Come as you are full transcript

Emily Nagoski: Let's know that there is no like value one way or the other of squirting or not squirting. It's just, it's a fun party trick!

[Myisha laughing]

Emily: It's like learning to rock climb. Nobody needs to do it, but it could be fun!

Myisha Battle: Welcome back to KCRW's How's Your Sex Life, your sex and dating survival guide. I'm Myisha Battle and I'm here to tell you that your sexuality is a journey, not a destination. Today we're going to hear from listeners who need advice around self-pleasure and foreplay. And I'm here with the one and only Emily Nagoski. Hey, Emily!

Emily: Hello!

Myisha: So good to have you here! I've recommended your work on this very show, as well as in my private practice, and it's been transformative for so many people, so it's just a true delight to have you here today. And congrats, also, on your newest book Come Together: The Science and Art of Creating Lasting Sexual Connections.

Emily: Thank you. Yeah it’s, the new book is the one that's about my own sex life so I feel very invested in it.

Myisha: Well, that's a fantastic segue, because I have a question for you before we dig into our listener questions.

Emily: Go for it!

Myisha: How's your sex life?

Emily: So here's the best thing I can say about the new book. I wrote it because writing Come As You Are, my first book, destroyed my sex life. I was so stressed about it that I lost all interest in actually having any of the sex I was writing about, so I wrote Come Together about what I learned to help us fix our sex life. And if you're wondering but Emily, did writing Come Together do the same thing to your sex life that writing Come As You are did? Yeah! Yeah, it absolutely did, but the good news is that when I got done I had this hundred thousand word book full of resources and answers and reframes and communication strategies for undoing everything that the writing of the book had done. So even if nobody, I really hope the book helps lots and lots of people, but even if it only ever helps us, my husband and I, things are better than they've been in all our 13 years together.

Myisha: Amazing! That's really fantastic to hear and I know that the premise of this book was really that journey for you and being able to apply what you learned and what you experienced to your own sex life to make it better.

Emily: And the second time around it was while I was also, because it's 10 years later, I'm perimenopausal now!

Myisha: Yep.

Emily: And I have long COVID.

Myisha: Oh my gosh.

Emily: Yeah.

Myisha: Whole new ballgame, but so so real. You know, I work with clients who are dealing with very, very similar concerns and so —

Emily: All kinds of health consequences.

Myisha: Yeah.

Emily: Life changes, disability, illness. Kids!

Myisha: Yeah. Yeah. Midlife, right?

Emily: Yep.

Myisha: Hashtag midlife. All right, well, let's hear what our listeners need help with today. As a reminder, we use voice actors to keep everyone anonymous.

Question 1: Hey Myisha, how can I encourage my husband to participate in foreplay?

Myisha: I'm going to just throw this one right over to you, Emily.

Emily: Yeah. So first, I'm going to give the obvious answer that everyone would give, which is that you ask for it. Which inevitably raises the question, so like you knew that, you knew to ask. So what is it that's preventing you? What makes it difficult to ask? And there's at least two very common things that people struggle with when they want to have a conversation about sexuality. One is that they are afraid that if they ask for something, their partner is going to respond with shock and horror and never be able to look at them the same way again. And the second one, which I think is probably at least part of the situation in this case, is they're worried they're going to hurt their partner's feelings. To ask your partner to do something that they have not been doing sort of inherently implies that they're not doing it, heavy air quotes, right. Which means they're, heavy air quotes, doing it wrong and a lot of us get raised to believe that whether or not we're like adequate sex partners, can be measured by like our ability to be able to meet all of our partner's needs without having to be asked or to talk about it at all. So it's so easy to feel criticized, when your partner asks you for something that they haven't been doing. So you create a framework that says I would love for our sex life to be everything that it could possibly be, and I was considering, like, what are some of the things we might change. You can ask for them to suggest some thoughts, you can even just work really hard on like, if we have a conversation about the conversation, like if we were gonna have a conversation about our sex life, which I would like, it's an invitation to more closeness and intimacy, what sort of things would make it easier for each of us to be honest, and say what we want, and know for sure that our partner wasn't going to feel like they were being criticized.

Myisha: Yeah, that critique fear is really strong and that fear of hurting a partner's feelings because you have a genuine need, and as many of our listeners will know from reading Come As You Are, a lot of people need foreplay for proper arousal, for proper and full experience of their sexual session with their partner, and so this is crucial, this is critical information that you're sharing with your partner. And also we have to allow for the fact that what you may have been doing before could have been quote unquote working, could have been just fine, and something may have changed for you or all along you may have needed this and you were fearful of, you know, that, that pushback or you know, causing hurt feelings. But I think —

Emily: And we don't know the gender of this person, but in particular people who are gender-socialized feminine get raised to believe that their pleasure matters less than pretty much anything. Certainly their pleasure matters less than their partner's pleasure, their pleasure, their pleasure matters less than their partner's comfort, and convenience, their pleasures certainly matters less than their partners feeling confident and secure in themselves. And so it's easy, especially early in a relationship to just go along with what works for your partner and not speak up at first. And I mean, you know, couples go to therapy 15, 20 years later. And that partner is now saying, like, I never liked any of the sex that we had.

Myisha: Yep. Yep! That part.

Emily: Yep!

Myisha: And that's harder to repair, because that's, to the partner who's thought that they've done everything they could correctly, that feels like betrayal.

Emily: Yeah, it feels like they got lied to!

Myisha: Yeah.

Emily: And everybody had a good intention in that situation.

Myisha: Exactly.

Emily: And everybody just, it feels so hurt.

Myisha: Right. Right. So I think that for this person, asking, it's really important for them to know that this is, this is a fairly common concern for a lot of people. And it's also important to know that when you put in the work to overcome some of the stigma, of being somebody who talks about what's going to make you have a good time, what's going to be more pleasurable for you. And you just practice that conversation of opening up to your partner about what you like and don't like sexually. This is transformative for your entire sex life. Wouldn't you agree?

Emily: Yeah, and when are we ever taught how to talk about sex? Like, who teaches us these skills? I did an event with Ian Kerner, the sex therapist, in Brooklyn in January. And we were asked a question like this, and he brought up the really important point that, so if you go to a sex therapist to like learn more about sexual communication, they're experts, right? Sex therapists are experts, y'all are experts! And it only is a couple, a few sessions, you're not committing to years of unpacking your childhood, just to learn how to talk about sex, which is a skill that takes practice. Nobody ever taught you so of course you don't know how to do it. So like, go learn from an expert! Seems pretty, seems like a really good idea to me.

Myisha: Yeah. It's, you know, why I'm in business. So when people come and they want better sex it's one of my first questions is, how do conversations about sex go in your relationship? What's the process?

Emily: And do they say what conversations?

Myisha: Yeah, they say what conversations or they say it's a fight. We don't have conversations, we have fights.

Emily: Oh, ugh.

Myisha: So this is one of the, and I try to encourage people to understand too that building a foundation of good communication in a relationship is really key, and I consider sexual communication next level. Like you kind of have to have a baseline. We can talk about the things, yeah, maybe it's uncomfortable for me to bring this thing up about money or the kids or, you know, all that stuff. It's sticky, but I feel like I can get through it. Right?

Emily: Yeah.

Myisha: And then I think those skills can also be applied to tough sex conversations, but it's really hard for people to make that connection too, that you've already been doing the communication work, probably.

Emily: Yeah, you know how to do it! Exactly. Like you, you have the skill, you can talk about difficult conversations, and one of the things from the research that I found is that couples who sustained strong sexual connections over the long term, admire and respect each other, and they trust each other, they're really good friends in short, and they're still your really good friend, even when the sex isn't everything you would choose for it to be. And you can treat each other with kindness and respect and even like a playful sense of humor and curiosity, even when you're talking about something as difficult and potentially emotional as sex.

Myisha: Oh, my gosh, I think this is a fantastic segue into our next question, which has a lot of layers.

Emily: I don't know what the questions are ahead of time, just so you know, if you're just like, slapping them in excellent, great.

Myisha: Yeah, you're doing a great job of helping me do my job. Alright, let's hear this next question.

Question 2: My wife and I have been married for 26 years. We struggle with differing sex drives and I'm trying to walk the fine line between respecting her needs and negotiating for mine. We’re religious conservatives and according to our moral morals, which we agree on, the only sanctioned outlet for our sexual needs is with each other. No other partners and no masturbation. This makes it difficult at times when I'm feeling in need of sexual activity and she's not. Sex about once a week is the perfect frequency for me. It takes the edge off and allows me to do all the things I need to do as a husband and a father without distraction. I'm a big fan of scheduling sex, but she's not because it's not “romantic.” She never initiates, so I have to ask for sex. Often she'll refuse, which is fine. Then I wait 24 hours and ask again or try to initiate. She feels that it's okay to refuse as many times in a row as she wants until she has a desire to have sex. If I bring it up more than once, it's a big turn off for her. If I want sex, and my wife doesn't, and has refused multiple times in a row, how do I stand up for my sexual needs as a husband and provider while respecting her right to say no? I don't want to be a doormat and just wait around until she's in the mood.

Myisha: I just want to say that I have adored watching your facial expressions, watching the hand gestures, currently you are face palming. I told you this one had a lot of layers, and I have a lot of thoughts!

Emily Nagoski: This is a lot. How long do we have?

Myisha: We have as much time as you have.

Emily: Can I start with things that I loved about this question?

Myisha: Absolutely. I'd love to start there.

Emily: I love that they agree on their morality. It is so valuable that they have already spoken about it. And they agree! And I love that he honors her no. I want him to honor every single one of her nos equally every single time, no matter how many there have been, and if he knows that if he gets one no and asks again 24 hours later, he's more likely to get another no, I'm gonna recommend he not ask that second time because he knows he's gonna get another no! So when I hear people talk about differences in desire, I love it if couples can have a conversation where they ask four questions, and they can do it separately and then come together, or they can talk about it together, but first, I want to know what is it that you want when you want sex? Because it's usually not like just orgasm. Second, what is it that you don't want when you don't want sex? Which I think is going to be a really fascinating answer from the wife in this question. I think at least one of the things she's going to say is definitely one of the things that people say very often, which is they don't want to feel pressured or obligated. It's a really common experience, and then I also want them to talk about what they like, when they like sex and what they don't like when they don't like sex. Not saying these are easy conversations, but this is a much more productive and insightful conversation than just saying why can't we have sex once a week? Or why don't we have sex more often? There's also a really simple answer. Schedule it. Make it very, very freakin’ romantic. Find out what counts as like, the most romantic 10 things you can do and plan 10 weeks in a row of like, knight in shining armor on a white horse romance. That one feels like it could be simple.

Myisha: And something that he could take ownership of in a way that I think is important to him as he's described himself as a provider, you know, he's sort of identified himself as this kind of archetypal husband. So right now, it's hard to know, if they're even having any conversations. Right now, it does seem like they're in this dynamic of, you know, chase, rejection, chase, rejection, and I —

Emily: Where all it is, is, are you interested? No, I'm not. Ugh.

Myisha: That's the conversation, right. So I think that those four questions are really, really important.

Emily: Yeah. For me, a missing puzzle piece in this question is whether or not she likes any of the sex that they have when they have sex, and here's a wild revelation. It's not dysfunctional or problematic not to want or have sex you don't like.

Myisha: Amen. Amen.

Emily: It sounds so simple when I say it!

Myisha: But on a lived experience level for people, it's real hard to understand that, and to to be in that with a partner who hasn't been experiencing good sex, and doesn't want it for that reason, and can't verbalize that or is ashamed or believes it's their job to fulfill an obligation for someone else.

Emily: Yeah, I wanna hear him wondering what is, what kind of sex does she like? Cuz won't she be more likely to agree to sex if she knows that when we get there she's gonna have a good time

Myisha: Yeah, I think this was a very thorough response with many action items.

Emily: There's so much good happening here! I want to emphasize that even though I did end with a face palm, like there's a lot of really good stuff here!

Myisha: Yeah, it's the beginning of something good.

Emily: Mhm.

Myisha: Well, this is a great place to take a break, but when we get back we're going to hear from someone who's curious about squirting. So definitely a mood shift here! And if you need advice about sex or dating, be sure to send an email or voice memo to sex life at kcrw dot org.


Myisha: And we're back. Let's listen to our last question.

Question 3: I'm curious about the physiology around the G-spot and squirting. I’ve never experienced it myself so I’m not even sure it’s real, even though people say that it is. Are there triggers to feel that arousal or sensation?

Emily: It one hundred percent is real and it is also not universal. I mean, I have an idea to write a show called Orgasm, The Musical where I answer the questions I've been asked most often over the last 30 years as a sex educator, and squirting is in there.

Myisha: Oh yeah.

Emily: So I am fighting the firehose of information in my brain right now, of like, all the things everybody needs to know about squirting. But I think the place to start is with the feelings people have about squirting. When I would go do Q and A's in residence halls in on college campuses, sometimes they have like a tissue box stuffed with people's questions, and one time I got there and I dumped out the questions and in one hand I was holding how do I learn to squirt? And in the other hand I was holding a question that said how do I stop squirting? And I was like right here! This is, this is women's sexuality in America. So squirting is real. Some people have it. Some people don't. I know someone who experienced it only with one specific partner and she experienced it as premature ejaculation, it would like, interrupt her orgasm. She did not enjoy the experience at all. I know another woman who never squirted in her life until she got to the other side of menopause and then she was squirting tablespoons. Who knows!? Like, because who's gonna fund the research on why these things happen. So people truly do just vary, and then also, there's this very educational study where they collected some people who have experienced ejaculating. They emptied their bladders, they had their partner stimulate them to orgasm and ejaculation in a laboratory. They measured their bladder right before orgasm, and they measured their bladder right after orgasm with ejaculation, and here's the thing, during arousal their bladders filled from empty to like kind of full. Why would anyone's bladder fill during arousal and why when we chemically examine this fluid is it not identical to urine? Like it's not urine.

Myisha: I have so many clients who say I feel like I need to pee during sex. So I do, this, this may be that phenomenon! I've never heard of this before, but I'm like, whenever I hear that from a client.

Emily: Yeah! Maybe their bladders are filling!

Myisha: Yeah! Because they're like, I pee before, like I'm UTI prone I pee before, I pee after, but during sex I feel like I have to pee during sex. And I'm like, well, you may be a squirter, you know, you may need to release that? You know, it's possible!

Emily: And one of the wonderful things about arousal is that the urethra like closes up! So you can trust that your body is not just going to urinate in the middle of arousal. So if you can relax into that sensation that your brain is interpreting, as I need to pee, it is actually a different sensation. And if you can trust your body like, or like put down a waterproof sheet, and like, if it's gonna happen, ok! You got a waterproof sheet, you'll be fine, just do some laundry. Trust your body, allow the sensation to grow and see where it goes. And the hardware of all this really is about the homologue of the prostate. And the relationship between the urethra and the urethral sponge, which is the equivalent of the prostate and the vagina. So for some people, when you press on the interior, you like tap up on the wall of the vagina, some people really find, so a person is already aroused, like do not do this when a person is not already, like very turned on. Some people will experience this upward pressure either like a tapping gesture, or pressure rubbing or a come here kind of gesture, people vary tremendously. It'll be like between one and three knuckles deep, people vary in where it is, it's generally about two knuckles deep. This pressure will, may feel like you have to pee, it might be painful, and you might really, really like it! And if you really like it, do it a little bit more! See how the sensation changes as time passes and as you use slightly different kinds of stimulation. There is no predictive anatomical structure that I know of that tells us who's going to be a squirter and who's not going to be a squirter. I am not a squirter. I went through a phase in grad school of experimenting, and it never happened for me, I'm just, I'm closing in on menopause, though so maybe! Later! But also, let's know that there is no like value one way or the other of squirting or not squirting. It's just, it's a fun party trick! If you wanna learn, it's like, it's like, it's like learning to rock climb. Nobody needs to do it, but it can be fun!

Myisha: It is fun! I'll speak for the squirters. It's fun. Partners enjoy it. I enjoy it.

Emily: Except for the people who don't enjoy it.

Myisha: Yeah, that's true. It's true. It can be disruptive and if you have a partner, that's kinda like, icked out by it, that sucks. I've never had that experience, just a caveat, but I also wanted to offer if this person wanted to explore on their own, that there are toys you can use. So you want to use a wand like toy that is not a vibrator, although you could use a vibrator, but my recommendation is for something that is just a solid material and you want to use something with some heft like a stainless steel bar.

Emily: Stainless steel! Yep.

Myisha: That's curved, that's gonna have a kind of ball at the end to give you that kind of replication of where you need to get to and it's harder to get to with your own hands, is my experience, not, not always!

Emily: People's arms vary in length relative to their torso.

Myisha: And let me tell you too, edibles help. For me personally, edibles are a way to sort of unlock and relax and heighten stimulation, heighten arousal, and so that can make it a little bit easier as well.

Emily: And people vary so much! I have had marijuana recommended to me for all kinds of stuff especially related to long COVID. Indica gives me panic attacks and CBD knocks me right out. There are these wonderful CBD coconut oil suppositories that are sold as like, arousal inducing, and half an hour after I put one in, if I'm struggling with sleep? Knock me right out! And other people are like oh yeah, it turned me on so much, it made arousal so much easier, and I was like, you'd have to put a clock on the sex!

Myisha: I love that for you though because now you have a really reliable sleep aid.

Emily: Yeah! Good for my vaginal tissues also.

Myisha: That's right! Conditioning while you sleep.

Emily: Right, you know?

Myisha: So yes, I would, I would agree wholeheartedly, this is something that varies from body to body, and from life stage to life stage. Experiment with it! Don't get fixated on it, though, because that's going to be the, it's going to take away from your arousal. And as you mentioned before, like, in order for this to fully be explored, you need to have a baseline of arousal so front load it, listen to erotica, watch some porn, get yourself really, really turned on, and then go for this type of stimulation that Emily just described. Thank you so much for your knowledge and expertise. I love hearing all of the data. Some of this is, is new to me so it's fascinating, and I want to learn more so I am excited that my audience is also getting this knowledge as well. And before I let you go, I have a few questions for you. They're all related to sex and relationships as you've experienced them. So I'll have three choices for you. You can pick one and answer it. Does that feel okay for you? Sure. Cool. All right. Here are your choices. A. What's the best thing you've learned about your sexuality? B. What's your tried and true advice for friends who are in lousy relationships? And C, who made the first move? You or your partner?

Emily: I'll answer the third one, because it's the best story. My husband and I met on OkCupid before there were apps. Back when it was, it was just a website. I was on OkCupid because it has the best algorithm and I used a special sneaky trick that OkCupid's own research showed was most effective where you make yourself invisible, you look at profiles, and then when you see a profile where you want that person to contact you, you make yourself visible and then you go look at your profile, their profile so that they can see that you looked and if they're interested, they will email you. So technically, my husband made the first move, but actually I made the first move, but the move that mattered didn't happen until we met in person a couple of weeks later. I had had a long day at work and I was messaging him that like I didn't feel like cooking and he was like let me bring you some pierogi. So I met him outside my apartment building with my 70 pound hound lab rescue who was in the shelter for four and a half years. And he was there because of a very bad early life situation which made him dislike men. So when I brought dates home, very often, Green Bean was his name, Green Bean would pace, just back and forth, and like he could not or he would like, sit, literally sit between me and the guy.

Myisha: Wow.

Emily Nagoski: So, I met Rich outside my apartment with Green Bean. It may have helped that he was carrying pierogi, but we all went up to my apartment and Rich sat down on my couch and Green Bean laid down at his feet. And that, that was the move. And I was just like, well, there it is!

Myisha: This is it. This is it! Oh, I love that story!

Emily: So Green Bean made the move.

Myisha: Green Bean! Sealed the deal for the two of you. What a matchmaker!

Emily Nagoski: Yeah.

Myisha: I love that, and I love that he's such, he's so entwined in your love story.

Emily: Yeah we, I mean, he's the reason we got married. We wanted to move in together, but we had three cats and a dog between us at the time, and rent on an apartment that would allow us to have those pets was like three times as much as the mortgage. So we were like, well, I guess we have to buy a house and I'm not going to buy a house with you unless we're married, because he was self-employed and didn't have health insurance. So we have all these very pragmatic reasons! We got married, basically, so that we could live together with Green Bean.

Myisha: Your whole story is very pragmatic. You chose a very efficient way to find a partner!

Emily: And like yes, I'm in love with him and all that stuff, but what mattered was you made my dog really happy.

Myisha: I think a lot of people feel that way, though, don't you? You know, like, there's always that test of like, if my dog loves you, if my cat snuggles you, then you can be in my life forever.

Emily: It's, I didn't know it at the time, but it makes extra sense now because I have since been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. So to trust my dog's instincts and read of people more than I trust my own, in retrospect, I'm like, oh yeah! No wonder.

Myisha: Well, I'm glad that that all worked out and you are now how many years in?

Emily: 13.

Myisha: 13! I was gonna say 14, but 13 years in, having the best sex of your relationship and, you know, helping other people do the same, so really just appreciate you being here today. Can you tell people where to find you and learn more about your work?

Emily: Emily Nagoski dot com is the website the, probably the most fun thing is to sign up for the newsletter. It's called the Confidence and Joy newsletter and mostly it's me answering people's sex questions.

Myisha: Great! So please avail yourself of additional sex advice from Emily Nagoski. Thank you so much for being here.

Emily: Thank you!

Myisha: And thank you for listening! We love hearing your questions, but we also want to hear your stories. It’s Pride month and we wanna hear your messy gossip, your dating wins, your sexual escapades, your ghosting stories? Be it you on the receiving end or you on the giving end of ghosting behavior. Send us a voice memo at sex life at kcrw dot org and we might feature it on the show!


Myisha: ‘How's Your Sex Life?’ is a KCRW original podcast. Our producer is Andrea Bautista. Our executive producer is Gina Delvac. This episode was mixed by Phil Richards. Our music was created by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs. Special thanks to SF Podcast Studio, Arnie Seipel, and Jennifer Ferro. And last but not least, a big shout out to our voice actors! We’ll let them introduce themselves on the way out.

VO 1: This is Mia Fernandez. Thanks for listening.

VO 2: This is Adria Kloke. Be sure to follow the show so you never miss an episode!

VO 3: This is Zeke Reed. See you next week for another episode of How’s Your Sex Life.