This episode is all about how your experience with sex is not hormone-dependent, it is actually dependent upon your brain.
Emily Nagoski is the award-winning author of the New York Times bestselling Come As You Are and The Come As You Are Workbook, and coauthor, with her sister, Amelia, of New York Times bestseller Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. She earned an M.S. in counseling and a Ph.D. in health behavior, both from Indiana University, with clinical and research training at the Kinsey Institute. Now she combines sex education and stress education to teach women to live with confidence and joy inside their bodies. She lives in Massachusetts.
In this podcast, The Neuroscience of Sexual Desire, we cover:
Is our perception of sex programmed at a young age?
How sexuality works in your brain
Why desire is not a significant part of the “great sex” formula
How to communicate wants and needs with a partner
Why women can struggle to have an orgasm
Is Our Perception of Sex Programmed At A Young Age?
Sexuality itself is an organic, innate part of what it is to be human. A lot of learning happens from the day you are born. You begin absorbing messages about sexuality, privacy, safety, love, pleasure, bodies, boundaries, and disgust. We don’t get to pick almost anything that happens to us. All of the lessons and experiences we did not choose for ourselves impact the shape of our sexuality. So, what your sexuality looks like now, is different from what it looked like 10 years ago, and what it will look like 10 years from now.
Understanding The Accelerator And The Brakes
Imagine that sexuality works in your brain the same way every other system works in your brain, which is a coupling of an excitatory system or an accelerator, and an inhibitory system or a brake. The accelerator notices anything sex-related in your environment and sends a turn-on signal. On the other hand, the brake notices every potential threat in your environment and sends a turn-off signal. Usually, when people are struggling with desire and arousal, it’s rarely because there’s not enough stimulation to the accelerator; it’s because there’s too much stimulation to the brakes. A strategy to help identify your brakes is to imagine three spectacular sexual experiences that you have had and three not-so-great experiences to help you see patterns in your accelerators and brakes.
Is Desire What Makes Great Sex?
Surprisingly, desire is not a significant part of the “great sex” formula. People having great sex aren’t people who are constantly horny and wanting to put their tongue down their partner’s throat. They are people who decide that it matters enough for themselves and their relationship to create time to prioritize sex. And there will be times in your life where sex isn’t a top priority like when you have a new baby, are healing from chemotherapy, or going through menopause. That’s all normal. Sexual desire is a byproduct of caring enough about sexuality to find your way to it.
How To Communicate Wants And Needs With A Partner
We are always so afraid to hurt our partner’s feelings by making them feel like they are falling short of the ideal that our own needs often go unnoticed. First, stay solution-oriented and positive; start with the stuff your partner is doing right. Start with the things you love about your sexual connection. Start with how motivated you feel to make your sexual connection even better and how you have a shared goal. Also, avoid using the word “but.” When you throw out the word “but” it erases all the hard work you did to make the person feel connected to you. Talk about your best sexual experiences you’ve had together and map out why that experience was so great for you. Talk about your love languages and how you can make each other’s needs feel recognized.
Why Can’t I Have an Orgasm?
Emily shares that this is one of the most frequently asked questions she receives from women. To start to answer this, first, you have to understand that orgasm is not a genital function; orgasm happens in your brain. The clitoris or penis is the most densely innervated place on the body, so it will be the loudest signal to the brain. But it doesn’t matter how loud that signal is if the brakes are on. When people ask this question, they are mostly referring to why can’t orgasm during penile/vaginal intercourse. The answer is because very few people do; only around one in four or one in three women reliably orgasm that way. The most efficient way to learn to orgasm is through masturbation, exploration to find out what stimulation you need and how to release your brakes to find your pleasure.
EMILY NAGOSKI 0:00
Pleasure is the measure of your sexual well being. It’s not about how much you crave it. It’s not about how often you do it or where or who with whom, or in what position or even how many orgasms you have. It’s whether or not you like the sex you are having. If you like the sex you are having you are doing it right.
Dr. Mindy 0:20
I am a woman on a mission that is dedicated to teaching you just how powerful your body was built to be. I like to do that by bringing you the latest science, the greatest thought leaders and applicable steps that help you tap into your own internal healing power. The purpose of this podcast is to give you the power back and help you believe in yourself again, my name is Dr. Mindy Pels. And I want to thank you for spending part of your day with me. On this episode of the resetter podcast, we’re going to talk about sex. But we’re going to talk about it from a whole different angle. So hopefully you guys know I’m a geek for science. And I desperately want to understand the human body as deeply as I can. And science has so many gifts for us. So I recently came across this incredible book called Come as you are. And it’s written by Emily Nagurski. And she is a sex expert. She teaches sex at the university level. And she is an expert in the neuroscience behind sex. So what’s so fascinating to me is that when we talk about sex, especially when we’re talking about it, around menopausal women, is we’re talking about hormones, and the loss of testosterone and the hormonal changes. But what you’re going to learn in this podcast is that your behaviors around sex, your sexual appetite, your experience with sex is not hormone dependent, it is actually dependent upon your brain. And your brain has different messaging that it’s dealing with. It has different priorities. And when you learn how to align your brain up with your greatest sexual desires, you can have an incredible time not only having sex with a partner, you may be been with forever. But you can really redefine sex for yourself. So on this episode, I bring you Emily loski. We talked the science of sex, we talked about our attitudes around sex, we talked about the old this was really cool. We talked about our brakes and our accelerators what causes us to want sex, what causes us to put the brakes on wanting sex, and then stay through to the end we talk about orgasms and what you need to know about women having great orgasms, men having great orgasms, and how we all can take our sexual experiences to a new level and to be have a really healthy and realistic and enjoyable experience around sex. So this is going to be a great one. Again, mind blowing, I’m excited to share it with you Emily Nagurski and the book is Come as you are New York Times bestselling book, I highly recommend you check it out.
Let’s talk about how to properly break your fast. So let me just give you a little behind the scenes of what happens to me in a day. I typically break my fast around two in the afternoon. And before I started fasting, that was a really common time for me to have a dip in energy. So I started to notice as though I applied a fasting lifestyle that what I broke my fast with at two in the afternoon would determine if I had the energy to go the rest of the afternoon or if it actually caused me to be more sleepy. So I’ve learned that I actually like breaking my fast with something liquid. And my new favorite trick to breaking a fast is with two of organophosphorus products. The first and the one that gives me the most energy is Organa phi red juice. So not only is it incredibly yummy and is exciting to break your fast with but it gives me that extra boost that I need to be very productive throughout the rest of the day. The second one that I often will break my fast with is there green juice. Also an incredible product gives me energy fills me up. And many times I’ll let you in a little trick I actually combine the two together. So check out Organa phi as products. I love them as this incredible tool for breaking your fast. And the cool thing about Organa phi is not only do there are their products organic and natural ingredients and free from toxicity, but they’re going to give you 20% off When you use the link Pels, so let me show you how you do this, you go to Organa, phi.com, backslash pills, backslash. And I’m going to spell that for you it is o r, g anifi.com, backslash pells p e LZ. So go check out Organa fies products, try the red juice, try the green juice, try mixing them together, try breaking a fast with it. And then as always, let me know how it works for you. My productivity has literally been through the roof, and I am so grateful to have this as a resource to break my fast enjoy. Let’s start with this idea. But and I can’t say enough about your book. I really want my, my resetera as my audience to know, everybody needs this book. Like I’m sure people tell you this all the time. I want to say every woman needs this book. But everybody its men and women need this book. It is it’s probably why you wrote it is because there was no book like this.
EMILY NAGOSKI 6:04
Yeah, I wrote it because I have been teaching at the college level for two decades. And one semester, that was really, really intense. I asked my students at the end of it. After all this science after all this, like really hardcore intellectual stuff. Just tell me one important thing you learned. And more than half of my 187 students wrote something like I’m normal. I’m normal. Just because I’m different from other women doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me. Yeah, I can trust my body. Yeah, I’m normal. And read eight. That was the last question on my final exam. And I was grading final exams, with tears in my eyes, which is not what is usually like to grade final exams, right. So that was the day I decided to write Come as you are, was there was something about the science that granted people access to the knowledge that they are not broken, that they already have everything they need to have confident, joyful sex.
Dr. Mindy 7:03
Yeah, I would say that was my experience in reading your book was I saw myself in so much of what you said. And I’m like, Oh, that’s why. And so it was, it was very confirming that I’m normal. So that’s, I love that you maybe you needed to title it, although the title is great. Maybe you need to title it. I’m normal.
EMILY NAGOSKI 7:25
And you know, there actually was a little bit of kerfuffle at the publisher, that the title Come as you are is not aspirational enough, right. But it was only the guys who said that, because they didn’t realize that the most aspirational thing in the world, for a woman is the idea that she doesn’t have to change, that she already has everything she needs to have sexuality, that it’s not that she’s broken. It’s that she lives in a world that is lying to her every day about what’s true about her body that deliberately wants her to believe lies, so that she will torture herself in order to conform to somebody else’s ideas about what’s healthy and normal.
Dr. Mindy 8:07
Yeah, that’s, and that’s crazy when and I hope every woman hears this, because I one of the big things I like to do is let’s give women their power back on all levels. But what I see your book doing is giving women their sexual power back and understanding themselves. Do you think that our behaviors around sex start at an early age, I just had the pleasure of interviewing Bruce Lipton, and he was talking about how all of our programming gets set by the age of seven. Do you think we learn sex at an early age from society from what our parents teach us? And it just gets stuck in our brain? And then that’s our perception for the rest of our life unless we try to change it? Oh, hell no. Awesome.
Unknown Speaker 8:56
Dr. Mindy 8:56
EMILY NAGOSKI 8:57
So sexuality itself is an organic innate part of what it is to be human. The thing I say over and over and Come as you are, is we’re all made of the same parts. We’re just organized in different ways. So but your sexuality looks like is different from what anybody else’s sexuality looks like. And what your sexuality looks like now is different from what it looked like 10 years ago, and it’s different from what it will look like 10 years from now. But our sexuality is in place, there’s evidence of fetuses masturbating in utero.
Dr. Mindy 9:29
EMILY NAGOSKI 9:30
So like, it’s all there ready to go on the day of our birth. If an infant has a penis, any parent knows that like erections happen, like the mechanism is in place. Yeah, and a lot of learning happens from the day you are born often before the day you’re born. You begin absorbing messages about sexuality and privacy and safety and love and pleasure. And bodies and boundaries and disgust. And we don’t get to pick almost anything that happens to us. From the moment were conceived until we get to a place of some autonomy in our lives. And all of those lessons we did not choose all those experiences we did not choose for ourselves have an enormous impact on the shape of our sexuality. But the metaphor that I use throughout Come as you are, is this idea of a garden, I know it’s so original, the garden metaphor. But if you imagine that on the day you’re born, you get this little plot of rich and fertile soil. You’re this helpless little baby. So your family of origin and your culture of origin, begin to plant all of these ideas about bodies and safety and pleasure, and boundaries and gender and sexuality and safety. And they tend the garden for you. And as you get older, they teach you to tend to the garden so that by the time you get to adolescence and adulthood,
Unknown Speaker 11:00
you have this
EMILY NAGOSKI 11:00
garden. And some of us get really lucky with beautiful things. And all we have to do is cultivate and harvest and weed. But a lot of us get stuck with really toxic crap in our gardens. And we didn’t choose to have that stuff in there. So it is not fair, that we have this job ahead of us of going row by row through the garden and making choices about what we want to keep. And what we want to throw in a compost heap, to rot and replace with something that we choose for ourselves. But it’s an opportunity that we get to do this work of examining what we were taught about sexuality and what we want to hold as true for ourselves that if you like what you got planted, keep it great. And if you don’t want to my job as a sex educator, especially as a sex educator whose real job is to bring this science is to say, here’s what science has to say. I know it contradicts everything you ever learned ever from your religious institutions, from your family, from your culture, from media from even like doctors. But here’s what the science says. And you get to pick what feels like a good fit for you.
Dr. Mindy 12:16
And is it Do you think it’s hard? So, you know, like a lot of women that I talked to over 40 you know, your sexual, your behaviors around sex are sort of already solid, and you already have so much patterning? Is it easy to change? I mean, there were a couple of things, I want to chat with you in your book that changed it pretty darn quickly for me and how I looked at like libido. But do you think it’s an easy mindset for us to shift once we understand the science of sex,
EMILY NAGOSKI 12:47
a various like, again, we’re all the same parts organized in different ways. Some things are going to just release really easily. And some things are going to be stubborn, and require a lot of work and make us wonder if it’s worth it. I’ve been doing a lot of removing of wallpaper in my 100 year old house lately, I’ve done that I’m done that layers, some of those layers come off really easy. They just peel right off in big chunks. And you’re like, Oh, I am free. And there are other pieces that you got to use, like tools and solvents and elbow grease and like it is stuck. And there are times when you’re like, does it really matter if I do this? Why don’t I just leave my walls this way? Yeah, and I think changing our ideas and behavioral patterns around sexuality can be like that some of these things, we come free really easily. And we are so ready to stop beating the crap out of ourselves.
Dr. Mindy 13:39
And getting permission
EMILY NAGOSKI 13:43
to do that is like, good, I’m all set, I’m done. And with sexuality, a lot of the times we’re not the only one involved. So you might learn something. So for example, with sexual desire, you learn that responsive desire is just as normal as spontaneous desire. You present this to your partner. And they’re like, well, that’s all well and good. But I want you to want me out of the blue. And now you have to take not just your own sense of freedom that you’re not broken into account, but also the fact that your partner grew up with the same myths and lies that you did about sexual desire, and help them get
Unknown Speaker 14:19
EMILY NAGOSKI 14:20
so that they can welcome and embrace your sexuality just as it is and still meet their needs and help them feel as loved and desired as they deserve to feel.
Dr. Mindy 14:29
Yeah. So well said that one of the biggest aha is I had in your book was this concept of behind the accelerator and the brakes. And I really want you to dive into that because, again, our audience, you know, a lot of them are menopausal women that are going through changes hormonal a libidos down, they’re not feeling great about themselves. And they’ve been with a partner for a long time. And maybe there’s some mismatch desire there. So that was a huge part of your book that I just was like, I wish somebody had told me like at 20, that this concept of the accelerator and brakes, so can you talk about that?
EMILY NAGOSKI 15:10
I felt the same way when I learned it, and I was 22. That’s beautiful. Thank
Unknown Speaker 15:14
God, thank God.
EMILY NAGOSKI 15:19
Yeah, most it’s and it’s the most basic thing because the starting point with the ideas, imagine that sexuality works in your brain the same way every other system in your brain works, which is as a coupling of an excited Tory system or an accelerator, and a inhibitory system or a break. So the is called the dual control model. And the dual control model means there’s two parts, the excitation system, which is the accelerator that notices anything sex related in your environment, this is everything that you see, hear, smell, touch,
Unknown Speaker 15:55
EMILY NAGOSKI 15:56
or think, believe or imagined that your brain responds to as a sex related stimulus. And it sends that turn on signal so many of us are familiar with. And it’s functioning all the time, including right now below the level of consciousness. Here, we are just talking about sex. And so you got a little tiny bit of accelerator signal that you’re probably not even aware is going and at the same time your brakes, notice every potential threat in the environment, all the good reasons not to be turned on right now. Everything that you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, think believe or imagine that your brain codes as a potential threat, it sends a turn off signals. So the process of becoming aroused is the dual process of turning on the ons and turning off the offs. And why this is so regulatory is because most of the sex advice most of us hear most places has to do with adding stimulation to the accelerator, like watch porn and do role play and lingerie and candles and corsets and like all the things, and those are fine if you like them, go for it. And it turns out when people are struggling with desire, arousal, orgasm pleasure. It’s rarely because there’s not enough stimulation to the accelerator. It’s usually because there’s too much stimulation to the brakes and all kinds of things can hit the brakes.
Dr. Mindy 17:19
Unknown Speaker 17:20
Does anybody have any stress? Just a little?
Unknown Speaker 17:24
Unknown Speaker 17:24
yeah. body image? Anybody?
Dr. Mindy 17:27
EMILY NAGOSKI 17:28
trauma, history, relationship conflict. being raised taught that sex is dangerous, dirty and disgusting. Anybody?
Dr. Mindy 17:39
Yeah, a lot.
EMILY NAGOSKI 17:40
All that stuff hits the brakes. Some things are really easy. Like, if you’re distracted by great in the sheets, you know what just change the sheets. Classic called feet literal, just cold feet, they actually have done stuff. So when people want to know what happens to the brain with orgasm, you have to have people have orgasms in a brain imaging machine. And there was a researcher who found that he could. And even the people who volunteer for this study, struggled to get to orgasm, in the very unsexy context of an fMRI machine where it’s filled in, there’s noise and watching you and there’s a lot of pressure. But this researcher found that he could double the rate of successful orgasm in an fMRI if you let his subjects wear socks.
Unknown Speaker 18:30
Why? They had cold feet,
EMILY NAGOSKI 18:33
literally cold, literal, cold feet, you let a person wear socks, their feet are less cold, they’re cold feet are no longer hitting the brakes. And it frees up their accelerator to do what it wants to do.
Unknown Speaker 18:46
Oh my gosh,
EMILY NAGOSKI 18:47
oh, some of these things are really so I have a friend who I told that story too. And she was like,
Unknown Speaker 18:52
I get cold feet all day.
EMILY NAGOSKI 18:54
So her partner happens to enjoy the sort of like thigh high kind of look. So she got Whoa, high highs?
Unknown Speaker 19:01
Oh my gosh, no,
EMILY NAGOSKI 19:02
it was it was an activator of the partners accelerator and help prevent something from hitting her brakes. Crazy. I remember really easy to fix the things that hit the brakes. Other stuff, trauma histories, sex, negative cultural messaging. Those things take more time and effort and therapy sometimes, in order to loosen them up from the break.
Dr. Mindy 19:30
I’m laughing to myself because you know what will happen is you know how many people are gonna listen to this podcast and start to put socks on and see what happens. So okay, how do we decide? How do we determine what because so my takeaway when I read that part of the of the book was exactly what you just said, which was, oh my gosh, I think that there’s more brakes going on in my life than a lack of an accelerator. So then I was like, Okay, what are the brakes and whatever. Do I need to identify it? So if you’re listening to this, you’re reading your book, I think the first thing that would be helpful is for people to understand that there is an accelerator in a brain like that was like there’s a break. And then to clear out everyone, right? That’s why that’s I was like highlighting it. I was telling everybody. But how do you know what your brakes are? How do you know what slows the accelerator down? Like, is there a process we can go through to discover that?
EMILY NAGOSKI 20:29
Oh, there are so many different ways, sometimes you’re going to have just like an immediate intuition. About like I know, for when I’m when I’m stressed, when I’m worried about being interrupted, when I’m feeling dissatisfied with my body, if there’s still dishes in the sink, if the laundry isn’t folded yet, if the lights are on too bright, or if there’s no lights on, like people have a sense of like, I know that no matter what else, if this is going on, like this is gonna be a thing that hits the brakes. One of the strategies you can use is to think through three spectacular sexual experiences you’ve had, if you’ve had three spectacular sexual experiences, and three kind of like sexual experiences, there’s worksheets for this in the book, there’s also a Come as you are workbook that has even more worksheets for thinking through, like what activates your accelerator, and what hits your brakes. When you do, and I really recommend like, don’t just do one, but do three, because that’s how you begin to see the patterns. I have a friend who did this. She was in a long distance relationship. And you know, when you finally get to, like, get together with your long distance relationship partner,
Unknown Speaker 21:38
EMILY NAGOSKI 21:40
you there’s kind of an expectation that you’re going to have the sexy times. And it turns out for her the feeling expected, or obliged to have sex really hit the brakes for her so much so that she ended up experiencing a lot of pain with the sex they were having. Wow. Yeah. So I was like, yeah, so what you do is you take sex off the table, I know you’re in a long distance relationship. But when you get together, you can do all kinds of things. But you’ve got to set limits around like this person does not get access to my genitals, because the idea that I am obliged to provide my genitals to this person I love makes it impossible for my body to experience pleasure from that contact. So and she only figured that out by doing all three great experiences, and not so great experiences, so that she could see what the pattern was. So some of it is going to be really intuitive, you’ll know right off the top of your head. And some of it you can discover by thinking through the great experiences where the accelerator has been off the wall, off the charts, and your break has been just just totally free. And then the other experiences were like, maybe the accelerator was doing just fine. But the brakes around, like if you try to drive somewhere with the brake on, you maybe get where you want to go will take a lot more gas, it will take you a lot longer. And it’ll be a lot more frustrating. Right?
Dr. Mindy 23:04
Right, right. So as you’re talking, I’m thinking, so sex is really more about the brain than it is about our genitalia. It
EMILY NAGOSKI 23:14
is entirely about our brain. ask anybody who has a spinal cord injury with no sensation below the waist.
Dr. Mindy 23:22
interest, they can still orgasm. Oh, yeah. Many people.
Unknown Speaker 23:27
Not everybody, but many thing. Yeah.
EMILY NAGOSKI 23:30
So and we want studies on like, what are all the different ways that people masturbate or have sex and experience orgasm with a spinal cord injury at different levels and in different places in the spine? Crazy,
Dr. Mindy 23:43
because it’s not about your genitals, it is about creating a context that allows your brain to interpret any sensation as sexy, amazing. So if I’m if so if a couple, let’s say is having bad sex, I mean, or just they’re not finding their synergy with sex. I think society’s taught us will maybe your guy’s not doing the right thing. Maybe like the the mechanics of sex is wrong. But what I’m hearing from you is let’s not worry about the mechanics right? Now let’s go up to the brain and look at how the brain is either warming up or slowing down for sex. Would that be accurate?
EMILY NAGOSKI 24:21
I think we actually look even further out. We look at the context that is stimulating the brain. Okay, so there’s a wonderful sex researcher and therapist named Peggy kleinplatz in Ottawa, who studies people who self identify as having extraordinary sex, like trusting life changing sex that like, deepens their sense of connection with the eternal divine, like, amazing sex. And the questions are one, what does that sex look like? And two, how do you become
Unknown Speaker 24:50
a person who has that kind of
Dr. Mindy 24:52
sight? And then how do you declare it like that? That’s pretty impressive.
EMILY NAGOSKI 24:56
Yeah. How do you show up at a research, study
Dr. Mindy 24:59
and talk about It.
EMILY NAGOSKI 25:01
So the first thing I want to say is the typical age at which her research participants, dozens and dozens of people, she researched the typical age at which they had their first experience of extraordinary sex was 55.
Unknown Speaker 25:15
EMILY NAGOSKI 25:16
so like, awesome. And that’s just like the typical age, there were people who had a younger and people who had it much older. And a lot of these folks were in like long term monogamous relationships. So context that in our culture, we sort of categorize as being sexless or low in eroticism
Unknown Speaker 25:39
EMILY NAGOSKI 25:41
I mean, people vary tremendously in the kind of context that they’re able to create. So the first question, what does this great sex look like? turned out to be one of the most important questions and what Peggy as a therapist began saying to her clients, the most common reason people seek sex therapy is for desire differential, low sexual desire, low sexual satisfaction, low sexual frequency. And she would say So tell me about the sex you don’t want. Hmm. Right. Because if you come in with low sexual desire, and you desire you describe you describe a sex life that is frustrating, low pleasure, low connection. dissatisfying. Of course, you don’t have desire, why would you desire sex? You do not like
Dr. Mindy 26:37
EMILY NAGOSKI 26:38
yeah, the way hegyi asks it is what kind of sex is worth wanting. One of the reasons you do the like three great sexual experiences exercise and the three men sexual experiences exercises to figure out what kind of sex is worth cordoning off space and time in your calendar. Preparing for grooming for trimming your nails for stopping doing all the other stuff we could be doing. Some of us have kids to raise some of us have jobs to go to some of us have family members to pay attention to some of us have other friends we want to see, God forbid, sometimes we just want to watch a movie and then go to sleep, right? Like we have. We’re busy. There are so many other things we could be doing. What kind of sex is worth not closing the door on all that other stuff. And just doing this, frankly, slightly wacky thing that we humans do a rubbing our skins together. You got to really like and trust somebody?
Unknown Speaker 27:39
Yeah, well said.
Unknown Speaker 27:40
EMILY NAGOSKI 27:44
the first question, how do you what is this great sex look like? desire is not a significant part of the formula. These are not people who are like horny, and constantly can’t wait to put their tongue down their partner’s throat. There are people who decide that it matters enough for themselves and their relationship, to create time to prioritize sex. And even just sex you are having is, as Peggy puts it, dismal and disappointing. Of course, you’re not going to prioritize sex. And God knows there are times in our lives when sex is not at the top of the priority list. Yeah, if you have a brand new human living in your house, that is not a time when sex is going to be really important. If you are in the middle of healing from chemotherapy, because you’re in treatment for cancer, that’s maybe not a time when you’re going to be feeling at your most erotic where sex feels really important to your relationship. What’s going to feel really important in your relationship is just a sense of like mutual support, and connection, which can express itself physically, but might not show up as erotism. If you’re experiencing big changes in your body because of menopause, for example, you might be like, like really working with the material of menopause of the ways your body is changing of the meaning that comes with those changes, and trying to find a path through those changes to a sense of the erotic as it lives inside
Unknown Speaker 29:16
EMILY NAGOSKI 29:18
That’s all normal. And sexual desire is a byproduct of caring enough about sexuality, to find your way to it.
Dr. Mindy 29:31
Amazing. Does that make sense? Yeah. So here’s what I’m thinking because I can’t tell you I mean, I’m sure it’s probably different when you walk around the world as a sex expert. But I would say that most ladies nights out that I have with my girlfriend’s that the topic of sex comes up and then the topic of mismatched desire with their partner comes up. And so what I’m thinking as you’re talking is like okay, If the perhaps one of the most important questions is what is what would sex look like to be want me to stop everything to have sex with you? How would we have that conversation with our partners because it does seem like men are and this could be a cultural thing, but it seems like men are ready to go all the time. And women need a hell of a lot more accelerators and brakes. This just, I mean, they have more issues with that this might just be the group of people I hang around, but
EMILY NAGOSKI 30:30
that it was taught to us it’s absolutely taught to us from the beginning, like if you’re born with a body that makes all the adults around you go, it’s a girl, you get handed a user’s manual for that body that teaches you that stranger sex is dangerous, dirty and disgusting. That it is a favor that you give to men that it is something you perform for men’s pleasure, like there is no script of eroticism that comes with growing up as a girl and woman in modern America, for example.
Unknown Speaker 31:04
EMILY NAGOSKI 31:06
so an example of this, there’s a woman who read Come as you are and tweeted me the story of watching her adult brother changing his baby daughter’s diaper. And so she’s all clean, and he goes and gets the clean diaper. And when he comes back, this little baby is touching her vulva. And dad’s reaction is I don’t touch that. Hmm.
Unknown Speaker 31:27
EMILY NAGOSKI 31:28
he have responded if his baby had been had a penis instead? And had been like touching his penis? How would he have reacted if his baby had been touching his
Dr. Mindy 31:39
EMILY NAGOSKI 31:40
Don’t we love it when babies find their feet? crate? Yeah, yeah, were their body really good point. So this is a moment that this child is not going to remember. But it will accumulate in her brain with countless other similar moments. so that by the time she reaches adolescence, there will be a black hole, where the neurological representation of her genitals should be because she has been taught. But that part of her body does not truly belong to her. It is not hers to control. Those are not sensations he is allowed to experience. And when people like me come along and say, just tell your partner what you like. She will not know what she likes, because she has never had permission to explore what pleasure feels like in her body.
Unknown Speaker 32:31
Wow. So it’s an that’s
EMILY NAGOSKI 32:33
cultural. Yeah, there might be part of it. That’s biological. But we can never know the extent to which any of this is biological until we do like a controlled experiment where people of all genitals are raised with the identical messages around sex and sexuality that everyone has permission to, like, experience all the pleasure afforded by their body, and everyone has full basic bodily autonomy over how and when they are touched, and how they get to feel about their bodies. Let’s do that experiment.
Last please raise all children that way and see if women end up wanting sex a whole bunch more liking sadness, a whole bunch more.
Dr. Mindy 33:10
Yeah, that would be amazing. So how do couples start that conversation? So I’m just like putting myself in the shoes of I’m a 45 year old woman, I’m listening to this podcast, and I’m going, Oh my gosh, I need to communicate to my partner. I just had a huge Aha. And and yet sometimes that communication around sex is very uncomfortable, even in intimate relationships. So now we could get your workbook and they can work that together. What else could they do? How do you start that conversation with your partner? And so that the because there seems to be like hurt feelings, like if you go and you’re like, Hey, you know what, I’m not getting the most out of sex. I’m not really enjoying it. Therefore, I don’t like it. That you know, a lot of the partner might be like, Oh my god, forget it.
Unknown Speaker 33:57
We’re Oh, yeah, I’m
Dr. Mindy 33:58
totally hurt. Now. Let me go lick my wounds. How do we have a better conversation with partners around they’re all
EMILY NAGOSKI 34:04
so fragile around sexuality, we are so afraid to hurt the other person’s feelings, we are so afraid to receive a message about any of the ways in which we might be falling short of the ideal. So there are a couple of rules about talking about sexuality that are not necessarily different from the rules of good communication, but like amplified in their importance. One stay solution oriented and positive star with the stuff your partner’s doing right? Start with the things you love about your sexual connection. Start with how motivated you feel, to make your sexual connection even better start by acknowledging that there’s been some dissatisfaction especially if you like, your partner is a higher desire person, and you know that they wish there were more frequent sex and that you really want there to be more frequent sex too, and you’re trying to find your way there. Right you’ve got a shared goal. You feel really positive, you complement the stuff that when you compliment this, the good things so much you make your partner feel like a superhero, for the things that they are doing right? Awesome, which helps to buffer against the fact that we are so tender. And the first but that you say is going to cut like a knife. I actually recommend you avoid the word but because it instantly just erases all the hard work you did to make the person feel connected to you. And like you have a shared goal. And things are really positive. And
Unknown Speaker 35:34
EMILY NAGOSKI 35:37
what are the great sexual experiences we’ve had what are like the best sexual experiences we’ve had? What was the context? And this is where the worksheets come in handy, because they’re sort of like, categories of thinking about what was going on? Like, what was your mental and physical health? Like in that moment? What was your relationship? Like, in that moment? What were the partner characteristics? that were really at the forefront? Right, then? What was the setting? Were you on vacation? Far away from your children?
Unknown Speaker 36:05
EMILY NAGOSKI 36:06
Were you it wasn’t makeup sex, you had just had a big old fight. And you were repairing the damage that was done? Like what was the setting? And what were the other just external factors like stress, worry about money and family and the capital T capital F future? All that stuff. Break down? What
Dr. Mindy 36:27
was the kitchen clean? Right?
EMILY NAGOSKI 36:30
Like, you know, people tell me really good stories, and one of the kitchen being clean and laundry being done. Those are really big deals. I so date night sex is controversial as an idea. But it’s the thing that can be really effective when you’re doing it. Well, which is to say you’re not just like showing up and just doing it because you said you would but doing it because you show up and when you do you really enjoy what happens you have fun on your date, even when that date is in bed. So I was told the story of like partner a is lying in bed, you know, naked and ready like five minutes after Can we just Can we just do this please. And Partner B comes on upstairs carrying the basket full of the last load of laundry naked and starts putting away the laundry seductively. Like, oh my gosh, here is your T shirt. I’m going to hang your T shirt up in the closet on a hanger like you like it makes no sense to hang up your T shirts. But I’m going to do it because I know that you will like it. Like bending over seductively to like pick up the and fold the towel.
Unknown Speaker 37:46
Oh my god. Right lady,
Unknown Speaker 37:47
EMILY NAGOSKI 37:49
there’s the phenomenon of chore play. Yeah, that’s real for everybody why beat and it has nothing to do with like the laundry. It’s so well sometimes it’s the laundry itself just feeling like finally something got taken care of. And I didn’t have to do it. But also the feeling of like we are a partnership. This person knows what my needs are recognizes that worrying about this stuff is a distractor that keeps my brakes on. And if they can just get rid of this, they can free up my break in my accelerator is going to be ready to do everything that it wants to do.
Dr. Mindy 38:23
So. So expressing your break, what puts your brakes on seems like that could be Yeah, pivotal for better sex. And when people find out like, oh,
EMILY NAGOSKI 38:32
there are these really simple things I can do that have nothing to do with sex. It’s not about like what your tongue does to the person’s genitals, or like anything like that. It’s really just like, how do you create a context that makes it easy for the person to let go of all that other stuff? And often it’s like childcare. It’s dishes and laundry and being the one who calls the electrician
Unknown Speaker 39:01
EMILY NAGOSKI 39:02
when Yeah, acts of service.
Unknown Speaker 39:04
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
EMILY NAGOSKI 39:07
So love language is useful. One of the things in the workbook that’s Come as you are is this wonderful work by Petra bow whose last name I forgotten I feel terrible about it. But it’s a initiation styles. And if you just Google initiation styles, you’ll see like a little quiz that you can take like how do you like to be approached, partner like to be approached because different initiation styles work differently for different people. Some people really love to just be approached directly with language or touch and other people prefer to be approached in a more roundabout kind of way less direct. Hmm,
Dr. Mindy 39:43
yeah, that makes the Five Love Languages also as a game changer for all relationships, knowing what the way in which you like to give love and receive love seems like now that I’m thinking this through and that if sex is a brain issue, not age At all issue that knowing your partner’s love language and and I’m going to look up that initiation style would pivotal to better sex. Hmm. Let’s talk about fasting and hormones. So I have something really exciting to share with you guys. Hopefully you know that I am obsessed with fasting. I’m also obsessed with helping women and men, but women need a little more assistance in this time, they’re fast around their hormonal needs. Now, if you just look at women in general, we all have different hormonal needs, a postmenopausal woman has a different hormonal need than a 25 year old woman trying to get pregnant. And so being able to understand what our hormones are doing and how to time our fast to that how to time our eating styles to that. And even you can even time your exercise around your hormonal needs, becomes this incredible tool to not only be the healthiest version of you possible, but it also is a way to heal your hormones if your hormones are feeling out of balance. So I am teaching the month of May in my reset Academy, I am teaching everything you need to know about hormones for all ages. And I’m going to be doing it around a new tool I created called the fast gain circle. I haven’t taught the fast teen circle on any other platform, it’s actually going to come out in a new book in on in 2022. But I’m teaching it in my Academy in the month of May, so that you all can really dial in your lifestyle to maximize these superpowers called your hormones. So come join me in my Academy, I will leave a link in the notes below. You can also go to Dr. Mindy Pels calm and hit the reset Academy and sign up there. And just know we’re diving into hormones I want you to to really master this because once you can tie your lifestyle to your hormonal needs, we’ll never worry about imbalanced or lacking hormones again, see in my Academy.
EMILY NAGOSKI 42:07
This simple things can make such a big difference if we are willing to let go like we all have this script in our mind of what we’re supposed to like and how initiation is supposed to work. And like why doesn’t this person like this? And why don’t I like the thing I’m supposed to like if we are willing and able to let go of the script and just turn toward our sexuality as it is right now turn toward our partner sexuality as it is right now and work with what we’ve got. That is when extraordinary things happen and people’s sexual connection.
Dr. Mindy 42:40
Amazing. Amazing. Okay, so let’s dive into orgasms because you have a whole chapter on orgasms. That again is fascinating. So my first thought is, well, I have a lot of thoughts on orgasms. But the first one would be do men and women have different orgasm differently? You have different body parts? No are there? No they don’t. Okay,
EMILY NAGOSKI 43:02
because orgasm is not a genital function orgasm happens in your brain. Okay, which is why we need people to masturbate to orgasm in an fMRI machine.
Dr. Mindy 43:11
Fascinating. So we can find out what’s going
Unknown Speaker 43:13
on in the brain.
Dr. Mindy 43:14
So it’s not really mattering where your partner’s touching. It matters more with what you’re thinking about that touch.
EMILY NAGOSKI 43:24
Yes, there are some pads that are more promising than others. When a person is currently able bodied. The phallus whether it’s a clitoral, or a penis is the most densely innervated place. So the signal from the genitals up to the brain is going to be like the loudest signal. But it does not matter how loud that signal is from the genitals to the brain if the brakes are on, right, and it also like so if having your genitals stimulated, activates a bunch of breaks because you’ve been taught to feel ashamed of your genitals or judgmental or worried about their smell or the sounds they make. Or the wetness which is like beautiful and wonderful. And I could get poetic about vaginal mucus or because you have a trauma history so that sexual stimulation is itself activating a sense of a potential threat, then it doesn’t matter how like skilled in quotes your partner is. If they touch your genitals that’s going to trigger your breaks too. Right?
Dr. Mindy 44:34
Yeah, because of the history of trauma. Yeah, so it’s it’s about the
EMILY NAGOSKI 44:39
apps I want to I want to make sure that I am not saying that. You could be able to orgasm ecstatically from any kind of stimulation in the world. Maybe you could if you were a more evolved person than I am. But like I have kinds of touch that are like the most efficient for me. It has changed over the course of My life depending on different medications I’m taking as I am, I am now perimenopausal, I had my first contract at the Orlando airport, it was a,
Dr. Mindy 45:08
I’ll send you my book. If you can, I’ll replace the favor for what it’s done for me.
Unknown Speaker 45:16
EMILY NAGOSKI 45:19
as those things change, the way your body responds to touch is going to change too. And especially if you like put a lot of work into loving your body and embracing your sexuality just as it is, and then it changes. Right and you have to start from scratch using this new body.
Unknown Speaker 45:35
Unknown Speaker 45:36
Dr. Mindy 45:37
Yes. So okay, so there is there? Is this a wrong belief that women are more can can easily get to orgasm better through clitoral stem stimulation compared to vaginal intercourse? like yeah,
EMILY NAGOSKI 45:54
only about a quarter to a third of women are reliably orgasmic from vaginal stimulation alone. The rest are sometimes rarely or never orgasm from vaginal stimulation stimulation. The clearest really is, for most people, the Hokey Pokey, and it’s what’s all about?
Dr. Mindy 46:10
Yeah, and most and many men do not know this many winning questions thinking that I was just thinking that, but let’s think about why.
EMILY NAGOSKI 46:22
Why, even though this has been very well established in the research for at least 40 years. Why is it this is still one of the questions I get asked most often. Why can’t I have orgasm? during sex people ask? And when they say during sex, they mean specifically during penile vaginal intercourse. Why can’t you have orgasms that way? because very few people do. Maybe one in four, maybe one in three women reliably orgasm that way.
Dr. Mindy 46:48
So so the gift I’m hope that we’re giving all women and men but especially women right now is that desire is there’s a lot more to it. And if you’re not orgasm main then perhaps you’re not doing you’re not the desire may not be, you might be having more breaks, not enough acceleration. And you may be trying to have more traditional sex and not looking at the clitoral stimulation as being the door into an orgasm. Would that be accurate? No. Yeah, for sure.
Unknown Speaker 47:19
EMILY NAGOSKI 47:20
the If so, struggling with orgasm is very common. Around 12% of women up to age 28 have not yet had an orgasm to their knowledge. The oldest age at which I have personally met someone who told me the age they have their first orgasm is 77. Wow, I believe that anyone who’s interested enough in sex to want to have an orgasm for their own sake, is capable of it, given the right context, given the right stimulation of the accelerator with enough release of the brakes. And it’s that release of the brakes that finally does it neurologically, that’s the marker. It’s not that there’s a sudden peak in the accelerator, it’s that the brakes go
Unknown Speaker 48:01
EMILY NAGOSKI 48:02
like everything else shuts off. And it’s just pleasure. Right. So when people are struggling, masturbation is for most people like the most efficient way to learn to orgasm and to explore their sexual terrain. What often happens if you struggle with orgasm is you get to a pretty high level of arousal and you start the chatter in your mind of like, I might have an orgasm Is this what am I having an orgasm? Now? What if I have an orgasm? What if I don’t have an orgasm? What if I’m such a failure, this whole having an orgasm thing? And it’s all that stuff? Is that is that activating the accelerator? Or is adding a break? Right? So one of the keys, there’s a wonder if there’s several great books about learning how to expand your orgasmic territory, one of my favorite ones is becoming orgasmic. That’s like a classic text. There’s also for yourself by Lani barback. And basically what they say is, explore pleasure. And drop orgasm from your goals. Your goal is not orgasm, orgasm is off the table, you’re not allowed to have an orgasm. Your job is to experience pleasure. If you’re experiencing pleasure, you’re already winning, you’re doing it right, explore a little more pleasure, explore a little more pleasure.
Unknown Speaker 49:17
I love that.
EMILY NAGOSKI 49:18
Think about what the messages are that you have in your brain that start to make noise as your pleasure increases. And have a little conversation with yourself about you. Whether you really believe those things or if that’s just stuff people told you. And you’ve been carrying it around for decades.
Dr. Mindy 49:36
That was I hope everybody listening, hears that and implements these things. Because, you know, I think that’s what I got from your book. What I I’m sure you are, your your mission in life is to help people connect through better sexual experiences. So I love that if you could go back to your 18 year old self and you could talk to her about sex. What would you say to her?
EMILY NAGOSKI 50:04
It’s a tricky question for me because I began my training as a sex educator when I was 18.
Dr. Mindy 50:08
Ah, okay, so go, Well,
EMILY NAGOSKI 50:10
I made a really important things happened in my training, one of the very first things that my teacher said was that we spend all day in training. And our homework, she says is when you get home tonight, I want you to get a little mirror. And I want you to go look at your genitals. And I am a good girl, I do what I am told I do my homework. And so I go home and I get on a mirror and I have this feeling like I’m going to confront the enemy somehow. And I was not raised in a particularly sex negative home, I was raised in a very like ordinary regular sex negative home, I had no I got Blissett messages about shame. I just absorbed the regular stuff from the culture. So I don’t know why I felt like I was confronting the enemy. But I’m doing my homework. So I take off my clothes. And I lie in bed. And I use my little hammer as a compact from a foundation makeup case. And I look at my genitals for the first time in my life, and I burst into tears. Because far from being my enemy, my vulva was just this normal part of my body like, like the backs of my elbows and the bottoms of my feet. And I don’t look at them that often, but they’re there and they’re healthy and normal and part of me. And I had spent so much of my life feeling like this part of me was an enemy. And I felt this grief about the ways I had been closing myself off from something that could have been a source of joy, and certainly deserved better from me. And that moment when I was 18 years old, has been what I returned to over and over again, even as I love the research, and as I sort of like love being an expert who like knows the stuff about sex. I know that anytime I have a question about my sexuality, I should not I can’t I’m not going to find an answer. In the science, I’m not going to find an answer. In a book somebody else wrote, I can only find the answer by turning toward my own body, my own internal experience with kindness and compassion, by trusting it, and listening to it. And that’s, I feel the same way about like, even though I wrote this 100,000 word book with all these science things. I know that other people will only find their way to confidence and joy and their sexuality when they turn toward their own internal experience. with kindness and compassion. I see the book as a mirror, through which women can finally see themselves clearly.
Dr. Mindy 52:54
Yeah, so well said that was beautiful. If you were in charge of creating a curriculum for sex education for for, I’ma say, Well, I guess for girls and boys in the high school years, what would it What would it include?
EMILY NAGOSKI 53:10
I would start with parents. Okay, in what way? So So, once you get to high school, it’s already like there’s a lot of bullshit already. Yep. And so what has to happen is a normalizing conversation about like, all the different ways gender expresses itself about all the ways sexual orientation shows up about the way some people depending on their genitals are cast in the roles of being human beings who are morally obliged to maximize and be their full humanity. And other people are human givers, who are cast in the role of giving their full humanity to the human beings their time and attention and patience and smiles, their bodies, their hopes and dreams, sometimes their lives sacrificed on the altar of someone else’s comfort and convenience. Teenagers need to have individual thought papers and large group conversations about gender roles, and about expectations about values, what is important to them. Girls in particular need to be granted permission, and some instruction on how to masturbate and experience what pleasure even feels like in their own bodies. Because man, a healthy, normal thing to have happen is when you get into a relationship, a sexual connection early on with someone you really care about. It is normal and healthy, to have a whole lot of your attention. Go to making sure that person’s needs and expectations are being met. That’s great. We love that. And when that happens, it means attention is being necessarily drawn away from your awareness of your own internal experience. So if you’re not already really grounded in what pleasure feels like inside your body, then there’s going to be no awareness at all. If Feels good for you when you get to time with a partner. So masturbation is super duper important. And I would teach parents so one of my early life stories of my like regular sex negative culture is, I must have read the word vagina in a book at the library because I was driving home from the library with my mom, I was 11 sitting in the front seat, and I just go Mom, what’s a vagina? And I do not know what she said. But I remember this big flash of like, embarrassment and bewilderment. And like, so I didn’t know what this vagina thing was. But she her reaction told me how I’m supposed to feel about it. So when we got home, I looked it up in a medical encyclopedia. So there I learned what it was. And my mom taught me how to feel about it. So the reason I say I would start with parents is I when your kid comes to you, and it’s like, what’s a vagina?
Unknown Speaker 55:51
What’s consent? How
EMILY NAGOSKI 55:53
do I know what if I’ve had an orgasm, that parent can respond in the same way as if their kid is talking about any other bodily function? So they don’t have that big emotional flash of?
Dr. Mindy 56:06
Yeah, amazed. That’s
EMILY NAGOSKI 56:08
how we unintentionally communicate the stuff we absorbed as kids. Right? That’s it right on to our kids without even knowing that I happened?
Dr. Mindy 56:17
Yeah, amazing. You will, you need to be the one in charge of the curriculum for sex ed, then here in America. So that would be incorrect, I would have done that would have been mind blowing to the 16 year old version of me who sat in a sex ed class and was told that, you know, it’s, it’s your, you have your period, and this is what can happen. Here’s how you manage blood, you can get pregnant now, boom, done. Like, that’s the worst sex ed class I’ve ever. That’s what people are getting, if they’re getting any of that at all.
EMILY NAGOSKI 56:46
So the worst ones are where they’re actively lied to, about like condoms are an effective you can get HIV from drinking out of a soda can like, there are a lot of states in the US where you are allowed or even legally required to lie to children about their bodies. Yeah,
Dr. Mindy 57:02
that’s crazy. Last question, cuz I know you got to go. And this is what I asked all my guests is that if you had one message for the world that you could get implanted in everybody’s brain? What would that message be?
Unknown Speaker 57:18
I only get one.
Dr. Mindy 57:19
Yeah, you only get one. It is.
EMILY NAGOSKI 57:24
Do you know people believe you more when things you say rhyme? So I made it rhyme. You ready? Yep. Pleasure is the measure. Pleasure is the measure of your sexual well being it’s not about how much you crave it. It’s not about how often you do it? Or where or who with whom, or in what position? Or even how many orgasms you have. It’s whether or not you like, the sex you are having. If you like the sex you are having you are doing it right.
Dr. Mindy 57:53
Love it. I love it. That is such a good that’s such a good message that might have to be the title of this podcast that was pretty darn good. Well, Emily, I just I’m so grateful for your book again, I, I we have hundreds of 1000s of resellers in my community. And I have literally on so many zoom calls, I pull it out. I’m like you guys have to read this book, you have to read this book. So I’m gonna say the same thing here publicly that everybody needs to get your book. And I’m just so grateful that you wrote the book and that you’re having the conversation. So where can people find you other than go grab the book?
EMILY NAGOSKI 58:29
right now because I’m in the middle of writing a new book. Oh, God bless you basically nowhere else. And also, it’s still the as we’re recording is it’s still the tail end of the pandemic. So I don’t go places. But if you just Google that you’ll find good stuff. And I will be back doing workshops, probably in the fall.
Dr. Mindy 58:47
I love it. What’s the new book on book for couples? Oh, great. Yeah, yeah, this is an amazing line you’re in. So again, thank you for taking the time. I know you got a busy day. And I’m just so grateful for you for speaking out. And I am sure about Yeah, I am sure our resellers are gonna come stalk you and find you. Hey, resellers, I just want to start off by saying thank you so much for all your wonderful reviews. And those of you that have left me comments on iTunes. I just greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness and how much you guys are enjoying these episodes. And it seems like you’re enjoying them as much as I am enjoying doing them. One of the things that I’ve learned in just interacting with so many people is that we’ve really lost the art of deep conversations. And for me, the resetter podcast stands for having meaningful conversations with people who are thinking about health, about life about mindset in a way that we may not be getting on social media or in mainstream media. And so I just want to say give you guys a shout out and just say thank you for participating. In this process with me, because as much as I absolutely love delivering the information to you, I love even more knowing that it’s impacting your life. So please let us know if there’s anything we can do to make this podcast more customized to you to make it better. We are now officially in season two. And we are working to bring you the best conversations that health influencers have that mindset changers can give and to really deliver you something that you’re not able to get anywhere else. So from the bottom of my heart, as I always say my YouTube from the bottom of my heart. I am deeply appreciative of you. I am deeply grateful to be on this journey with you and let’s get healthy together.