The J Spot-Light with Bryony Cole

Hi Bryony!
Thank you so much for taking the time to join us on the J Spot-light! We are mega girl-crushing fans of you and Future of Sex over at Jonny HQ, so to be able to feature you for World Sexual Health Day
is nothing short of a dream come true. 
So it is World Sexual Health Day today (Sept 4) and then Women’s Health Week starting next Monday (7-11 Sept). Such a poignant time to tap into the link between sexual health and overall health & wellness. As we know, sexual health isn’t just about STI prevention after all (although Jonny fully supports protection and prevention here, obviously), there are far more factors at play in physical wellbeing,
as well as mental and emotional wellbeing.

For those of our audience that might not be as familiar with you or your work, can you give us a brief rundown of how and why you came to be a leader in sexuality, sex tech and wellness with Future of Sex?
Over the last four years I’ve interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs, therapists, and scientists about technology’s impact on sexuality for the Future of Sex podcast. I have explored all sorts of ways technology impacts sexuality. One of the biggest discoveries was that sextech is a huge and growing industry which encompasses everything from sexual assault reporting to teledildonics! I guess one of the ways to become a leader is to talk about the one thing that most people don’t feel comfortable discussing -- sex.

Since launching the podcast in 2016, I’ve gone on to expand the business into Future of Sex Lab and produced sextech hackathons in Asia, USA and Australia. I recently launched Sextech School, an industry program that helps people get started building their business in the field of sexuality. We are in our third cohort and the entrepreneurs are doing amazing work building the future of sex.

Why do you think the conversation around sex is such an important one today?
Not only is it important for having great sex, the conversation about our bodies, sexuality and our identities is critical for the sextech industry. A new wave of female-led ventures for sexual assault reporting, fertility tracking and pleasure products are changing the way women experience their bodies. These entrepreneurs face enormous barriers in business because of the the stigma and bias of “sex” in sextech. They struggle to raise money, open bank accounts, and advertise on social media because people think the conversation around sex should be banned! We must talk about sex and bring it into 2020 with the rest of our lives.

Gosh doesn't Jonny know it! Preaching to the choir here! Can you give us the Bryony Cole definition of sexual health?
Sexual health is more than just biology. It’s more than STIs and pregnancies and medical conditions. Sexual health is proactive—it’s about your pleasure, expanding your ideas of what’s possible and finding ways to express that. It’s claiming the same ownership we have over our mental health and wellness today, and framing that for your sexuality.

Amen sister! So, back when you were starting to have sex yourself, did you know about sexual health in a holistic sense (physical, emotional, mental) or just from the clinical studies you were exposed to in say a sex ed class?
Like so many of us, what I got taught about sexual health was hygiene and medical related. Holistic concepts to do with wellness weren’t available to me until I stumbled upon them almost 20 years later!

What do you think is missing when it comes to the education around sexual health? And what would be the most relevant and significant topics to include?
Self-enquiry is missing. Sexual health often feels like checking a box. Wearing a condom. Taking a STI test. Having a pap smear. Sure these are healthy practices, but I believe healthy practices like reflecting on our own sexual values, learning what makes us sexually comfortable and being clear on how to articulate what we don’t want to experience, are as important in feeling healthy as taking tests and preventative contraception are.

You’re an ambassador for Lovehoney, who also happens to be one of Jonny’s amazing new stockists (!!!), and they recently did a report on Sexual Happiness, where they talked to 3000 people in Lovehoney’s largest market regions - the US, UK and Australia - and tapped into their phsyches so that they could determine exactly what kind of role sex plays in overall physical an emotional happiness. HOW. FREAKIN’. AWESOME! Two thirds of people said that sex plays an important role in our overall happiness, and 25% of us know that sex improves our mental health. Can you speak to that a little and your perspective there and anything else from their further findings that strikes you?
That is an impressive number and proves sex can have a positive affect on overall happiness, that a healthy sex life can help reduce stress. A healthy sex life doesn’t always mean having someone else there. Today sex toys are more accessible than they’ve ever been which allows people to experience a greater variety of products and to normalise solo sex, or masturbation. The Lovehoney Sexual Happiness Survey also revealed 63% of women and 54% of men have used sex toys to enhance their pleasure levels. Sex toys are not only about pleasure but also wellness and are more and more seen as an important component to self-care, which is huge progress from the previous decade.

“The key to sexual satisfaction is to be able to clearly communicate sexual needs and desires”. Now being a leader in championing open conversation in all areas of sex and a Lovehoney ambassador, you must to this a lot. What do you think is the first step to opening up that line of clear communication between sexual partners?
Don’t wait until it’s in the moment! Choose a place, and give your partner some warning, I recommend choosing a place outside the bedroom. Perhaps you’re feeling ready to communicate your fantasies? Choose maybe two or three things to share first, instead of blurting it out all at once. When you communicate carefully and in a way that is vulnerable, open and safe, you can expect to be met with the same. And when it is your turn to do so, listen without judgement. Not only will this lead to better sex, it will create a deeper connection with your partner!

Knowing everything you know now, if you could go back and tell your 16 year old self one thing with regard to sex, what would it be?
Virginity is a social construct designed to keep women out of their power. Enjoy your sexuality, explore yourself and have fun! 

If you had to be shipwrecked on a deserted island, but all your human needs—such as food and water—were taken care of, what two items would you want to have with you?
If I’ve learned anything from lockdown it’s that I need my boyfriend and my dog -- alcohol and vibrators are runners-up ;)

Thanks so much for joining us on The J Spot Bryony! xx
Follow along with Bryony’s incredible work in the sex space over at FUTURE OF SEX.