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TABOO TUESDAY: Self-Pleasure with Sexual Wealth Activist, Jo Portia Mayari
Episode 5215th November 2022 • Emotionally Fit • Coa x Dr. Emily Anhalt
00:00:00 00:37:50

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Growing up in a Catholic and Filipino family, Jo Portia Mayari didn’t talk about sex. Today Jo joins Dr. Emily in this Taboo Tuesday discussion to share how she went from feeling clueless and closeted to being named one of Arianna Huffington's top 20 health and wellness role models on a mission to help women build their sexual wealth. From struggling with her own sexual trauma at a young age to wanting to be a more body-positive role model for her kids, Jo doesn’t hold back in this episode. Tune in now to hear this deep dive into sexuality, self-pleasure, and how to talk about sex with your kids.

Staying emotionally fit takes work and repetition. That's why the Emotionally Fit podcast with psychologist Dr. Emily Anhalt delivers short, actionable Emotional Push-Ups every Tuesday and Thursday to help you build a better practice of mental health, and surprising, funny, and shocking conversations on Taboo Tuesdays - because the things we’re most hesitant to talk about are also the most normal. Join us to kickstart your emotional fitness. Let's flex those feels and do some reps together!

EPISODE RESOURCES:

Follow Jo on Twitter and Instagram

Find out more about Jo’s work at joportia.com

Read the LA Time’s story featuring Jo: Flirting, romance, love — and ghosting. L.A. daters share their stories

Thank you for listening! Follow Dr. Emily on Twitter, and don’t forget to follow, rate, review and share the show wherever you listen to podcasts! #EmotionallyFit 


The Emotionally Fit podcast is produced by Coa, your gym for mental health. Katie Sunku Wood is the show’s producer from StudioPod Media with additional editing and sound design by nodalab, and featuring music by Milano. Special thanks to the entire Coa crew!



JUMP STRAIGHT INTO:

(01:22) - The path that led Jo to seeking radical self-acceptance - “My oldest daughter and I were in her room getting ready, and she said, ‘Oh my god, Mom, you are so beautiful.’ And I said, ‘No, I'm not. I'm ugly and fat.’ And that look on her face was one I'll never forget, because it was the moment where I knew, as a woman, I could not ask my daughters to be the strong women that I wanted them to become if I wasn't one myself.” 


(8:46) - Becoming more comfortable with self-pleasure - “The only sex education I got from my parents was, ‘Don't get pregnant,’ and I'm like, ‘Okay, great. How do I get pregnant in the first place? Like, what is that act supposed to look like?’”


(14:57) - Permission to embrace our sexuality - “The way I'm having that conversation right now around self-pleasure is inviting moms and women to really understand, ‘You have the ability to step into your role as a sexual creature. And that was not something that needed to be taken away the moment that you became a mom.”


(22:07) - Where to start on the self-pleasure journey - “Touch is just so therapeutic and can be so soothing and so healing for people. And so oftentimes I say, ‘Just start from the neck down. It doesn't even need to mean anything. Just see what feels good, and that's it. And then if you're ready to explore lower, then get there. But no pressure.”


(25:14) - Talking to your kids about sex - “I think the most important part is just to leave the door open and have it open for them to walk through so that when they are ready, they know that you can be a trusted resource as a parent.”

Transcripts

Jo:

Growing up Filipino Catholic, you don't talk about sex. I mean, the only sex education I got from my parents was, "Don't get pregnant." And I'm like, "Okay, great. But how do I get pregnant in the first place? What is that act supposed to look like?" I mean, there was absolutely no guidance about what that was like.

Dr. Emily:

Welcome to Taboo Tuesday, on the Emotionally Fit Podcast! I'm Dr. Emily Anhalt, and I've always loved talking about taboo subjects, sex, money, drugs, death. Because being a therapist has taught me that the feelings were most hesitant to talk about are also the most normal. So join me as we flex our feels by diving into things you might not say out loud, but you're definitely not the only one thinking.

Quick disclaimer that nothing in this podcast should be taken as professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment because, while I am a therapist, I'm not your therapist, and I'm not my guest's therapist. So this is intended only to spark interesting conversation. Thanks for tuning in.

Hey there, Fit fans! A quick disclaimer before we kick off today's episode: We'll be talking to Jo Portia Mayari today about self-pleasure. It's an incredibly important topic that can be uncomfortable for people to talk about, even to their closest friends and romantic partners, which is why I was so excited to have Jo on.

One quick personal note first, though. In the time since Jo and I sat down to talk all things sensual, Jo's teenager, who Jo often refers to in this episode, has shifted their preferred pronouns. Since Joe mentions her daughter often throughout the episode, we went back and forth about what to do. Should we scrap the episode entirely? Should we try to edit out the instances where she refers to her daughter?

Ultimately, we decided that it's a great conversation about an important topic that so many people struggle with. And, so, we decided to put it out as is. And we're hoping Jo will come back for another Taboo Tuesday to talk about gender identity and what it's like as a parent to support your child in their journey to true self-identity. Okay, let's get into it. Welcome, Jo.

Jo:

Hey, thank you for having me.

Dr. Emily:

Thank you for being here. This is such an important conversation that I feel like only happens in really specific places, and I think it's time to beam it out to more of the world.

Jo:

Oh yeah, for sure, for sure.

Dr. Emily:

So, Jo is a women's health and lifestyle coach who is all about radical self-acceptance. She was named one of Arianna Huffington's top 20 health and wellness role models, and she's partnered with brands like Nike, Adidas, SoulCycle, countless others. And Jo's journey towards self-acceptance was a complicated one, as it tends to be. She's both struggled with, and celebrated herself and her body, in all kinds of ways, over the years. And Jo has amassed a huge following of people, who look to her for inspiration, as they take their own journey towards self-love and acceptance.

She's pro-sex, pro-vulnerability. She's wise. She's a badass, and she's been called the "queen of messy conversations," which I'm excited about, because we'll be having one of those today.

I'm so excited to be talking to her today about self-pleasure.

Jo:

Ooh.

Dr. Emily:

That's right. Good, old-fashioned masturbation. I am stoked, or should I say stroked? So, maybe start by telling us a little bit about yourself and how you got to be this kind of icon of self-acceptance and talking to your kids about sex and being honest about the way you feel about your body and all of these things that you show the world.

Jo:

ck at when, I think it was in:

And that look on her face is one I'll never forget because it was the moment where I knew, as a woman, I could not ask my daughters to be the strong woman that I wanted them to become if I wasn't one myself.

And that's when my journey of radical self-acceptance started. And it all started off with just really nourishing my body with better food, moving my body, and exercising. And that was something that was never part of my life. I grew up in an immigrant household, and health and wellness was not of anything of an importance of a Filipino family. What was important to me was raising my kids. And that came first, until that moment when I realized, "Oh, shit. If I don't get myself healthier, who's going to actually be able to become that example for them?"

Dr. Emily:

Yeah, I feel like, especially with physical fitness, it's such dichotomy. You're either extremely devoted to it, and you work out every day, and you're in perfect shape or you don't tend to it at all.

And I feel like there's not a lot in culture about how to just have a slightly healthier lifestyle, to walk more, and to incorporate it in realistic ways.

Jo:

Yeah. I think what's nice, though, is that we are coming into this culture where we're starting to look at wellness in a much more expansive perspective, which is, for me, it's like, "Oh, my God, finally." Because, for the longest time, I mean, I'm a Filipino American, none of the examples of health and wellness look like me. I mean, they were tall, lean, white girls.

And, so, I remember growing up, being 15 years old, which is my daughter's age now, looking at these examples and saying, "I can't be any of those. They're not who I am. Where are women like me, being healthy, or what does that look like for a woman like me at that age?"

And I'm really glad that we're in a time and space where we're starting to diversify things, and we're starting to see a lot more inclusion in that space.

Dr. Emily:

What kind of allowed you to do that? I mean, even that moment, I felt it viscerally, this look that you saw in your daughter's face, but the ability to know that and the ability to do something about it are really different. And I'm curious, what allowed you to kind of take action?

Jo:

I think what made me take action was the fact that, 18 months prior to that moment, I was going through depression and anxiety, and I was going through the same feelings that I was feeling when I was 15 years old, experiencing anxiety and depression. And when I was 15 years old, I attempted suicide.

And, so, I just remember, here I was, 29 years old, locking myself in the closet, crying, because I was so over-anxious. But everything on paper was "perfect." I had everything. I was working in tech, had a six-figure job. I'm married. I have two wonderful children. I live in the Bay Area and have a roof over our head. And still, I wasn't happy with the version of myself that I was becoming.

And it was the moment, seeing my daughter and just knowing that nine years old is this age where they're going to start to absorb everything that I say. And if, here I am, as a woman, just expressing the self-hate or the self-loathing, I knew that she was going to absorb that from me because I heard it from my parents. And it was just something that I just did not want for my daughters.

And, so, the change really ultimately was, yes, it was for me, but it was also, really, for my girls. It was for them to be able to see that here as this woman who is working a full-time job, has a family, and can still make time to prioritize herself, which is super important.

Dr. Emily:

Important, but tough.

Jo:

It's hard.

Dr. Emily:

How did you shift?

Jo:

I was living in the South Bay and then commuting to Oakland, so we had to shift the entire schedule. I was waking up, I think, at 5:00 AM to go to the gym in Oakland, right next to my office, so that I could finish that or get my workout in, prioritize that before literally anything in my day, and then go to work and leave at 4:30, so I still had time at night.

So, for me, the morning routine, as a mom, wasn't as vital. That wasn't the most significant time of my day. For me, it was the evening time. For me, it was being home with them at night, having dinner. And, so, my husband and I were able to really kind of shift what needed to happen, in terms of the household, so that I could at least prioritize myself.

Dr. Emily:

And one of the things that you do that I think is so beautiful, and I'm such a fan of is, you show a lot of the world as you navigate these waters. There's just not a lot of censoring, it seems. You will show pictures of what you look like when you feel good about yourself, and you'll show pictures of what you look like when you're not feeling so good about yourself. You'll talk about the beautiful things. You'll talk about the less accepted things. I'm curious, what made you feel ready to kind of share this with so many people?

Jo:

Yeah, I think it was kind of like the start of my actual wellness journey. Like I said, I was working in tech. I was a director at this company called VISCO, and then I have a wedding photography business. And, so, I was basically surrounded around art and tech. And that curated lifestyle of just having everything put together was just the thing that I think ... I just wanted to slap perfection in the face.

And when I came out and said, "Here I am with depression, here I am going to try to get my health back, and try to become this healthier version of me," was the moment where I really stepped into what Brené Brown says is the arena. Right? And you're just in there, with just the shit and the messiness.

And that vulnerability, that rawness, was something I know we just needed. And for me, when I don't sit in my truth, it almost reverberates in my body. I can actually feel the repercussions of not sitting in alignment with my truth.

And, so, I think, just, I don't know, I love sharing the messiness of my life. I think it's one of the things that we just need to see more of, because there is this overly manicured and curated perspective of what everyone else's life is about. And, so, to me, it's just important. It's just a way for me to be able to pave that for my girls.

Dr. Emily:

Yeah, I think that's so important. And as it pertains to this particular episode, one of the areas that you're really thoughtful and transparent about is sex. Not only sex in general, but sex as it relates to our sexual relationship with ourselves.

Jo:

Yes.

Dr. Emily:

And today we're talking about self-pleasure, masturbation, all of these things, that are just really not spoken about much. Tell me about your own journey of, not only becoming more comfortable with this privately, but also becoming more comfortable talking about it publicly.

Jo:

Well, that's really funny. So, I think talking about sex privately has always been really difficult for me, mainly because, growing up, the only kind of sexual education I got was shame sexual education. It was shame-filled. And I remember having my period for the first time, and my mom wouldn't want to really talk to me about it. I remember she handed me a box of period care stuff that you basically got from school. And she just was like, "Here you go." And I'm like, "I don't know what the hell to do with this." And I just was so lost about it.

And then, on top of all that, just growing up Filipino Catholic, you don't talk about sex. I mean, the only sex education I got from my parents was, "Don't get pregnant." And I'm like, "Okay, great, But how do I get pregnant in the first place? What is that act supposed to look like?" I mean, there was absolutely no guidance about what that was like.

And, so, I knew, for myself, especially entering motherhood, I just did not want to raise my daughters with the same sex education that I received, and what would it need to look like for me to be able to step into that light to provide them an education that was shameless and was open and had curiosity filled with it, versus what we traditionally know as sex or sex education, which is abstinence or just, again, filled with shame and guilt?

So, talking about sex has always been really hard. I mean, I remember, for years, it took me forever to even open up a conversation about sex with my husband. And it wasn't until maybe about a-year-and-a-half ago, where I really started asking myself, "Wait, why is it that I am so uncomfortable about this topic?"

And when I started to really peel back the layers, I realized that a lot of it was just due to conditioning and family programming of what it meant to be a woman, to own her pleasure, to own her own sexual experience, and to even pleasure herself or to even just dive into this idea of touching herself with love.

Dr. Emily:

Yeah, I feel like our sex education, in addition to feeling very shame-based, is also very technical, as though-

Jo:

Yes.

Dr. Emily:

... the only thing we need to learn is what goes where, instead of, "Here's how you might feel, and here's what is a good and safe thing to feel. And here's what you might feel that tells you that you're not in the position that you want to be in."

Jo:

Right.

Dr. Emily:

And there's just no emotional sex education at all.

Jo:

Right. Right. Right. So, yeah, that was kind of the opening of Pandora's box, so to speak. It was the question of, "Why am I uncomfortable with this in the first place? And if I am uncomfortable with this, how the hell am I supposed to teach my daughters? How am I supposed to guide them through what I believe?"

I believe embracing our sexuality is also embracing our body autonomy and ownership of our bodies. And if I can't provide them with some sort of guidance of understanding of that, what the hell am I going to do? And where are they going to get that information?

Dr. Emily:

So what did your own journey with that look like?

Jo:

So, I mean, it started with getting curious. I mean, I've always been really curious about sex in general. I mean, I've always been pretty sexual. The journey was been always pretty confusing, I think, mainly because, when I was eight, I was molested by my uncle. And then when I was 15, I was raped by my ex-boyfriend. And, so, those experiences really kind of tainted what it meant to own my body, because I didn't know I could own my body, in general.

And I remember, after my rape at 15, I was going through therapy, but I was also highly confused about owning my body and knowing like, "Oh my God, well, I want to experiment with sex, and I want to explore with sex, but is this okay? Am I allowed to? Wait. Am I supposed to like it after something like this happened to me?"

I mean, it was just such a confusing state. And I remember for a little bit, I was dating around and having sex with men not, even really realizing whether or not I was giving it to them or if I was taking it for myself. It was this weird, "Is this something I'm offering, or am I getting offered this?"

And it wasn't until my husband and I really kind of talked about all the different layers of even just our own sexual experience, of trying to understand, "Wait a second, you're telling me that, as your wife, I'm supposed to be giving you sex? There's something wrong here."

And we had to take a pause for a second, to understand what is intimacy versus sex, even in our language of our relationship. And when we started really peeling back the layers of that, was when we really started to really define that for ourselves.

And then it took understanding the layers of the sexual trauma and those types of messagings and the programming there and what I was bringing into my relationship. So, it was a lot of peeling back of all these different layers, to really understand the innocence behind it and how to actually get curious with it again.

Dr. Emily:

It's interesting because I think, and I actually think this happens a lot, which is, we learn about sex with another person first-

Jo:

Yeah.

Dr. Emily:

... rather than learning about sex with ourselves first. I think if we were given the permission and encouragement that I think you're working to give your daughters, to do that exploration with you first, which is the safe place to explore, and then we can do that experimentation with another person, that would be better.

But what often happens is, we feel like we have to stay away from it until, all of a sudden, we have these other person's needs to understand before we've even learned our own.

Jo:

Right. Right. Right. Oh my God. I want to tell you this really funny story. I asked my 15-year-old daughter. So, my eldest daughter's now 15. We were at Whole Foods, and I was "So, do you have any curiosity about masturbating?" Literally in the middle of Whole Foods. And she was like, "Oh my God, Mom, no, I don't want to talk about this to you. Yes, but no, we're not diving into this conversation." And I just was like, "Holy, fuck. We just had this conversation in Whole Foods"

Dr. Emily:

At least she said, "Yes."

Jo:

Oh my God, yeah.

Dr. Emily:

she feels safe and [inaudible:

Jo:

I mean, it was great. It was such a great opening, to be able to be like, "Hey, let me just ... " Fuck, I mean, as a parent, in this modern day age, really there is no right time to sit down with your kids. And when you have that inkling, I don't know, I just say, Go for it. Go ask. What the hell? Why not?

Dr. Emily:

As the daughter, go ask the parent, or does the parent go ask the daughter?

Jo:

As the parent. Yeah. Yeah. And granted, my daughter and I have a very different relationship. We have a pretty open and honest communication in our house. But I think, just one tip to the parents listening out there, get curious with your kids. It's okay. And you don't have to have things completely, perfectly wrapped up in a pretty bow. If they know that you are imperfect, they're going to realize that their imperfections are okay too.

Dr. Emily:

Mm-hmm. And I think it sounds like something you did, which makes huge difference, is starting to get comfortable with yourself first.

Jo:

Yeah.

Dr. Emily:

I think about, I see a lot of couples, so there's a lot of sex talk. And if I'm uncomfortable with the conversation, they're not going to have the conversation.

Jo:

Right.

Dr. Emily:

They have to see I'm really comfortable with it.

Jo:

For sure.

Dr. Emily:

And so doing our own work first.

Jo:

Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Emily:

So, tell me about the ways in which you are trying to bring more awareness and permission and openness and beauty to self-pleasure and masturbation.

Jo:

I think one of the ways that I'm just having a lot more conversations about it on social media. I think, as a mom, there's this really weird thing that happens when you become a mom. And maybe this is just my own experience, but according to some of the other mothers that I've spoken to, some of the ones, some of my friends, have experienced the same thing.

When I became a mom, there was this part of me that felt like I had to shut away my sexuality or put it in the closet and just like, "Oh, shit, my body is not mine. My body is my child's, so my breasts aren't mine. They're fed to my kids." Right?

And, so, that was something that I had to definitely ... that programming and that conditioning and that story, I had to really unravel for myself, like, "Why do I believe this way? Who told me this in the first place? Why is this the way that it is?"

And the moment that I was able to peel that back, it was like, "Whoa, wait a second. I can be a sexual creature and a mom too."

And, so, the ways in which I'm having that conversation right now around self-pleasure is, inviting moms to really understand and women, but mostly in the motherhood space, like, "Hey, you have the ability to step into your role as a sexual creature. And that was not something that needed to be taken away the moment that you became a mom. Those roles can coexist at the same time."

Dr. Emily:

I mean, I have my ideas, but I'd love to hear, what do you make of it that there is this common feeling that your body now belongs to your kid, and it wouldn't be okay for you also to be a sexual being independent of that?

Jo:

I mean, I lived that story for some years. And now, on the other side of it, I'm like, "Man, why the hell did I subscribe to that story for so long?" I think it's kind of bullshit. I really think it's bullshit. I think it's bullshit that we have to separate ourselves like that.

I mean, we are a whole being. We need to integrate all these pieces into our lives, so we can find some sort of harmony or balance and the ebb and flow of all these parts of ourselves. I mean, that's what I make of this story. It's just bullshit.

Dr. Emily:

Yeah. I imagine, too, your body changes so much when you have a child. You have to get to know yourself all over again.

Jo:

Exactly. Exactly. And that's one of the things that I coach with a lot of women who do come to me for sexual empowerment coaching, is, I talk about getting curious with the body again and getting to know yourself in a way that just feels pleasurable and not necessarily just for performance.

And I think that's maybe one of the hardest parts about the idea of self-pleasure and masturbation and, like what you were saying earlier, how the education that we had is just kind of the step-by-step type of thing. And it's always for performance. It's always to get something done.

Dr. Emily:

Yeah.

Jo:

And for me, I think it's all about really having a relationship with yourself on a physical level and knowing what feels good, knowing what fabrics feel good, knowing what oils feel good or scents turn you on, or things like that are just, are so important, also, to just the idea of self-pleasure.

Dr. Emily:

I love that. And I love that you're not just talking about orgasm, because I think that's another way that everything is very technical, as though the only goal of self-pleasure is to get to orgasm, or the only goal of sex is to procreate. No, it's not just to procreate, but it's to get to orgasm. No. What about just pleasure, for the sake of pleasure, with no destination in mind?

Jo:

Right. Right. Right. Yeah. I mean, it's funny because there are times where I used to have Thursday mornings, where I'd block off a couple hours of my day, after the kids were off at school, and I'm like, "You know what? I'm not doing any work." And I'm lighting up a candle. I put some music on. I close my doors. I put on a silk robe, and it's just me time. And I will lather myself with oils. I know it's a little luxurious, but lather myself with oils and just lay there in bed and just literally just massage my body and just see what feels good, see what tension feels good, see what feels great. And it's a way for me to explore the depths of myself that I haven't explored before.

Dr. Emily:

I read somewhere that one method of self-care is to treat yourself with the same holistic respect that you would treat a baby. And by that, what they meant is, you never just lotion up your baby's arms, and that's it.

Jo:

No.

Dr. Emily:

You take the time, and you make sure every part of them is cared for. And we just so rarely do that for ourself.

Jo:

Yeah.

Dr. Emily:

Even masturbation is often so much about, "All right, let's get this done."

Jo:

Right. Right.

Dr. Emily:

Rather than taking some real time for yourself.

Jo:

Yeah, yeah. I love that. I love that notion.

Dr. Emily:

Amazing. So, what are some things that people could do if this is not something they were really given permission for most of their life, and they are starting to think it's a journey they want to go on? What's maybe a safe-ish feeling place to start?

Jo:

Yeah. So, one of the things that I have recommended to people is go have sex with yourself. Get a candle. Put on some music. Do this after a shower. And to just start with the neckline and move downward. Feel what feels nice to you. Feel what touch feels nice to you. Give yourself a moment to soak in some really beautiful massage oils and start there.

Start at your shoulder, start at your décolleté, and start massaging down to your breasts or whatever. And just to feel for it and to not have any expectation of anything, just to really touch yourself. Because I think sometimes, what gets lost, especially nowadays, with digital media and everything else and the way that we connect, we don't ever just actually have the opportunity to be touched, sometimes by ourselves or other people, and not in a sexual way, but just touch in general. Right? And touch is just so therapeutic and can be so soothing and so healing for people.

And, so, oftentimes, I always say, "Just start from the neck down. It doesn't even need to mean anything. Just see what feels good, and that's it." And then if you're ready to explore lower, then get there. But no pressure.

Dr. Emily:

I love that.

Jo:

No pressure to even go there.

Dr. Emily:

It just makes me think of self-soothing in general. I think about how I don't know that we're taught how to, and given permission to, comfort ourself even.

Jo:

Right.

Dr. Emily:

I think sometimes when I feel anxious, I'll touch myself the way I would want to be touched as a kid by a parent, on the arm, or giving yourself just a concentrated moment of comfort and reassurance with yourself.

Jo:

Yeah.

Dr. Emily:

These things are just not taught to us.

Jo:

Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I love that idea of self-pleasure can be a self-soothing act. I mean, I look at self-pleasure as part of your self-care act, rolled into one. But I love the idea that it's this idea of soothing. If something that's pleasurable is supposed to be joyful, it also could be soothing. Right? So, that could be a way for somebody to be invited into that space and a way for them to think about what it could look like to pleasure themselves.

Dr. Emily:

Mm-hmm. So, I kind of want to zoom out a little and ask, why do you think this topic is so taboo? Why is this something that people don't talk about more?

Jo:

e, well, back, I think in the:

And I just thought it was fascinating because I was like, "Wait. So, guys created a vibrator to cure women from their hysteria because women were being overworked and becoming crazy from the jobs that they were tasked off by men."

So, I think part of the reasons why we don't talk about self-pleasure is because of fear. A lot of it's fear. I think if we can create fear amongst what it means to actually own your body, then we have power and control over one another. Right?

And, so, to me, I just think fear holds us back from pushing ourselves forward. And fear holds us back from wanting change. And, so, the reason why these things aren't talked about is because what does it mean for a person to own their body? That means they have full autonomy.

Dr. Emily:

Mm-hmm.

Jo:

And if you give full ownership to somebody about what it means to take their own pleasure, then holy shit, what's going to happen? Right? We're scared of that. We don't know if we can handle that. But the reality is, it's like we need to give people the ownership to be able to understand what their bodies can do for themselves.

Dr. Emily:

I love that. And I think it definitely has a really unique and important meaning to women. And I think that you've really been out there, talking about what it means for women, but I'm curious what your thoughts are for boys and for men too. Even though I think it's a little more sort of accepted for them to joke and talk about it, I still do see a ton of shame, a lot of shame from boys and men who masturbate and self-pleasure. And what are your thoughts there?

Jo:

Well, it's interesting because I remember having a conversation with one of my girlfriends, because I have daughters. She has a son. And she had told me that her son had been masturbating, and she remembered the conversation we had. And, so, rather than getting shocked and be like, "Holy cow, here you are doing this thing," She was just like, "Okay, let me just let him do his thing," and then having a conversation about it later, letting him know that there's more sex education to see than just what's on porn and on YouTube. And she was able to provide her son with different resources.

And had it not been the conversation that her and I had about what masturbation could look like or shameless sex education could look like, she would've done the same thing that her parents would've done for her, which was to shame this whole situation.

And, so, to me, yeah, I think for everybody, men and women, we just need to be able to boldly have conversations around topics like this, so that we don't perpetuate the same issues that we've had from generations and generations and generations in the past.

Dr. Emily:

Yeah, and you've made such a good point, which is the burden of sex education has fallen so squarely on porn.

Jo:

Yeah.

Dr. Emily:

It's huge. I mean, the majority of people's first real confrontation with sex is through porn.

Jo:

Right.

Dr. Emily:

And that's really problematic because porn is made through such a very particular angle. And what would it look like for people to be talking about these things earlier and with their parents and the people they trust and at school, and it's a shame that's not how it goes.

Jo:

Right. Right. Right. Well, it can start.

Dr. Emily:

That's true.

Jo:

It can start.

Dr. Emily:

It can start. Absolutely. Well, maybe I'll take this from two angles. One, how do you wish your parents had brought these things up with you? And thus, how might you recommend people talk to their kids about this? Because it is touchy, and it is a weird, complicated thing. I think even someone really comfortable with their sexuality, I think could understandably have some qualms about being like, "Hey son, are you jacking off, because you should be." It's hard to broach the conversation. So, what do you think?

Jo:

Oh my God. Oh my God. First off, I love you for that. That was hilarious. The sex education, the sex conversation with my kids, no matter what age I think, is going to be uncomfortable. I remember having, trying to have this conversation with my daughter the first time, when she came home with the sex education paper of like, "Oh, well, we're about to go in this topic at school. We're about to start talking about sex ed." And I'm like, Oh, great. Shit. I have to have this conversation with her." And I just remember feeling super uncomfortable with it.

So, if my parents could do things differently, I really wish they would've seen the permission slip that I was handing them about sex education and just kind of knowing, "Oh crap, this topic is coming right around the corner." And to just sit with me and to ask if I had any questions about it.

Because on the flip side, from now being a mom and having that experience with my daughter, the way in which I approached it was like, "Oh crap. Here's this conversation. We were going to have to have this conversation." And I basically asked her, I'm like, "Okay, well, I'm signing off for you to have this sexual education course at school, and I know you guys are going to start talking about sex and intercourse and all those different things," once you guys are done with having that class, if you have any questions, let me know.

Dr. Emily:

Hmm. Yeah.

Jo:

And that's pretty much how we had the conversation the first time. It was based on, "I'm just going to leave the door open, so that, you, as my child, know that you can walk through this door any given time."

Dr. Emily:

I love that. It's like you gave her your own permission slip.

Jo:

Yeah.

Dr. Emily:

"This is here for you, if and when you want it."

Jo:

Yeah, exactly. And I mean, I was so uncomfortable. I remember drinking a whole half bottle of wine before that conversation, and we didn't even talk about vagina or penis or anything like that, but I was so nervous, as a parent, because I was like, "Am I fully equipped for this? I didn't have the education I knew I wanted for this, and I'm probably not going to have the same information that she's gaining on the internet right now, so how can I have this properly?"

But I think the most important part is just to leave the door open and have it open for them to walk through, so that when they are ready, they know that you can be a trusted resource as a parent.

Dr. Emily:

And even if they never decide to walk through it in a concrete way, I really believe that just knowing that's an option really shifts their relationship to that subject in such an important way.

Jo:

Yeah. Yeah. And I think, too, that also helps them just understand anything afterwards can be an open conversation. And once she started going to high school, thankfully, in California, we're so progressive, especially in the Bay Area, but they had actually an actual workshop on dating consent, sexualities, different genders, and all these different things, and her and I and actually sat down with it and went through the worksheet together. And I just was like, "I love that the schools are doing this, and now I can actually sit down and have that conversation with her a little bit deeper than I would've ever had."

I'm glad her and I was able to talk about what consent looked like, and we're still having conversations of what that could look like.

Dr. Emily:

I also think about how much more likely she will be to come to you if she's ever in trouble.

Jo:

Oh my God. I hope so, yeah.

Dr. Emily:

Or needs support.

Jo:

Yeah. Yeah. We've told her plenty of times, "You know what? We know that you're going to experiment with sex, alcohol, drugs, eventually, at some point in your life, or you may not, but we know that option is there. But I do hope that you'll call us if ever you need any help." So, yeah.

Dr. Emily:

That's amazing. I was thinking, too, I was talking to a friend of mine who has young kids and that our sexuality starts a lot younger than-

Jo:

Yes.

Dr. Emily:

... people tend to realize. We might not be thinking about sex as kids, but we discover our bodies really young. And I think the way parents even react to that is so important. Little boys, little girls, anyone, they start playing with themselves pretty young.

Jo:

Yeah.

Dr. Emily:

And I think if there's this reaction of disgust and fear-

Jo:

Exactly.

Dr. Emily:

... that sends a message, versus, "Hey, that's something that we do privately in our room, anytime you want, but it's a private act."

Jo:

Right.

Dr. Emily:

Something like that.

Jo:

were called [foreign language:

But the actual scientific terms were never written in our actual native language. And, so, that's one of the reasons why my parents, I think, also didn't provide me proper sex education. It was never even written in their language, so how can they actually have this discussion about it?

Dr. Emily:

It was like, Voldemort. It's like you're not actually supposed to say it.

Jo:

Right.

Dr. Emily:

That's amazing. I'm curious, how does it feel to talk about it, now in this moment, but just in general. Are you completely comfortable with it? Is there still a discomfort you kind of hold away a bit?

Jo:

Yeah, there is still some moments. It was interesting. I was on my Instagram Stories, talking about ... and I was actually on a webinar talking about that one of the wellness trends is going to be embracing our sexual revolution. And I remember feeling just so flush about the idea of giving all these stats that women masturbate, just all these stats. And I just remember thinking to myself, "Oh my God, why am I so, so flushed about it? I'm still so nervous to talk about it." But I think that's just going to take time to really reprogram who I am as a woman and being able to boldly speak about it openly.

Dr. Emily:

I love that there. There are all kinds of medical benefits.

Jo:

I mean, yeah. It's a stress reliever. All those healthy chemicals that just come bursting into your body. It's amazing. We should just keep doing it all the time.

Dr. Emily:

What else do you want the world to know, as you've started to explore this stuff yourself?

Jo:

Hmm. I think the only thing that I want the world to know about just self-pleasure in general is that it's really an act of self-love. And I think the more and more we can learn how to treat our bodies, mind, body, and soul, in all different areas, in a way that is loving and coming from a place of love and curiosity, the more that we could teach other people how to respect us and how they treat us too.

Dr. Emily:

Yeah, that's lovely. And in addition to it being an act of love, it's also a really safe act of love, in the sense that this is a way to get to know something in a context that you have control over, that all of the risks of sex aren't there. And I really wish more permission was given to young people and everyone.

Jo:

Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Emily:

To take that for themselves.

Jo:

I mean, maybe that's just the hot tip that we give. You know what? After this podcast, just go masturbate.

Dr. Emily:

It's a solid, hot tip.

Jo:

Yeah. Solid hot tip.

Dr. Emily:

Just the tip. Just to see how it feels.

Jo:

Just the tip.

Dr. Emily:

Okay. So, the way I end my podcast is, I am going to give you this list of kind of taboo questions.

Jo:

All righty.

Dr. Emily:

Read them over. Pick whichever one sort of calls to you. It can be a similar topic that we're talking about today, or it can be something totally different. Read it out loud and then answer.

Jo:

Hmm. Okay. This one's hilarious. "If you could choose exactly how you're going to die, what circumstances would you choose?" Okay, this is a little bit morbid, but for whatever reason, driving off a bridge.

Dr. Emily:

Tell me more.

Jo:

You just see it in action movies, and you're like, "That looks really crazy." First off, how fast do you have to be driving to actually crash into the concrete center divide, to then also then crash off the bridge? But the whole free-falling idea, it just ... The movies make it look extra dramatic.

Dr. Emily:

Mm-hmm.

Jo:

So, I think I would like a dramatic way to go.

Dr. Emily:

My partner and I want to have a Dress as the Way You Want to Die Party for Dia de Los Muertos.

Jo:

Nice.

Dr. Emily:

And we already have friends who are like, "I'm going to come as though I've been attacked by Grizzly bear. I'm going to have a broken rock climbing rope."

Jo:

Oh my God. Amazing.

Dr. Emily:

I want to be sniped. My partner wants to be sniped.

Jo:

Huh.

Dr. Emily:

Because it's just the least-

Jo:

Least expected.

Dr. Emily:

... anxiety-provoking thing.

Jo:

Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Emily:

Yeah. Here I am going, "Let me just get the one that has the most planning."

But it's also, it's maybe for the wrong reasons, but it's got kind of this glory about it.

Jo:

Very true.

Dr. Emily:

You're in the midst of some chase, some-

Jo:

Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Emily:

... high-speed action, kind of thing.

Jo:

I'm telling you. It's traumatic.

Dr. Emily:

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Jo:

It's traumatic.

Dr. Emily:

I like it. Thank you for your candor, your transparency, your willingness to talk about something that I think a lot of people can't talk about. And I feel like you have more than likely given a lot of people permission to lean into an act of self-love today. So-

Jo:

Yes.

Dr. Emily:

... thank you for your time.

Jo:

Oh, you're so welcome. Thanks for having me.

Dr. Emily:

Thanks for listening to Emotionally Fit, hosted by me, Dr. Emily Anhalt. New Taboo Tuesdays drop every other week.

How did today's taboo subject land with you? Tweet your experience with the hashtag #EmotionallyFit and follow me at @dremilyanhalt.

Please rate, review, follow, and share the show wherever you listen to podcasts.

This podcast is produced by Coa, your gym for mental health, where you can take live, therapist-led classes online. From group sessions to therapist matchmaking, Coa will help you build your emotional fitness routine. Head to joincoa.com, that's joinc-o-a.com, to learn more. And follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @joincoa.

From StudioPod Media in San Francisco, our producer is Katie Sunku Wood. Music is by Milano. Special thanks to the entire Coa crew!

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