The Most Empowering Things You Need to Know About Sex & Your Body with Emily Nagoski
Producers note: Mature subject matter around sex is discussed in this episode.
As we’ve been learning in our Dating, Sex and Relationship series, there is no one right way to go about finding satisfaction in these areas of life. And the same is true for sex. You deserve to find joy and pleasure in your body and your sexuality just as you are, no matter what. There are so many things that culture has told us about our bodies and our sexuality that aren’t true. We’re going to walk through some of those misnomers and some healthy ways to approach sex with our very wise guest, sex educator and return visitor to our show, Emily Nagoski. Emily describes her mission as helping women live with joy and confidence inside their bodies. She wants us to know that our bodies have wisdom to share, and that our bodies can be trusted–their intuition is actually good for us and our protection. She explains what a sex drive is (actually, what it isn’t, because it’s not actually a thing–surprise!). Emily also shares key findings from couples who sustain strong sexual connection over the long term (and those two things aren’t what people most generally think they are). In this frank conversation about sex, Emily encourages us to lean into our sexual pleasure and shake off any hesitations that are usually due to cultural shame or baggage. And if you think that exploring your sexuality isn’t possible with a busy career, kids, and other responsibilities, Emily removes the myth that scheduling sex makes it less hot. When we normalize all sorts of sexual responses, we remove barriers that keep us from making space for all this pleasure that has always been ours to claim.
Hey everybody. Jen Hatmaker here, your delighted host of the For The Love podcast. You guys, today is fire hot. We’re in a series right now called For the Love of Dating, Sex and relationships.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to kind of write something about this, thought about it a little more, hit the backspace button, started over because nothing I say about today’s topic, which is sex, feels adequate. How do you talk about one of the most physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually loaded words in the history of language? I could just sit here and list adjectives all day long. And in some way, every single one of them would be accurate. That’s how wide and wild the human experience is around sex. It has meant a million different things to all of us. To you, to me throughout our lives, in season, out of season, our lives have changed. We’ve changed, our bodies, our minds, our likes, our dislikes, our pleasures, our understanding of ourselves.
And here’s what I have learned over the last handful of years. Your body just as she is, as he is, as they are, it’s beautiful. It’s like wonderful. It’s divinely made. Wholly deserving of joy and pleasure. Literally. Just as you are. I’ve also learned that there’s so much joy, literally, to be had when I decide to learn more about how my body actually works. Mine, not yours, not theirs, not the way someone tells me it should work. Mine. It’s taken me years and it’s going to take me more still to unhook all the shoulds that people have attached to my body, to sex, to pleasure, to responsibility, really without my input. Because actually when you unhook the shoulds, it’s sort of like peeling the layers off and finally seeing yourself for who you actually are.
Oh man. Oh, today’s conversation is so good. Oh my gosh. It’s one of my favorite leaders in this space. What she reminds us today over and over is this: You’re normal. If you don’t have a lot of interest in sex, you’re normal. If you’re a woman who’s more interested in sex than your partner, that’s normal. If you are gay, straight, trans, cis, bi, pan, whoever you are, you’re normal. Because there is no one thing. There is no one way. There’s no right or wrong here. And you deserve no matter what to find joy and pleasure in your body and your sexuality just as you are. So who’s my guest today? Beloved returning guest, that’s who. Dr. Emily Nagoski.
So if you’re part of the Jen Hatmaker book club, then I know you’re just as excited as I am. Dr. Nagoski joined us a couple of years ago when we selected her book Burnout, which she wrote with her sister, Dr. Amelia Nagoski and it is one of the best books I’ve ever read about women and stress. It was a game changer for me. I read it in conjunction with The Body Keeps the Score, and it’s like a hundred light bulbs went off over my head. If you have not read burnout, I can’t recommend enough.
So Dr. Emily describes herself as a writer, an educator, researcher, activist, and nerd. She has a PhD in human behavior with a concentration in human sexuality. She’s been a sex educator for decades, and she puts so much of her teaching in her award-winning book called Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life. Sarah Bessey, my friend, Sarah is the first person who ever told me about that book and we all bought it. And we were all like, well, holy moly. And this is what we’re going to talk about extensively today. Come As You Are is an accessible, worthy, good guide through sex and pleasure and your sexuality, as is Dr. Nagoski obviously.
Isn’t that nice? Isn’t that lovely? Listen, I could have asked her a frillion things about sex and kept her my captive audience for six straight weeks. I mean, she literally teaches entire semesters on this. So you know we could have talked for just as long about every question there is out there, but I think maybe here’s the heart of what I wanted to get at today.
You maybe like me have probably seen a lot of change in how you relate to sex. You’ve probably had some of the same hangups for years and years and years, or haven’t been able to find the solution that you are looking for or that you’re wishing for, even if you’re even still looking for one at all. And there’s probably a lot we still don’t know about sex and we’d like to learn and have someone answer our “dumb questions,” but I’m just telling you, there is no such thing as a dumb question around sex or anybody asking it. You may want to know if it’s possible to enjoy sex the way you did before your body birthed kids or maybe even have the audacity to hope you could have better sex with the body that you have.
Maybe your body’s in menopause. Maybe it’s coming up, whatever. It doesn’t matter. Wherever you’re at, whatever your body has done, whatever your body is doing, wherever it is at, you deserve this. Maybe you just want to know everything is, you know, okay down there. You know what I mean?
A lot of my listeners had the same partner for a long, long, long time. And you are no longer partnered with that person. And you are now dating or looking to share your life with someone else. And you want to know, okay, when it comes time for sex with a new body, a new person’s body, am I going to be okay? Are they going to be okay? What do I like now? What do I want now?
Again, normal, normal, normal. You are beautiful. You are beautiful. There are so many things that the culture has told us about our bodies and our sexuality that aren’t even true. So Dr. Nagoski is going to tell us why that is, why context around sex matters. We talk a lot about that, which is exciting because context is something that we can have influence over. We have agency over a lot of our context. Why our biological responses to sex differ so widely and how each of us have an accelerator and a break when it comes to sex.
And every single one of us responds to both differently. There’s not a right and a wrong here. There’s not a yes and a no. There’s not a better and a worse. It’s just this conversation is so permissive and it’s so liberating and it will change the way that you think about your body forever in a good way. I’m just telling you, this is one of the most empowering conversations we’ve ever had on the show. There is absolutely no shame here, and gosh, y’all we talk about it. Everything. We’re orgasms. We’re everything. It’s all in here today. But what is not in here is shame. I am done with shame around my body and around sex.
I lived with that for half my life and I will not do it anymore. So I choose to listen to my body because I believe her to be so, so, so good just as she is. I’m having a different experience inside my body than I’ve ever had. Anyway, clearly have a lot of thoughts around this, but put your AirPods in. Buckle up.
This is a straight at it conversation that is so liberating and freeing and empowering. And let’s jump into it. Here we go. The absolutely amazing, one of my favorites, Dr. Emily Nagoski.
Books and Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life
by Emily Nagoski
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle
by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
Dr. Bessel VanDerKolk For the Love Podcast Episode
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Bessel van der Kolk
Magnificent Sex: Lessons from Extraordinary Lovers
by Peggy Kleinplatz
ACE resources toward understanding asexuality from The Trevor Project
Orgasms for Two
by Betty Dodson
Donald Hall’s Essay about marriage “The Third Thing”
Ms. Marvel – TV Show on Disney+
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XO – Team Jen