Why great sex for women
is as important as equal pay

The freedom for women to feel sexually empowered, without shame or embarrassment, is as vital as equal pay and opportunities.

At Ann Summers our mission is to make women feel sexually empowered and confident in themselves 24/7. But, as International Women’s Day celebrations kick-off this Sunday, female sexual wellness and confidence is often side-lined.

Not so at our IWD Breakfast where women’s sexual satisfaction was prioritised. A forward-thinking, inspiring and irreverent panel discussion involving experts and an audience of influencers, media and business women talked frankly about the future of sex and what it means to us all.

Jaqueline Gold in Interview

Broadcaster Kate Thornton reminded us all of the fight women have had over the years to own our sexuality by interviewing our brilliant and fearless CEO Jacqueline Gold.

Jacqueline, whose female icons include suffragette Emily Pankhurst and former American first lady Michelle Obama, recalled the time she was sent a bullet in the post in a bid to silence her vocal campaign to empower women sexually.

“This was when you couldn’t buy sexy lingerie, let alone sex toys, on the high street,” Jacqueline explained.”All I have ever wanted to do is empower women in the bedroom. Women in their twenties don’t realise how much we had to campaign back then.”

Motivated by Jacqueline, Kate turned to an awesome line-up of Megan Barton-Hanson, Love Island star and face of our Pleasure Positivity Project; women ’s magazine editor, Jo Elvin, who has documented the many challenges women face at work and in their relationships; life-coach and therapist, Jacqueline Hurst, and Lora Haddock, business woman and tech pioneer who has invented a unique new range of sex toys, Lora Dicarlo.

Kate Thornton takes questions for the panel (from left to right): Lora Haddock, Megan Barton-Hanson, Jaqueline Hurst and Jo Elvin.

“We have taken so many steps forward,” agreed Megan “you don’t have to be a man to enjoy sex.” She admitted she had been encouraged in her sexual confidence by other women.

“I would not be as liberated as I am if it wasn’t for other women – inspiring role models like actress and model, Amber Rose and comedian, Amy Schumer.”

She admitted that there were times her sexual confidence dipped, like everybody else’s.

“Of course if a relationship is going badly or I am struggling with mental health my sex life suffers. I need to feel happy to enjoy sex.”

Jacqueline Hurst was in complete agreement that sexual empowerment is in our brains not our bodies.

She recalled her early twenties, when she struggled with anorexia, drugs, alcohol and low self-esteem regarding her body image. After she got clean she went up to a size 18 but she owned it.

“I sashayed out of my house with my butt and boobs it was the beginning of my sexual empowerment and learning to accept my body. Never mind a man, it was about me accepting my body. That is when I came into my own. I’m proud of being a woman today.

”Sexual wellness is the same as physical wellness and mental wellness. You have to find out what works for you and how to express that"

”Women worry about what guys are going to think when they get naked,” she laughed “ when the reality is a guy is just thinking: ‘naked woman, naked, woman, naked woman.’”

Our Panel listening to a question from the audience

Jo Elvin spoke to the point of sexual wellness and that a lot of women leave their doctor’s surgery feeling dirty or that there is something wrong with them because they want to have orgasms and are left struggling after being ill or going through the menopause.

“It is as much of a right as any other human right” she explained. “There is a lot of expectations placed on young women because a lot of young men are into porn - sexual empowerment is also about being able to say: ‘this is what I don’t want to do’ and ‘this is what I am comfortable doing.‘ Sexual empowerment is also about knowing what your sexual boundaries are. It is about getting to know your body. Sexual wellness is about looking at it and understanding what is normal for you. Many people are still nervous about discussing sex at home.”

Jo referenced her admiration for the brave and inspiring work of campaigner Nimko Ali who has worked tirelessly to fight female genital mutilation, the terrible practice of cutting female external genitals to prevent women getting pleasure from sex.

Lora Haddock said her journey as a founder of her own sex toy range made her understand her own body more and how it worked.

“It was more than a sexual journey though. It helped me develop as a business women and it has helped me understand who I really am.”

Lora Haddock

“When I was 28 years old I had a blended orgasm (a simulatenous G spot and clitoral orgasm.) I was lying on the floor thinking how do I do that again?
“I went looking for a product to recreate it but it didn’t exist. I was a medical student at the time and started doing research.”

Lora says through her work she discovered more about the importance of sexual wellness as well as empowerment, and the fact that many women masturbated because they wanted to sleep better and to de-stress.

She developed, the Ose, which last year won an innovation award at a tech show until it was revoked and the device called ‘obscene.’

Lora was furious, there was huge public outcry about gender equality in tech and eventually the award had to be reinstated.

So this International Women’s Day join us in always encouraging other women and remembering you deserve pleasure in the bedroom and equal pay in the boardroom.

Jacqueline Gold’s three key changes we still need to fight for.

Number 1

We need to bring girls up so they don’t feel the pressure to be ‘perfect’.

Number 2

Business leaders must actively recruit the right people for jobs so more women take their rightful places at the top.

Number 3

We must help each other up the ladder, inspiring the next generation of women and celebrating our successes together.

#IWDAnnSummers