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How Oloni became the voice of female sexual empowerment

Her explicit Twitter threads have made Dami Olonisakin the UK’s loudest megaphone for women’s sexual rights.

“Ladies, shall we have some fun?”

This is the siren call that sends hundreds of thousands of people flocking to one particular Twitter account: that of Dami Olonisakin, better known as “Oloni”. A sex blogger, podcaster, and soon-to-be author, she is one of the UK’s biggest names in sex and relationships writing. Whenever she tweets this now infamous line, her name almost immediately begins trending online on Twitter. And, without any other context, she gets thousands of likes and retweets from followers ready for what she’s about to unearth.

In her “Ladies and LADIES ONLY” twitter threads, Oloni puts out requests for typically explicit, far-from-vanilla stories from women from across the world who proudly speak about their sex lives in ways that we usually almost exclusively hear from men. These have included requests for their wildest sex stories from university, for their experiences with sugar daddies, and for accounts of times when women have had sex with a guy and his best friend. In anonymised screenshots, she posts the best of the messages she receives. You can see the nature of these stories by clicking on any of the hyperlinked threads – most are too NSFW to put in this piece. But I can tell you that reading one of the stories from a thread in October, I was so enthralled that I walked into a pole.

While Oloni’s threads are noteworthy in their own right, her popular blog and podcast have made Oloni the UK’s biggest voice for women’s sexual rights – and her reign is really just beginning.

***

The 28-year-old Londoner has been in the game for over ten years, launching the site responsible for her fame, Simply Oloni, in 2008.

“It started off as a bog-standard blog, your typical simplyoloni.blogspot.com,” she tells me of her humble beginnings. After toiling in relative obscurity for several years, Oloni incorporated an “Ask Oloni” section to her site. It became immediately inundated with tens of thousands of sex and relationship “dilemmas”, begging her for advice on how to deal with everything from sexual dynamics to cheating to surprise pregnancies. (Oloni gets so many that she now offers over-the-phone consultations for people who feel they desperately need in-depth, specific advice).

In 2016, she began composing her now infamous Twitter threads. Beyond wild sex stories, Oloni instigated viral challenges, urging her female followers to pull tricks and ask outrageous things from their male love interests. She now gets women to ask their partners to send them money, buy them designer bags, or ask when they last had a STI test. Participants screenshot and share their partner’s replies, which Oloni retweets to her 100K+ followers.

“It was so random… I just thought it was a silly thing to do,” she says of how it started. “I think Valentine's Day was around the corner and I just told girls to text a guy and say ‘Hey, I have a crush on you. Do you want to be my Valentine?’”

This is part of Oloni’s appeal: her commitment to flipping the narrative about women’s sex lives. By rooting power and control in the female gaze, she upends the traditional “sex story”; a genre that typically glorifies hyper-masculine perspectives.

“Apparently women never ever make the first move,” she says sarcastically, “So I thought: here’s a chance for women to make the first move and what not.”

It’s an approach that stands in stark contrast to her chaste upbringing. Growing up both Christian and Nigerian, Oloni’s formative years were far from sex positive. She was the only person in her friendship group who wanted to talk about sex and relationships. At home, discussions about relationships hinged on virginity and marriage. 

Oloni recounts one church meeting she attended aged 18, where young churchgoers were told not to get abortions if they became pregnant. This particular meeting crystallised her drive to write about sexual rights, and formed the basis of one of her first ever Simply Oloni blogs.

“I was just like, you know, surely this message isn't right. Surely they should be teaching us if you do want to have sex, these are ways you can do it responsibly,” she says of her frustration with such messages. “I feel like we as women, we have autonomy over our body, and we shouldn't be feeling like we should be pressured into something just because a lady from church says so. And I think that's when it started to hit me, I really wanted to talk about the rights that women have.”

***

While Oloni may be known for her more “fun” threads, she has never shied away from tougher subjects. While collecting responses for her sex stories threads recently, Oloni began to see a worrying trend.

“Women were speaking to me and describing their [sexual] situations and I noticed that they weren't aware… That they didn't know that the position they were in was sexual abuse or that it was rape. Like, ‘Oh my gosh, I was so drunk and you know, he kept pouring me drinks and I told him to stop but then I eventually gave in.’”

“They would think they were telling a funny story,” she says.

In April, Oloni asked for women to send in their stories on “stealthing” – when men attempt to secretly remove their condom without the consent of their female partner. The results were astounding: Hundreds of women messaging and sharing stories of a form of sexual assault that many admitted they had never heard of.

“I felt like I had that responsibility to be like we should be having the conversation more,” she says. “Like, yeah, we can talk about like the silly times when you actually consented to having sex with two guys in a week. But we need to know what the difference in what consent looks like… And maybe the average joe would not know that this is actually technically rape.”

“I [also] wanted women to know that they weren’t alone,” she says of including more threads about sexual assault. “And I wanted to educate them. But I think when it comes to some serious topics, such as stealthing, I wanted women to know that they weren’t alone.”

***

I ask Oloni if she sees what she does as activism. She hesitates at first.

“I wouldn't see it as activism, I would see it as… Or why not! I don’t see why not,” she says. “In terms of sexual rights I would definitely say so because each and every day I'm always teaching… I'm always having to share my knowledge with women in terms of their rights.”

And despite the often outrageous and, frankly, fun nature of her “Ladies” threads, much of Oloni’s work has pivoted to educating women. She has written about topics including healthy relationships, STIs, and sexual assault, and has begun to spend time in secondary schools teaching students about consent (occasionally alongside celebrity activists like Maya Jama and Felicity Hayward).

“People seem to think that consent starts when you're about to become intimate. And it doesn’t,” she says. “It starts in the playground, when the boy is going to pull on a girl's bra strap or a girl is being too over familiar and she's trying to hug him when he doesn't want to be hugged… That’s literally when I believe kids should be taught about consent.”

One of Oloni’s latest ventures is her podcast, Laid Bare, which launched in January of this year. Co-hosted with sex writer Shakira “Scotty Unfamous” Scott and Instagrammer Shani Jamila, the podcast unabashedly delves into the details of the three women’s sex lives alongside answering sex and dating dilemmas from listeners. While also being one of the only non-white dedicated sex podcasts in the UK, the show brings on women who are bi, gay, and trans (one of them being Danni, a trans woman who was featured in an episode of First Dates). The podcast is only a couple of months old, but listener figures for some Soundcloud episodes nears six-figures.

“The main reason why I wanted to create Laid Bare,” Oloni tells me, “was because I wanted other women who looked like me to know that there is this space where women are talking about the things you definitely want to talk about, that you don’t know how to talk about, that you're scared of talking about.”

“Black people – and especially black women – don’t talk about sex openly. But now you’ve got three women who are doing it weekly and getting crazy numbers.”

Despite those crazy numbers, though, Oloni suspects that being black is part of what’s keeping her off awards lists – and preventing her from booking jobs. “There was a list that came out of like, top ten sex podcasts, and it was literally full of white, cis, hetero women,” she tells me. “And it was like, ‘Hold on, are black people not having sex? Because we definitely are.’”

“[Jobs] usually go to other white people in the sex and wellbeing industry, and that’s completely fine. But it’s when their reach or their engagement is nowhere near yours…” she says, trailing off. “It’s kind of like when you know you’re great and you're not just saying you're great, like, you have the numbers to show that you're great. I mean, I was trending over the weekend. I don't think that's something that I see other people in the sex industry do.”

“In the UK, even though the industry is quite small, it's still hard to be seen as a black woman.”

***

If it sounds like Oloni has a lot on her plate – with writing, teaching, podcasting, and a full-time-influencer level of social media presence – then you don’t know the half of it. She is currently writing a book titled The Big O – “it is essentially the perfect title,” she jokes – which is being crowd-funded and published by Unbound.

“The book will discuss how our generation see sex and how we've basically taken ownership of our sexuality, but what we can also do to improve our sex lives,” she tells me. Oloni says the book will discuss topics that often go unmentioned in mainstream sex discourse, such as sugar daddies, “being a quote unquote “‘hoe’”, and non-monogamy. 

She is also in the midst of filming a pilot for BBC 3, helping bad daters (“people who are regularly ghosted, people who can’t get second dates, etc”) to overcome their dating issues.

“I will be helping them, advising them, giving them a kick up the bum, and telling them what they need to do to change their dating pattern,” she says.

I ask Oloni what she thinks is the biggest sex-related challenge women face today. “Being honest about their orgasms, I think that that is something that we're still fighting,” she says. “There are so many in denial about how a vagina works, thinking that penetration is the only way we reach an orgasm. And that's completely false.”

When I ask if she thinks that society is becoming more sex-positive, she tells me she genuinely can’t tell. “I feel like I’m in a bubble… People know they have to be sex positive around me,” she says. “The people I surround myself with are, I guess, sexually woke if that’s a thing.”

“But I've noticed that a lot more black women are feeling more comfortable talking about sex,” she adds. “I hope they generally feel comfortable. And they're not just doing it because it's in trend.”

One thing she speaks about is sex work, both to me and to her followers. She believes women should have the right to make money through sex work if they so choose.

“Society has always told us that we should put our vaginas on a pedestal.... Grown men and the patriarchy have always told us that ‘your vagina is worth this, worth that,’” she says. “So if we want to put our vaginas on a pedestal and say ‘Wait hold on, we’re going to charge for it,’ who are you to tell me that I can't do that?” 

“At the end of the day, it's still work,” she says. “And I just don't think anyone should be judged for it.”

This is what, Oloni tells me, she ultimately wants for women: for their sex lives to be judgement free.

 “I want them to know that it’s okay to be a sexual being,” she says. “And to know that their pleasure should never ever come last.”

Sarah Manavis is the New Statesman's tech and digital culture writer.