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5 mins

Simplify Sex: Emily Nagoski Says Pleasure Is The Measure Of A Great Sex Life

In this episode of Simplify, sex educator Emily Nagoski tells Caitlin about ways to improve sexual wellbeing and sustain a sexual connection long-term.
by Natallia Darozhkina | Apr 12 2018

As a sex educator, Emily Nagoski sees her main purpose as “teaching people to live with confidence and joy inside their bodies.” Step one: understanding what’s actually happening in there. In this episode, Nagoski employs colorful analogies to illustrate the ways in which our minds and bodies react to stressful situations (spoiler alert: you will have to use your imagination and become a gazelle) and to describe our physical responses to sexually relevant information (enter: car metaphor).

Understanding the impact that our core physiology and societal context have on our sexual responses is key to becoming compassionate to ourselves, our partners and to discovering — or rediscovering — how to joyfully inhabit our bodies.

“Usually when you’re struggling with your sexuality, it has nothing to do with your sexuality itself, a lot of it has to do with the other stuff in your life.”
Emily Nagoski

If you’ve been anxious about sex, are struggling to connect to a long-term partner, or just feel like understanding yourself better, this episode offers lots of calm, informed, empathetic advice on how you can find your way.

With elements of game theory, some nitty-gritty science about how our sexual responses actually work, and plenty of illustrative analogies, this episode is a great first step to unpuzzling our often complex experience of sex.

By the end of this episode, you’ll understand the distinction between pleasure and desire, figure out how to recognize your on- and off-switches, and hopefully, be on the road to a more confident, joyful sex life.

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Who’s Emily Nagoski?

Emily Nagoski

Emily Nagoski is the award-winning author of The New York Times bestseller, Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life. A gifted and engaging speaker, she is an expert on women’s sexual wellbeing, healthy relationships, and the prevention of sexual violence and harassment. People bring Emily, because Emily “brings the science.” Her forthcoming book on stress, Burnout: The Science of Thriving in a Stressed-Out, Unpredictable World, will be in stores in early 2019.

Emily Nagoski’s recommended reads

1. Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John Cacioppo

Based on groundbreaking research by social neuroscientist, John T. Cacioppo, Loneliness explores the therapeutic power of social connection and deleterious effects of isolation and social rejection. The results of his investigation demonstrate how prolonged loneliness causes damage to our immune system and can be just as harmful as smoking or obesity. A mix of biological and social science, this book shows that, the way we deal with our need for social connection is crucial to our lives as individuals and as a society.

Comment from Emily: “John Cacioppo has been researching loneliness for decades, and this is the summary of his research. And it’s really wonderful. It’s basically science, but it’s deeply connected to the human experience. And he talks about this drive for social connection, this hunger that we have.”

2. Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne

In this book, moral philosopher and writer, Kate Manne, examines misogyny in public life and politics. Through recent infamous instances of sexism — from the Gamergate wars to the 2016 presidential campaign — Manne reminds us that while revealing individual misogynists is hard, uprooting misogyny is much harder.

The book argues that misogyny is distinct from sexism, and should not be interpreted as hatred some men feel toward women. It is mainly about controlling, and punishing the “bad” women who challenge male dominance, along with rewarding the obedient “good” ones, women who advance patriarchal interests.

Comment from Emily: “I cannot get enough of this book, and I’m recommending it to everybody. I don’t know how to think without the ideas in this book anymore.”

Extra credit reading

If you would like to dig deeper into sex and mindfulness check out this book list created by Ben and Caitlin!

You can read (or listen to!) the key insights from each of these titles on Blinkist in 15 minutes or even fewer:

Unscrewed looks at the numerous obstacles that women face every day on their path to equality and respect. Author Jaclyn Friedman shows the way forward. She shines a light on those who are already hard at work dismantling these barriers and explains that even though the current system may be imbalanced, we can build a new one.

Simplify bonus: Friedman appeared in Season 2 of Simplify. Check out the episode here!

Wherever You Go, There You Are explains how to fully enjoy the moment without worrying about the past or the future. By providing step-by-step meditation practices, both formal and informal, that can easily be incorporated into everyday life, Kabat-Zinn steers us toward the peace and tranquility that we’re yearning for.

He Comes Next is the ultimate guide to male pleasure and sexual response. If you have sex with men, you should definitely think about picking up a copy. It offers guidance for understanding male desire, how anxiety and emotion can affect sexual experience, and gives clear, defined instructions for how to pleasure a man.

What’s Simplify?

Simplify is a podcast for anybody who’s taken a close look at their habits, their happiness, their relationships, or their health and thought “There’s got to be a better way to do this.” We talk to bestselling writers, productivity wizards, sex geniuses, and happiness experts to find it for you.

Simplify is made with love by Blinkist. Click here to try Blinkist free for 14 days with the voucher code: onswitch

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Talk to us!

We want to hear from you!

Specifically, we’d love to hear how you would answer one of the questions we always ask our guests: “What have you discovered was much easier than you initially thought it was?”

You can just record your answer with a voice memo app of your choice and then email it to us at [email protected]. We are looking forward to listening to your responses, and stay tuned—you just might hear yourself on a future episode of Simplify!

If you want to say hi to Ben and Caitlin in the meantime, you can find them on Twitter: @bsto and @CaitlinSchiller.

Who made this?

Your hosts are Caitlin Schiller and Ben Schuman-Stoler.

Stellar research and production assistance by the outstanding Natallia Darozhkina.

Thanks to Nico Guiang for our awesome intro and outro music. Listen more on Soundcloud or check him out on Facebook.

Sound and editing by Ben Jackson and Ody Constantinou, who only drinks water out of a leather water skin that he bought in Morocco.

Got links?

Emily Nagoski’s website:
Emily Nagoski’s TEDx Talk on ‘The Keys To A Great Sex Life’
Jaclyn Friedman’s podcast: Unscrewed

Read the transcript here!

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