Oloni’s debut book is dedicated to “the women who refuse to let society dictate what they should and shouldn’t do with their bodies” – and it’s a fitting tribute.
Dami Olonisakin, known as Oloni, has been writing about sex and relationships since 2008, when aged 18, she sat through a church service that demonised abortion – and felt angry. She penned her first blog post and something clicked.
Today, the British Nigerian writer is one of the most prolific sex educators in the UK. She famously nabbed work experience at Cosmopolitan magazine after camping out in the reception and refusing to leave, but it was through her own website, Simply Oloni, her award-winning podcast, Laid Bare, and her huge social media following that she truly cemented her reputation as a generation’s “agony aunt”.
Now, she’s written The Big O, a book which, in her words, “answers all your mind-boggling sex questions and helps women have better sex”. Here are just some of the many, many lessons Oloni delivers.
Your clitoris is like an iceberg
For a long time, the world’s understanding of the clitoris was pretty limited, says Oloni. And it wasn’t until 2005 – 2005! – that research by Australian urologist Helen O’Connell revealed the clitoris was actually 10 times larger than previously thought. It’s like “an iceberg”, as Oloni puts it, and it’s “built entirely for pleasure”.
“Shaped something like a wishbone, the internal clitoris extends back into the body and actually straddles both the urethra and the vagina,” she explains. “The bulbs of erectile tissue on either side become engorged during arousal. Meanwhile the glans itself has an extremely high density of nerve endings, making it one of the most sensitive organs in the body.”
Slut-shaming is not universal
In British and US culture, slut-shaming is the norm. People (read: women) are often judged for how many people they’ve had sex with. Oloni recalls the first time she was slut-shamed at university, with a group of calls calling her ‘Hoe-loni’. But she points out how ridiculous this is when a) men are not judged in the same way and b) having multiple sexual partners is totally the norm in other cultures, and even encouraged.
“Among the Aché people of Paraguay it’s not unusual for people to claim to have several fathers on account of the various men their mother slept with during her pregnancy,” she writes.
“Himba people, who live in northern Namibia and Angola, have the highest rates of children born from extramarital relationships ever reported – 70% of couples have at least one child who was fathered by someone else.
“Not only that, it’s all completely open and above board. In this community, having multiple partners outside of your marriage is not just tolerated, it’s expected.”
Racial sexualisation has ties to the slave trade
Some readers may know this, others won’t – but it’s a hugely important part of Oloni’s book and vital to get clued up on. She discusses how Black women are “routinely hypersexualised, fetishised and adultified from a really early age”.
“The hypersexualisation of Black women started way back when Europeans first travelled to Africa and saw how they lived,” she says.
“The lack of clothing, which was worn due to living in a very hot place (duh), their non-monogamous relationships and style of dancing made the Europeans believe that the women were sexually driven and were trying to seduce them. Colonisers used dehumanising tropes to put Black people into reductive categories so as to bolster the idea that they were ‘less civilised’ and to somehow justify the slave trade.”
Sex is like cooking
There’s a whole section of the book dedicated to foreplay and Oloni points to research that demonstrates women are more likely to orgasm when they’ve had a run-up before vaginal intercourse.
Never underestimate the power of foreplay, she says, because sex is just like cooking.
“Imagine you’re about to make yourself dinner,” she writes. “You have all your ingredients: your peppers, onions, seasoning, salmon… whatever it is you’re making. Now, you’re not going to serve it raw, are you? No, you’re going to go through certain steps and eventually put it on a stove or in the oven to cook. And the best chefs take great care and enjoy the process of cooking, as well as the final result!”
You’re (probably) confused about the hymen
Back to anatomy (because school biology really did us dirty). The myth that women will bleed the first time they have penetrative sex still prevails, says Oloni. Some women do, it’s worth saying, but not all. And this is because everyone’s hymen looks different. People still imagine the hymen to completely cover the entrance of the vagina, but this isn’t always the case.
“It can go all the way around the edge, it can have a half-moon shape, it could have holes in it and on very rare occasions it can stretch all the way across,” she explains.
Oloni’s family are pretty cool about her job
The author says the most common question she gets asked is how her Christian, Nigerian family feel about her writing about sex. And it turns out, they’re pretty cool about it.
“Look, I’ll be honest, my very Nigerian parents had to warm up to the idea of me writing about sexuality,” she says. “I think a turning point was after they saw me win an award for my blog in 2015. They saw how happy I was doing what I loved, and they could see that I was good at it.
“One thing I love about my mum, even in all her Nigerianness, is that she has always supported me doing what makes me happy and celebrated all my wins. Oh, and also, I have a younger sister who’s a doctor so that kind of got me off the hook a bit.”
The Big O by Oloni is published on September 29, 2022, HarperNonFiction, a division of HarperCollins Publishers.