Conscious Conversations: Ashley Cobb Spreads the Good Word of Having Sex for Survivors
At the intersection of Black History Month (February) International Women’s Month (March) and Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April) are Black Womxn. A community whose voices have been pushed to the background of conversations about sexual pleasure, sexual wellness, and cannabis use; a group who, without their advocacy, energy, and action, the women’s suffrage movements wouldn't have succeeded, perhaps the #MeToo movement wouldn't have caught fire across the globe as it has, and, many Democratic candidates likely wouldn't have been elected. We have courageous and ingenious women like Stacey Abrams to thank for that!
So, let’s bring their voices to the forefront of the conversation, and speak to someone who has already started doing that.
Ashley Cobb is a sex influencer, “friend in filth,” host of the podcast, “Hoe and Tell”, and a sex advice columnist. She uses her platform on social media to spread the good word of having good sex. For survivors of sexual assault, these words can help us on our journey to healing.
Cobb started her sex-influencing career as a blogger, first inspired by Sex In The City’s Carry Bradshaw, except instead of a print column in 1998, she started with a website in 2016. Combining her own experience with sexual topics that affect womxn, over the last five years Cobb has grown her fan base and her ability to destigmatize conversations about sex and pleasure.
Trauma and sexual trauma:
This was a hard first question to answer. Cobb asked if we could come back to it, but as we wove our way through the conversation, we forgot to return to hear the answer.
Sexual Wellness: Like some of our other interviewees, Cobb’s definition centers around the ability to advocate for oneself. She says, “The World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of sexual wellness is a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social wellbeing concerning your sexuality.” She goes on to break these aspects down in relation to self-advocacy:
1. Physical: “being able to advocate for your physical health in terms of being able to visit your doctor [and] being able to ask for certain tests.”
2. Emotional: “are you having sex from a place of a trauma-based response? Are you
having sex from a state or I’m doing this ‘because I want to,’ [or] because ‘I feel like it’s how I get love?’”
3. Mental: “Is it consensual sex? Are you mentally in a state where you’re able to consent to what’s happening to you?”
4. Social: “That one is difficult because people perceive things differently socially. For me, it would be based on what you want to do. Sometimes people conform to societal norms but it’s not from a healthy standpoint.” Finding a husband, being ladylike, and all that other crap
This idea of conforming to society’s idea of what sex should be is part of Cobb’s inspiration for getting into the sex-influencing space. She says that many Black Womxn “are very reserved when it comes to sex. A lot of us just feel not as open as we would like to be due to societal things and religion.” Cobb herself grew up in a church in the South where “sex isn’t something you talk about ... because then you’re perceived as this hoe or loose woman. And we don’t want to be perceived like that because we want to be able to get husbands, [have people think] you’re ladylike and a worthy woman and all this other crap.”
So the mission, which she knows is a difficult one, as she struggles with these things herself-is to get womxn, and Black Womxn specifically, to understand that “you can still be sexual and still be desirable and worthy of all the things that you are worthy of. One does not take away from the other.”
People Who Talk About Sex Have Better Sex
But why is it important to have these conversations? Why talk about something if doing so could risk your reputation as a “worthy woman?” Because people want to have better sex.
“The people who talk about sex are the ones who are having better sex. The more you talk about it, the better your sex will be ... if you talk about it, it stops becoming taboo … if you don’t talk about things that you’re interested in [you might think] that’s weird or strange or no one’s doing that. But if you’re in a conversation with people who are interested in the same things you’re interested in, you can normalize sex for Black women. We all have sex but we don’t have the important conversations around [it].”
Just how conversations about cannabis are needed to destigmatize the plant so that more people can experience its benefits, Cobb believes we need to have open conversations about sex so that more people can experience pleasure. A couple of months ago when we spoke with Cobb, she had just posted a video on her Instagram asking people why they got married to people they weren’t sexually compatible with. Cobb got countless messages and comments from people in response saying that they thought it would get better over time. Many said that “they were religious and they didn’t have sex until marriage and … they didn’t know that you were supposed to enjoy sex. They didn’t know it was going to be a big thing until they were in it.” Cobb says that even if people had never had sex before marriage, they are still often unsatisfied by the sex they’re having.
“Even though they had nothing to compare it to-we women hear the stories, we read the magazines, we see people who are talking about this mindblowing sex-even though you aren’t having it when you’re having lackluster sex you’re like … ’this can’t be what the people are talking about. I’m missing something.’”
But conversations about sex aren’t often easy to have. In doing so people might find out that their wants and needs are vastly different from their partners’. They may need to decide whether these differences are something they can work on, or if they aren’t sexually compatible enough to be happy staying together.