We are delighted to complete our International Masturbation Month celebration in discussion with Emily Morse, the popular sexologist and host of the Sex With Emily podcast.
Who inspires you and why?
In my personal life, my mom has been a huge inspiration to me. I’m grateful for the hard work ethic my parents instilled in me, even though getting a job after school was the last thing I wanted as a 14 year old. Working consistently, however, taught me the power of dependability, humility and determination.
I’m also inspired by people who don’t accept their status quo sexual experiences—who are willing to be vulnerable and commit to learn more about their sexual desires and, more importantly, learn how to communicate those needs to a partner.
We love the way women are becoming empowered around sexual pleasure. What’s your favorite example, story, or anecdote about this?
I receive emails from my female listeners every day who have been settling in their coupled or solo sex lives; settling for less pleasure, less exploration, less variety, even. Then one day they wake up and realize that they CAN have the sex life they’ve always wanted. By the time they reach out to me, they’ve already made the decision to take ownership of their sexual pleasure—all they need is advice to help them get started. And that, to me, is so inspiring.
I have a young woman on my team who, when she first came on as an intern, expressed frustration in her inability to have multiple orgasms. Her reasoning was something along the lines of, “I’ve been masturbating since I was a kid and it hasn’t happened yet. I guess my body’s just not built for it”. This was a woman who was already comfortable in her sexuality, but she hit this wall and gave up. I sat her down and explained to her that yes, her body was capable, and that just because it hadn’t happened yet didn’t mean it wasn’t possible. I encouraged her to go home and try again, and to keep trying. Two weeks later, she was experiencing up to 6 orgasms in one masturbation session. I always use her story as an example for other listeners who think they can’t experience something they want in the bedroom—if you take ownership of your pleasure and put in the time, you can do anything.
What do you wish someone had told you when you were starting to think and learn about sex?
I didn’t grow up in oppressed environment. Sex was not a taboo subject around the house; I’m sure my parents assumed that I would figure out how to partake on my own. The issue was that it just literally never occurred to me to touch myself. I didn’t even think about self-stimulation until the ripe old age of 19, when a friend at college turned to me and said “Well you’ve masturbated, right?”
I think it’s assumed that most young women will eventually stumble across their clitoris and discover masturbation naturally, the way it happens for most young guys. But in my experience, that’s not always the case. If it was, my inbox wouldn’t be flooded with emails from women of all ages wondering how the heck to touch themselves.
I’d love to see what little sex education we have currently expand to include information about the importance of masturbation. I truly believe that self-pleasure is the key to individual sexual satisfaction, making it a fundamental part of the overall sex discussion.
What do you think has changed the most since you first started working on ideas about women’s sex and pleasure?
Ten years ago when I launched the Sex With Emily podcast in my living room, there weren’t a lot of places for people to go for healthy sex education, or even a place to ask questions about sex. The topic is still taboo in many circles, but in the last decade, sex has become a star of the internet. Between porn, Tumblr, Reddit, and more blogs than you can count, sex is everywhere on the World Wide Web. But while this may be great for consciousness and opening up the conversation, it also opens the floodgates for misguided or faulty information.
Also, the proliferation or quality sex toys and products has had incredible growth. When I started my podcast ten years ago, there weren’t as many body-safe toys, and the variety of products was limited. On top of the overall availability of products, much of the shame around sex toys has turned to acceptance—Nearly half of all Americans report owning a sex toy and 80% of those people use toys with a partner. I’m not saying that long gone are the days of men fearing they’ll be replaced by BOB (battery operated boyfriend) but those numbers have decreased significantly.
What are the best parts or biggest challenges of your own journey as a sex-positive creator?
The best part of my journey has been the feedback I receive from my listeners on a daily basis crediting the Sex With Emily podcast for changing their lives. From the woman who learned to have her first orgasm with a partner after 15 years of faking it, to the man who learned to build confidence in the bedroom, to the couple who started having the best sex of their relationship after 20 years together, I am constantly reminded why I have chosen to do what I do.
Their successes continue to inspire me to create the most innovative and informative podcast and website I can, with content that challenges my audience to grow, learn to communicate around sex, and become the masters of their own sexuality.
The biggest challenge is recognizing that sex-positivity is not a “one size fits all” bucket. Not everyone has the same feelings, thoughts and experiences around sex, and what works for one person may not work for another. That’s why it’s important to know your audience and to challenge oneself to create messages that everyone can hear and learn from.