The Scoop: Coral is an app that aims to empower people in their sexual health. Coral was created with the help and expertise of sexual wellness professionals, from licensed psychotherapists to certified sex coaches. The app allows users to connect with their partners, follow guided exercises, and gain access to countless sexual health resources. Coral’s resources and approach are trauma-informed and queer-affirming, making the app a safe place for users, regardless of past sexual experiences.
Like all too many people, my sex education was severely lacking. Sex ed was integrated into the mandatory 9th grade PE class, where we would spend half the period in gym clothes and the other half in the smallest classroom in the school and follow a stale PowerPoint about how to attend to personal health.
It was a co-ed class of over 30 kids, and our teacher was the high school’s baseball coach. He was a soft-spoken, middle-aged man who gave off the energy he didn’t really want to be there. The entire sex-ed chapter was only two days and consisted of two PowerPoints. The first one was all about STDs and teenage pregnancy and how these things can severely impact personal health and plans for the future.
The second one included a few diagrams of reproductive systems and many slides about how abstinence is the only way to prevent STDs and pregnancy. And that was it. This sex-ed class was taught in 2014. Disappointing as it is, this, or worse, is the status quo for sex education. Some students may be fortunate enough to have parents who talk to them about sex in a healthy way, but many don’t. Not having a safe place to talk or get the proper resources about sex and sexual health can be confusing and lead to issues.
Sexual health is about more than just intercourse, and most people don’t attend to it as well as they should. Sex is a foundational part of who we are as humans, and people have the right to happy, healthy, and pleasurable sex. Coral, an app for sexual health, is helping achieve that. With materials compiled by sexual wellness experts, the app features exercises, reflections, and resources for singles and couples wanting to improve their sexual health.
Isharna Walsh is the founder and CEO of Coral, and she talked to us about the app and its mission to improve users’ sex lives. “Our culture doesn’t really set us up with the information that we need to create our happiest and healthiest sex lives,” Isharna said. “Coral is trying to fix that.”
A Place to Chat, Play, and Learn
Coral was designed around three pillars of chat, play, and learn. The app is a great starting place for couples struggling with issues in the bedroom or those who want to add a little something to their sex life. Couples can download the app and create their own separate accounts. They can then connect with each other through the app, where they can mark each other as partners.
Couples will receive a daily question in their encrypted couples chat from Coral meant to spark reflection and conversation. Questions may ask couples to think about a past sexual experience they had with each other or to share their desires for future sexual experiences. “The goal of these questions is to spice things up and help partners feel more connected,” Isharna said. These questions are great as a quick daily check-in and help couples stay intentional.
The play feature offers an extensive library of guided exercises. There are individual and couple exercises designed to help folks explore their sensual and sexual selves. Individual exercises include embodiment exercises and guides to explore unearthed sexual preferences and fantasies. Guided exercises are not strictly about sex. Instead, they come from the position that sexual health includes concerns matters of the mind and spirit, along with the body.
Exercises for couples are also diverse, and not all of them focus explicitly on sex. Some guided exercises for couples urge exploration of fantasies, while others offer date night inspiration or in-depth instructions for a back massage. When the mood is right, Coral’s play library also includes guided exercises perfect for foreplay and beyond.
Coral’s learn feature includes resources from sexual wellness experts about sexual concerns that range from erectile dysfunction to how to last longer in bed. These resources help couples learn more about whatever struggles they may be having, what they can do to overcome them, and how to shift perspective to maintain confidence as they sort out the problem.
Coral’s Expert Contributors
Coral’s content deals with a lot of sensitive topics, so all information contained within the app must be well-informed, accurate, and up-to-date. That’s why Isharna consulted with sexual health professionals from the beginning, using their expertise to create helpful and knowledgeable resources.
Ten experts were involved in developing content for Coral. Isharna brought on two in-house experts, Dr. Kristen Mark and Dr. Holly Richmond. Dr. Kristen Mark is an internationally recognized sex and relationships researcher, educator, and therapist. Dr. Holly Richmond is a Somatic Psychologist, Certified Sex Therapist, and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in recovering sexual health after sexual trauma.
One of the biggest reasons getting expert guidance was so crucial to Isharna is that many aspects of Coral are designed to help folks who have experienced sexual trauma. Suffering from sexual trauma is a debilitating experience, and resources that address this trauma must be written and approved by professionals.
Dr. Shemeka Thorpe is another expert who contributed to the development of Coral. Dr. Thorpe is a sexuality educator, researcher, and assistant professor at the University of Kentucky. Her research focuses on the sexual well-being of Black women, and she strives to make sex research relevant to Black communities. Another professional who worked on Coral was Dr. Ian Kerner, a licensed psychotherapist, sexuality counselor, and author of the NYT best-seller “She Comes First.”
Coral holds three core values. The first value is that people can and should experience shame-free pleasure. This value addresses more than being ‘good’ in bed or sexually active. Instead, it’s about understanding how the body and mind work regarding sex and finding a balance that fuels enjoyment. The second value is that each person is responsible for their own pleasure, which means that it is no one’s job to give anyone else sexual pleasure.
The last core value is that the journey is more important than the destination. The heteronormative idea of sex positions and the orgasm as the goal not only dismiss the experience of non-cisgendered and non-heterosexual people, it also prevents all kinds of people from having intimate and pleasurable sex.
Prioritizing Profound Connection
The founding story of Coral is a personal one for Isharna. At 26, Isharna had been in a relationship for about four years. When Isharna and her partner began to experience trouble in their sex lives, they didn’t have the tools to address it. They didn’t know what kind of problems were ‘normal,’ and Isharna became unhappy. This led her to go on a journey of discovery around sex and her own sexuality and experiences.
Through this journey, she realized that most people aren’t equipped to create their happiest and healthiest sex lives. “Our culture doesn’t set us up with the information that we need. My inspiration was my own personal journey in relation to sex and intimacy,” Isharna said. “And the recognition that I wasn’t alone in struggling, that my experience was actually really common.”
Coral is the kind of resource Isharna said she wishes she had had access to when she was struggling. The app has over 1 million downloads and 3,000 reviews with an overall 4.6 rating. A review from a user named Joelle reads, “I grew up in a family that didn’t talk about it at all, and I took that to mean it was shameful. I’m trying to surround myself with positive, realistic influences to combat that, and Coral has been amazing. It’s just what I was looking for.”
Another review reads, “After two kids, prioritizing connection with my wife is challenging. Coral helps us reignite that spark and connect. The exercises have been a game changer!” Coral’s chats, exercises, and resources can greatly improve couples’ sex lives. Just having the app downloaded and visible every time couples use their phone serves as a simple reminder to consider their partner and their needs.
Sexual health is a central aspect of personal health, so when it improves, so does overall health. Beyond igniting the sexual spark between couples, the sort of intimacy that Coral encourages is bound to improve other aspects of a relationship. Whether it’s communication or level of trust, couples will find the whole of their relationship strengthened – not just the sexy stuff.
“Coral helps people learn about exploring each other and understanding someone’s body, what they enjoy, and really experiencing the fullness of their sexuality and exploring sexuality together,” Isharna said.