Here at KK, we are beyond delighted to have a chat with Jess O’Reilly, host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast. Dr. Jess is a fantastic cocktail of sexologist, relationship expert, and bubbly but strong television personality. She travels the globe to promote healthy and deliciously pleasurable sex. From hosting PlayboyTV’s top-rated reality show, SWING, to running beachside couples’ retreats in the Caribbean, we cannot be prouder that she’s answering our many questions!
Welcome Dr. Jess, we are so happy to have you with us. Firstly, and most importantly: what made you decide to become a sexologist?
I was a high school teacher and saw the costs of a failing sexual health education (SHE) system. I went back to school to focus on teacher training to address the fact that only 15.5% of teacher education programs across Canada provide mandatory training in SHE. The consequences of inadequate SHE are frightening. They range from missed classes and dropouts (e.g. students who leave school to have a child due to unintended pregnancy) to long terms health costs (e.g. students who refuse to get tested due to sexual shame and allow STI symptoms to worsen). I believe that it’s our job as teachers to provide accurate, comprehensive, inclusive education that empowers our students and bolsters their self-esteem.
I stumbled upon sexology by accident. My passion is supporting public education programs that reach all students (with an emphasis on marginalized populations), but I quickly learned that there are also many opportunities in the for-profit sector. I now work in the latter, which is a ton of fun (and glamour) and volunteer in the former which is both challenging and extremely fulfilling.
I can imagine! You are also a strong TV personality, author and public speaker. What do you feel is the best medium for spreading your advice? What is the most frustrating problem you come across?
I like to work with live audiences — on stage or in a workshop format. I find the energy of the crowd motivating and you learn more when you work as a group. Plus, I feed off their laughter. I’d love to create a sex ed. comedy show and take it to Vegas.
Obviously working online and in television allows me to reach wider audiences, but there are limits in terms of what I can say and promote depending on the medium and related sponsors. I don’t always get to choose what I talk about and I’m discouraged by the number of people who will attack a woman who speaks her mind. I deal with thousands of trolls and people who are angered by my work; I’m trying to help people feel better about themselves so that they can have happier relationships, but some people have a very narrow view of what a relationship should look like. I’m not perfect (not even close), but I’m also not all the terrible insults they hurl at me on a daily basis. This is definitely the hardest part of my job.
Not long ago, I started a podcast (Sex With Dr. Jess) and this has proven to be an interesting medium that allows me to speak my mind more freely. I’m still working on finding my flow, but I’m really enjoying the interviews (like the one with KK founder Emma!) — especially when my husband Brandon joins me.
The podcast is great! Our audience at KK would totally be into that. It’s clear that you are very passionate about changing the way sex is educated in schools (which is something that KK supports wholeheartedly). What changes would you like to see, and how do you think they will help?
I’d like to see more dialogue related to the nuances of relationships with an emphasis on the fact that what works for one person may not work for another. If we empower little kids to speak up and about what they like, what makes them uncomfortable and why they feel the way they do, we’ll help them grow into adults who have the tools to negotiate healthy, meaningful relationships. Sex isn’t just about sex — it includes lessons related to consent, respect, self-esteem, body image, communication, families, health and relationships.
I’d like to see sex education discussions that acknowledge the role colonization has played in the way education is framed and delivered. We need to acknowledge that our notions of health are Eurocentric and often dismiss the systemic issues and bias in research and program delivery.
I’d like to see sex education programs that address pleasure as well as risk. Scare tactics don’t work and if we aren’t teaching about the pleasures of sex (at an age-appropriate level), we’re missing an important part of the sexual equation. Sex should feel good. If we teach that it’s exclusively scary and dangerous, what messages are we conveying with regard to consent? And how do those messages play into gender stereotypes?
That’s definitely something we feel strongly about, too! Speaking of understanding our sexuality and what feels good… You recently attended our KK party in NYC and did a podcast with our founder Emma. Here at KK , we believe that sexual exploration in all forms can lead to a stronger, healthier and more honest relationships, as you stated previously through educating children in an age-appropriate yet effective way. It seems bizarre that this isn’t backed up! Why do you think society is so judgemental and slow to catch up?
Sex and relationships have been relegated to the private sphere and so we really don’t know what’s happening in anyone else’s bedroom or living room. We, therefore, make many inaccurate assumptions. These assumptions can leave us feeling inadequate. We may fear we’re missing out or that we’re simply not “enough”.
Sexual exploration not only leads to stronger, healthier relationships, but also heightened self-esteem. Attending the KK party is yet another reminder that sexual fulfilment, fantasy and pleasure varies from person to person. That’s what makes sex so exciting!
You help and advise people daily, what would be your biggest piece of advice to obtain a healthy sexual lifestyle?
Be kind to yourself first. Learn to be selfish and learn to be a taker. Sex is most fulfilling when it’s an experience as opposed to a performance (unless you’re into that, which is also cool!), so don’t get hung up on checking boxes — just do what feels good for you.
In terms of relationships, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Custom design your relationships to suit your needs and continue to communicate and renegotiate over time as your needs change. Life is too short to live it for someone else.
A motion we try to pitch to our audience here at KK on a regular basis! You are such an inspiration to so many women. Who inspired you to become this way? Who was your hero?
I’m inspired by so many people. This week, I feel most inspired by Marla Renee Stewart who is creating opportunities for so many incredible brilliant folks whose voices have been silenced for too long. I just came back from Sex Down South, which Marla launched in partnership with Tia Marie and their event had me laughing, crying and learning all weekend long.
Reflecting on our learning experience through sexual pleasure and generally within relationships is something we urge our members and readers to do. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
Stop trying to please everyone and stand up for what you believe in. I’m still working on this – professionally and personally.
Being such a strong personality and inspiration to so many people, what would you say is your greatest strength? What do you consider one of your weaknesses?
I take everything too personally. I struggle with people pleasing and I’m working on this every single day.
Many women due to the demands of juggling life can have low sexual libidos. What advice would you offer to women who are struggling to find their inner Kitten and feel sexy again?
Don’t feel pressure to bring your libido up unless you want to. If you do want to feel sexier and increase your desire for sex, consider the following:
Levels of sexual desire fluctuate over the course of a lifetime and ebbs and flows are perfectly normal. A decline in desire is not necessarily an indication of a problem and there is no ideal baseline for levels of desire. If, however, you feel that your desire for sex is lower than your own personal ideal, you may want to consider implementing strategies to boost your interest in sex.
The causes of a decline in sexual desire are varied. Hormonal fluctuations, health issues, smoking, stress, fatigue, medications, and mental health concerns can impact our levels of desire. Age may also play a role, as levels of desire and sexual activity tend to decrease in later years, however, there are exceptions to this rule.
Some people also lose interest in sex for practical reasons. When a relationship is a source of distress, sex often tapers off and when we struggle with poor body image, our desire can also disappear. Improving communication and levels of intimacy provides a foundation for rebuilding desire, as does engaging in activities that boost our self-esteem. Sex may also lose its appeal on account of predictability or boredom, so a more straightforward fix might involve novel experimentation.
If you have reason to believe that a decline in desire may be related to a medical issue, schedule a check-up with your medical practitioner to voice your concerns. Medical treatments may include a change in medications or hormone therapy administered via cream, patch, pill or suppository ring. Bear in mind that these treatments do not offer a quick-fix, nor do they address personal, relationship or lifestyle issues that impede desire.
As sexual desire is a complex experience connected to many facets of your life, the process of boosting desire is highly individual. However, exercise, massage, masturbation, fantasy and Kegels in conjunction with relaxation exercises and reframing your conception of sex to include a wider array of activities can help you to reclaim desire over time.
Meditate: Research shows that even short interventions that involve meditation and mindfulness exercises can produce significant improvements in sexual desire, lubrication and orgasm. Start with just a few minutes per day using an app like Pacifica or Headspace. The exercises aren’t sexual in nature, but the results translate into the bedroom.
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to boost sexual desire, as it can increase testosterone levels as well as augment confidence and desirability. Eighty percent of men and 60% of women who exercise 2-3 times per week feel sexier and those who get their sweat on four to five times per week rate their sex lives as higher than average.
Massage techniques may also help to increase desire, as the physical touch helps to reduce stress and may also aide in cultivating a stronger, more positive connection with your body.
Masturbation is elemental to increasing desire in many cases, as it helps us to learn about our own bodies and reactions. Self-pleasure also increases the likelihood of orgasm and is connected with higher self-esteem, Moreover, ass your body relishes in the dopamine and endorphin release, you are more likely to crave more resulting in an increase in desire for sex.
Fantasizing and engaging with erotic materials (e.g. stories, images, videos) is a fun way to learn more about your personal turn-ons and increase your desire for sex. Research suggests that inhibited sexual desire is related to a decrease in sexual fantasies and the suppression of our sexual fantasies is often related to shame and sexual repression.
Kegels can work wonders for your sex drive, as you strengthen the muscles that are responsible for sexual response and orgasm. They also improve circulation and draw awareness to your pelvic region.
Experiment with new approaches, techniques and role-plays to discover new pathways to pleasure. Do not get hung up on the act of sex, but engage in playful games, affection and other types of touch to reignite passion in your body and mind.
Some first class advice there! How do you see the future of relationships and sexuality? Do you feel the world is ready to embrace the KK way?
I’m optimistic about the future of relationships and sex. I believe people of all ages are more open to talking about their true desires and vulnerabilities, which makes for more successful relationships. I also believe that as we see gender along a continuum and eradicate binary expectations, it makes for happier, healthier relationships — with ourselves and with others. People of all genders can feel powerful, dominant, desirous and sexual. And people of all genders can feel insecure, jealous, sad and fearful. As we encourage people to open up, I believe we create important dialogues that lead to more fulfilling relationships.
As more people embrace the reality that what works for one person may not work for another, we have the opportunity to custom-design our relationships and sex lives. KK is a part of this. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but luckily tea comes in a wide array of flavours.
Hello, I am Kitten T the Editor of #itsakittensworld, passionate about sexual liberation and anything which encourages female sexual empowerment. I Love horses! You can follow me on Twitter for my latest views on the world of KK