Sex. That seemingly nonchalant three letter word is loaded (excuse the pun) with meaning, experience, emotion, and sometimes trauma. It should be fun, although sometimes complicated, and during the times we can’t get enough of it the joys of feeling sensual, empowered and desired can’t be beaten. But for so many, sex isn’t as simple as that. For the 51% of women that struggle with sex, be it painful intercourse, feeling shame or overthinking the experience as a whole, finding support and resources to help on the journey to becoming more sexually confident and liberated can be a struggle.
Its aim is to help users feel present and empowered to explore and lead a healthy and pleasurable sex life
Enter: Ferly. The sexual wellness app led by science and research-based therapy sessions, its aim is to help users feel present and empowered to explore and lead a healthy and pleasurable sex life, because who doesn’t want that? Based around three main programmes (Cultivating Desire, Sex After Trauma and Body Confidence), and with other resources such as body mapping sessions, journaling prompts, podcast episodes and interviews and sensual stories to help get you in the mood, Ferly is a one-stop-shop for taking back control and slowly but surely helping sex to feel good again.
The app was established back in July 2019 and is backed by experts in women’s health to inject the most up to date research and techniques in sex education into its foundations, helping incorproate mindfulness based cognitive therapy and form an accessible means of overcoming trauma, understanding pleasure and redefining sex ed. Ferly founders Billie Quinlan and Anna Hushlak are survivors of sexual assault and violence themselves, and have sought to create a safe space to help others in similar situations rebuild their confidence and reclaim their sex lives.
We caught up with Billie to chat all things sexual healing and education, and learn more about the app itself…
Hi guys! Having explored the app, its features, tools and sensual stories it’s safe to say we’re obsessed! What was the inspiration behind building the app and how did the Ferly journey begin?
Hi, I’m Billie. I’m one-half of Ferly’s founders and Dr Anna Hushlak is my amazing partner in crime. Our journey building Ferly started in 2019 but the seed started growing way before that. Unfortunately, Anna lost her virginity through rape when she was 15 and it took her 10 years to really make sense of the experience, move through her trauma and find pleasure again.
We wanted to build a sex positive platform that normalised investing in your sexual wellbeing. Billie
As for me, I was sexually assaulted by a senior colleague at work. For the first time this made me see the connection between health and pleasure, and between a healthy sexuality and our quality of life. When the two of us met, we immediately bonded over our shared experience, our desire to empower women and our passion for healthy living. We were so frustrated that there were all these beautiful, consumer friendly tools out there for our physical and mental health, but the only help available for our sexual health was expensive to access (therapy) or hard to digest (books, medical journals etc). We wanted to build a sex positive platform that normalised investing in your sexual wellbeing. A safe space that smashed sexual taboos and gave women permission to prioitise their pleasure, because when women do that, it transforms their quality of life!
How does Ferly differ from other similar apps in this space or would you consider it to be completely one of a kind?
When we launched in 2019, we were one of two companies operating in this space. The other company really focused on creating an alternative to porn and they built an entertainment platform that made listening to sexual stimuli a really pleasurable experience. We decided to focus more on the health angle. Roughly 51% of women struggle with a sexual difficulty which could be anything from low libido to trouble reaching orgasm or sexual anxiety to pain during sex (FYI around 25% of men struggle with sexual difficulties yet there’s a multi-billion dollar industry out there to help them and what do women have as a way of support…very little!)
Our mission is to help all women have great sex. To do that, we had to help those that weren’t always having the best time. Ferly is a digital therapeutic which means we’ve created an evidence-based program that helps women have better sex in just 12 weeks! The results are truly amazing. Women write in and tell us we’ve saved their marriages, that we’ve given them the confidence to date again, that they’ve had their first orgasm and never been happier. Hearing from our customers is really overwhelming and it drives us to work so hard every day.
Unfortunately so many womxn struggle with their sexual journey’s at some point in their lives. How does Ferly help with these struggles and what can people expect from using the app? Talk us through the journey of using Ferly from download to working through these issues…
Our sexual pleasure is contingent on our bodies, minds and social world all working in harmony. The reality is, it’s hard for us to always align those things. So when they aren’t operating quite like they should, we step in to help. Ferly helps you understand which of the three (body, mind, world) are out of whack and then we give you an incredible framework to follow that will move them back into harmony. Within our framework you’ll learn about the science of sex, recieve the sex education you should have had, be walked through beautiful practices that encourage you to get out of your head and into your body and discover more about yourself and your pleasure than ever before.
After 12 weeks, 90% of our community say they’ve never felt so sexually confident. When you join Ferly you also get a personal coach and gain access to a group of other women going on the same journey so you never feel alone in this experience.
Who do you consider the target audience for Ferly? Is it primarily for those who have experienced trauma during sex or can anyone benefit from the tools available on the app?
We’re for any woman or vulva owner that wants to have better sex. Some women come to us because they’ve experienced trauma but that’s not the case for most of our community. The reality is, we all had shit sex education at school, so unless you grew up in a very sex-positive household you probably didn’t learn how to have great sex. And I’m not just talking about the physical act of sex. I’m also talking about how to communicate with your partner, form healthy relationships, develop sexual beliefs that make it possible for you to know your pleasure matters and that prioritising your needs is essential and not at all indulgent! Our sexuality is a living, breathing part of who we are. It’s how we express ourselves and form relationships, and Ferly gives you all the tools you need to live authentically you, basking in your sexual power.
How would you describe sexual wellness to someone who doesn’t know what this phase means?
Sexual wellness is leading a healthy, confident and pleasurable life where your relationship to sex positively contributes to your quality of life.
How does Ferly work with experts in the field and could you tell us a little more about the science behind the app?
Anna is a scientist by training so when we set out to build Ferly we had scientific rigour in our DNA. We wanted to build a wellness solution that was rooted in evidence from the world’s leading institutions and academics. From day one we partnered with the best experts in the U.K. and North America and as a result, we’ve created a solution that truly delivers on its promise. There is no woo woo science in Ferly.
Ferly has taken clinically proven interventions in women’s sexual pleasure and used technology to scale them so that we can reach millions of women around the world. We need to democratise this type of care so that every woman that wants better sex, can have it!
How important do you guys see masturbation to be in helping womxn reconnect with their bodies and enjoy feeling pleasure sexually?
We live in an increasingly busy world where we live mostly in our minds. Our attention is being hijacked by advertisers, social media or work and it’s becoming harder and harder to truly switch off and unwind. But so much living happens in our bodies. If we don’t carve out space to ground ourselves we lose touch of our senses and our intuition. Being too in our heads and not enough in our body is also a huge contributor to sex being a bit shit. Masturbation is a phenomenal practice to help you reconnect with yourself, to tune into your needs and to practice the art of mindfulness.
It also teaches you what you like, what feels good and equally what doesn’t. There is a huge pleasure gap in heterosexual relationships. Men have more pleasure than women. Masturbation helps women learn the art of their pleasure which in turn gives them the language to communicate to their partners. It’s one of the most powerful ways women can unlock more pleasure in their lives!
The pandemic has impacted our lives in every possible way during the past few years, be it with our mental and physical health and a complete upheaval of our previous lifestyles. Have you seen an uptake in people using Ferly during this time and seeking out support due to feeling isolated in their struggles?
Definitely, we saw a rise of over 600% during the first lockdown in 2020 and that trend has continued. It feels like there has been a huge shift in consumer awareness when it comes to the importance of sex to a happy and healthy life and on top of that, we are seeing a dialogue open up like never before. We always say that the sexual revolution of the 60s/70s was for men and the pandemic has brought about a sexual revolution for women. It’s such an exciting time for the sexual wellness industry because women’s sexual awakening is driving the growth!
What’s been the proudest/biggest ‘pinch me’ moment in the Ferly journey so far?
We’ve had a few but the fact that we’ve been used by almost 300,000 women in over 200 countries is pretty cool. Women around the world are prioritising their pleasure and it feels like one giant community of incredible women. On the product side, being featured by Apple as their App of the Day and now being added to their Apple Health app alongside industry giants like Clue and Flo is also amazing. This really highlights the change in consumer awareness and demand! Oh, and of course being interviewed by Zoella 😉
What’s been the biggest challenge so far in building Ferly from concept to viable business?
Getting funded when the purse strings are held by middle-aged white men who don’t think women’s pleasure matters as much as men’s pleasure. The patriarchy is alive and kicking my friends!
Do you have a message of hope or healing you could share with anyone reading this who is currently struggling with their sex life, be it with painful intercourse or feeling disconnected from their body? It’s easy to feel really isolated when battling these issues.
The number one question we get asked at Ferly is ‘am I normal’ and whilst there is no normal, there are enough of us struggling with the same issues to say you absolutely are. It’s so unbelievably common to struggle with sexual issues but with the right information and support, you can and will overcome them. With Ferly, that help is really accessible and you can access it from the comfort of your home. So whatever you’re navigating, we’re here to help. Waiting for you on the other side is a life filled with beautiful experiences and pleasurable moments.
Where do you hope to take Ferly next and what are your hopes for the future?
Our goal is to be the number one destination for women’s mental and sexual wellbeing as it’s all so intrinsically linked. We believe women deserve a platform that is designed solely for their lived experiences and their needs. And designed in a way that makes investing in their health exciting, joyful and more than anything, easy. Ferly’s mission is to empower every woman to live a healthy, confident and pleasurable life. We won’t stop until we’ve created the right solutions for all their needs.