“My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to find peace with exactly who and what I am. To take pride in my thoughts, my appearance, my talents, my flaws and to stop this incessant worrying that I can’t be loved as I am” Anais Nin
Humans crave connection and intimacy but to be intimate, means to be vulnerable. Women’s — and increasingly men’s bodies — are the source of immense scrutiny in our society, and with every potion and lotion under the sun available to improve the way we look, it’s not surprising that the idea of being vulnerable and showing our true self is quite a terrifying concept. Until recently, one area of the woman’s body remained out of the spotlight, her genitals. Instead, they have long been a source of secret shame in society’s eyes. Almost as though, if we don’t mention this vital part of a woman’s body, we don’t have to acknowledge that women are also sexual beings. That, in fact, a woman may also seek pleasure from her sexual encounters. It’s time to lift the veil of shame and to talk openly about all parts of our bodies, to recognise and celebrate how different they are and, rather than changing our bodies to improve their perceived imperfections or to please others, to change the way we feel about them. It’s time to celebrate all sexualities, to create space for everyone to discover their desires and to make pleasure a priority. It’s time to be vulnerable and to make space for intimacy. It’s time to recognise our sexual wellbeing as an important component of our overall wellbeing.
Over the last 4 months, with my co-founders Anna and Quinn, I have dedicated my time to understanding the complexity around sex and female pleasure. Together, we’ve heard from close to 300 women and what we learnt moved us. Empowered women who are demanding egalitarian treatment in the home, the classroom and the boardroom, shared their stories with us. And, across them all, the common thread was that their pleasure always came second. They said things like they struggle to:
“Communicate what feels good because I don’t want to dent someone else’s pride” (19, Female)
Time and time again, they used words like anxiety, discomfort and shame to describe their sexual experiences:
“I feel like I’ve been doing it wrong, or that I’m bad at it, or that I’m gross or inadequate in some way. I’m worried I’ll never enjoy sex as much as other people do” (23, Female)
Yet study after study shows that sexual pleasure, self-esteem and satisfaction have profound impacts on our physical and mental wellbeing. It is a natural and vital part of our health, development, and happiness. So, in this moment of brave truth-telling and female empowerment, we felt compelled to tackle the taboo topic that is female sexuality and to help women find pleasure in their most intimate spaces.
Together, as these individuals shared their stories, we peeled back the layers of their experiences. Of the most recurring threads, two key issues stood out:
1. A lack of knowledge on their bodies — “Knowing what I want and being able to ask for it” (25, Female)
2. Problems communicating with their partners — “Not being able to communicate what I want/need effectively. I’ve had experiences of doing sexual things that I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with, not because I felt pressured, but because I didn’t really know how to communicate my comfort level’ (18, Non-binary).
Sex Education, where did it go wrong?
In 2019, Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) will, for the first time, be compulsory in all schools throughout the UK. This is a phenomenal step in the right direction but it does not help the millions of women that have already left this school system. For these women, female pleasure is still taboo.
However, young people are curious, and with sex education failing to match the real-world experiences they are engaging in, many are turning to the Internet to fill the gaps. In 2013, a survey by National Union of Students found that 60% of students relied on pornography to learn about sex. Yet porn is artificial entertainment. It was never intended to be an education platform. Free porn is predominantly male-centric, it creates unrealistic attitudes to sex and fails to represent the diversity of the female or male body.
Taken together, porn and inadequate sex education failed to teach this cohort of women how to love their bodies. We have not taught these women that masturbation is an essential part of learning as opposed to something shameful that can’t be discussed, and that a positive sexual encounter means everyone involved should experience pleasure.
Why can’t a woman just ask for what she wants?
Unfortunately sex education alone won’t change the way individuals, across all genders, experience sex. We need to show women that it’s not only okay, but important, to voice their needs. We need to challenge pop culture references to female sexuality and create a space for women to have candid conversations where they receive positive reinforcement for speaking up. Knowing our bodies promotes positive health and wellbeing and can empower our relationships. Research by the Kinsey Institute revealed that women who experienced more pleasure were more likely to ask for what they want in bed and to act out their fantasies. We can’t talk about what we like or don’t like with our partners if we don’t know ourselves. Plus, having also spoken to smaller groups of men during this process, we also know that many of them also face challenges around performance anxiety and desperately want to know how to pleasure their partners!
Whilst pleasure remains taboo, we risk the wellbeing of women the world over. It’s for this reason that Anna, Quinn and I are bounded together as we build our business, Leika. We’re on a mission to change the conversation and to empower women to recognise their pleasure matters.
Leika enables women to become masters of their own pleasure. We help them to develop a deep and intimate understanding of their bodies and provide the necessary tools to practice candid, two-way communication.
With a membership to Leika women get:
1. Guided, spoken conversation with a virtual coach that teaches the fundamental skills necessary to enhance pleasure
2. The ability to move at their own pace through each session as their coach responds to verbal feedback
3. A safe and imaginative space to discover the depths of their sexualities
4. Detailed metrics unique to their bodies, on the way they xperience pleasure
Think of Leika as a sensual Headspace but with the ability to converse and communicate. A coach that gets smarter and more personalised as you spend time exploring together.
In the era of Harvey Weinstein, #TimesUp and the #MeToo movement, the whole world is literally talking about sex. Whilst these discussions have been born from a place of negativity, the outcome is positive — global awareness! Together, across genders, we are breaking down the taboo associated with talking about our sexualities and challenging the status quo. As a result, we have a unique opportunity to address the inequality that exists in our most intimate spaces and specifically, the pleasure gap. It’s time for us all to make our sexual wellbeing a priority, to strive for pleasure!
Let’s build a world where, regardless of gender, pleasure is a priority.
We’ve given you a teaser but if you’re interested in learning more about Leika — or can’t wait to get your hands on it — please visit our website and join the waitlist or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Power in Pleasure: Practical Implementation of Pleasure in Sex Education Classrooms. University of Wisconsin-Madison