Panel Talk ‘Improving Your Sex Life’ Finding Joy in Pleasure

The 'Improving Your Sex Life' panel on squirting, talking openly about lovemaking and finding joy in pleasure


Joy through sexual pleasure was the topic of Sunday’s panel discussion, “Improving Your Sex Life,” inside the ESSENCE Wellness House at the Ogden Museum.

“We are sexual beings by nature and our sexual peak occurs during our 40s, 50s and 60s,” said Anita Kopacz, a spiritual psychologist and author. She reminded the women that “we are connected to the divine and our intuition is God.”

Panelist, marriage and family therapist Shaheen Francis’ goal was to equip black women with the confidence to talk openly about sex. She said that the comfort we feel when talking over dinner with a friend should be the same kind of ease with which we approach the subject of sexual pleasure.

“We’re not afraid to talk about our food preferences when deciding what to order at a restaurant or when deciding what time to meet,” she said. Francis encouraged everyone at Joy Sanctuary to embrace the same confidence when communicating about sex, adding, “change the way you present yourself to those talks.”

Attendee Marion Tillman from New York left the discussion intending to speak openly about sexual pleasure, saying, “I come from a family where the conversation about sex was just ‘don’t do that,'” she recalled to ESSENCE. “My mom had four daughters and we didn’t talk about it. I am now the mother of an adult daughter and I basically told her the same thing: ‘don’t do it’. My daughter and I have been through everything together, but we never talk about sex.”

Kopacz, former editor-in-chief of Heart and soul magazine, is also the founder of “Zero F given”, a campaign to raise awareness and help victimized and disenfranchised populations heal from sexual trauma. Speaking bluntly, she talked about her own journey to joy in the bedroom.

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“My first experience with squirting was when I was 30 years old and had no idea what it was,” he said. “My partner explained it to me and I soon told my sisters and friends with excitement.” Her outspokenness has allowed other women to break down her walls when it comes to the subject.

“One of the things that I really enjoyed was the conversation about squirting. It’s the first time I’ve heard someone talk about it so openly and the fact that she took the time to break it down and explain it was very eye-opening for me,” said Susan Ottley of Maryland. She spoke to us as she headed to the Zen Zone for a more intimate wellness session on sacred sensuality led by Kopacz. “I would really recommend ESSENCE Festival of Culture to women and hope that Wellness House will return next year.”

When moderator Atoya Burleson asked the panelists to offer their top tips for improving our sex lives, they left the audience with gems. Francis advised women to “take root in joy as pleasure. Sex is an opportunity for sensual pleasure. Know what you want and that you can say ‘yes’. If you are indeed saying ‘no,’ self-assess why without judgment or shame,” he said. “Finally, if that ‘no’ gets in the way and it’s something you no longer want to keep, dig deeper to find out where you can get more support to allow yourself to receive.” As for Kopacz, he recommended that women create safe spaces for sex and talk about the joy of it with close friends.

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Keep up with Anita Kopacz via Instagram at anitakopacz. You can also access a wellness app co-created by Shadeen Francis by visiting There you’ll find resources for even more real conversations about improving your sex life.

TOPICS: essence festival 2022 Essence Wellness House love and sex