As a part of our qurious people series, we had the privilege of interviewing Emma-Louise Boynton, the visionary behind the electrifying and wildly popular Sex Talks events that are taking the world by storm! In this exclusive, we hope to strip away the pretense just as Emma does with her mission to break down the barriers surrounding female pleasure and encourage open, honest conversations about sex.
By Samantha Pérez
Embarking on a journey to launch your Sex Talks after just under a year of sex therapy is quite impressive! What was the biggest nugget of wisdom you gained from your time in sex therapy and how can other women benefit from seeking sex therapy?
My biggest learning from sex therapy was that in order to experience real pleasure, you have to make peace with your body. I was anorexic, then bulimic, for most of my adolescent life and in total denial when I started sex therapy as to how persistent my eating disorder still was. It meant that I often felt as though I was living outside of my body, too obsessed with hating it, willing it to be thinner, more toned etc, to be able to allow myself sexual pleasure, or any pleasure at all for that matter. It’s little wonder I wasn’t able to orgasm in partnered sex for most of my twenties (I had ‘situational anorgasmia’).
Sex therapy changed my relationship to my body in a way I never imagined possible. For the first time, I started seeing it as a source of pleasure, rather than pain, something to be cared for and cherished rather than fought against. Now, I see self-pleasure specifically as an essential part of my self-care practice, as important as exercise and eating well, because it is how I connect in a deep way to the body I spent so many years neglecting and abusing.
What has been the most challenging aspect of organizing and hosting Sex Talks events?
Being a solo-founder is challenging for so many reasons, chief amongst them that you have no one to constantly bounce ideas off of, or pick up the slack when you’re having an off-day. Sometimes I feel like I’m going a little mad by virtue of living so much in my own head.
I think doing this alone makes the highs and lows even more acute, because there is no one to neutralize the perceived intensity of these peaks and troughs. That being said, I’m trying to get better at asking for help and advice when I need it. I’m surrounded by so many incredible founder-friends and generally super impressive women, I forget that I can just pick up the phone and run through something with a friend even if they’re not in the trenches with me as a co-founder.
I also really value the Sex Talks community. There are so many familiar faces at Sex Talks live events now and I take so much comfort and joy in that. It feels like a proper community and I love it.
How do you navigate taboo topics and ensure that attendees feel safe and comfortable participating?
I set up Sex Talks because I wanted to engender more honest and open discussions around taboo topics like sex and intimacy, because I wanted as many people as possible to have access to the sort of learnings and conversations I’d had in the sex therapy room. However empowering I think it is to be in a room full of people engaging with such discussions, I also get that people might not feel confident enough yet to ask the questions that are really on their mind. That’s why I host an anonymous q&a at the end of every live event, which gives everyone the opportunity to get vulnerable and dig deep in asking whatever sex and intimacy q is on their mind, but which they might not feel confident enough to verbalize aloud. It’s a bit like group sex therapy… and I love it!
What role do cultural and societal attitudes play in perpetuating the pleasure gap, and how can we challenge them?
Culturally, we still put too much of an onus on penis in vagina sex as being the model for what sex is. It’s what we see in films, on tv, etc etc. And while this is obviously one way of having sex, it prioritizes a very heteronormative model of sex, and one which disproportionately prioritizes male pleasure (given that the majority of women can only orgasm through clitoral stimulation rather than just penetration). I think things are definitely moving forward in a really positive way though, through platforms like Sex Talks and Quanna, and all the other brilliant channels out there fostering more open discussions around sex.
I think everyone can benefit hugely by taking a more open and curious approach to sex, and shedding all the ‘shoulds’ around intimacy (I should be more wet, I should be up for it more often, I should enjoy penetration more etc etc) that are culturally ingrained in so many of us. Ultimately, sex is a really fun and pleasurable form of play, so treat it as such. Be curious, be communicative, be generous, be open and have fun.
"One of the first things my therapist said to me was how commonplace it was for women who’d suffered with an E.D. to struggle with orgasm, like I did"
In your opinion, what is one conversation that is often overlooked or not given enough attention when it comes to discussing sex? Why do you think this is the case?
The connection between eating disorders and sexual dysfunction is something I rarely see talked about (outside of Sex Talks, obviously) and yet they are so closely intertwined. Before starting sex therapy, I saw my eating disorder and my anxiety around sex, as my dirty little secrets, the private battles I fought alone and which were shameful and not to be discussed. One of the first things my therapist said to me was how commonplace it was for women who’d suffered with an E.D. to struggle with orgasm, like I did, and to have a lot of the issues around sex that I was voicing. Key to addressing any sort of sexual dysfunction, like anorgasmia, is feeling, first and foremost, able to talk about it and seek help, but in order to do that people need to feel encouraged not to feel shame around such issues, to understand that they are not alone in what they are going through. That, for me, is why I am so obsessed with breaking down the enduring taboos that still surround sex and sexuality, because I don’t want anyone else to feel as alone as I did if they’re struggling with sex and their relationship to their body.
How do you see the future of sexual education and discourse evolving in the next few years, and what role do you hope to play in shaping that future?
We’re already seeing a lot of great steps forward happening when it comes to tackling the taboos around sex and intimacy, in no small part because the sexual wellness industry is booming and sex is finally being classified as a part of the wellness industry, where it wasn’t before. I want to see more nuanced, in-depth discussions around sex, and all the issues that surround it, and I plan on growing Sex Talks as the media platform that does exactly that. I also want social media platforms to stop censoring discussions around specifically female pleasure - it just reinforces the idea that this is a topic of shame!
A big thanks to Emma for taking the time to speak with us and more so spearheading Sex Talks. Your contribution has been invaluable in addressing the vital topic of women's sexual betterment, and we're grateful for your efforts. In celebration of this fantastic initiative, we have some cheeky questions lined up for you, Emma. Are you ready to dive into the fun? Let's get started!
🔥 What movie, book, or TV show changed your life?
The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks by explaining to me so simply why and how I hold myself back by virtue of my Upper Limit Problem.
🔥 What's the worst advice you've ever been given?
“Wait until you’re at X stage in your life to do Y…” Do that goddamn thing right now. I hate waiting. And tomorrow is not guaranteed.
🔥 What cliché do you think holds truth?
If you have no idea where you’re going, you will have no idea how far you’ve come.
🔥 What's your favourite takeout/delivery order?
🔥 Finish the sentence. “Please don't make me drink…”
🔥 What is the best compliment you've ever received?
When people tell me I’ve helped them get more comfortable with sex/ learn about their body/ enabled them in any way to overcome shame and feel more confident I GLOW.
🔥 What historical event would you most like to have experienced?
All of the sixties please, with all the acid…
🔥 What is your favourite song by your least favourite artist/s?
God I have no idea, I will have to come back to you on this one.