“When we went looking for research on the topic, we realised that it just hadn’t been studied in depth before – so that sparked our curiosity into conducting that research ourselves!”

What do you think is holding women back in the bedroom?

“I think this question could be re-phrased this way, ‘What is holding people back in the bedroom?’ I think a lot of people are held back by the fear that they are ‘not doing something right’ as if there were a right way or a wrong way to do something – there is just what feels good, and this varies from person to person. Getting to know that about yourself, and your partner, is essential.” 

What do you want to change about women’s sexual pleasure? And how?

“There’s a lack of language around how to talk about the specifics of what feels good, and at first, it may feel awkward because many of us are not accustomed to having these types of conversations.

“We want to change that – to give people the language and the tools to talk about this stuff openly. It can be hard for some to ask specifically for what one wants ― but it’s essential when it comes to pleasure, and there are many different ways to do it!”

The Life Coach

Electric Woman

Nikki Armytage-Foy, 34, Leadership Coach and Founder of Electric Woman

Armytage-Foy is an international coach, founder of the Electric Woman community and a strong advocate for women’s leadership. She works 1-1 and in groups with CEOs, entrepreneurs and those want to make a difference in their own lives and to the lives of others. 

When was your sexual awakening?

“My sexual awakening wasn’t one moment, it was over the course of a year (2013), that was the year which I dedicated to learning about and exploring my sexual pleasure and orgasm. It was a commitment I made to myself after being frustrated with a decade (I was 31 at the time) of unfulfilling sex, faking orgasms, feeling shame and embarrassment about my body.

“I lived in San Francisco and came across a practice called Orgasmic Meditation – a 15 minute partnered consciousness practice where a stroker strokes the clitoris of a strokee (me) for 15 minutes with no other goal than to feel sensation. I had my first ‘OM’ which was confronting and yet it was what I had been looking for – an opportunity to have intimacy with a partner, to feel sensation, to receive and to help me communicate what I was feeling and how I wanted to be touched.

“Over a number of months as I continued this practice, I decided to move back to London... I worked with coaches to explore the blocks and fear that held me back from embracing my pleasure and sexual energy. I learnt that it was something to feel proud of and invest in as it was the very thing that gave a deeper level of confidence as a woman - and I was much kinder and compassionate towards myself, my body and my partner as a result of this.” 

How did you start working in women’s sexual pleasure? And what inspired you to get involved?

“I had been life coaching women for a number of years before becoming aware of the importance of owning our sexual pleasure and orgasm (in my own sexual awakening) and I always felt there was something missing – a spark to the coaching just wasn’t there. Talking about sexuality seemed hidden and not important, it was a back of the list type concern – most of the women wanted to get their career on track and even though their sex life was not fulfilling, they saw it as a nice to have but not essential. 

“Once I became aware of the freedom and deeper connection to self that a woman could get from her pleasure along with hearing one too many complaints from my clients about feeling like sex was a chore and how they were exhausted all the time, I decided to partner with an woman who had been on her own journey of sexual exploration. We designed a 2.5 day course in London to allow women to embody their ‘sexual woman’ to release shame and embrace their desire. I have worked it into my core coaching practice with all the women who come on my group and 1-1 coaching programmes.”

What do you think is holding women back in the bedroom?

“The idea that her own pleasure doesn’t matter. This manifests itself in different ways. We aren’t always good at being vulnerable to ask for what we wants or stop and reflect on this. ‘What would be pleasurable for me right now? What do I really want?’

“I hear so often that sex is a chore or a performance, and she’s ‘doing sex’ as a list of things to do or just to please her partner. I see women running on empty in their lives and they take this mentality into the bedroom and feel they have to give more there too. Sex can be an opportunity to ‘fill up’ with energy, connection and intimacy and often we don’t see it like this.” 

What do you want to change about women’s sexual pleasure? And how?

“That investing in her own sexual pleasure is as important as investing in something that she spends much time and effort in – her fitness, her career or her image. 

“How? To have women start ‘pleasure projects’ - to find what gives her pleasure (and to ask for it) both in life and sexually so she is focusses on a life that is energy giving vs depleting. I would love to see women spending more time and connecting with their body and orgasm, to try Orgasmic Meditation, to masturbate regularly, and to notice the positive difference they feel in themselves as a result of this. To also speak about it more openly, and not feel embarrassment around it.” 

The Sex Toy Creator

Mystery Vibe

Stephanie Alys, 27,  the co-founder of the British lifestyle brand MysteryVibe

Alyss is the co-founder and ‘Chief Pleasure Officer’ of intelligent sex toy start-up company, Mystery Vibe. Its flagship product, Crescendo, is the world’s first ‘body-adapting smart toy’.

When was your sexual awakening?

“It’s hard to pinpoint a moment of realisation. I think to an extent I’ve always recognised that pleasure is the real driver of human action and behaviour - and not just in sex. We seek out good food, wine, books TV and film that (even if it’s just for a brief period of time) make us feel good. Why should sex be any different?

“Although it was only into my 20s that I learned how deep an effect it has more broadly on your life - and also how incredible the pressure is for young women to feel that their pleasure isn’t as important as their partners’. Now I do my best to convince women that they deserve pleasure and they should demand orgasms!”

How did you start working in women’s sexual pleasure? 

“We actually came up with the idea for MysteryVibe in 2008. It all started with the idea that pleasure is so intimately personal, human and fundamental to our happiness, yet when it came to technological innovation and advancement, we felt that it had been overlooked. We thought about it for a few years and monitored the market.

“In 2014, we got together a group of friends, and decided we wanted to create something that adapted to the person, their moods, desires and sensations. We approached our industrial designer, SeymourPowell, with the idea and they loved it. Working together, we created MysteryVibe and designed our first product, Crescendo.” 

What do you think is holding women back in the bedroom?

“For me, one of the main things holding women back is fear of judgement. Unfortunately, we are still very much in an age where society is not accepting of open discussions around sex and relationships. While we are working on tackling this, it is stopping women from being relaxed and willing to experiment.

“I also see an ongoing assumption that women are only looking for a life partner - the idea of them wanting to satisfy their sexual needs and not wanting to automatically be in a monogamous relationship is still viewed as taboo by many in society. The fear of judgement from new partners is also very real. Everyone has different tastes and it can be nerve racking broaching the subject, especially if you don’t know each other very well.

“Another key issue is the impact of pornography on men and women’s expectations of sex. Some themes that are common in pornography, such as the ease of an orgasm, the volume of noise during sex or that sex always involves a sequence of foreplay before penetration, finishing in some grand climax, are often accepted as the norm. We often forget that 1) this is entertainment, not real sex, and 2) this content is primarily aimed at men!”

What do you want to change about women’s sexual pleasure? And how?

“The main motivation behind establishing MysteryVibe was to encourage women to be curious and explore their own sexuality. We need to reduce the taboo and stigma that is still very much prevalent in this space, and allow women to discover more about what actually works for them.

“One way of doing this is to simply start conversations, whether it be through support forums where people feel they can discuss issues openly and honestly, or through sex education at school.

“Many women feel like they don’t have the right to demand sexual pleasure or that they need to please others before themselves... we need to make sure that women have information readily available to them, for example choosing products which are safe and which are designed to be inserted or used on delicate skin. It can be an education process and one that should be started soon rather than later.” 

The Women’s Health Expert

Elvie

Tania Boler, 40, CEO and Co-Founder, Elvie

Tania is the CEO and co-founder of Chiaro, an technology brand specialising in wearable tech for women which launched its first product, a pelvic floor exercise tracker called Elvie, in 2015. She is also an internationally-recognised women’s health expert and, after helping to launch the first United Nations Curriculum on Sexuality Education, she went on to become the Head of Research at Marie Stopes International focusing on sexual health in developing countries. 

When was your sexual awakening?

“Looking back, I realise that my first three or four sexual experiences were good but I always held back. I began to fret about statistics on the number of women who never had orgasms, worrying that would be my fate. In the end, it just took a while to meet someone who I felt completely comfortable with.”

How did you start working in women’s sexual pleasure? 

“I’ve always worked more on giving women education and tools to feel better about themselves.   

“We created Elvie which does exactly that - it is more about sexuality and wellness and health as it isn’t a vibrator or sex toy. That said, if you know your vagina and feel strong inside, then research shows you will definitely have better sex and orgasms. So it is a win-win.

“I was inspired to work in sexual wellness when I started working in Southern Africa and saw first so many young people at the prime of their lives dying of HIV - a preventable sexually transmitted infection.”

What do you think is holding women back in the bedroom?

“I think there is a lot of pressure on women to perform, whether that’s in a career, a relationship or in the bedroom. We’re told that certain things will make us ‘sexy’ but in 2017 we are starting to see a move away from the traditional image of what is sexy and offering an empowered alternative.

“Women want to feel sexy from the inside out and we are starting to see brands cater for that more and more. You don’t need satin lingerie to feel sexy, but you do need to be confident and happy in your body.”

What do you want to change about women’s sexual pleasure? And how?

“I want women to be more selfish. We are always taught from an early age to please everyone around us. Women need to stop thinking so much during sex and let go, following what makes them feel good - that is sexy.

“Elvie is one way to help women feel in touch with their femininity and sexuality. You place Elvie inside you like a tampon and, as you squeeze, you can see a gem lifting on a screen. We hear back every day from women who are overcome with the emotion of being in touch with their bodies in an entirely new way.”

The Educator

Modern Mann

Alix Fox, 34, Journalist, Broadcaster, Sex Educator

Fox has many strings to her bow. She presents a Guardian podcast about sex called Close Encounters, is agony aunt for The Modern Mann show and sexpert for Channel 5’s Sexpod. She also works as a sex educator for Durex and Superdrug, and an ambassador for Brook, a sexual health charity primarily for under 25s.

When was your sexual awakening (if you had one)?

“I’ve had multiple sexual revelations in my life, and I hope the illuminating discoveries never stop coming. Just as your body and your circumstances change as you age, so does sex (and potentially sexuality too); I think it’s important to stay open to new discoveries, rather than to expect to have just one, single event, relationship or period that then defines who you are, how you interact with others and what you find pleasurable forevermore.

“One intimate experience that had a particularly profound impact upon me was the first time I tried a vibrator, aged 18... The toy gave me an unmistakable orgasm; prior to that, I’d been enjoying a spectrum of various delicious sensations, both with my first boyfriend and during solo play, but I wasn’t absolutely certain I’d climaxed because I didn’t entirely know what that was supposed to feel like. I think the amorphous nature of female orgasms confuses and worries a lot of girls.” 

How did you start working in women’s sexual pleasure? 

“I worked as an editor on a magazine called Bizarre, which reported on the most out-there, wild, shocking and alternative aspects of worldwide culture. I wrote a lot about unusual fetishes and sexual psychology, investigating extreme off-the-wall kinks such as underwater bondage, vomit fixation and pony play.

“I became fascinated with the role sex played in human relations and identity, and developed a name for myself in that domain as someone who would really get under the skin of what motivated a specific fetish, while at the same time treating my interviewees with respect and without judgment.

“Then 50 Shades of Grey blew up. Every publication wanted to discuss S&M, and the need was high for those rare reporters who had trusted access to the previously underground world of dungeons and dominatrixes... 

“I had an opportunity to enlighten and help people beyond simply penning salacious pieces; that the public responded well to my mix of ‘education and entertainment’; and that more frank, well-researched, sensitively handled and accessible information about sex was badly needed.” 

What do you think is holding women back in the bedroom? And what do you want to change about women’s sexual pleasure? 

“There are so many issues, but I’ll focus on two:

“1. Lack of good, sex positive, sex education, which focuses on aspects such as pleasure and consent as well as telling individuals how to avoid STIs and unwanted pregnancy. Unhelpfully, since the time allocated to SRE (Sex & Relationships Education) in schools is currently more itsy bitsy teeny weeny than a famous piece of swimwear, health and safety messages about contraception are often all that teachers get chance to give. Brook is working to change this, in addition to offering alternative access to info and support for those who have further questions tutors can’t answer, or who can’t or won’t engage in the classroom. The fact sex ed is compulsory in schools now (or will be from 2019) is fantastic, but that by no means solves all our issues, and changing the law is the beginning of the task, not the end.

“2. Body worries. Whether it’s labia or boobs; tums, bums or nipples; stretch marks, cellulite or damaging crap about a thigh gap, it’s heartbreaking how many females are too distracted by fretting about how they look in bed to really relax into noticing how they feel. They agonise over how they sound, too; how they smell; whether they’re tight and light enough for their partners. It makes me sob. We need to learn to be our own BBBs: Best Body Buddies. That means accepting and loving ourselves, in every incarnation we take throughout our lives, and knowing ourselves too: spending time to masturbate so we’re aware of what feels good to us, and to think clearly about the types of physical and emotional relationships we want for ourselves.”

The Pornographer

Erika Lust

Erika Lust, 40, adult filmmaker 

Erika Lust is a filmmaker, mother, writer, blogger, owner and founder of Erika Lust Films where she offers an alternative to the mainstream porn industry.

When was your sexual awakening (if you had one)?

“I can’t tell when was the exact moment I had a sexual awakening ... but I have a fun blurred memory and I think I was around 15 or 16.

“I remember going to buy beer at a supermarket. I bought the beer pack and I bought an explicit magazine. I don’t even know which one it was or what I did with it but I remember seeing it there on the counter and buying it out of curiosity! I had began to have more curiosity about naked bodies, sexual anatomy and representation of sex. Age-appropriate sex education at school tackled everything from petting to consent, respect and emotions but I had begun to feel more curious.”

How did you start working in women’s sexual pleasure? And what inspired you to get involved?

“As many people I was exposed to porn movies at a young age when I was at a sleepover party with my friends. My first reaction was disappointment. Later on, when I was dating my boyfriend in college he suggested to watch a porno together and I decided to give it another try. It could arouse me but I did not like the degrading behaviour towards women and how their sexuality was so neglected.

“I decided to create an alternative and create an adult cinema that reflects my views on sex as a natural part of life and that has high cinematic values, as porn used to in the 1970s. I decided to create films from my feminine perspective that are artistic and realistic, stimulating and relatable, that help changing gender perceptions, and that positively mirror female sexuality. I wanted to convey that female pleasure and female sexuality maters, that sex is not only anatomy, body parts bashing against each other and genitalia but also intimacy, desire, lust, the touching, the kisses, the grabbing, the pursuit of real pleasure....

“I wanted to add to the feeling of eroticism and excitement to adult cinema again. If you can really answer the question ‘why are these people having sex?’ in a captivating way, it makes the whole thing more fun and arousing.”

What do you think is holding women back in the bedroom?

“The sexual revolution took place in the 70s and women felt empowered to claim their right to enjoy and learn about their bodies, but even today some sexual activities are deemed more obscene than others, they are stigmatised, which doesn’t contribute to sexual liberation at all. On the contrary it creates a sense of shame when expressing what we want, what we lust for. We are still crowded with taboos and stigmas that impact societal behaviour!

“Sex is still left in that dark corner as if it didn’t exist. Sex and the pleasure that comes with it is seen a dirty thing, something to keep in the sphere of our private lives.”  

What do you want to change about women’s sexual pleasure? And how?

“I want to show masturbation and clitoris stimulation as one of the keys to female pleasure. In all my films for instance you can see the performer stimulating her clitoris, because that is really key to her pleasure; penetration is not enough, no matter what mainstream porn shows us.

“I want to keep creating adult cinema where I represent female sexuality and its diversity, where women and men can see themselves, fight to break all taboos out there and lead the way to delve a little deeper into what they wasn’t or need in their lives regarding sex. I want women to explore and seek for their own sexual pleasure. Alone, with their lovers, sexual partners... To be more sex-positive, not to conform to other people’s ideals of what sexuality should be and be more accepting of other people’s choices.”

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today.

Through blogs, features and video, we’ll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity.