What are some common midlife love and sex struggles? Is there anything you can do to bring back the excitement in your relationship? How and when do you speak with your kids about love and dating?
In this podcast episode, Kathryn Ely speaks with Dr. Lanae St.John about what you can do to reignite the spark in your relationship, her new book, what to teach your kids and the 5 building blocks to healthy sexuality.
Meet Dr. Lanae St.John
Dr. Lanae St.John, known as The MamaSutra, is a board-certified sexologist with the American College of Sexologists and a former professor of human sexuality at City College of San Francisco. She’s been named one of the top 100 sex blogging superheroes by Kinkly.com every year since 2013. Dr. Lanae has been quoted in Forbes.com, Huffington Post, Livestrong.com, Popsugar, and Women’s Health Magazine and she’s been a guest on multiple podcasts including Sex Out Loud, Sex Nerd Sandra, and Sexology. Lanae lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner and two daughters.
In This Podcast
- Common midlife love and sex struggles
- The orgasm gap
- Shaking things up a little
- Talking to kids about sex
- 5 building blocks to a healthy sexuality
Common midlife love and sex struggles
Sex is the one thing we immediately assume fault too if there is any problem in the relationship. It’s not often the main problem but some other underlying like resentment or microaggression. A lot of the people who are seeking more information about sexuality, to improve themselves or to enhance their relationships, are women. They are going out and doing this work. What we need to understand is that relationships are like a living and breathing organism. If you have one part of the organism that continues to seek growth, change, and improvement, and the other one doesn’t, it cannot survive.
The orgasm gap
The orgasm gap refers to the fact that in heterosexual sexual encounters, men have more orgasms than women.
Shaking things up a little
If we’re partnered with someone for any amount of time, we can get into a bit of a rut and get a little bored. As cliche as it may sound, it really is important to try new things. You will see your partner in a different light and you both get to explore new things. Click here to download 50+ date night ideas.
Talking to kids about sex
When we talk about sex, I think where we fail is when we don’t help people understand the steps that get you to sex. And what I mean by that is: dating, love and relationships.
‘Read Me‘ is a book that Dr. St John has written and created a framework that takes out any discussion about the acts of sex, and instead outlines the things that help a person develop healthy sexuality in general. This framework works whether or not you teach abstinence or comprehensive sex education in your home.
You can start talking to your kids as early as when they are in diapers and when you do so, make sure to use the proper anatomical terms
5 building blocks to a healthy sexuality
- Communication – this includes non-verbal communication and being able to talk about emotions
- Consent – listening to the word ‘no’
- Respect – respect for self and others
- Pleasure – it’s not always about sexual pleasure, it can be something as simple as a hug
- Fantasy – doing date nights and bringing back adventure
Books by Dr. Lanae St John
- Find Your Creativity With Robert Belle | IT 015
- Imperfect Thriving Email Course (Your Blueprint To Thrive)
Meet Kathryn Ely
I’m Kathryn Ely and at age 50, I’m enjoying my very best life. I spent years as a lawyer and then stay-at-home mom helping others go out into the world and live their best lives. While this was very important to me, I did not realize that I was losing myself in the process. I followed all of the “shoulds” like “women should always care for others” and “taking time for yourself is just selfish”.
As two of my children were getting ready to go out into the world I realized I was lost, without my next purpose, and it was scary. So I went back to school and over the course of several years, I not only found myself, but I designed the formula for women in midlife to achieve their most fulfilling lives. It is my mission to equip as many women as possible with this design and the tools to make this chapter of their lives the best chapter.
Thanks for listening!
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Imperfect Thriving is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you thrive, imperfectly. To hear other podcasts like the Bomb Mom Podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Empowered and Unapologetic, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.
[KATHRYN]: Imperfect Thriving is a part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you thrive imperfectly. To hear other podcasts like the Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Empowered and Unapologetic, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.
Welcome to the Imperfect Thriving podcast for all of us women in midlife to discover yourself limiting beliefs, determine exactly what you want your life to look like and the imperfect actions to get you there.
Hi, this is the Imperfect Thriving podcast and I’m your host Kathryn Ely. I am so glad you are here with me today. I’m super excited about today’s podcast. We have Dr. Lanae St. John today, a board-certified sexologist to talk to us about love, sex and dating in midlife and how to talk to our teens about sex. So, you are really going to want to hear all that she has to share with us today. Now, before we jump into today’s episode, if you enjoyed the podcast, please rate, review and subscribe. This podcast is designed especially from you. I want to hear from you what’s working, what’s not, so I can bring you more of what you want and if you haven’t already done so, head on over to imperfectthriving.com/course to get your Blueprint to Thrive. This is a free email course I designed to guide you step by step to assess your satisfaction with your current life, determine exactly what you want your life to look like and how to take daily imperfect action to get there.
Now, if completing a whole email course sounds like a lot for you and you don’t want to do that right now, I get it, but sign up for the course anyway just to get the quick start, which is a simple five to 10 minute exercise where you will learn what areas of your life are fulfilling and satisfying and which ones you could use a little work on. Then when you get the email once a week, just check out the first one and see what you want to do there. But I really want you to at least get the quick start to assess where you are right now and what you’re satisfied with. Now, back to Dr. St. John. Now, Dr. St. John is a San Francisco Bay area based board-certified sexologist, certified sex coach, educator and author of Read Me: A Parental Primer for “The Talk”, whether it’s teaching in a workshop, working with clients or reaching audiences through her writing, Lanae is using her knowledge and training of human sexuality to normalize conversations about sex, boundaries, respect, tolerance and consent. She’s also the mother of two daughters, so she’s got firsthand knowledge about how to navigate issues of sexuality as a parent and uses that experience to help her clients on these issues. Welcome Dr. St. John. I’m so excited to have you on the podcast.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
[KATHRYN]: Well, I’m really excited to go ahead and jump right in. So please tell us a little bit about your story and how you got to exactly where you are today. [crosstalk]
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Okay. So, you know, when I was an undergrad, I took a class that was just a basic human sexuality class and I was fascinated because when I first went to college, I entered as a virgin. I knew nothing, my parents were religious and you know, it is very, they were right wing as well and so we didn’t talk about sex and any conversation about sex was really, sex was dangerous, sex was forbidden. Yeah, it just, it was not something that we could talk about openly and freely in the house. And so, you know, go away to college, fairly liberal college. I got exposure to this idea, this concept, and I was fascinated by it. And so I dove into the studies and kind of broke the curve because I did all the work and [inaudible 00:04:45] the exams and it was just something that, for me, I guess it felt like second nature to talk about this stuff and not be scared, which is completely counter to how I was raised.
[KATHRYN]: That’s probably how most of us were raised.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Yeah. It just felt so natural to be able to just talk about this topic. And I almost immediately, I was like, I kind of don’t get why it’s so fraught with seer and guilt and shame and all this stuff. So, you know, fast forward, I didn’t want him to go back to grad school right after college so I, my life took a short detour for a while where I worked in of all things HR, so I was doing employee relations, investigations around sexual harassment, all that stuff, which is related to sex. But it wasn’t until I was married and we decided to move with his job to Germany. And when I was living in Germany, I became a mom, I had two kids while we were living there and in the process of being in Germany, I got to see how families were very, very different around sexuality with their kids. There just was no body shame, you could go to a local pool, there was a public pool nearby our house and we could walk there and kids at this public pool could run around naked. You know, they were little toddlers, there was a toddler pool and kids ran around and no one said anything.
I didn’t have anyone even Leer at them or, you know, come over to me and tell me to put clothes on my kids. Like it’s just how it was there. No shame about the body at all. And I noticed that the first summer when we moved back to the States, and this is moving into Northern California, which is, you know, as most of America sees, California is being fairly liberal, I taught my kids how to change into their swimsuits while wrapped in a towel. And it was like this sort of aha moment for myself. It was like, “What changed?” The kids are still this little chair of bodies but somehow, I knew that they just couldn’t be naked, and where they were also where we were was a private pool. We belong to a club and so even to have that sort of shame pop up as quickly as it did was kind of a shock to me. And you know, right around that same time, the kids were preschool aged and you know, me a stay at home mom those years when I was at, you know, an expat wife was like, “Well, I kind of want to do something for me now.” And so, I Googled, you know, graduate programs human sexuality, and at the time, one of the best places for that was this little school called the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality.
And, you know, it was right in the heart of San Francisco and it was a very nontraditional school. But it was fascinating because we got to learn what people do sexually and how they think and feel about it. And of course, when I told people, you know, we were kind of talking about this before we started recording, when I would tell people that I was studying sexuality, I would get this like, you know, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Oh yeah, I’ll teach you a few things about sex. But it was just, it was fascinating because it was lecture and the readings and it was everything but what people normally think about sex, right? People think it’s like hands on, you know, treatments or whatever. But that was so not what it was. But there were a couple pieces to the education that were really crucial and, in my opinion, after having done this, I’ve gone through a couple of these. The program was called SAR (Sexual Attitude Restructuring). And I have this very strong opinion now that people who have anything to do with other people’s sexuality, like if they’re a therapist or a doctor, like they really shouldn’t be doing, they shouldn’t be consulting with anyone about their sexuality unless they, as the professional have gone through one of these SARs. Because it’s confronting in a lot of ways where you deal with the judgment that you have around sexual behaviors because there’s often a lot of, there’s a lot of stigma, there’s a lot of shame and guilt and embarrassment and judgment about, you know, how things should be. But you know, if someone’s coming to you with an issue and you have judgment around that behavior, you may be doing more damage than good.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: So, the SAR, I’ve gone through it as a participant and as a small group leader and it’s just, it really helps you get very clear on the things that you do know about and the things you really probably shouldn’t be helping people with. So, it was fascinating, so, —
[KATHRYN]: So, let’s jump right in to what you see as like some of the most common like midlife love and sex struggles.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: You know, one of the things that I think gets very, can I say a short shrift? It’s a thing that we immediately assume fault to. It’s if there’s any problem in the relationship, it’s the sex, right? But often sex is a symptom of something else. You know, it’s not often the main problem, although we might think of it as the main problem but some other issue might be underlying like resentment. Like something, there’s a series of perhaps microaggressions or micro expressions of disgust when your partner does X, Y, or Z and that just like shuts down your pilot light. Like that fire that’s burning inside that always tells you I’m ready to go. Like, resentment can be just a killer.
[KATHRYN]: Yeah, and maybe not feeling heard or not paid enough attention to and other areas of the relationship.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Yeah, exactly. I mean, in this field I have lots of opportunities to go on retreats or go to classes from the colleagues that I have and to see the work that they’re doing. And it used to surprise me at the beginning, but it really doesn’t anymore that a lot of the people who are seeking more information about sexuality to improve themselves or to enhance their relationships, it’s really the women who are going out and doing this work. And you know, like I said, it used to surprise me, but it really doesn’t because I see that women constantly want, I don’t know what, a lot of the women I know at least are always sort of seeking ways to communicate or to just better themselves. And as a sexologist, you know, somebody who can kind of look at these things from a 30,000-foot view and sort of see patterns, relationships are a system. They are living, breathing organism kind of thing. And if you have one part of the organization or the organism that continues to seek growth and change and improvement and the other one doesn’t, like, how does that system continue to grow or evolve or survive, even? So, the thing I often hear people talk about is, you know, people will come to me and they’ll talk about the struggles they’re having with, you know, having been partners for X number of years.
And I mean this piece of like wanting change or seeking changes is super important. Actually I’m going to go on a little bit of a tangent here because I, you know, when I would tell men that I was going back to study sexuality and, I would get the jokes about, “You know, I could teach you a thing or two.” There was always this question that would pop up into my mind that was like, “Would your partner agree with you?” Like there’s this bravado that came out, but honestly, there’s a lot of study that’s been happening recently about something called the orgasm gap. Have you heard of this?
[KATHRYN]: I haven’t heard about that.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: So the orgasm gap basically talks about how heterosexual men in most of their most recent sexual experiences or sexual partnered interactions, a huge percentage, I can’t remember the percentage off the top of my head, but if you Google orgasm gap, you’ll find it, heterosexual men top the chart. Like almost consistently, almost every interaction they have, they have an orgasm. You go down that part and you see like gay men, bisexual men, then you see lesbian women, bisexual women. The people that are at the bottom of that orgasm gap are heterosexual women. So, for those men who would always tell me, “Oh yeah, I can teach you a thing or two,” I was always like —
[KATHRYN]: Like, “Really? Can you?
[DR. ST. JOHN]: “Would your partner agree with that?”
[KATHRYN]: Not sure.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Not sure how many of those partnered women or people who are partnered with this particular type of men with that kind of bravado, I don’t know if they would really agree.
[KATHRYN]: Yeah. That’s definitely what I’m hearing. What, so you know, I’m a woman in midlife, many of our listeners are women in midlife. If they are struggling with that or you know, they’ve been in a relationship for 25 or 30 years or they’re now out there dating, what can they do to maybe bridge that gap or to get closer to whoever they’re dating or who they’ve been married to for 30 years? What can they do?
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Yeah. So, there was something I created for Valentine’s day this year. I have this, basically it’s a, what do I call it? Not a tip sheet, but it’s basically 50 plus date ideas. And I think what happens, especially if we’re partnered with the same person for any amount of time, it could be, you know, as few as five years up to 25 plus, sometimes we get into this a bit of a rut. We get a little bored sexually with our partners and you know, like I said, it’s not, sex is just sort of a symptom of something else. And you know, it may sound trite, you know, try something new, do something adventurous, but there is a lot of truth to that because you get this opportunity to see your partner maybe a little differently than you may have been recently.
[KATHRYN]: Right, right.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: And so, so I’ll give you an example. In coming up with this date night idea or date ideas, I won’t say date night because you know, some of these things can be done during the day as well. Take a weekend when the kids throw away or, or you know, kids have got all their scheduled activities when they’re teenagers and they are rarely at home anymore. But you know, I went to a, y’all have Dave & Busters where you live?
[KATHRYN]: I think we do.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: The place is like all video games?
[KATHRYN]: Yeah. Yeah.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: We did that as a date night. It’s like we went to Dave & Busters and went and played a bunch of video games.
[KATHRYN]: Okay. That’s so fun.
Yeah, I mean it could be totally juvenile, right? Somebody might be hearing this and be like, “Are you kidding me? Forget that. I don’t want to go to play video games or whatever.”
[KATHRYN]: No. I think getting in touch with our juvenile side would actually help quite a bit there. It makes sense to me that if sex itself is not really the root of the problem, then rediscovering what it is that made us fall in love with that other person to begin with and taking us back to a time when we felt maybe younger and for you makes complete sense to me.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Yeah. So, this list has, we’d have things for introverts as well. You know, sometimes people just do not want to go out and go to a local brewery and try a couple, what do they call it? A flight of beer?
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Maybe that’s not their thing. Maybe they are somebody who likes to be more of a home buddy. I mean, I feel that in myself even these days where like, it might sound silly, but you know, there are, I don’t even know what they’re called. There’s like these architectural Lego set up so you can buy it at Barnes & Noble where you can build like a miniature replica of a Frank Lloyd Wright.
[KATHRYN]: Yeah, you can. Or even, the Eiffel tower. Yeah, I’ve seen those.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Yeah. So, like to have a night in where you build that together or just, you know, finding some interesting things to do where you don’t necessarily have to be out and you know, —
[KATHRYN]: So, I think that these ideas would be awesome. Is that something that you would be willing to share with our listeners?
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Absolutely.
[KATHRYN]: Oh, that’s—
[DR. ST. JOHN]: I’ll give to you and give you the link and you can do it.
[KATHRYN]: Oh yeah, we’ll put it as show notes. That would be great.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: There you go.
[KATHRYN]: Oh, that’s awesome. So, you know, I heard what you were saying earlier about how sex wasn’t discussed in your household and I can agree it was the same in mine. I grew up, my mom, she died when I was little and so I grew up in a household with my dad who had two daughters and then my grandparents, who of course, another generation older and nobody ever talked to me about it. So, I’m thinking it’s super important that we talk to our own kids about it but some of us maybe don’t know the exact way to go about it. And I know like I have two kids in college who are close together but also have a 14-year-old who has the benefit of coming along after I’ve learned a little bit with the other two. And I figure a lot of listeners are in that same boat. What do I need to know this time around? Where do we start talking just about sex?
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Yeah. So, I wrote this book and you mentioned it at the top of the show. The book is called Read Me: A Parental Primer for “The Talk”. And what I’ve done with this book is I’ve created a framework that takes out any discussion of what goes where, who does what, you know, the acts of sex and gives you this outline really for the things that I see as a, like I said, the sexologist who can kind of see this stuff from a 30,000-foot view. These things help a person to develop a healthy sexuality in general. And this is a framework that works regardless of whether you teach abstinence-only in your home or comprehensive sex education. I mean, I do emphasize comprehensive sex Ed and we can talk a little bit about that, more in a bit, but the framework, like I said, has nothing to do with penises and vaginas or anything like that, but developing a healthy sexuality.
So as a person who’s studied this topic, sort of, you know, extensively, I see a problem with talking about sex when it’s the only thing we talk about. And what I mean by that is when we talk about sexuality or when we talk about sex, I should clarify, what I mean by talking about sex, talking about, you know, the acts and how you get pregnant and all that stuff, I think where we fail is we don’t help people understand the steps that get you to sex. And what I mean by that is dating, love, and relationships. And like if you skip conversations about how that stuff and the importance of those things, then, to me it feels like a very natural jump to hookup culture because if people, if that’s all they think sex is, is just, you know, meet somebody and have sex with them, I think that has, I think that is the outcome of talking to people about sex and only sex.
So, this framework, I call it The Five Building Blocks to a Healthy Sexuality, they are communication, consent, respect, pleasure, and fantasy. And the fantasy piece, we kind of touched on a little bit of this when we were talking about the date night and, or the date ideas and creating adventure and you who did it so well you got to burn back a little bit of the playfulness and be a little juvenile, you know, like, because that might be how we fell in love with our partner, right?
[KATHRYN]: Yes. And everything else is so serious in our lives.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Yeah. Have you ever asked a kid to pretend they’re an adult?
[KATHRYN]: Yeah. No, I would never do that.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: You know, I mean, you know the faces they make, they get serious and —
[KATHRYN]: Yeah, they’d be like, “What’s the fun in that?”
[DR. ST. JOHN]: So yeah. So, each of those blocks has a lot of sort of little subcategory or sub descriptions underneath them. Like communication is not just being able to talk about what you want, needs, wants, desires. It’s nonverbal communication. It’s being able to talk about emotions, you know, people have them and be able to talk about them, and, you know —
[KATHRYN]: Right. That’s kind of connected to what we were talking about before. If, when you’re a grownup who’s either been married for years, who is out there dating and midlife, it’s not usually the sex that’s the issue. It’s the connection. It’s the, if there’s resentment or other things in the way it’s going to show up in sex. So of course, it makes sense that when we’re talking to our kids about it, there are so many other layers besides just the sex act and the communication. To me, it seems like it would be the most basic, most fundamental part of it.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Yep. Exactly. So, yeah, so communication and then consent. You know, consent was not taught when I was growing up, and I think there are people who think it’s a bit of a buzzword, you know, you got to sign on a dotted line and get permission for this, that, and the other. But the aha moment for me as an educator and as a parent was back when, actually there’s been a couple points actually, and one of them was, you know, my kids were these little toddlers and we were doing the tickle game. You know, that where you’re like, you’re the adult, you’re the parent, you’re tickling your kid, and they’re like laying on their back and then, you know, just laughing and giggling. I had this moment where it was almost not really out of body, but I felt like I was the child and I realized how much bigger I was as an adult than the little child. And you know, I sort of felt this like I could understand a child feeling overpowered or power less and how scary that could be, especially if you didn’t want what was happening to continue or you may be felt like you had to pee or something like that.
And so, I had this moment where I just, I realized that and I stopped and I told my daughter, “You know, if we’re ever tickling and you want me to stop, you just say stop and I’ll stop.” And I said, “Do you want to try it?” And she’s like, “Okay.” And so, I started tickling her tickle, tickle, tickle, and she was like, “Aah.” You know that thing kids do when they get all excited and she goes like, “Stop.” And I froze. And there was no expression on my face of, “Oh, you don’t want me to tickle you anymore?” Or you know, there was, I just froze and I could see her eyes scanning my face for whatever she was scanning for. [crosstalk] Exactly. And so, it was almost like I could see like a light bulb also going on and she got this little glimmer in her eyes and then she squinted at me with a big smile and said, “Go.”
[KATHRYN]: So, she like really took in the power of that?
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Yeah, exactly.
[KATHRYN]: I would say talking about consent, if we don’t, there could be such a disconnect between what young boys learn as consent and what girls mean as consent.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Yeah. And I think there’s no reason why these conversations can’t be happening for child of any gender.
[KATHRYN]: Yeah, definitely.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Like it’s just a conversation about making sure someone’s okay. I mean, if that’s something that you practice when they’re two, imagine what it’s going to look like when they’re 12, when kids are just starting to get that like pushing buttons or like pushing boundaries. If you have a child who feels empowered to say no, now imagine that when they’re 22, if they’re starting to interact with boys at college who might not be as, you know, or I shouldn’t say just boys because there are girls who push those buttons too or push those boundaries I should say. So, it’s about helping our kids when the stakes are low, to develop the skills to be able to, and the strength of conviction of self or bodily autonomy to be able to say no with confidence.
[KATHRYN]: I absolutely love that. That is so important. Yeah, definitely.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: So, that’s the second bullet point or that’s the second building block. So, then it’s respect, and for me, respect is about, it’s respect for self, it’s respect for others, it’s body image, it’s, you know, one of the things that I, I don’t particularly like the term virginity or just the construct of virginity because for those kids who have been victims of unwanted sexual contact at an early age, they don’t get to declare when they “lose their virginity.” So, I like to think of it in terms of sexual debut. It’s a little more positive and in the South there, you know what [crosstalk], but so a debut can be defined by the person themselves, right? They just have multiple debuts. You could have your first kiss, your first orgasms. So, there are a few different ways that a person could define their sexual debut and —
[KATHRYN]: And they’re not crazy about the first debut that they. They can have a do-over, right? I mean —-
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Exactly.
[KATHRYN]: Yeah, I don’t think —
[DR. ST. JOHN]: It might not have been a great experience that first one.
[KATHRYN]: It might not have or there might be regrets or shame or whatever it is and then we don’t want any of that. So, to be sort of reinvent yourself that way is pretty important.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Right, right, exactly. You know, and it is a bit of a reinvention. You can declare whatever you want to be your debut. So, that’s the respect one. Then there’s pleasure. The last two pleasure and fantasy contend to be kind of skittish for parents because they, there’s not a lot of desire to talk about pleasure or fantasy with their kids, but pleasure, if you look at it more broadly instead of thinking of it only as sexual pleasure, which I mean, admittedly that’s what a lot of Americans, I mean, a lot of adult Americans do is they’ll talk about pleasure and they’ll think about it in terms of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure, it’s really not just sexual pleasure. So, something as simple as a hug can evoke tears, it can soothe tears. And a hug is not an explicitly sexual act, but it’s one of the things that help people. You know, sometimes they can calm their nervous systems with a hug.
The pleasure is not just, you know, sexual pleasure and then fantasy again, we kind of talked about that one already. There’s this misconception in our culture that, you know, men have to be rock hard, 12 inches long, and go all night, right? Like this is a fallacy, causes a lot of problems for people who think there’s something wrong with them or think there’s something wrong with a partner because they don’t somehow measure up that way, but yeah, if we’re not teaching about sexuality, we’re not teaching about dating, love, and relationships and we’re just allowing people to view porn as sort of a default sex-ed. What we’re missing out on explaining to our kids is that you know, everything else that they may happenstance upon is someone else’s fantasy.
[KATHRYN]: Yeah. And time and time again, I mean I haven’t had that many clients that are addicted to porn, but I have had several clients come in that live their fantasy life through porn and it has such a detrimental effect on their relationships with other human beings.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: So, the one thing that I just learned, I mean, and as somebody who’s been studying this for years now, I’m quite impressed when I can learn something that I haven’t yet heard. And this happened to me last weekend or the weekend before, I went to one of these, you know, a colleague was running a class and I sat in and for me, even as a sexologist, I don’t fantasize. I just, I actually tend to think it has more to do with, I have something called Aphantasia. Do you know what Aphantasia is?
[KATHRYN]: I don’t. Tell me.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: I need to write a blog post about this. I have no mind’s eye. So, when I close my eyes and you tell me to picture an Apple, I just see gray or black, I don’t see anything. But you know, for example, one of my kids can picture almost like a matrix, like, you know, Matrix, the movie, infinite white background or kind of like the good place, you know, Janet’s space, that infinite white background and she can just picture anything. I don’t have that. And so, I used to think that my inability to fantasize had more to do with the fact that, “Oh, I have this Aphantasia,” and I’d say, “Oh, okay. I don’t fantasize.” And when I was going back to school to study sexuality, you know, even my peers and my teachers would be like, “No, you fantasize.” And I was like, “No, I don’t.” And they’re like, “Come on. You do.” And I was like, “Okay, whatever. Whatever. All right. Fine.” And just sort of like, didn’t argue with them. But you know, for the longest time I really, I honestly don’t. And this class that I went to this past weekend, we were talking about incorporating the senses. And so, one of the first questions you can ask your partner when you’re sort of role playing is, “Where are we?” And then you can sort of like build it from there. You know, “We’re, it’s raining out and the car just broke down.” The first thing that popped into my head just now was one of the early episodes of Schitt’s Creek when they’re in the cabin. Do you know which one I’m talking about?
[DR. ST. JOHN]: So, I watched that episode recently with my kids and both of them were like, they were just so embarrassed by the whole idea of role play, right? It’s like, well, that can actually be one of the things that can spice up a relationship for the adults, you know? But when you look at little kids and their ability to fantasize and create, you know, these fascinating stories, you know, I think adults could take a page from their kids and to kind of be more playful, be more, have more fun with your partner.
[KATHRYN]: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, I absolutely love the five building blocks that you’ve talked about and it makes so much sense to me that we don’t need to focus our whole sex talk on just the act of sex. It needs to be maybe many conversations over the years about how to treat people in general, how to treat ourselves in general, what consent means, how to respect ourselves and others. And it’s not just about the act of sex. I absolutely love that. When would you say we need to start that conversation with our children? At what age?
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Well, so in the book, I talk about you can start talking about these things when your kid is still in diapers. I mean, you’re not talking about, like I said, the parts are what goes where, but you’re helping to develop these healthy relationships, healthy attitudes from the get-go. And you know, one of the examples I give in the book, when your kids or grandkids or when they’re, when your kids are very, very little in diapers, adults have a very hard time with saying things like clitoris or vulva or vagina or, you know, the normal parts of the anatomy. And so the idea or my recommendation is, when you’re changing a diaper to be able to talk to, you know, we talk to kids even though they, we don’t think they necessarily understand fully what we’re saying, for us it’s exercising, it’s like exercising a muscle. You know, if you get comfortable being able to say, “Lady, okay, I’m wiping the pee off of your lady.” You know, “I’m wiping the urine off your lady,” or whatever, you’re practicing being able to say these words that normally would give you anxiety or nervousness.
But studies have shown that if kids know their parts, they can, heaven forbid they’re in a situation where they are being abused sexually or you know, the unwilling victims of unwanted sexual touch, they can name where they’re being touched. And abusers don’t necessarily want you to be able to articulate what’s happening because then you can go to the authorities and say exactly what’s happening. So yeah. So, I recommend things like that from the very beginning because then you get comfortable with it and it’s not as scary because that tends to be one of the things that are really scary for parents; it’s, you know, even just talking about the parts.
[KATHRYN]: Yeah, absolutely. So, I think, I mean I could talk to you all day about this, but we probably need to finish up here soon. Do tell us the name of your book again and I’m going to put the link in show notes so that everybody can go get a copy because everybody needs to.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Thank you.
[KATHRYN]: What is the name again?
[DR. ST. JOHN]: It’s called Read Me: A Parental Primer for “The Talk”.
[KATHRYN]: Okay, perfect. And I’m going to put that in the show notes. So, just to sort of recap what we’ve gone over today, I would tell all our listeners, if you’re having trouble in your sex life, let’s look at what’s going on underneath that. Is it boredom? Is it resentment? Is it just sort of losing touch with what it is that you love about your partner and that drew you to him or her to begin with? Go to the show notes and get Dr. St. John’s list of all the different things you can go try.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Exactly.
[KATHRYN]: Do that and then also get a copy of her book to help you know exactly the different areas to talk about with your kids and your teens about sex and all the different aspects that surround the actual act of sex. The communication, the consent, the respect, the pleasure, the fantasy, because we want to be those parents who normalize sex and sexuality for our children in ways that it was just not done for us, right Dr. St. John?
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Exactly. Exactly. That’ll do it.
[KATHRYN]: I have enjoyed having you on the show so much today.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Thank you.
[KATHRYN]: If our listeners want to find out more about you, besides getting your book from the show notes, where can they find you?
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Yeah, my website is themamasutra.net, and it’s T H E M A M A S U T R A.net. And I’m everywhere on social media @themamaautra. All one word.
[KATHRYN]: Great. And the question that I ask everybody on the show at the end is if you could tell our listeners one thing, one imperfect action to go out and do today to get closer to their best lives, what would you tell them?
[DR. ST. JOHN]: The one imperfect act that they could do for themselves would be —
[KATHRYN]: Yes, one imperfect action.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Yeah. I mean, the first thing that pops into my head is just to go ahead and be vulnerable. Practice telling someone something they need to hear. Perhaps it’s some appreciation. Maybe you have gone too long without telling your partner thank you for something. Just be vulnerable and say, “I’m really sorry. I just noticed that I don’t tell you this enough or whatever the case may be.
[KATHRYN]: Oh, I absolutely love that. It’s so simple yet in our busy lives, it really goes undone so often.
[DR. ST. JOHN]: Yes. I’m going to have to go do it myself, say that.
[KATHRYN]: I know. I’m thinking of the same thing. That’s what I’m going to do here in just a minute. I’m so glad that y’all have joined us for this episode with Dr. St. John and you heard her. The one imperfect action that we encourage you to go do today is go be vulnerable, talk to your partner, thank your partner, just remind yourself of what, why you got into this relationship to begin with. When you do that, pat yourself on the back. Celebrate the fact that you took action toward the life that you want and until we meet back here next week, go out and find a friend or a loved one to add to our community of women, striving toward our best life, supporting and nudging each other. Share the website and the podcast with them and go out and take daily and perfect action for the life that you want.
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