The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #155 - Laurie Mintz
Dr. Laurie Mintz is a feminist professor, author, speaker, and therapist. As a tenured Professor at the University of Florida, she teaches the Psychology of Human Sexuality to hundreds of undergraduate students each year.She is the author of two popular press books-both written with the aim of empowering women sexually: Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters and How to Get It (HarperOne, 2017) and A Tired Woman's Guide to Passionate Sex: Reclaim Your Desire and Reignite Your Relationship (Adams Media, 2009). With this same goal of providing scientifically-accurate, sex-positive information to enhance female pleasure, Dr. Mintz writes a popular Psychology Today blog and gives presentations and workshops to professionals and lay audiences, including a recent TEDx talk. Finally, for over 30 years, Dr. Mintz has also maintained a small private practice, working with both individuals and couples on general and sexual issues.
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9:20 - Hysteria
10:20 - background
13:20 - the orgasm gap
14:15 - the pain of sex unique to women
15:10 - sexual history that's been lost
17:00 - what halted the last sexual revolution
19:30 - The G Spot
21:30 - definitions
23:40 - orgasm from penetration
26:00 - how should we define sex
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32:00 - procreation vs pleasure
34:50 - what is purpose of the clitoral orgasm?
38:10 - what is an orgasm?
40:15 - why don't men have sequential orgasm?
43:10 - length of orgasm
45:45 - is love blind?
46:50 - hook up sexual culture
49:50 - the role of communication and who is responsible for that
52:20 - the history of the vibrator (or so we thought)
55:30 - the concerns surrounding vibrators
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The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #38 - Connie Zack
The Science Of Sauna: Heat Shock Proteins, Heart Health, Chronic Pain, Detox, Weight Loss, Immunity, Traditional Vs. Infrared, And More!
59:40 - is there any adverse physical effect on the clitoris from vibrators?
1:01:40 - discussing the vibrator with your male partner
1:06:00 - Transferring self pleasure to partner pleasure
1:07:40 - do we need to explore new ways to orgasm?
1:09:20 - knowing the anatomy of the clitoris
1:13:00 - discomfort in looking at your own anatomy
1:15:30 - the anatomy of the clitoris
1:20:00 - is masturbation discussed in the bible?
1:23:30 - sex therapy
1:28:00 - stereotypes & performance anxiety
1:31:00 - can you think your way to orgasm?
1:34:10 - stress hindering orgasm
1:35:45 - orgasming every day
1:38:00 - looking forward to the change in our culture surrounding sex
Melanie Avalon: Hi, friends, welcome back to the show. I am so incredibly excited about the conversation that I am about to have. Okay, I am going to just introduce today's guest and then give a little bit of introduction of myself with my own history with this whole topic. I am here with Dr. Laurie Mintz. She is a psychologist and sex therapist and she has two books, A Tired Woman's Guide to Passionate Sex: Reclaim Your Desire and Reignite Your Relationship and then her more recent book Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters--And How to Get It. Okay, friends, first of all, this book is one of the most incredible books I have ever read. I think it should be required reading for women everywhere. I honestly, honestly mean it. I mentioned I was going to share a little bit about my whole story with this topic because we're going to dive deep into everything that is in that book, which is sex, and the definition of sex, and orgasms, and orgasm equality, and masturbation, and the clitoris, and all the things.
My background, I was actually raised very, very religious and I loved my upbringing. I loved my family, I really, truly cherish my childhood. That said, the one thing I've always told myself if I ever had children that I think I would do very differently is how to approach the sex topic. And so, my own experience with all of this is, [chuckles] everything was very taboo growing up. When I went to college, my friend actually took me to get my first vibrator and I can't wait to talk about vibrators today, because I did not know about the history of them and that is fascinating. Just a little note. I do wonder if my mother's going to listen to this episode. But in any case, so, my experience of everything was actually more with vibrators and we're going to have to define sex in this conversation. Sexual activity that wasn't exactly intercourse. And then I also was really interested historically in gender equality. I actually wrote a paper in college about Charcot at the Salpetriere in the 1800s, France, when they came up with the whole concept of hysteria, which I argued in my paper was a suppression of women and I actually won a scholarship for that from the Gender Studies Program at USC. So, I've been very much interested in all of this for a long time. I realize I'm rambling all over the place, but I think there is just so many questions about what is sex about, a woman's experience of sex versus a male's about orgasms, about should you orgasm, how should you orgasm, what's normal for orgasming? There is just so much here. That was a lot of rambling, but I just want it to be an open book about where I'm coming from. And Dr. Mintz, thank you so much for being here.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Oh, thank you for having me. I'm so excited and I loved listening to the context in your history around this. I think we all have a history that's informs this, that's also informed by culture in the way we're raised. So, it is just fascinating for me to hear.
Melanie Avalon: You talk about that all in the book, the role of culture and this concept of the pleasure gap in society, which maybe that's a good place to start. Before that, I want to hear actually about you. What is your history? Were you always really interested in this topic? What made you want to be a sex therapist? Did you have an epiphany someday where you realized what was going on with sexual inequality and the pleasure gap or what was your history?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: I went to grad school to be a therapist and I didn't have sex therapy even on my radar to tell you the truth. For years, I taught and practiced in a different area. I was actually specialized in eating disorders, which kind of interesting given your work. But I always talked to my clients about sex, etc., because I was raised in an unusually sex positive household. Some funny stories about my mother, if we want to circle back about just how unusually sex positive she was. Something I was always comfortable with and would always ask my clients about, and most times, I would hear, yes, I'm having this problem, yes, I'm having that. I started getting some trainings myself. But then what happened was to be really transparent. I have two daughters. They're in their 30s, both of them. But when my second daughter was born, my sex drive just went out the window. Gone, done. I knew as a therapist and a couple’s counselor just how important sex was. I started talking to friends, talking to my own therapist, talking to my doctors, my OB, my GP, and I got the same answer from everyone. “Oh, yeah, me too, me too, me too.” I don't know what to do about it. Even a doctor said that to me. I thought, this is really a problem. I did a deep dive into the scientific and clinical literature, started really understanding what was out there, what wasn't and realized there was really no self-help book out there.
I set about to translate that scientific literature into a self-help book, which was my first book. I loved writing it and when it was published, to be honest, the scientist in me clicked in because I'm also a researcher and I was like, “Oh, my gosh, what if I put something out in the universe and it's not helpful or harmful?” I started doing another deep dive into the efficacy of self-help. Some students did some randomized clinical trials on the book. found out, yes it worked. But then one thing led to the other and I soon found myself really immersed in the sex field and had the opportunity to teach a large enrollment undergrad class and that is when my epiphany for the second book occurred, because what I discovered was the scientific literature on the orgasm gap. But even more important, the pain, the pain that young women were experiencing thinking they were broken and I discovered that a whole bunch of knowledge that I was raised with had been lost to this generation, and they were having sexual pain, very little sexual pleasure. So, I started teaching to women's pleasure and I would get notes from students in my class like, “This has changed my life, I'm orgasmic, thanks to this class, my girlfriend's orgasmic.” I thought this has to be beyond my students. I want to spread the word and that's when I wrote Becoming Cliterate.
Melanie Avalon: Wow, that is incredible. So, to clarify the pain and everything that your students were experiencing, was this a co-ed class and you're noticing that from the women specifically?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yes, exactly. I use this clicker technology, where I take polls, anonymous polls and compare it to the research. I discovered that for example, in one poll, 4% of the women versus 65% of the men were having orgasms during hookup sex, 30% of the women were experiencing sexual pain, they all felt broken, they all thought there was something wrong with them, and they would start not just responding to the polls, but talking about how broken they felt sexually, and how hard rather than pleasurable sex was for them.
Melanie Avalon: Wow. You mentioned that this information that you had growing up was lost to this new generation. So, to clarify about that, was it different historically for previous generations or just your upbringing was more open, so, you're aware? How long have these stats been this way?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Great question. There's a long history about the clitoris, and women's pleasure, and orgasm being lost and found, lost and found in culture. I just happened to have my sexual coming of age during that very brief moment in time where everybody knew about the clitoris. Our bodies, ourselves, this wonderful book, A New View of a Woman's Body that came out at the same time. And so, it was just this very brief moment in time. Betty Dodson was out there doing her thing and it was brief. And now, what we have is no sex ed. We're very poor sex ed in our country. We hear about the dangers of sex. We never hear about women's pleasure or orgasm. On top of that and I'm not anti-porn at all. We have porn, which is where people are getting their role modeling, their sex ed. They have these false images with no accurate information to fix that. So, that is where I think a lot of the problem lies.
Melanie Avalon: In high school and growing up, the extent of my sexual ideas or education beyond formal education would have been reading, like, talking with friends and reading Cosmo, for example. And just thinking back to that, it was not about female pleasure on her own. It was always about how to please the guy or the sex position is very much focused I feel on the man. I'm super curious, because like you said, the history has been waves and oscillating between awareness and not-- and the focus has changed. So, most recently what ended that wave that you were in, what ended that wave?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: That is such a good question as well. I can't say exactly, but honestly, I think it was the media hype and Betty Dodson, before she passed away said, “The media hype around the G-spot has set us back to a Freudian era, where we're all looking for some magic spot inside our vagina to make us orgasm.” It's not the scientific stuff around the G-spot. That's excellent. It was the media hype that this is like this great new discovery and you can find this, you can orgasm from intercourse, your vagina has this capability that set us back, back to that Freudian era, where women were “supposed to." It’s the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Freud said that, “Once you're mature, you'll transfer your sensations from your clitoris to your vagina,” which is like -- That's like saying, when we grow up.
Melanie Avalon: It makes no sense.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Right. We’ll stop breathing out of our nose and we'll start breathing out of our ears. We don't change functions of organs and that has really done so much damage. I think we started getting away from that when people, in my era, knew about the clitoris and that it's the source of women's pleasure. And then this G-spot hype, I think set it back. Plus, again no progress on sex ed. We've actually gone backwards in some ways. So, all of those things, I think, have set us back.
Melanie Avalon: I loved reading the part in your book about the G-spot because I definitely had that moment. I felt so validated because I had become, like I said, I got a vibrator in college and became very familiar with my clitoris and all of that. I distinctly remember reading something in some magazine about the G-spot. It said basically what you just said that, “The G-spot was, if you hadn't experienced it that it was this magical thing that was way better than anything else” and I was like, “Oh, I must be--" Until I find this G-spot, I haven't experienced what I need to be experiencing. That is so, so fascinating. You talked in your book, this blew my mind. Because you mentioned that this was a theory. I was wondering if you actually agree with it. You said in the book that they've noticed that the G-spot makes the, well, we have to define vagina. We have to define all of our terms, makes our anatomy contract or pushed downward. Maybe it had to do with giving birth and relieving pain compared to an orgasm from the clitoris, which pulls upward for sex. I was wondering if you do think that might be the theory that's correct.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: First of all, thank you for your detailed and careful read and you're sharing your G-spot story because it's so resonates with so much of what I hear from people. Yeah, I think our genitals, there's so much to them that we don't know about still, but I do think that there is probably-- I agree with that theory. I think there is probably an evolutionary factor for the G-spot, which isn't really a spot at all. It really includes part of the vagina, part of the internal clitoris, and part of the urethra. But you were saying, we know that if you push on it for some people it's pleasurable, for some it's not, some it results in orgasm. But we know that pushing on it results in feeling less pain and that is right where the baby's head comes through. And so, it could have that evolutionary function that it's to decrease pain during childbirth. We do also know like you were saying, when you have an orgasm from stimulating that area, your cervix pushes down, whereas if you have an orgasm from stimulating the clitoris, it pulls up, which gives more evidence that, hmm, maybe this was intended for evolution to make childbirth less painful.
Melanie Avalon: That is just so, so mind blowing. I heard that and I was like, “Wow.” I finally just thank you because now, I feel I don't have to go in search of this elusive G-spot. I keep using words and saying that we need to define words. And listeners, the reason I'm saying that is because all throughout the book, you talk about how powerful language is and how we can't really make change until we're using language that is properly communicating what is happening. For example, because just now, I was going to say the word vagina, but you talk about how the vagina-- We use this one word vagina to include all of these different things. So, could you talk a little bit about the words, and vagina versus vulva, does vulva mean to be ashamed?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: No, pudendum means to be ashamed and that's what-- It's still used in medical terminology. Actually, this language stuff, it was my favorite chapter in the book, it's my favorite topic. I'm so appreciative of you asking about it. The outside of our genitals is called the vulva. It includes the inner lips, the outer lips, the mons pubis, the clitoris, the clitoral glands and hood and the vagina and the vaginal opening. The vagina is a canal where babies can come out, penises can go in, dildos and fingers can go in. Yet, we call our entire genitals, a vagina. By doing this, we are linguistically erasing the part of ourselves that gives us the most pleasure because we know that only 4% to 18% of us can orgasm from penetration alone. The rest need external clitoral stimulation. When we call our whole genitals a vagina, we're linguistically erasing the part that gives us the most pleasure and we're calling our genitals by the part that gives our male partners the most pleasure, not the part that gives us the most pleasure.
Melanie Avalon: Wow. Question about that penetration. That 4% to 18% of people who can orgasm from penetration alone, are they actually orgasming from penetration or are they indirectly orgasming from clitoral stimulation?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Great question. The old surveys used to say, can you orgasm from intercourse and used to find that 25% to 30% said yes, they could. But then they realized, “Wait a minute, a lot of intercourse positions will stimulate the clitoris, or you might touch yourself, or use a vibrator.” Then they refined the studies and said, “Can you orgasm from just a thrusting penis?” Those pieces of research found about 15% to 18% said yes. But I started thinking, even that probably has social desirability effects are like, how should I orgasm since we think we're supposed to orgasm that way? In the research, I've conducted, I just take out that part of the question and I say, “What's your most reliable route to orgasm?” When I do that, only 4% say, intercourse alone. Yeah, there are people who can orgasm from just a thrusting penis. Certainly, in the mainstream movies and porn, you think it was everyone, but in reality, [chuckles] it is a very small percentage of us.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I love that, that reframe with how you ask the question. Do we have the same issues with a male and using the word penis to describe everything?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: No, we don't, because the penis-- Well, there's the penis, and then there's the scrotum, and that. But the penis is really where-- Besides the prostate for some, the penis is really where most sexual pleasure occurs and where men's most reliable route to orgasm does involve the penis. Calling their genitals, the penis isn't a problem and they don't call the whole area that either. They either say, my penis, my balls, they differentiate, whereas we call the whole thing a vagina.
Melanie Avalon: And then on the sex front, so, the word sex, I love to dive into what we typically mean when we say that word. One of my favorite things, I think, I don't know, I learned so much in this book, but I think one of the biggest ideas that stuck with me that I have told so many people since reading it or I've just asked them to think about this is, you talk about how we define sex basically as intercourse where the male ejaculates and has an orgasm and if a woman has an orgasm, it's usually in the foreplay or it's before the male does, but the woman's orgasm is not the actual sex part. Then the sex ends when the male has an orgasm. If you talk about how that's gender inequality and gender inequality on the flipside, like it could just as easily be that the sex part is the female orgasm and then the male's orgasm is “post play” and I was like, “Wow, mind blown.” So, I was wondering with this word sex, how do we define sex and how should we define it?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yeah, so, in our culture, which is both male dominated and heteronormative, we use the word sex and intercourse as if they're one in the same. There are so many problems with that. In sex ed, for example, if people say, “Don't have sex, you'll get an STI,” which is bad messaging anyway. But a lot of times, lesbians or gay individuals will think, “Oh, I'm not at risk for an STI,” because they're thinking of penis in vagina. They don't use protection. Doctors are not specific even. Don't have sex, was it the orgasm I'm not supposed to have, is that the penis in the vagina, and people are too embarrassed to ask. But the biggest issue I think is, it just reflects and perpetuates the overvaluing of male sexual pleasure and the devaluing of female pleasure. We are saying the most important act is the penis in the vagina. And now, some people in that-- everything that comes before is like you were saying just foreplay. Just a lead up to the main event. When that lead up is what is most likely to bring women to orgasm.
Exactly. I say in the book if the tables were turned and it was women's pleasure we overvalued we would call foreplay sex and intercourse post play, I'm certainly not advocating that we turn the tables, but I am advocating that we equally value women's and men's most reliable route to orgasm and call the whole encounter sex, regardless of what's happening and then we can break it down by the actual words, oral sex, manual stimulation, intercourse, but the whole thing should be considered sex, if we're going to have gender equality in the bedroom.
Melanie Avalon: Here's my question to that. This is a two-part question. My question is, what is the role of procreation in our definition of sex? Because what I'm thinking and I'm just thinking aloud now, and this might be rambling, but if as a species, the only purpose for sex is procreation, then I feel you could make the argument that, “Yes, sex would be this act that would hinge on the male ejaculating.” But if it's beyond that and I don't know if that's an evolutionary thing or a societal change, where it could be about pleasure, not procreation, then I can see how you could have this new definition where sex is not all revolving around the male. Does that make sense?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: It makes so much sense and in fact I almost brought that up when I was talking about the definition. I'm glad that you brought it up. Yeah, a lot of people argue, “Well, you need the penis in the vagina for a baby.” That's why we define it that way. But Shere Hite who was a wonderful woman, who passed away a couple of years ago and was really the first person to write about women's need for clitoral stimulation. She had an article where she basically-- I don't remember the quote exactly, but it was like, “The idea that procreation involves does not account for the way that female orgasm has been devalued that no, it's not necessary for procreation.” But the truth of the matter is, while sex in procreation were one and the same maybe eons ago, maybe I don't even know. People have sex for reasons way bigger than procreation. In fact, most sex is not for procreation. There was a study where people were asked people, “Why do you have sex?” They came up with like-- There were over 200, I think it was 237 reasons people listed that they had sex with procreation being just one of them. If the only time people had sex was to make babies, I could go with that argument and I do think there are some historical roots, but I think as a society, we've evolved and we don't need that definition anymore.
When I think about that, I think about we've evolved now. We don't use language changes as culture changes because it reflects and perpetuates that we used to use the generic he for everything or mankind, and we've evolved not to do that anymore, and we're luckily evolving also to understand that not everybody identifies with the sex they're born with. Some people can identify as they are. So, I think we can change this language because I think culture has changed.
Melanie Avalon: To dive into that even more, you mentioned how it's hard to know exactly when these changes happen where sex was for all of these other reasons, not just procreation. A clitoral orgasm itself, you talk in the book about its potential purpose evolutionarily. What do you think is the purpose of the clitoral stimulation? Is it to bond you to your partner? One of the theories was that it helps women pick out a better mate because it's harder to achieve, so, they would need a mate attentive to it. Just why?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yeah, if I knew that answer I'd probably win the prize because nobody really knows-- There was a great book by Elisabeth Lloyd called The Case of the Female Orgasm. Basically, she went through about 20 theories all about why women orgasm. There're so many, there is some that say, “Oh, yes, it is better for procreation,” because the uterus contracts and pulls the sperm up. Then there's others that say, “It releases all those feel-good chemicals, makes you bond with your partner.” She debunked all of them in her book and she concluded that it was just the reason men have nipples is because women need them. She basically said, “Our orgasm is a fantastic bonus. We don't really need it, but it's great.” Then there're two theories that are interesting. One is the one you alluded to that it's a feminist anthropological theory. Instead of saying, “Why do women orgasm?” It says, “Why do women mostly not orgasm from intercourse?” The answer is to help them pick a good partner out because a guy who is attentive to your needs in the bedroom, not just focused on himself will be a better partner outside of the bedroom. So, I love that theory.
But there's another theory and I think it came out after the book or just maybe it is in there because it came out just as it was going to press, where there was this cool new theory, where they found that there are certain mammals who ovulate when they have penetrative sex. They basically do that so that they can get pregnant. For those mammals, their clitoris is inside the vagina, and they orgasm during penetration, and they ovulate, and they will get pregnant. This theory goes that we used to be like that. But then when we started living in groups and having sex a lot more than just to procreate that we moved to a monthly cycle that our ovulation was based on time cyclical versus on penetration and that to not confuse our bodies our clitoris migrated from inside our vagina to outside. I don't know which theory I believe, but I can tell you orgasms are great and [laughs] I think women should be having more of them. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: I agree. Those theories are both really fascinating. Yeah, you're talking about orgasms being great. I was thinking about this because I was talking with a guy friend the other day. He was saying, “Can women really have multiple orgasms?” I was like, “Yes.” He's like, “Really?” It was blowing his mind. Then I took a moment where I was like, “Oh, wow, I should really not take this for granted the ability to have multiple orgasms.” Orgasms. What are orgasms? What is the experience of an orgasm for a male versus a female? I was really interested by your research on that.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yeah, so, an orgasm is the same whether it's a male or female. What it results in is, there are these special capillaries in erectile tissue. What happens is, when you're not aroused, the blood flows equally in and out of the capillaries. But when you are aroused, the blood flows in and it gets trapped. It doesn't come out, and it builds up to a point of intensity, and then the blood is released with rhythmic contractions of the pelvic floor muscles, and it's accompanied by a lot of other things including the release of oxytocin, which makes you feel warm, and cozy, and loving, and all of that. In fact, there was a study where I love this study. They took descriptions of people's orgasms and then they took out anything that would give away the person's identity. If they mentioned ejaculation, or penis, or vagina, they edited those words out. They then gave those descriptions to sex therapists, and gynecologists, and urologists, and no one could tell the difference between a description written by a man or a woman. They all described this incredible buildup of tension and then a release of the tension accompanied by euphoric peaceful feelings.
Melanie Avalon: Why for men is it they have to have a much longer time before they can have that again, whereas women seemingly can have a lot? For me, and I'm just being an open book. I could just do it all night and it doesn't take me long in between to have another orgasm. I can just do it over and over. Is that the way most women are?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yeah. Well, I'm like that, too. I'll be an open book. For some women, they want multiple orgasms, a better word for them, actually, that I learned along the line is sequential. They happen like boom, boom, boom, boom. The reason is that we don't have a refractory period, which is a period of time in which for men, it's actually another ejaculation is impossible and it seems to be due to the latest sciences, it seems to be due to levels of prolactin in the body. There are a few men, very, very few, very rare, there's been studies of men who can have multiple orgasms. The interesting thing it's very rare and I always tell people when I explain these studies. Don't run out and try to do this. It's like women trying to squirt when they're not squirters. Don't make your body do things it doesn't do. Enjoy what it does. But these men seem to have one thing they have is they have lower levels of prolactin circulating in their body because prolactin is what causes that refractory period.
Melanie Avalon: Do females prolactin levels affect that?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: No. For some reason, and I'm not like a big-- I don't know all the details, but we don't have those levels of prolactin that are released that affect us in that way. No, it's so funny, because I write about the orgasm gap, which is the finding that when women and men get it on the women are having substantially fewer orgasms than the men. It's a cultural problem, but then I'm always getting somebody's writing, “That's not true. The orgasm gap goes the other way because women can have more.” [laughs] It's like, “No, no, no, that's not the point. The point is, when we're having these sexual encounters, where half the population is having no orgasms or way fewer, that's the orgasm gap and it's not biological.” It's not because our orgasms are difficult or elusive because we know how to do it when we're alone and we also orgasm more when we're with other women. So, it's related to the way we do heterosexual sex.
Melanie Avalon: Definitely want to dive into that some more. Some last quick questions about what we're talking about. This is just a granular question. You said, how the experience of the orgasm is seemingly the same between the genders. Is the actual time length of the actual orgasm occurrence the same? Do you know, or does it vary, or is it longer for one?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: That is a great question that I vaguely know the answer to somewhere in the recesses of my sex nerdy brain, but I can't pull it up right now. This is just coming up from what I remember. Don't quote me because I'm right here saying it. But I think they're also pretty similar. Yet, there is human variation in terms of how long an orgasm lasts with some lasting longer than others, particularly, for women.
Melanie Avalon: This is super random. I had James Nestor on the show for his book, Breath and he talks about how there's erectile tissue in the nose. I was wondering, have you heard about that and why we don't have orgasms in our nose?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Oh, that is so interesting. No, that is new to me. There's erectile tissue in our nose? See, I'm so focused on studying the genitals. I had no idea. Tell me about that. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: I'll send you the link and his book is so amazing. All about breathing and yeah, breathing. [laughs] Yeah, so, apparently, there's erectile tissue in the nose and there's actually this condition called honeymoon rhinitis, I think. Again, okay, don't quote me on that. It has something to do-- I have to look it up again, but something to do with women getting or I don't know, if it's women and men, but getting aroused making you like sneeze. There's some connection there.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Oh, how interesting. Well, I know that there is also a lot and I don't know if he talked about this, but pheromones are for real. We are sometimes attracted to people based on their smell.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, yeah. Now, I'm just thinking in my head, because you're talking about pheromones. How do you say it, pheromones?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yes.
Melanie Avalon: I was thinking about it because I don't watch a lot of reality television. I don't really watch any-- But I don't know why, I just love the show, Love Is Blind. Have you seen it on Netflix?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: I've heard of it. I want to watch it. Yes.
Melanie Avalon: I've been thinking about a lot, because I just finished the second season. The contestants basically talk to each other through a wall. They don't see each other and they “fall in love,” and they propose, and then they meet each other in real life. I was watching the last episode last night, actually, and they're having this intense debate because they're trying to push the idea that love is blind. But I was thinking about it and I think going back to our use of the word language, we need to have different words for love. But this is just such a tangent. I don't know that love is blind because there is that aspect of pheromones and physical compatibility and romantic attraction, can you just leave that out? So, maybe that's a topic for another [laughs] day.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yeah, I don't think it's blind. I think we know, there's research that shows that the way someone looks, the way someone smells is going to influence our attraction to them. Maybe not our love for them as a friend or as a person, but in terms of sexual attraction, it's not we're all just attracted to the movie star gorgeous. It's an idiosyncratic, unique thing that happens, this chemical reaction between people.
Melanie Avalon: Actually, this dovetails into a nice other topic that you talk about, which is the role of, should we separate the cultural implications of well, sex and intercourse, and sexual relations between two people, and whether or not it is in the context of a relationship or if it's this whole hooking up thing? You talk a lot about hooking up culture. What are the stats on how men versus women orgasm during hooking up feel about it afterwards? The double standard, shame, slut shaming, what are your thoughts about all of that? How it presents in culture today?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yeah, I think hooking up is not new. That's one thing to know first of all. There's this narrative out there that this generation is hooking up and we didn't in our older generation. The research is pretty clear about that. Hookups had been going on for a long time. They used to have a different name, though, one-night stands, etc. It's not this new thing. But we do know that hookup culture is not very satisfying to most women. Not all women that the orgasm gap is the biggest in hookup sex. I just taught this class and some of my students’ comments were so fascinating to me. We know that, that is where the gap is the biggest and why? It's also because there's a huge oral sex gap in hookups. Men are much more likely to receive oral sex than women in hookups. The women to be really graphic, the women in my class told me that the way hookups go for them, not always, but typically, it's a blowjob followed by intercourse and period. So, nothing really for her. There's a lot of evidence now to that a lot of times men are doing things they've seen in porn and hookups like slapping, choking, even anal sex, which can be really painful and dangerous if you don't talk about it, prepare for it.
But they don't know that because I'm not blaming men. They've seen this in porn. And so, the bottom line is, hookups are here to stay, but to me, it's really an example of the sexual revolution of the 60s made it acceptable for women to have intercourse before marriage, outside of marriage. But it did nothing to ensure that those encounters would be equally pleasurable for both. We know some of the women in my class were saying, “Hookups can be empowering and you can get your needs met.” But it definitely takes a lot of effort, and a lot of clear communication, and a lot of this is what I want, which many young women have not been socialized to feel empowered to do.
Melanie Avalon: Speaking to that and the role of communication, I'm wondering where does the responsibility lie in addressing this pleasure gap? Is it up to women to learn how to receive this pleasure or achieve this pleasure themselves? It's interesting because thinking back I was thinking about this. For me, since I was playing around more with vibrators and myself before with partners, I think it actually gave me, at least for me, a more beneficial experience when I was actually having intercourse because I came prepared with skills, and knowing what worked for me and what didn't compared to some of my friends I know who we're having sex from much younger ages. And so, they were learning in the context of being with a male. So, actually, closing this pleasure gap, where do we start? Do we start with masturbation?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yes. Well, it depends if we're talking about closing it culturally or in individual bedrooms. But if we're talking about in individual bedrooms, masturbation is an essential step because the first step to orgasming with a partner is getting or the most essential step, actually, it's really important but underutilized and obvious advice is, you have to get the same stimulation alone as you do with a partner. We know men are getting that stimulation. The stimulation of masturbation is very similar to the stimulation of intercourse, whereas the way women pleasure themselves 99% do so by touching themselves externally, sometimes alone and sometimes coupled with penetration. But yet, when we are with male partners, we're like, “Oh, maybe I don't need that. Go right to penetration.” Every woman needs something slightly different to orgasm. Everybody's genital nerves are positioned a bit differently. So, the first step to orgasming with a partner is orgasm by yourself, and know what brings you to orgasm, and then transfer that to partner sex.
Melanie Avalon: With the masturbation, because I mentioned in the beginning, how you talk about the history of the vibrator in your book, wondering if you could tell listeners a little bit about that history because it is fascinating?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yes, I can. But unfortunately, since the book came out that history, which has been widely talked about in this has been debunked.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, no.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yes. So, I can't really talk about it with accuracy anymore. But we could still talk about how great vibrators are and I could debunk all the myths surrounding them.
Melanie Avalon: That would be great. Can I say what they used to think it was?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Sure.
Melanie Avalon: What they used to think it was what the vibrator was-- Did the whole thing get debunked, even the fact that women would go see doctors to relieve these hysteria symptoms and the doctors would basically press on their clitoris?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yes, it's all been debunked. It came from a book that someone wrote that apparently no one fact checked well enough, and it became such widely known, it's in sex therapy textbooks. It's all over in a paper just came out saying like, “Basically, this was false news.”
Melanie Avalon: Just to go broader topics beyond that, I feel that happens with a lot of things and it's concerning. A fact will be established that was never fact checked and then it just wants it infiltrates literature. It just needs to get in one official publication and then you can quote that publication. So, it's really hard to undo something like that that is taken off.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: It really is. It is very concerning, very concerning.
Melanie Avalon: Okay. If that's not what was happening, if vibrators were not invented to relieve doctor’s tired hands from pressing on women's clitorises when they were having hysteria symptoms, do we know what led to the invention of the vibrator?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: No, we don’t. We do know that it was invented-- It was the fourth electric appliance to be invented. We do know, it used to be advertised in women's magazine is like a personal massager. We know that women have liked vibration for centuries. One thing I came across that I thought was fascinating was before electric vibrators, women would put bees in a box, because if you put a bunch of bees in a tight box, they go, [vibrating sound] and it vibrates the box, and they used to hold the box against their vulvas.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, my goodness. Wow, that is crazy.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yeah, I'm glad I have a vibrator. Not a bunch of buzzing bees because what if the box opens up. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: It seems real dangerous. [chuckles] Real fast. Oh, my goodness. Okay. Yeah, actually, I remember going back to my first vibrator experience, I remember being so, not jealous, but I was so in awe, because my friend who took me to get it, her relationship growing up with her mom sounds a lot more similar to your relationship growing up where it was just open. All open, and her mom took her to get her first vibrator, and I was just like, “Wow, that would be so nice” to have that open dialogue with your mom or just to be raised that way. Going back to the vibrator, so, I think one of the concerns people have is that you will become addicted that you will learn how to have an orgasm only one way with your vibrator and that's a bad thing. What are your thoughts about that?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Okay, I have so many thoughts about that. [chuckles] Well, first of all, that is true of any type of sexual stimulation. You get habituated. If you always use your hands, you probably use your hands the same way and you'll always want to use your hands the same way. It's not unique to vibrators. But the idea that you shouldn't need a vibrator, that's an idea that you should be able to orgasm with body parts and especially, a penis. I think that's just really an outdated idea and we know that women who used vibrators have easier and more frequent orgasms and less sexual pain. Think about this is, we don't tell men to not habituate. We don't say, “Ah, if you always orgasm from intercourse, you might always need intercourse. Why don't we switch it up?” So, you don't always need the same thing. It's only when it comes to women's orgasms that we regulate and have these ideas that they should occur in a certain way. Part of it also, it goes to another myth that vibrators are going to threaten men, they're going to replace men. And no, they're just a tool to get the job done faster and more efficiently. It's like carpenters don't get addicted to power tools.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I love that.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yeah, they just have a much easier time when they use them. We also know that a women's sexual satisfaction is highly correlated to a male partners acceptance of her vibrator use. My answer to that is, if you always like your vibrator, then always use it. You can use it on yourself during intercourse, you can teach your partner to use it on you, you can use it on yourself while your partner kisses you, caresses other parts of your body. There are so many fun ways to incorporate a vibrator into sex. Here's something else that isn't in the book that I've discovered and learned recently from a wonderful urologist named Rachel Rubin, who basically, she says, “Penises are just big clitorises which they are, just outside of the body.” Penises love vibration, too. And your partner, if you're vibrating while his penis is down there, he's going to catch what I call vicarious vibes and he's going to enjoy it, too.
Melanie Avalon: Question about the actual effect on our clitoris from the vibrators. One of the things I've heard is that it's bad if you use a vibrator, because if you get used to needing more and more stimulation, then you'll always need more and more stimulation. Does anything actually happen with the nerves? You talked about some rabbit studies with vibrators. is there a tolerance effect, does it increase or decrease nerves?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: We don't really have research on humans, but there is a study where they use vibration on rabbit’s clitorises is which are strikingly similar to female human clitoris is.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, really?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yeah. And they generated more nerves. It's not just the opposite, they became more responsive. People say, “Oh, I need more and more.” I've heard that from some people, but I think there could be a psychological component of people who are terrified of their vibrator or buying into these myths. The idea that it desensitizes your clit, what does that mean? Is it mean that you get used to the stimulation like habituated? Well, again, that's to any sexual stimulation. And two, if you do vibrate too hard, when you go numb or whatever, it's the same as riding a bike and your butt goes numb. Get off the bike, take a break, it's fine. There was a study about sex toy injuries and the bottom line is they're exceedingly rare, exceedingly rare. In fact, the sexual health benefits were much more pronounced in this study.
Melanie Avalon: Okay, I love that. Question about integrating it with a partner. I was so glad that you discussed this in the book and you just talked about it now, which is men's response to women wanting to use vibrators. Basically, I made a decision in my head that if we just discussed at the beginning that I like integrating vibrators from the get go, and doing that the majority of men that I've been with have been very open to it, they've actually liked it, they have no problem. There has been sometimes where I think they're a little bit emasculated. They feel if there's a vibrator involved that means they're not able to do it themselves, what is your advice for women for how to bring this up with the man? How do we couch it?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: I think it's great that you have done that and you probably have great advice. I'd love to hear how you broach it with a new partner, but I would say very straightforward. Hey, bringing my vibrator with me because I really like orgasm in that way and I can teach you to use it. I can use it on myself, whatever. If the guy says like, “No way,” then, I'd say, no to the guy, not no to the vibrator. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: If they said, “No,” I'd be like, “Okay, bye.” [laughs] Yeah, my experience has been--so, the way I couch it and phrase it and it’s because this is just the truth of the matter is and it's actually something that you talk about in the book as well. I get, I don't know if it's spectatoring or I would get too in my head about feeling like the other person. You talk about this too like that pressure would be on the guy to help me have an orgasm and that's really stressful for me. I don't want anybody to have to deal with that. I know what will work. I just feel more comfortable if we can just all be on the same page at the beginning. Yeah, if they were to say no, then, that would be nonnegotiable for me. But there is this issue still where they're fine with it, but I get this sense that they're emasculated and I just don't know what to do with that.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Mm-hmm. I guess, I can answer that both with a research study that really speaks to this that came out since the book was published and also, a metaphor I use in the book that I think really helps men understand. I'll start with the study. There was a study done by someone basically, where they asked, “If you have sex with someone and she orgasms from oral, or manual, or vibrator, or intercourse, what's your reaction?” The men felt most masculine not surprisingly, when she orgasms from intercourse, but what was surprising is they felt pretty equally masculine if it was from oral or manual, but really less masculine if it was a vibrator. It was like, “Well, if I did it with my own body, it was fine.” That's really a shame because it goes to the myth that the men should “give a woman” orgasm versus we're all responsible for our own sexual pleasure during a sexual encounter. In fact, the best sexual encounters, ironically, are when both people are immersed in their own pleasure.
The metaphor I often use and I use it in the book is, imagine if you and your partner were spending the day at the swimming pool, and there was a raft there, and you have down the raft, and you hopped off the raft, and you kissed on the raft, you kissed off the raft, you splashed on it, you splashed off, just had a lovely day in the Sun in the pool, you would not go home and call your friend and go, “Oh, me and my raft had the best day together. Oh, my boyfriend was there, too.” You wouldn't even mention the raft. It was just a tool to enhance the swimming. And a vibrator is the same. You're still having a sexual encounter with the other person. It's not like you're having a sexual encounter with your vibrator and that person happens to be there. You're still having an encounter with another person and the vibrator is just a tool to enhance the experience.
Melanie Avalon: I love that analogy so much. Actually, transferring your own masturbation techniques to sexual encounters with a partner, do most things transfer, do some things not transferr? If people are using vibrators, do you suggest that they get different types of vibrators when they're actually with a partner?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: No, I think everything can be transferred with communication and creativity. Now, some ways are harder than others. For example, if you use a little handheld vibrator that's going to be easier to use on yourself during intercourse, for example than a big magic wand. But you can certainly have fool around, be aroused, have intercourse, he comes, then use the magic wand. There are some people who masturbate by running water, for example, in the bathtub or rhythmically squeezing their thighs together. Those are going to be a little harder to transfer than a vibrator, but they still can be done. I helped a client who the only way she could orgasm was with the running water. They would have a sexual encounter, her and her partner, and it would be great, and fun, and he would orgasm, and then they'd hop in the bathtub, and he would hold her while she ran the water. So, anything can be transferred with communication and creativity.
Melanie Avalon: I love that. How do you feel about--? We've touched on this a bit now, but-- Let's say, a woman is very comfortable with herself, and masturbating, and has her technique for reaching an orgasm. I feel all the magazines are like, “But you need to be doing it this way and there's a different way to do it.” How do you feel about that? Should we try to find different ways? Is it possible there are a lot of better ways of experiencing orgasm, but we get complacent and do the one thing that we're doing? I guess, I'm wondering, are there different orgasms out there and I'll never know if I don't go looking for them?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yeah, so, that's another thing I always think about what we do with men's orgasms. You don't find articles on the 10 ways for men to orgasm. You don't. It's only when it comes to our orgasm, there's always a fad, there's always 20 ways to orgasm. And sure, experimentation is for fun sake, for learning about your body. But trying to think that there's an orgasm that's better than the one you're having if you're still enjoying it is Betty Dodson used to say, “An orgasm is an orgasm is an orgasm.” Meaning, however you get it is fine and I think that idea of these the 20 ways to orgasm just really buys into that really false orgasm hierarchy we have for women that there's a better way, a best way. If you look at a lot of those best ways, they generally involve something inside the vagina, which again is not the way most of us orgasm.
Melanie Avalon: I also felt really validated by those stats in the book because when you think of a vibrator, I think a lot of us think of ones that are dildos that presumably have that purpose of putting inside of yourself. That's never been a thing for me and I've always just been like, “Am I the odd one out here?”
Dr. Laurie Mintz: No, not at all. [laughs] Yeah.
Melanie Avalon: Reading these stats was very helpful. Also involved with all of that, so, you do have a lot in the book about our actual anatomy and you talk about how you find anatomy a little bit dry, but it is really important. So, how important is it that we actually understand the anatomy of our clitoris and maybe you could talk a little bit about that actual anatomy, because you have exercises in the book where you actually look at your clitoris? Is that important to do?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: I think so. In treating women who've never orgasm, the first step is always teaching them anatomy and sending them home to look at themselves because in the words of another author, Sheri Winston, “If you don't know what you have, how can you play with it thoroughly and well and teach your partner, too.” It does take effort. Men touch their penis from the time they're little boys, several times a day to urinate. We don't ever have to look at ourselves. And so many times, we've been socialized that it's ugly or icky, and that's not going to make you feel very good sexually either. So, I think it's important, really important to not only know what your anatomy is, but to appreciate its beauty.
Melanie Avalon: Is that when we have an orgasm that the clitoris actually disappears?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yes, during the plateau save stage right before an orgasm, the clitoris pulls back and it becomes hard to find. It's a great irony. [chuckles]
Melanie Avalon: And then I love how you said in the book that there's all this debate about, is it how many bulbs there are or there's debates about what the anatomy actually is?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yes. It's so interesting how little we still know about female genital anatomy. The internal clitoris wasn't discovered till the late 90s.
Melanie Avalon: What, the late 90s?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yep, 1998, Helen O'Connell published her first study and it wasn't till 2005 that they did the first MRI of the internal clitoris. Even when I was trying to write the anatomy chapter, I can tell you, I shed more tears writing that chapter and almost really practically just had a breakdown because I would find conflicting information. So many things that aren't known about own our genital anatomy. It's really important to know your own anatomy, I think it's an essential step to empowerment to sexual empowerment.
Melanie Avalon: That really, really speaks to, I guess, just how big this cultural issue is. Two things you’ve just mentioned. On the one hand, you talk about how we have often this intrinsic feeling of, we don't want to look at it or it's icky. The reason I ask the question about looking is because I was like, “I can't.” [chuckles] I'm so team Cliterate, I do my nightly orgasm for health. It's my one orgasm a day goal. But I have this-- When you talk in the book about looking at yourself, I'm like, “I just don't know that I can.” I find that fascinating. I guess that goes to religious upbringing and I highly doubt that that's evolutionary, where we can't look at a part of our body.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: No, and I've had clients who say the same thing. I had one client who really empowered considered herself a feminist and she was like, “Oh, I can't, I can’t,” then she did and she's like, “It's so ugly.” [chuckles] We spent a lot of time working on that, so she could look at herself and say, “You know what, it's beautiful.” Certainly, I would never like push or force anyone to do anything. You seem you're totally empowered, and you're having orgasms, and you're bringing your vibrator to bed. Part of me says, “Well, maybe you're okay not looking.” But the fact that such empowered woman is having trouble looking is something to look at. No pun intended. It's something to really look at, and unpack, and why, why is it so scary to look “down there?”
Melanie Avalon: I find it so, so fascinating. I'm okay looking externally, but the exercises of opening up and everything looking internally is what makes me feel very uncomfortable. I should work with my therapist on this. [chuckles] Yeah, so, the two things I just speak to how much this is a problem that might be ingrained is, women who do feel that that discomfort with looking at themselves and then what you just said about the shocking lack of research. That is shocking, that lack of research, that is shocking to me.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yes. I just read something else, too. It's just the misogyny. Again, I'm not blaming men. I'm married to a man, I've been married to the same man for 37 years, I have men friends, people. I do not blame men for this. I blame culture. But there's so much misogyny still not just around sex, but even in sexual medicine. Someone just did a count about how many studies there are on erectile dysfunction versus sexual pain. It's astounding how little attention is paid to women's sexuality. I was speaking with a friend of mine who's a gynecologist and she's like, “We don't learn about sex in medical school. We hardly learn about the clitoris, basically and anatomy. Let alone sexual pleasure” and these are gynecologists.
Melanie Avalon: I've actually started taking notes because I read a lot of health-related books having this show and I've started paying attention to when erectile dysfunction is mentioned, do they mention female issues on the other side and it's very rare. I don't know. There's just so much attention around the male side of things and not the female. That made me think of one just random question. The actual clitoris in the anatomy-- Actually, I had another guest on this show and she was saying that, “Everything is the clitoris, even the G-spot, the whole thing.” Do you have thoughts on that?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Well, so, everything isn't the clitoris, but the clitoris is the biggest part of our anatomy. It's a vast internal and external organ, the hood and the glands are the only part that can be seen externally, but there're also legs and bulbs, and in fact the G-spot, the real name for it is the clitorourethrovaginal complex because it includes part of the clitoris, part of the legs, part of the urethra, and part of the vaginal wall. But there is some thinking that maybe we could get away with, not get away with, but get away from this horrible hierarchy we have of vaginal orgasms are better than clitoral, if we called our whole unit, our whole genitals instead of even vulva and vagina, if we had one name for the whole interconnected unit. Helen O'Connell, who's the person who discovered the internal clitoris and made it public says, “It's the biggest organ down there. Why don't we call the whole thing a clitoris?”
Melanie Avalon: Oh, okay, gotcha. Has there been any update? You talk in the book about how you propose that we use a different name for clitoris to make it more approachable? Have you seen anything culturally with that?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: No, no, that's so funny. That was where the whole book idea part of it besides my students started as thinking, “We have more nicknames for the penis than any other word in the human language. They're all like people's names. It gives them an entity.” That's where I got the idea. Let's nickname the clitoris as someone's name to give it more legitimacy. I have seen, I do think culture is changing, I think more and more people are naming their clitoris, talking about it, talking about clitoral stimulation, talking about female orgasm, but I don't think we have a name like dick. We don't yet have a name that everybody's comfortable saying.
Melanie Avalon: I wonder if that will happen.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: I would love it. Yeah, I proposed in the book as you know, I propose either tori, because it's short for-- It's in the word clitoris or clio, but neither have caught on although my students did make me a t-shirt that says, I love Tori. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: I love that. Two other quick questions about the clitoris. Is it true and you talk about this in the book, but is it true that it has the most nerves of anything in our body?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: That stat you hear over and over that it has 4,000 to 6,000 nerve endings. That's another one of those things that's made its way into culture and is not scientifically accurate. What is accurate is that there is about the same amount of nerve endings on the glands of the clitoris is there is on the hood of the penis. It's just that there, it is the most densely packed. It is the smallest size with the most nerve endings. As another author said, “Take all the nerve endings in the head of the penis and put them in a pencil eraser.” So, it's the most densely packed nerve endings of anywhere on the human body.
Melanie Avalon: And is it true that it's the only organ--? Is it an organ?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: The only organ for pleasure. Yes. That was said by Masters and Johnson eons ago that it's unique in the whole human body. It has no other purpose, but sexual pleasure whereas the penis, you also use it to pee, to procreate. There're more and more people doing research. Maybe it does have a function in terms of procreation, etc., but nobody's found it yet for sure. At this point, the idea stands that is the only organ in the human body just for pleasure. What a cool organ we have. That is so cool.
Melanie Avalon: I actually find that a very, very valid argument for at least the religious context of everything because I really like reevaluating what I was taught growing up and what is actually happening. That's pretty valid argument for religion, why would we have an organ entirely devoted to pleasure if we weren't supposed to be having this pleasure. Do you know is there a lot of discussion of masturbation in the Bible?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: That is so interesting. There's a wonderful person named Rev Bev. If you look her up on YouTube, she's a minister and very sex positive. She basically talks about that the Bible is not against pleasure. It's against hedonism like pleasure above all else, but it's not against pleasure. According to her, the Bible says absolutely nothing about masturbation, it for sure says nothing about female masturbation, and the story that is often told against masturbation is the story of Onan, who spilled his seed. His brother died and in the old days when that happened, the brother was supposed to have intercourse with the wife, the widow to create a child. And so, Onan was supposed to do this and it said, but he didn't. Instead, he spilled his seed and-- God was very mad at him. According to Rev Bev that is not about masturbation that's about pulling out before he ejaculated in the vagina.
Melanie Avalon: I remember reading that study because like I said, I was raised very religious. I went to a Christian high school. We read all the stories. I remember reading that when I was relatively young. I'm assuming I knew what masturbation was at the time. I remember reading that and I did not at all think that that meant masturbation. It never occurred to me that that was what people thought that that meant. What about other cultures? Do you know is masturbation, is it--? I don't even know if they use the word sin in other cultures. Is it forbidden in other religions?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: It's forbidden in some, but not all. There are some religions that are fine with it and some that aren't which again, whenever I hear that some religions say this, some religions say that, my response is, “Ha, that means there really is no universal truth on this.” [laughs] It's so culturally bound, but we also know-- When I work with religious clients, masturbation is the most empirically supported technique to help women learn to orgasm. I tell them like, “This is based on science that we know this helps.” I sometimes have to say like, “I'm your doctor. I'm sending you home with a prescription to masturbate.” We also know that masturbation instead of being all those things we used to hear, it makes warts on your hands, and all these hairy palms, and all that, in fact, we know that it's not the masturbation, but masturbation-induced orgasms, they're good for immune functioning, they're good for sleep, they're good for stress reduction. We even know that infants will touch themselves. There's some touching going on even in the womb. One of the best quotes I've ever heard is, “God made us so our hands can reach our genitals.” There's a function for that and [chuckles] there's a reason for that. It wasn't just to tempt us.
Melanie Avalon: I love that. Do you still work with clients?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: I do, I do.
Melanie Avalon: Do you work with specific topics with clients as a sex therapist? I've never been to a sex therapist. Is there a main trend of issues that people are coming to sex therapy for?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yeah, most people who seek me out, sometimes, it's not all sex. They see people for depression, anxiety, grief. It's not all sex therapy. But the people who seek me out for sex therapy, the two most common concerns I see are and this is probably because they're the topic of my books, people seek me out for diminished sexual desire and inability to orgasm. But I also work with all kinds of stuff. Right now, I'm working with someone who is trying to figure out their sexual and gender identity, somebody who is coming to terms with what it means that they're interested in kinky sex and letting go shame of that. I've worked with couples who stopped having sex and want to restart. It is anything goes, but there are certain things that just like any specialty, I know certain things better than others and if I get a client who is not in my wheelhouse, I'll refer them to someone who is.
Melanie Avalon: This actually speaks to a topic as well just about therapy and therapists. I think there's been a lot of forward progress with this, but I still feel culturally there's this idea that if you have a therapist that there's something wrong with you or that there's something wrong. It's just interesting to me because it's so important to me that I have a therapist and I've had a therapist for probably seven years or so, not the same one. For me, I'm so open about it, and I just think it's so normal and so helpful, and I think everybody should have a therapist, but I forget that I do think culturally people aren't always open to it. This week even I was going to my cryotherapy appointment, and I was talking with the girl, and we were talking about our day, and I was like, “Yeah, I just came from my therapist” and she was like, “Oh, well, I hope everything's okay with that.” I was like, “Oh, no, it's not like--" I just find it really interesting the cultural response to therapy. Do you have thoughts about that?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: I think therapy is wonderful. I’ve seen people make wonderful changes. I have many clients who just come to have a space to talk freely, to gain insight on themselves. I wish people were more open and I think it’s varied by areas of the country like in New York and California. I think you're more likely to hear everyone talk about their therapist and maybe in North Dakota or something. [chuckles] But no, I think therapy is, I love being a therapist because I love, love helping people, feel heard, and understood, and make changes. I've had a therapist myself. I think most good therapists should be in therapy themselves to constantly work on their issues and make sure their stuff doesn't get in the way. And also, just for self-understanding and insight. I also think we don't listen to each other. It's so rare that someone can just listen carefully, reflect back what you're feeling, and not either make it about them, or try to fix it. There is so much power in just being heard, just being validated.
Melanie Avalon: I cannot agree more. I brought this woman on recently all about the biofield and healing energy, but she talked about how-- sighs] This is bad, because I don't have any of the details. She talked about some of the first, I think it was the evolution of hypnosis maybe, but how the way it started was the therapists, he would just sit there, and provide unconditional acceptance basically and people would be healed of these issues. But basically, that idea of just having that other person listening and accepting, there's so much power to that.
And also, in the book, listeners, there's a whole lot about the role of mindfulness and how important that is actually in addressing the potential pleasure gap and the issues that happen with men and women and sexual relations. That helps me a lot because I mentioned this earlier, but what I get in my head about is, it's so funny because it's like performance issues, but it's not really about me. It's about feeling like I have to fulfill this stereotype of having this orgasm or it's just really, really interesting. It's hard to be in the moment when you're so worried about fulfilling these stereotypes that culture puts upon us. I guess it does go back to the fact that men orgasm so easily and women don't. Is that the root of that?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Well, I think women actually orgasm just as easy as men when their clitoris is stimulated. [laughs] There are studies that show that when we masturbate, we both orgasm easily and within minutes. I think it's partially that but I also think we're just anxious beings. The power of our mind is so interesting in the sense that, like, I love mindfulness, and I love thinking about it, and learning about it. I'm reading this book myself right now called Self-Compassion and I love this quote that the author, Neff has. She talks about how “The past only exists in our memory in the future in our imagination and we all really need to be in the here and now.” Our brains are phenomenal because we can learn from the past by thinking about it, we can solve problems by thinking forward, but nine times out of 10, when we're thinking about the past or the future, we're not solving problems or learning from the past, we're just ruminating. Getting back to sex that to have an orgasm requires completely turning off your thinking brain. Because you cannot be having an orgasm thinking, “Am I going to have an orgasm? How do I look? Uh-oh, I forgot to return that email.” To be orgasmic, it requires a complete immersion in your bodily sensations and having your mind and body in the same place.
We know that the brain’s state of deep mindfulness meditation is actually very similar if not identical to the brain state right before orgasm. You're not thinking, you're just in the present. It benefits men, too, because they get anxious, “Am I going to make her come? Am I going to come too soon? Is my erection going to go away?” But we also know that women do think more about during sex, about things that they've left undone, oops, that email,” or about if they're doing it right, if they look okay, if they smell okay, if their partner is happy. So, I do think there's some socialization effects of our brains wandering more during sex and mindfulness is the antidote to that.
Melanie Avalon: I'm glad you brought that up because that was one of my questions. How much is there a top down versus a bottom up to orgasm? So, they'll say that you can think your way to an orgasm. Is that possible?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: There are some very rare women who can orgasm without any touch. They can think themselves to orgasm, but it's very rare. So, yes, just like there are women who can orgasm from just breast stimulation or just penetration, there's some that can orgasm from thinking alone. But again, it's pretty rare.
Melanie Avalon: This is a very granular question and I don't know if you would know the answer, but the role of the mind and the orgasm, does it vary between women where--? Let's say, we had all these women, and they have a baseline level of stress, which would be impeding their orgasm, how powerful is actually turning on the physical stimulus of the clitoris? For some women, could they be stressed? But if they stimulate themselves physically, that will pull them in and break that barrier and then it won't matter that they were stressed before or is it possible just be so stressed that you're not going to have an orgasm?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Both are true. I think for some people, we do know that masturbation decreases stress. In fact, in a study where they asked people, “Why do you masturbate?” Like, “To go to sleep or relieve stress” was the number one answer given or number three, right behind, “I'm horny.” Yeah, we know that if you can get yourself there, it's going to help because an orgasm releases all kinds of feel-good hormones. Would somebody be able to pull out their vibrator, and some lube, and really focus on the sensations, and let go of what's troubling them? Absolutely. Or, would it be no matter what you do, you can’t stop thinking about what you're stressing about that can happen to? Both can happen.
Melanie Avalon: Well, speaking to that with all the chemicals, the endorphins and the hormones, and I really do have orgasm every day challenge and it's because I had Dr. Stephanie Estima on the book and she had a seven-day orgasm challenge, and she talked about all of the health benefits. And so, I did that and I was like, “Oh, I'm just turning this into an every day.” So, I literally schedule it in.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Good for you, good for you. Would you find and it has helped your stress level?
Melanie Avalon: Oh, I think so. Especially, once it becomes very habitual, definitely. Because then I'm very much fascinated, because by itself, it has all these health benefits and it releases all these hormones. But then once it becomes part of your routine as well, I think just the anticipation and having it as part of the ritual adds on to that. I found it to be very, very beneficial. The one issue is that and this is the way I am with all things. I'm such a perfectionist, such a craziness with my schedule that now, if I don't I feel bad, I'm hard on myself. [laughs]
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Right. “Oh, no, I didn't get to my orgasm today.” Yeah, I'm like that with my walking and yoga, because I'm a perfectionist, too, although, I'm working on it.
Melanie Avalon: Me too.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: [laughs] Mindfulness helps with that too. Yeah, but I think have you heard the saying, “Don't [unintelligible [01:23:14] on yourself?”
Melanie Avalon: Oh, I like that. No.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yeah, so that's what I say to you. If you can do it every day, great. If days get busy, don't [unintelligible [01:23:16] on yourself.
Melanie Avalon: I like that and I like the one that's it's a really common one. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Yes, exactly. I love that, too.
Melanie Avalon: Well, this has been honestly, one of my favorite conversations yet on the entire show and I cannot thank you Dr. Mintz for everything that you are doing. We’ve talked about all throughout this episode, it is so, so needed and it's really affecting I think most women everywhere, and we need more people like you who are providing the science, and shining a flashlight on what's happening in our culture, and how hopefully we can change. What do you think is the future of all of this?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: I want to make myself obsolete. [laughs] And thank you for saying that nice compliment about and this has been one of my favorite podcasts I've ever been on. You ask questions and you read the book so carefully. I'm just so pleased and honored. But I really honestly, sometimes, I can't believe I had to write this book in 2018. We should be so over this by now. It's hard for me to know sometimes because I'm so surrounded now by other sex positive people like, “Have things changed or am I just more and more immersed in a world where everybody is on the same page?” I don't know the answer to that, but I'm going to hold out hope that things are changing and that in our future, we will have sex positive comprehensive sex ed, where people learn about the clitoris, they learn about orgasms. We name the clitoris, we don't use the word sex and intercourse as if they're one of the same. There isn't an orgasm gap. I think it will take a long while to get there, but I think we're on the right road.
Melanie Avalon: I love that. I've had that same experience. I've actually been having that experience a little bit during this conversation today. Having come from my upbringing, and my awareness, and my thoughts surrounding all these topics to where I am now, it's hard for me because now I'm so much more open about it. It's hard for me to know-- Is it just I that changed or is there a change in society as well? So, I hear you. It's hard to know. But regardless, it doesn't change the fact that your work is definitely helping everything move forward in that direction. So, thank you so, so much. Actually, the last question that I asked every single guest on this show and it's just because I realize more and more each day how incredibly important mindset is. So, what is something that you're grateful for?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Oh, I love that question. I am grateful for so many things that it's hard to pinpoint one. Can I say two things?
Melanie Avalon: Yes, of course. [chuckles]
Dr. Laurie Mintz: I'm most grateful right now for my health and my body that my body can move in yoga, it can walk, it can orgasm. To me that's a huge foundation and I'm also incredibly grateful for all of the supportive people in my life, who I love, and who love me, and who've been there for me through good and bad and everything in between.
Melanie Avalon: I love that so, so much. Well, thank you, Dr. Mintz. I am so incredibly grateful for your work. Like I said, at the beginning, I would just want women everywhere to read your book. How can women and men because oh, I should mention, I should mention there is a chapter in the book for men. So, if ladies or men who are listening, if you would like to help spread this awareness and education in the male population, they can just read this one chapter that speaks directly to them. So, that was really smart to put that in there. How can people best follow your work?
Dr. Laurie Mintz: The best way to follow my work is on any social media. Instagram is where I'm most active, but I'm also on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, all with the same handle, @drlauriemintz. D-R-L-A-U-R-I-E-M-I-N-T-Z. That's the same as my website. If you go to my website, you'll find links to buy my books on Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, and all my social media, etc.
Melanie Avalon: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. For listeners, we'll put links to everything in the show notes. We just have to stay in touch and hopefully you can come back again on the show in the future.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: I would absolutely love to. That would be great. Thank you for having me. It's been such a delight.
Melanie Avalon: Thank you. Bye.
Dr. Laurie Mintz: Thank you. Bye.
[Transcript provided by SpeechDocs Podcast Transcription]