Could stripping off in front of strangers really help the way you feel about yourself? Journalist Bibi Lynch attended a very intimate female retreat to find out.
I could start with me twerking in front of 15 strangers in Deptford. I could start with a new friend painting a love heart on my naked thigh. I could start with writing a letter to my va-jay-jay.
But I won’t. I’ll start with how this all started.
It was an Instagram reel from sexual confidence coach and empowerment guru Miss Erica Storm that grabbed me. ‘I was doing a project with someone who asked me a question’, Miss Storm said, ‘I told him: “I have to ask my p***y and get back to you”.’
Reader, Miss Erica (formerly known as international dominatrix Madam Storm, and now a clinical sex therapist-in-training who recently featured in C4’s Sex Actually documentary) does not have a business manager who is a talking cat, but what she does have, she says, are all-knowing, all-powerful nether regions.
It’s why, she explains in the post, she’s created the Power of the P***y (POTP) retreat to share that power with other women: ‘to connect you with your p***y’ and offer a ‘transformative journey of self-love and empowerment across every aspect of your life’.
Seeing as every aspect of my life feels deflated – and my bits haven’t spoken to me in an age (‘get thee to a cattery’) – I sign up immediately. Which is how I find myself in the Kindred Yoga studio in Deptford, south London, one Saturday in July.
When I arrive, there are already several nervous-looking women chatting in the reception area. ‘You here for the p***y retreat?’ is quite the ice-breaker.
All of us are dressed in red or orange – as per Miss Erica’s request (because ‘we would be activating our root and sacral chakras – to help us feel sexually-confident, empowered, creative and safe – and those chakras are red and orange’) – and all eyeing glasses being filled with Prosecco.
I sit next to Lisa, a 37-year-old lawyer and ask why she’s here. ‘I struggle with sexual confidence’, she says, ‘and don’t feel comfortable expressing what I like in a sexual scenario. I almost feel embarrassed. So I thought this would be good for me.’
‘It feels a bit daunting…’ I say.
‘I don’t know what to expect! I’m slightly nervous, slightly terrified, because I can be a bit uptight about this stuff. But that’s exactly why I thought the retreat would be good.’
As we finish our drinks, Miss Erica appears — stunning and statuesque at 5ft 11: ‘I created POTP for women to express themselves sexually and freely in a safe, non-judgemental, space,’ she explains. ‘I’ll guide you to find your voice, to learn how to communicate what you want in bed and in life, to learn how to feel sexy, to be safe, and be connected to your body.’
We got changed into our red and orange lingerie or bikinis (yoga gear for me) – some of us neck another drink – and enter the studio. The room – bright, light, palm leaves on the walls, sandalwood incense burning – instantly dials my calm-levels up to zen.
Sitting in a circle on yoga mats, with soft music on in the background, Miss Erica starts a meditation. ‘Inhale through your nose; exhale through your yoni,’ she says, ‘sending it love and healing.’ [‘Yoni’ is a Sanskrit word for female genitalia.]
Now that should make you giggle, right? Wrong. Already the room felt really into this.
Just as well as it was time for the Yoni Circle — a group-counselling session of sorts. Miss Erica asked us – 16 in total; ranging in age from our early-20s to mid-50s; students, teachers, lawyers, nurses… – why we were there. ‘I want better sex…’, ‘I want to find my identity…’, ‘My libido has gone…‘, ‘I’m recovering from operations and feel disconnected…’…
‘This can get emotional’, says Miss Erica. ‘But we have tissues!’
I’m last. ‘How are you feeling, Bibi?’
‘A bit tipsy because I’ve had two Proseccos,’ I admit. ‘But I’m here because I do not like my body. And I do not like not liking my body.’ Having heard these women revealing their innermost thoughts, saying something so personal about me didn’t feel embarrassing, rather it felt quite a relief.
We screamed (‘to release any pent-up emotion’), indulged in a Burning Ceremony – writing down the stuff we want to rid from our lives and then burning the paper. It was fabulous, freeing and funny.
More orgasmic breathing, more meditation, more mantras – ‘I deserve pleasure. I am pleasure. I am free’. I was loving this and feeling quite psyched.
After lunch came a Sensual Movement class; touching our hair and thighs; and then thrusting whilst saying affirmations. I found this section excruciating, but Miss Erica’s chants of ‘I say “P***y!”; you say “Power!”’ rouse me and somehow, somehow I appear to be twerking in a sports bra and leggings in front of 15 women I’ve never met before.
As the afternoon continues we cover everything from practical ‘make sex better’ tips and facts (did you know there are 8,000 nerve-endings in the clitoris, pub-quizzers?) – to society’s damning take on women and sexuality.
We explore what turns us on (Miss Erica – with consent – tied up one woman whose kink is the Japanese bondage art of Shibari… ‘Don’t go to B&Q’ she said. ‘Get nice rope’); and then, it was time to get arty: with Miss Erica asking us to paint on the part of our body that ‘we don’t say we hate, but we say we want to nourish.’
My partner painted a black heart on my thigh and I painted a heart and kisses on her décolletage. It’s such a sweet, trusting thing to do and feels almost ceremonial.
Before I know it I have slipped off my kimono and walk across the studio in just my bra and knickers. Through the studio, through the reception area, to the water cooler and then, less casually, yelped ‘Look at what I’m doing!’ to Miss Erica. She grinned, took me back to the studio and got all the women to witness my moment.
We worship our bodies some more, we write love-letters to our p***y (mine was more of an apology); and end the day ‘strutting into our power’ towards a mirror where we can get as naked as we want to. (I’d exposed enough for a day so just got my shoulder out.)
A painty, sweaty group-hug later — and the day is done.
And what a day. Hilarious, joyful, necessary: that a group of strangers could be so liberal, passionate and vulnerable – in dress and conversation – shows we’d needed that opportunity.
Did Lisa, sitting next to me topless, enjoy the day? ‘It was really lovely,’ she says. ‘Lots of bonding. I found some of the sexual movement intimidating in the beginning — but really liked it in the end. I think it will take a few more sessions to get to Miss Erica’s level of empowerment, but today has definitely been liberating.’
And me? That night, I felt exhausted but proud I’d faced my ‘body out’ fear.
The next day I feel wired and excited and start my ‘Change my Life’ list. The day after that I go to the beach. In a bikini. For the first time in 10 years.
And today I wore red to a café and a very handsome Italian man kept looking over and smiling at me. I smiled back but had nuts in my teeth. Unfortunately a powerful p***y can’t control everything.
The next Power of the Pussy retreat is in London on September 3rd. Early Bird tickets cost £135 and visit missericastorm.co.uk for all information.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing Claie.Wilson@metro.co.uk
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