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Normalising sexual health for women

CHANGING PERCEPTIONS: Kim Loliya believes altering attitudes towards sex will benefit women

"OUR BODIES are an unlimited source of pleasure, self-discovery and freedom.” Those are the words above me when I enter The Pleasure Institute, a business that provides sex education, coaching and bodywork for women of colour and gender minorities.

The founder, Kim Loliya, is the first woman of colour to set up a service like this in the UK, and is dedicated to bringing this work to other ethnic minorities across England as well as worldwide.

“I’ve been working as a facilitator for a couple of years doing workshops on sexuality, and I’ve met lots of women who talk about the shame they feel regarding this topic,” says Loliya. “I realised that they need a safe space where they can ex- plore that, and that’s what The Pleasure Institute aims to be.”

The concept behind the business was a result of Loliya’s own personal struggles. She says: “Since I was in my early teens, I noticed that I had internal vaginal pain. I tried to find more information about why I could be experiencing this – and it was then that I noticed no one was talking about these types of issues openly."

"I got really interested in why this was the case, and then when I became a practitioner, I realised this is what I want to do. I want to help women who have been in the same situation I have been in and who are looking for support.”

The prudish mentality most have towards sex-related issues can leave many without the tools and knowledge that is provided at businesses like The Pleasure Institute – especially with the way sex education is taught in British schools. “My sex education in school was pretty standard,” recalls Loliya.

“We were divided into groups back then – the boys worked on certain things around contraception, and the girls had the talk about contraception as well as menstruation and pregnancy.”

Coupled with the difficulty for many young people to discuss sex with family members, Loliya believes schools need to play a larger role in providing the answers to questions that teens have on sex and sexuality.

“When it comes to sex education, schools really need to address boundaries and consent, as well moving away from scare tactics. It should be taught in a way that is neutral and informative, and not just focusing on what you can catch and getting pregnant."

“What you’re trying to encourage in teens is to express their bodies in their joy and feel good about themselves and to have relationships that nurture them.” While Loliya believes sex education may need some adjustments, her thorough research and investment into The Pleasure Institute makes it an informative place for women to explore their sexuality and bodies.

“We offer sexological body-work, which is an opportunity to discover more about yourself, your body and your sexuality. The sessions are client-led, so it’s really about what you want to explore in other areas.”

Alongside techniques to help women embrace their bodies, the institute offers services to help them with vaginal or pelvic pain, support during gender reassignment, stress and anxiety management, and more.

Even though all women are welcomed to the institute, Loliya has a passion for directing her business specifically to women of colour. “The reason why I’m passionate about bringing this to women of colour – particularly black women – is because I feel like there’s nothing there in these communities, and historically, black women often have to deal with various aspects of the media, like hyper- sexualisation,” she says.

“Having to deal with that from an early age can make black women feel like they don’t have a choice around their sexuality – and that’s why I want to take this work into those communities. I hope to connect with them and hopefully inspire them to have more conversations.”

Despite a new generation ushering in more discussions surrounding sex and sexuality, Loliya says she still comes across many adversities. “One of the challenges is that most people aren’t really ready to talk about this, especially in certain communities who feel like it’s not OK to have certain conversations."

“So the main challenge is to break the ice and let people ask the difficult questions that they need to ask, while explaining that it’s OK to do so. I’m planning some workshops for women of colour, so hopefully, within the next couple of months, it will be launched, and there will be more opportunities to reach out to them.”

Kim Loilya will be running a series of retreats in collaboration with OYA for women of colour. For more information, visit: oyaretreats.com/retreats/

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