When you’re running something called Sex Month, you wanna speak to people who know their pleasure. In particular, their female pleasure. So we did what any rational people would do and hit up the queens of getting your orgasmic rocks off, Anniki Sommerville and Lisa Williams. Together with TV superstar, Cherry Healey, the Hotbed Collective began life as a podcast with a mission, ‘to make life better one orgasm at a time’. Authors of More Orgasms Please, they are pros at looking at all aspects of sex for women in open, inclusive and often hilarious ways that are guaranteed to keep the conversation about cumming, well, coming.
Tell us a bit about hotbed collective and what you guys do
Our mission statement is ‘to make the world better one orgasm at a time’. We do this by producing a podcast (The Hotbed), writing books (More Orgasms Please: Why Female Pleasure Matters is out now) and using Instagram to wang on about things like the clitoris, sex drive and body confidence. We also like to talk about people we fancy, and how the drudge of daily life can impact on the exciting side of life. It’s hard to have an orgasm five minutes after you’ve sorted the recycling.
How did ‘More Orgasms, Please’ come about?
Penguin Square Peg were looking for an upbeat book about female sexuality and someone on their team had heard our podcast so they got in touch via Instagram. I’d just had a baby so had to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating when I read that they wanted to meet us. We met them and talked very quickly and very excitedly about how we wanted more people to know that only 20% of women can orgasm via vaginal penetration alone (not what you usually overhear in Costa), about how hot sex isn’t always what you see in porn, that it can happen in the dark under the duvet and how the sex ed we had growing up just wasn’t adequate, and how we wanted to do a book which did the opposite – which forgot about pregnancy, birth control and STIs and which focused instead on building up women’s body confidence, breaking down their mental barriers, and showing them a few tips and tricks too. We put together a proposal, which listed our dream chapter headings (such as ‘Everything you wanted to know about bum sex but were too British to ask’ and ‘Can feminist porn give you the horn?’) and they said yes!
Why do you think the female orgasm is so important?
Anniki: Because women are rubbish at putting themselves first and asking for what they want.
Lisa: Because it’s possible, because it’s fun, because it’s relaxing, because it helps you sleep, because we deserve as many orgasms as men, because it can take as little as four minutes to have one (based on our survey of 1000 women and non-binary people). Other than writing on a shoe sole with Biro, I can’t think of much else you can do in four minutes which provides all those benefits.
There must’ve been some emotional moments writing that book – are you able to share any stories?
Lisa: It made me think of the copious amounts of bad sex I’d had. We open each chapter with a tale from our own lives, and I had so many I couldn’t include them all. Show me a women who’s only had great sex all her life and I want to meet her and put a crown of flowers on her head. So many of my sexual encounters have been boring, painful or confusing. I’ve gone through the motions when I shouldn’t have done. I don’t see why it needs to be this way.
Anniki: Yeah, we had to think about our own challenges, and sex that wasn’t great. But we try and use humour to stop it feeling heavy…
Have you guys had any lightbulb moments in your own journey to sexual empowerment?
Anniki: I am still in the process of getting over a second baby so am definitely on a journey!
Lisa: Moving into a house with a power shower was quite useful, back in the day (am I right?). Also, reading about other empowered women really helped me; I grew up with The Girlie Show and the three presenters were amazingly open whenever they were interviewed. More recently, it’s been having to review sex toys for the Hotbed – we’ve been sent some amazing stuff!
Sex can sometimes feel like an intensely serious space – how can we lighten the mood and enjoy it?
Anniki: Laughter! Watch funny films and don’t compare your life with other people
Lisa: I think of it in feminist terms: if the fellas are enjoying sex then we should be too, and every time we have an orgasm, whether that be alone or with a partner, we’re sticking our middle fingers up at female oppression and the culture of shame around our bodies and our behaviour. We like to make stupid jokes on our podcast and on our Instagram, but I’m quite serious about the topic. Serious about having fun. That should be on my gravestone.
If you had to give one piece of orgasm advice, what would it be?
Lisa: This won’t win me a Pulitzer Prize or an invitation to Buckingham Palace, it may not even cause you to stay awake while reading this answer, but working on your pelvic floor is so important. If you can squeeze and release those muscles while you’re masturbating or having bits done to you, it can help you to relax and help get you off. And doing pelvic squeezes regularly helps to keep sex pain free and to keep you continent…
Anniki: Easy: masturbate on your own and find out what you enjoy!
Do you have any favourite sex toys, and if so, what are they and why?
Lisa: For me it’s the clit-sucky ones like the Womanizer or the Satisfyer (basically anything that sounds like a Nineties boyband song).
Anniki: I’m not a massive fan of sex toys, ironically, but then I am still on a journey!
Why do you think women have historically been so embarrassed about enjoying sex and asking for pleasure?
Anniki: Because we are seen as sluts if we do. If we have kids, we are judged as being bad mothers – we are still either one or the other and women are vilified for enjoying sex and being selfish about their own pleasure.
Lisa: I can understand why, in an era before birth control and protection against STIs, it might have been sensible to warn women and girls against getting sexual. I think it stems from that, but with some misogyny, subjugation and inequality thrown into the mix. Lovely thing, the patriarchy.
Have you had chance to hear any male opinions on the book?
We’ve had people message us to say their male partners had treated them to a copy and that they were both loving it – how sweet is that?! I love men who want to please their partners. I think more men should read it but when we’ve pitched it to men’s mags we’ve not had much of a response, which is such a shame.
Are there any great, free resources our readers can go to to learn more about sex-positivity, orgasms and sexual empowerment?
Follow us on Instagram, and our friends Dr Karen Gurney, Alix Fox, SH! Women’s Store and AM Appointment in London for some great info on a wide range of topics, from masturbation to vaginal dilators for vaginismus. Have fun!
Top image taken by Natasha Pszenicki for the Evening Standard