Welcome to episode 28. This is Kristi Angevine. If you’re a new listener, welcome to the podcast. Long time listeners will know that the recent episodes are a part of 2022’s Summertime series of interviews, where I’m speaking with several different people so you can learn about different perspectives, topics, and tools that you can integrate into your own life.
Today, I speak with Dr. Kelly Casperson. Dr. Casperson is a board-certified urologist, she’s also a wife, a mom, and a sex educator. She’s a certified life coach through The Life Coach School and has a certification to the North American Menopause Society. Her podcast is called You Are Not Broken, and in it she dismantles the myths women have learned and normalizes healthy, enjoyable sex worth desiring.
Her book, You Are Not Broken: Stop Should-ing All Over Your Sex Life is also currently available. Dr. Casperson, as you’re going to hear, has a knack for combining science and the mindset of sexual health with humor and candor.
So you might be thinking, “Why talk about sex on a podcast about habits?” the reason I’ve included a duo of interviews that focus on intimacy and sex is because our relationships, particularly our intimate ones, and our thoughts and beliefs about our body, our body image, and pleasure are often a microcosm that reveals so much about our self-concept, and can give us so much insight to how we might be showing up in other areas of our lives.
Now, the other half of this duo of interviews was last week’s interview, which featured Dr. Sonia Wright. Dr. Wright and I talked about the complexity of communication, and the habit of not communicating with your partner. So if you didn’t catch that one, I highly recommend after you finish this one that you go back and take a listen to episode 27.
Now, as you listen, I encourage you to reflect on this one question: How might the habits I have and the things I grapple with when it comes to my intimate relationships, and when it comes to sex and pleasure, how might similar versions of these be showing up in other areas of my life? Enjoy.
Welcome to Habits On Purpose, a podcast for high-achieving women who want to create lifelong habits and feel as good on the inside as they look on paper. You'll get practical strategies for mindset shifts that will help you finally understand the root causes of why you think, feel, and act as you do so you can learn to create habits that give more than they take. And now, here's your host physician and Master Certified Life Coach Kristi Angevine.
Kristi Angevine: Let us dive in. Kelly, welcome to the podcast. I can say officially, you're the first urologist I've had on my podcast. But you’re a urologist, you're also a life coach, you're also a wife. From what I see, when I look at your book, it's clear that you have a mission to help women live their best love lives.
And you use things like the body-based science. You use things like thought work and coaching. You are working, very relentlessly I would say, to unpack and break down all the societal, either messages or barriers that keep all of us from having our best, most intimate lives.
When people listening to this go get your book, they will see all of this there. Can you add to that? And just give a little introduction, so that the people who don't already know you, hear a little bit from you?
Kelly Casperson: Yeah, well, thanks for having me. I'm Kelly Casperson. I'm a board-certified urologist, I practice in Washington State. As you know, because you've done this, you get pretty good at your job after like seven years after residency. I was to the point where I was kind of… I was, now looking back on it, was ripe for something new. Because I was like, “Oh my God, I'm just going to see recurrent UTIs in clinic, for the rest of my career.”
What happened was a patient of mine, who I had treated for cancer, came in and was crying about her low desire, wonderful marriage, low desire. I was like; I don't know how to help her. I was told that women were complicated, and we hadn't figured them out yet. And, weren't the OBGYNs taking care of this anyways? And shouldn't I just refer to them?
But I had a hunch they weren't really getting much over there either. I just dove deep. I was like; what does the science say? It was really like, who's taking care of the people that urologists are giving all the Viagra® to? Like their partners, right? Who's taking care of the partners of the Viagra swallowers?
Turns out there's tons of awesome data like social cultural data, biology data, and of course, we can always do more research. I wouldn't say that female sexual function’s heavily funded, especially in this country. The sex researchers tend to move to Canada, because we don't fund them very well in this country.
I love the topic because it really combines biology, relationships, psycho-social, cultural, religion, how your parents handled it. It's so wonderfully deep and complex. At the same time, in our sound bitey, Instagram®-y nation we're like, “But just give me the fix.” Understanding all of that is where the joy and fun and complexity comes in.
Truthfully, I don't love doing sex med in clinic because it's 15 minutes with somebody and I literally have to undo their shame, and their thoughts, and what their shitty ex-boyfriend told them 20 years ago about their vulva. I can't do that in 15 minutes.
I really started the podcast to be… This is such a big topic. I hate the word juicy, even when talking sex, but it’s a juicy topic. But it's so complex, I'm never going to run out of content. I'm never going to run out of issues and questions.
And the amount of people who need sex ed… If you think about our Sex Ed, I don't know the Sex Ed you got, but in our country, it tends to be, and it's not better anywhere else in the world except for Europe, some European countries are rocking it. But it's a disease, a pregnancy prevention plan, with a little bit of a cup full of shame thrown in.
You get into this committed long-term relationship where you're aging and you think you're broken, because you don't have this Hollywood spontaneous, rip your clothes off at any given moment, life. Which you think is what it is, and it's not what it is. It's wonderfully complex, that's why I'm so in love with the topic.
Kristi: I love that your podcast gives you such a great forum to reach so many people, who might have lots of thoughts about learning about this, in the setting of a doctor's office. Or, learning about this around other people. The podcast is so great because they can just listen to you privately. They can do a lot of the work, just by all the…
I mean, when you're talking and you're interviewing people, you offer so much validation in meeting people right where they are, that it is just such an effective intervention, so to speak. Not that 15 minutes can't change your life and feel really powerful in a clinical setting, but this is just so much deeper and broader in terms of your reach.
Kelly: Yeah, 100%. To me, people are like, “Oh, you still do regular Urology?.” I'm like, I love that and that's what works in that setting. But truly sex med, you need time. Because you can't just think I can just adjust your hormone levels, and change your relationship, and your body image. It's all those pieces. To change what society says a good woman is; like, no. I can't do that in 15 minutes.
Kristi: Well, and so, I think this is good, since we're so early on to this, it’s just sort of as a very explicit disclaimer for this particular episode. We are talking a lot about sexuality and intimacy, from the perspective of your work as a urologist. But also, from all the things that you know, talking about societal messaging, and socialization and thought work, and how we think and how we feel.
There's definitely a time and a place, for the listeners who are here, to go see their physician or go see their provider. There's a time and a place for therapy, as opposed to coaching. And there's a time and a place for trauma processing, and medication and surgery.
What we're talking about today is definitely not a replacement for any of those other things. This is just adding one other thing to the buffet of options, when people are thinking about their love life, and thinking about intimacy with their partner.
Kelly: Yeah, totally. You know, that's what people ask me; how did I get into life coaching? And I'm like; sex got me into life coaching. Because I started realizing, I can't just… Again, in urology, I can make the vulva really healthy. I can do great skin down there. I can correct prolapse, I can help incontinence, all that stuff.
But the biggest sex organ is the brain, and we take our thoughts and our judgments into the bedroom. Then, we struggle quieting them in the bedroom. Which really that's what you have to do, in order to maximize your orgasmic potential is quiet the brain.
Orgasm actually shuts down your frontal lobe, which is why some people truly believe it is as close to a meditative, enlightened state as you can get. Because we spend our whole lives trying to escape the thoughts in our head, right? What an orgasm truly is, is lack of any thoughts in your head; you literally can't multitask and have an orgasm at the same time.
Again, another reason why sex is so cool, right? Because that kind of brings in the whole; what do we try to do when we meditate and be mindful? We try to get rid of all those thoughts. And, that's what an orgasm is.
Kristi: I love how you phrase that, because the idea of diminishing or dampening our frontal lobe, as a way to access thoughtlessness, so to speak. That's maybe not the… Thoughtlessness has a connotation that's kind of negative. But I totally know what you're saying.
I don't know that there are, at least in my listeners, I don't know that there are many people who will say, “I found life coaching through sex.” People will say, I found life coaching by trying to work on my people-pleasing, or working on my burnout, or I just love personal development. But to have sex as the way that you found it, I think is really interesting.
Kelly: Because if you go on the internet, you tend to believe that desire is either a product you purchase, or it is… I always say like, you buy something, and you carry it around, you know, you now have desire in your purse, right? Or, it's something that you innately have like a face tattoo.
Instead of desire being, and what coaching and thought work is, desire’s a thought, desire can be a feel, you can put desire anywhere in the model for those who follow the Life Coach School thing. But it's a circumstance, it's a thought, it's a feeling, it's an action, it's a result.
You put desire anywhere in the model, and you could work with it. You realize, desire’s a practice. Desire is something you cultivate, it's not a face tattoo, like, “Oh, I've always got it, even in the morning, on Tuesdays. Even when I'm stressed after, you know, delivering babies for 24 hours.” I’m like, no, it's a practice of desiring. Desiring the life you have, desiring the body you have, desiring the partner you have, desiring what we have.
That was an exercise in the book that I do is, write down five things that you desire. Now stop, look at them. How many are there of those things do you already have? And, do we only desire things we don't have? Why is that? Why aren't we desiring what we have? So good. Desire is amazing.
Kristi: I love that you highlighted that desire is not just this unidimensional thing that you either have it or you don't. And, if you don't, then there's a problem. Just to translate what…
You know, as coaches, you and I totally understand the lines of the model. But for those of you who aren't coaches, and are listening to this, what we're talking about is a self-coaching model as a sort of a five-category tool. In which, there are facts or circumstances, then we have thoughts about those. Those thoughts create our feelings. The feelings drive our actions. Our actions, if you add them up, give us a result.
If we take desire as sort of a construct, we can put desire in any of those categories. We can say desire is a fact of life. Then we can wonder, what are our thoughts about desire? Are the thoughts like, I don't have enough, there's something wrong with me? Or, are they, I get to figure out how to cultivate my desire? Those thoughts might create either defeat and discouragement, or curiosity and interest.
Kelly: Curiosity, as far as sex goes, is awesome. Really, if you can get to a place of curiosity, you're going to go so far.
Kristi: I was thinking curiosity is sort of the antidote to so many things. It’s the antidote to self-judgment. It’s the antidote to our inner critic. It's the antidote to exploring all these different parts of us that maybe we don't understand, or we don't like.
And, when it comes to libido, or desire or intimacy, bringing curiosity is just such a good tool to put in your bag. To be alright, when I'm curious about my desire, or lack thereof… Or, when I'm curious about where my partner is coming from. It's just that the defenses are down. We can tap into our inner researcher who wants to just know all the things, as opposed to find all the reasons why there's something wrong with us, in that setting.
Kelly: Yeah, curiosity is the boss, for sure. It's such a good one.
Kristi: I'm curious about when you are thinking about your, and you can talk about either your patients or your clients in your coaching practice, do you see a particular trend, in terms of a particular mindset or collection of thoughts and beliefs, that are almost like bread-and-butter standard for troublesome, when it comes to desire? Like, certain things that are almost universal that you see, over and over and over?
Kelly: The big one is I need to have spontaneous desire in order to have a sex life.
Kristi: Hmm, huge. Yeah. I'm so glad you brought that up because that's what I would hear all the time.
Kelly: I literally, want to take scissors and cut it out of the construction paper; I have kids. Basically, cut that out and just put it to the side, and be like, go have an amazing sex life.
I mean, it's fascinating, the history of where did desire... Who put desire first, before sex life, right? Who even put that ingredient in there? And, there’s various things. There's Masters and Johnson and there's the Kinsey Institute, and the original… They didn't even have desire in their arousal, orgasm resolution, like the plan, right?
Then, Rosemary Bossan kind of did the female one, which was the females aren't sitting around planning out their sex life because they desire it. They're not going… Most not always, especially in a committed relationship…
And excuse me for people for overgeneralizing, and being so heteronormative. But I deal with a lot of heterosexual cisgendered women, who I truly believe are a sexual minority. They're completely misrepresented, they're completely ignored. So, my language does tend to want to really include them.
But point being, people are like; I don't have a spontaneous sex drive, so I don't have sex. And in my brain and in my knowledge, at this point, I'm like, how are they even related? They're not even two things that need to be connected.
If you read the research on the really happy, wonderful people who are like, “I have great sex,” they've done research on those people. Literally, none of them are like, I have great sex because I have spontaneous desire. Zero out of all of them, say that. So, it's this myth in society, in Hollywood, and you know, the top 10 Country hits.
Idolizing that 20-year-old spontaneous new relationship of, you must have spontaneous desire, in order to, number one, pursue having a great sex life. And number two, to even have sex in the first place.
I think people get it, but I want to clarify, I'm not telling you to go have sex when you don't want to or with who you don't want to have sex with. Because people will do that black and white thinking with that, right? “Well, if I was walking with this desire, are you telling me to…,” and I'm like, no.
I'm saying go have the sex of your dreams. Go have a great time. Go have fun. The desire for it happens during arousal. A lot of time, for women, desire happens afterwards. What that looks like is; man, that was so fun. It was so relaxing. That felt great. Let's remember to do that again. We desire it, right after it.
Kristi: I think, what you said right then is so huge. That's why I want to interrupt you, to just sit for everybody listening. That idea that, number one, that desire does not have to precede the sex life of your dreams. Because it's probably breaking some people's brains right now. But then, the idea that…
Well, of course, we're not suggesting that you go tolerate something that is not good, or that you just make yourself have sex without desire. What Kelly is suggesting, is that desire can happen at any point, during arousal, during sex, after sex.
I think that, right there, can really just expand how people think about their sexuality in ways that… I mean, I know we talked about this before we got on the recording, and we were talking about if we could only go back in time, and give ourselves the coaching information, thought work, and cognitive sort of concepts, back in medical school or back in middle school, what would that change?
But I really do think if we expose younger people to these ideas, so that they were just normal concepts through our teenage years, all the way up into adulthood, it would radically change how the clients and patients are experiencing their sexuality.
Kelly: Totally. There's some good data on it. Some researchers asked all genders, all relationship status, what was the reason that you last had sex? They summarized it into 238 reasons, why they last had sex. Spontaneous desire to have sex was one of those 238 different reasons.
Whether it was it helps me sleep, it makes me feel love to my partner, I wanted to be close, it just feels good. Whatever the reason was, desire was one of 238 different reasons. So, when I see women who are like, “Yeah, I stopped having sex, I just didn't desire it,” I'm like, “Do you know there’s 237 other reasons to have sex?”
Caveat to that, a lot of women are having sex that isn't worth desiring. They're having shitty sex, they're having to-do list sex, or having sex just to manipulate. And I say manipulate because you understand what that means. But to control somebody else's behavior, so they don't get cranky, or whine or beg. So, we're using sex as a tool to help control somebody else's behavior.
Which you have to kind of step back and look at that, because you don't really realize that's what you're doing. But you're just kind of being complicit in having sex. So, sex for all those reasons, of course, you're not going to desire sex. Right?
I love the practice of like; do you know why your partner likes having sex? Have you ever asked him? Because in a relationship, two people in relationship, there's different answers to that question.
Like it feels good. Because I'm horny; that's your spontaneous sexual desire. It shows love. It's how I know you love me. Helps me relax. Feels really good. It turns me on to see you get turned on. All these different reasons of why your partner likes having sex with you.
People don't talk about this. But it's like, people want intimacy, and they don't realize that intimacy is created in the communication part about sex. You can get naked with anybody; it does not mean you're intimate with them.
Kristi: I think that idea of just even inquiring, and channeling your curiosity towards your partner's experience, that is something that… Unless I'm just not seeing the things you're saying. I don't see that modeled commonly, in Hollywood, in narratives, maybe some books here and there. But it's not a common narrative in our society, for that sort of dialogue to unfold.
But just the idea that if you have your Choose Your Own Adventure book, and your book only gives you two endings; either I desire it, or I don't, and that's how it is. But your partner's book has 237 other ideas, and just opening that dialogue seems like such a great way to see all the alternatives that could exist for you.
Kelly: Yeah, and there's, I mean, there's so many skills in that. Because if you're going to start talking about stuff like this, you have to be willing for it to be awkward, and uncomfortable and messy. Then, you have to be a good listener and non-judgmental. There's so much good work in talking about this topic.
Kristi: For many of us, who have done lots of work on communication, and lots of work in our relationship, lots of work on bodies, lots of work on sex, we still went through a journey to take some of the awkwardness out of some of these conversations with our partners.
But there may be people listening, who, just the idea of broaching this topic, makes them just want to curl up in a ball. They're like; I don't even know how to find the words. In your experience, what do you see is one of the most helpful things that people who find these conversations just too intimidating, just too much to even bring it up such that basically, they just walk around not speaking about it; what do you offer them to sort of help facilitate?
Kelly: I mean, you know me, at this point it's all about awareness. Just that; just realizing that sex makes you squeamish and you want to avoid it, gives you so much information. There's so much there being like; isn't it curious that this thing, that all bodies have and 98% of humans do, makes you squeamish? I'm so curious, why is that?
You can start digging up and be like; well, because my uncle was super weird when I was 20. Or, society says I should look Angelina Jolie. There’s so much good information that we don't usually spend a lot of time contemplating. But I think, understanding sex and our relationship to it… because again, sex can be a circumstance, right? Really the personal growth involved in doing this work is just so worth doing, to me.
So, practical tips for people: Do it when you're clothed. Do it on a walk; if you're walking somewhere, you don't even have to make eye contact with somebody. You can set the stage if you don't want to surprise your partner. Be like, “Hey, when we go for a walk this afternoon, I really want to talk to you about this podcast that I listened to. Did you know that…?”
You can throw in some fun fact of like; you know that so many women don't have as many orgasms as men, and that's a thing? It's called orgasm inequality. So many women actually learn how to have good sex in their midlife, I wonder what that would be like for me?
You can just blame me, blame my podcast. Bring it up with curiosity. Nine times out of 10, if you have a partner who likes sex, would like the idea of having more sex, likes the idea of you enjoying sex, most people will be like; yep, yep, yep. It's going to go better than you think it's going to go.
Kristi: 100%. Even if it didn't, even if you brought it up and your partner has their own stress response, and they freeze and they don't know how to talk about it, bringing curiosity to it on purpose, is also such a great tool to have in your tool belt.
Because it sounds like; you can bring it up and even if your partner doesn't just start talking, and the conversation doesn't unfold in the way that we're talking about here, you can be like, “Oh, isn't it so curious that this is where they're coming from? I wonder, if on another walk on another day, at another time, when we're both in a calm, curious place, if we can revisit this?”
Not from a ‘what's wrong with them?’ But like, from a ‘how do we both connect and talk about something that’s important to us?’
Kelly: It's all good information. You know this, but it's like because we don't talk and understand, we make assumptions. We make things mean things. Our brains are meaning-making machines. We've never talked about sex, and now, maybe we're not having a lot of sex in our relationship. But we don't know why. Because we haven't asked our partner. We just assume things.
And, we assume the worst things. They’re like; they're having an affair. They don't find me attractive. They have a health problem. And, they might be like; no, I'm just super stressed at work. I really don't know how to deal with my stress right now. So, it makes me just not want to have sex.
You're just going to assume the worst if you don't ask. But women are very, all human beings, but we're very good at making something mean something, without having any evidence of that being true.
Kristi: I think that would be something great for the listeners to look at through the lens of, this is the habit, what you just said so perfectly, the habit of assuming the worst. And, making something means something bad about you, is a tendency, that sometimes we’ll see at work, but we'll also see it at home, we'll see it with our kids.
Because my kid did this, that must mean I'm a terrible mom. Because my husband said this, or my wife said this, that must, therefore, mean something about me. Because this happened in the O.R., this therefore means, you know, whatever it is, usually something negative.
And, usually, what I find, is that that's usually the catalyst for talking about models. Like, that’s the initial model that kicks off the snowball. That turns into ruminating, catastrophizing, seeing everything through that negativity bias lens, shame spirals.
I don't do sex coaching, specifically, but I can only imagine that physiologically, when we're experiencing the emotions of shame, and shut down, and not belonging, and feeling like there's something wrong with us, that is probably a greatly counterproductive thing, when it comes to intimacy and connection.
Kelly: 100%. We know that better body image, we know that lower cortisol dealing with stress well, those are all associated with better sexual function. We've got the biologic data to back it up. Our brains are meaning-making machines, that's what they're supposed to do. They're literally supposed to interpret the world.
Our job is to realize, do I have any data? Where is this assumption coming…? And, they’ll like kind of catch it and start catching it. I learned at first, way before coaching, with Brené Brown, in one of her books, she was like, “The story I'm making in my head about this is…,” right?
If you can say that to your partner, to somebody at work, to whatever, to your nurses at work, “Because you're rooming my patients,” I'm using work for an example, “Because you're rooming my patients behind schedule, the story I'm telling myself is that you don't care. Is that true? Or, am I totally off base?”
Then, you've given them the opportunity to understand where you're coming from, without you judging them. And, for them to help explain it to you. Like, “No, no, no. He just didn't fill out our paperwork on time.” You're like, “Oh, I'm so glad I handled it that way, instead of just biting their head off.”
Kristi: Yeah, no. I think that, I mean, that carries over into what you were just talking about. About having these conversations that someone might naturally feel squeamish about, or just uncomfortable approaching with their partner. When this occurs, ‘the story I'm telling myself is…’ or, ‘a part of me experiences this as…,’ that's such disarming language that paves the way, in my opinion, paves the way for such a beautiful collaboration.
In terms of actually hearing where someone's coming from. And giving them permission to, like you said, counter what your assumption is, in a way that doesn't leave them feeling like the bad person.
Kelly: Totally. It's the ‘I feel statements.’ When this happens, I feel… It's very non-judgmental. It really helps just explain; here's my interpretation am I off base? Correct me if I'm wrong.
Kristi: A lot of my clients will struggle with perfectionism that's a kind of stealth perfectionism. Like stealth anxiety, stealth perfectionism, not quite realizing that they’re kind of holding the belief that it's always better to be better. And, when it comes to their sex life or their intimacy, like; my relationship should look like so and so's. Our sex life should be like so and so's. And once it is, then it will be better. It's up to me. Etc.
Can you speak, a little bit, to how you might see that idea of perfectionism showing up, when it comes to intimacy and sex?
Kelly: Totally. What I see a lot with that, kind of that stealth thing, is; there's a right answer. There's a right answer, and I gotta find it. I'm going to spend a bunch of time and mind… I call it mind calories. Time and mind calories, figuring out the right answer.
How many times a week should I have sex? How long should sex take? How much should I want sex? There's a right answer to all of that. I got to figure it out. I’m going to spend a bunch of energy figuring that out.
It's like, oh, no. Knock it get off. Oh, my God, it's so bad. But I think a lot of people do that. And then the other thing is, I need my partner to X, Y, and Z. I need to change my partner.
Kristi: No. For those who understand the self-coaching model, what Kelly just listed out are basically a bunch of actions. The actions of; expecting my partner to do this, or researching all the data to come up with a right answer, a one solution. That’s very much an all-or-none thinking, black or white, this is the right way. Lots of extra researching. A lot of intellectualizing something that is quite physical and bodily.
If anybody's listening, and you recognize some of those, and those are familiar, and you're like; those are things I do. I want to emphasize, doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. These are not fixed things that are not malleable.
I always teach that, even though our habits seem like things that maybe, just automatic, and compulsive things, that we might think we cannot change, that are fixed, they're generally all malleable. Even if something reminds you of something that you do, it doesn't mean that there's a problem that you need to solve. It just means is it's like Kelly said, it's good to know, it's good to start sifting through.
Kelly: We're spending all the time trying to figure out how to be perfect or get the right answer first.
Kristi: Yeah. I think underneath that idea is that we always have to ask; what is it that I'm expecting that I'm going to feel, if I am thinking, “Oh, this is perfect?” What am I expecting it will be like? And, why? What is it about perfection that I'm striving towards, that's different than what I'm experiencing now? And, why?
Kelly: This is why you're the master coach. It’s so good. That is so good. I was talking to a very perfectionist, high-driving, high-achieving person who was trying to make a career decision. Basically, should I go left, or should I go right with this job, job offer? In coaching her, it was like; oh, you think there's a right answer. I see. Let's just sit in the fact that you think there’s a right answer. What does making the wrong choice mean to you? Of course, that's why you're paralyzed in this decision because you think there's a right answer.
Kristi: I think that's so easy to miss.
Kelly: There are just two choices.
Kristi: Yeah, two choices, out of a multitude of choices. I think there's a lot of fields and vocations in which black-and-white thinking, right or wrong is kind of cultivated as a way to, you know, make quick decisions. Like I'm going to order this or am I going to order that? Am I going to do this or am I going to do that? Am I going to turn left or am I going to turn right?
And that may work really well in certain conditions, but when it starts bleeding out, or infusing out, into everything else, and we carry with us that thought that you so nicely articulated, “There's a right answer.” That can just be so limiting. I've heard you talk a lot about how there's so many insidious, limiting beliefs that we don't even notice we’re carrying, that show up in our relationships.
Kelly: Totally. Yeah, I again, I think it all comes, to me, it all comes down to awareness; awareness, compassion, curiosity, and then enjoying the journey.
Kristi: Yeah. I think for anybody listening, if we're talking about things and you're thinking; these are things in my life, with my intimate relationship, or with communication about sex, or with things about how I think about and feel about my body. If these are familiar to you, probably one of the best things that you can actually do, in terms of something that's concrete and actionable, is bring on purpose, curiosity and compassion towards all of it.
Anything that's making you squirm a little bit or that you think; oof, I don't know that sounds like me. Curiosity and compassion can be such great sort of companions that help your awareness. And when your awareness blossoms, then it's sort of like, it's like the awareness…
I always think about how you can see a friend, who's had a really shitty day, you can see why, and you can see all the different perspectives that maybe he or she cannot see, when you've got that perspective. When you can tap into that same sort of perspective for yourself, the awareness that comes from that, is just so powerful.
Kelly: I always come back to, again, it's why I think coaching, and sex and coaching is my drug of choice, but it's; why are we here? What's the point of all of this? Is the point to be perfect? Is the point to get it all right? Or, is the point to experience and get to know me, as much as I can?
Because I've been with me for a long time, going to die with me. And, I’m only here through me and through my body, and through my interpretations and understanding this human vessel. Both with pleasure and with curiosity and understanding the way we think, right? Why do I think that way? It's so curious that I always respond that way.
Really understand the personal growth. The journey is the whole point. That's where sex is, too. There's no like; well, on Tuesday, you'll be fantastic at sex. Right? It's not how it is.
Kristi: I love it. That's so good. When we're thinking about… We're talking a lot about the destination, and the idea that the way we think really does inform how we feel. In the journey towards this destination that we think fits better there.
When you're working with your clients, how do you see some of these limiting beliefs about like, “Tuesday, sex will be great?” How do you see some of those showing up? This is so the listeners, who might be doing this and thinking, well, once I read all the books and get all the right answers, then you know, it's all going to be perfect; for them. How might they know that they're doing that?
Kelly: Because I think they feel stuck, or they feel like it's coming from a place of lack. Like I don't have enough yet. I haven't figured it out yet. My partner isn't perfect, yet. Or, I'm not perfect, yet. Or, if my partner pursued me better, or approached me better, or didn't work so much, or whatever. We really want to change our partner a lot to have great sex.
They don't even know their own body parts. They don't know how these things work. They don't know what the clitoris is. They can't practice. Assuming a heterosexual relationship here. But you know, then that's why the communication, again, is so important. Because here we are just trying to do want to change our circumstances all the time, to make it better.
Have you told them that you love three to four minutes of external vulvar, clitoral vibration first, before anything gets penetrated? No, because you probably haven't even figured that out yet. Right? But we can’t make our partner feel… I’d like sex more if my partner did it better. That’s 50% your sex. This is your sex, right? Figuring that out.
Clearly, I get animated because it's such a good topic.
Kristi: No, it's so good. It is such a good topic. I love that you answered my three-part question so perfectly. With the sense that of, if somebody is looking at some destination, thinking there's something that they need to fix now. And they're doing it from a bunch of limiting beliefs, they're going to know that because they're going to feel stuck.
They're going to feel like they're needing something. They're going to feel like there's something scarce. They might also have this show up by saying; well, if so-and-so, if this partner, my partner just did X, Y and Z, then we'd be fine. If you notice yourself doing that, don't fret, this is extremely common. This is extremely normal. That's why it's brought up as a trend. It's definitely not something that's fixed.
Kelly: I spend a lot of time just normalizing people's experiences. They’re like, “My partner just likes to have the exact same type of sex every single day, probably until he's dead. I'm really bored.” I'm like, “Yep, totally normal because he's having the sex that he loves to have. He's figured it out. He's having exactly what he wants. You're not; that's your job to figure that part out.”
And, how the female brain works, again, stereotyping, we love novelty. Apparently, there's more connections between the right and left brain when you have more estrogen in your brain. And so, context is super important, setting the scene super important. We like that and we desire that, and there's that desiring sex again. Having sex worth desiring doesn't mean buy a swing, but it means maybe, having the exact same freaking type of sex for 20 years is not the sex that is worth desiring, for you. It’s good to know. And, totally normal.
Kristi: It’s good to know. Yeah, just knowing that.
Kelly: Dopamine is released in seeking novelty, in seeking a rewarding behavior. If it's not novel and it's not rewarding, you're not getting any dopamine out of this relationship. Do you know where you get tons of dopamine? Sitting on the couch, scrolling through social media, eating Häagen-Dazs® Mint Chip.
That is a shit-ton of dopamine release. And so, people are like; I'd rather just sit on the couch and scroll social media and eat ice cream, then have sex. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Normal brain; totally normal brain.
Kristi: The fact that we all have a role in that, so it's never just our partner. It's never just, you know, if work got better, you know, not that those things can't assist in increased intimacy. But it's, we all have a role to play.
And so, for the person out there who's had the same sex for 20 years and is desiring novelty, is desiring variety, wants more of that. There's a role for that partner, I would say. And this sounds a little bit prescriptive, but it sounds like you're saying, there's a role for that partner in communicating those desires in a way that takes them out of the dark and into the open. So, that they can be something that they can basically make happen, if they want to.
Kelly: Yeah, and I think, you know, entitlement kind of comes into this a little bit. You're not entitled to just have an amazing sex life, you have to do the work to figure it out, and to prioritize it, and to block time for it. To communicate well.
It's not something that you can purchase in a jar, right? Slap on your labia. Now, you have an amazing sex life is. I’m just trying to save people money. It is just starting, the amount of marketing to women. It is just getting started. I'm trying to save you money ahead of time.
But it's like we’re kind of entitled. I just want to want. Well, what do you want? I don't know. Well, you’ve got to go figure it out. You’ve got to go figure out what you want. That’s all the fun. But sitting around and being like; oh, I wish I desired sex. To me, that's almost an entitlement. People don't see it that way, but it's almost an entitlement of; I just want to sit here and have desire.
Kristi: I think what’s so interesting is, so where would that sort of thought process come from? I mean, I'm no cinematography expert in terms of, you know, what film has shown to us. But I definitely have some ideas in my mind that the messaging that we… The ocean that we're swimming in, in terms of our socialization, oftentimes portrays characters who just spontaneously want, and it just happens.
And when it just happens, if you have to work at it, that means there's a problem. So, it’s that sort of dichotomy of, well, I just want to want. It seems like it's the plant that grows from the soil of the messages that we've gotten about sex, and how it occurs, and why it happens. So, it almost makes sense that the next step isn't there. Oh, I want to want and so therefore, I will go…
I think that I'm getting the impression that that's kind of the work that you do, with opening people's eyes to, oh, that's what you want. There's these 17 ways that you can go get that. It might start with your ideas about yourself, your ideas about your body, your ideas about sex, your ideas about communication, but it's still available to you.
Kelly: Yep. Yeah, totally. A lot of women have no idea what they want. Because truly, how we're socialized is; we don't care what you want. How much of society is going around being like, what would you like today? You know, we're like; do this for this person, show your worth by doing this, don't forget to manage this person over here. Right?
Women do truly feel stuck, and I think it's because of how we're socialized. ‘I have no idea what I want’ is totally normal to have no idea. Because you probably just started having the sex that that other person wanted to have. Because you wanted to please them and be good. It felt good for a while because it was novel, until it stopped being novel. Right?
Then, the trick I think, or a tip for that is, it's hard to write down 10 things that you want, if you've never practiced wanting anything. Reverse it and be like, think about the sex you don't want. I don't want it to be boring. I don't want it to be painful. I don't want it to be when I'm freaking exhausted. I don't want it to feel rushed.
You can start saying what you don't want, to start to cultivate; oh, this actually might be nice. I would like to have an orgasm. Okay. Well, 70% of women don't have orgasms by putting something in their vagina, because it completely neglects the organ of pleasure, which is the clitoris. Hollywood does not tell us that fact.
Again, this is where you can blame me for that conversation, when you went on that walk. Did you know that heterosexual people put things in their vagina, and only 30% of the time of a female has an orgasm? No, I didn't know that because we got zero Sex Ed.
Kristi: Yeah, that public service announcement was not there.
Kelly: Think about your Sex Ed. Do you remember a vulva or a clitoris? Because I don't; I remember a uterus and ovaries.
Kristi: Yeah, I don't even know that I remember that.
Kelly: The body parts are erased. Our body parts are erased in society. And then, we’re like; I'm the broken one because I don't desire sex. I'm like, you literally don't know your body parts that give you pleasure. We were never allowed to talk about them, so that must mean they're shameful, right? So, I think a lot of times we’re just normalizing it.
Kristi: Oh, I love that. What I was about to say is, I think we need to do an entire episode, where we have a panel of people bringing all their bright ideas for what the future will look, when Sex Ed is more like the European countries you're describing. When sexual education started. It's just such a normal, integrated part at younger ages. I mean, I think society will change.
Kelly: Totally. The Netherlands actually teaches teenagers how to navigate difficult conversations. Like, when one partner wants to use the condom, and the other partner doesn't want to use the condom. How would you navigate that situation? It's like; Oh, my God, they're giving them tools. This is fantastic.
Kristi: This is a perfect segue to give people who are listening, sort of some hope for what things could be like. When you work on sexuality, intimacy, your body, when you do those things, and possibly you use a coach to help with that, or something. Can you paint a picture for what confidence in your love life or confidence in the bedroom might look for somebody? So, they can say, “Oh, my gosh, that's possible?”
Kelly: I love that. Well, it's hard to describe an orgasm. Just kidding. You have more orgasms, which is nice. I'm not actually that person who's like; let me tell you the five reasons that having orgasms is good. Because it's kind of self-explanatory. But it's close to God, people.
If anybody can say what enlightenment is, it's the lack of worry, it's the lack of that monkey mind. So, orgasm, in and of itself, very nice. But I think what you're getting at is a confidence, a lack of stress about it. A lack of feeling lack about it.
Here's the other thing. We think there’s an orgasm scarcity going on of like; well, I can only have two orgasms a week, and they've both got to be with my partner. No, you can literally have as many as you want, whenever you want. It's so freakin’ abundant. We're like; well, I don't know. Is two too much? But we have this scarcity thing going on.
But I would say it's just confidence; Yeah, well, I want to go have sex with my partner. It's going to be great. We're going to have some time together. He's going to feel good; I'm going to feel good. We're both going to have an orgasm, usually. Don't make it goal oriented because that takes the orgasm away, right? We don't want to force anybody to have an orgasm. We're making it not fun again. We don't ever want to do sexual coercion.
But the feeling of standing in your shoes, of your sexuality. Here's a big one, I think, for women, people who are socialized as women: When I don't want to have sex, I feel confident and comfortable in telling my partner no. Knowing he's going to understand that. Knowing it doesn't mean I'm rejecting him.
Knowing that it's not going to destabilize our relationship. I have sexual boundaries. This is what it looks like in my life. I'm confident in explaining that to him. He understands I'm not rejecting him. He understands what my needs are. Like, oh my God, how much would you pay for that? It is huge.
Because so many women are just having this coercive sex of ‘yeah, whatever.’ Again, it's so nuanced and lovely, right? I always have to be nuanced and lovely. It's like, sometimes you just want to kind of have sex, and it's fine if you don't have an orgasm. You just want to be close, and you know, it makes him feel good and great. Good night. Fine. But if that's your life, that might be a problem.
Kristi: “It's like brushing my teeth and cleaning the toilets, it’s awesome.” If that's you, for not pointing out that that's a problem, unless you think it's a problem. If you think it's a problem, that's when we open the door to exploring all the things that get in the way of, what Kelly just described so nicely, that confident feeling that can come. Not just from having sex every 10 minutes, but from saying, “No, now's not the time.” And, not worrying about it.
Kelly: “No, and I love you.”
Kristi: “No, and I love you.” That’s so good.
Kelly: “No, and I love you. Let's plan for it. Let's talk about what you can help me take off my plate, so I'm not run ragged by 9pm.”
Kristi: So, that might be something really great for those high-achieving, very hard-working individuals who are listening to the podcast, just to keep in mind that you can say, “No and I love you, and let's plan, and can you help me with…, in order to make it easier for me?” That little sound bite, right there, seems like such a beautiful way just to open the conversation, in a way that many people may not have.
Kelly: Yeah, yeah, totally. Because when you're so busy, and you're so overworked, you're just trying to get stuff off your plate, right? Sex is something you can just take off your plate. Or, you can just rush through it. Literally, a woman said this to me, a couple weeks ago, and it's still hurting my heart. The woman's like, “I just feel like a hole. I just feel like somebody's hole.” I'm like, oh, my God.
But that's some people's lived experiences. Sex is just another thing that somebody's using me for, or taking from me. It's such the opposite of being completely empowered to be; I am in a sexual relationship with somebody. I choose this. I want to prioritize it. I need to have it when it's great for me. Up to him to take care of his other needs.
Whatever frequency that might look like. To remember, number of times in a week is to be negotiated for the relationship. It's not your job to meet the high desire person's number. It is not the low desire person's job to meet the high desire person's number.
Kristi: Yeah, I feel there’s so many little pearls from this entire conversation that you have let out like they're nothing. I would encourage people to go back and listen again here.
Kelly: This is what I’ve been doing for years, at this point. And, here's a gem, and here you go. It's such a huge thing. To wrap up on talking to that, that woman specifically from a couple of weeks ago, somebody's like; but what about the dishes? What about the dishes? I'm like, okay, let's take a step back.
Because again, that's black and white thinking. “If I don't do the dishes tonight; it's either dishes or sex, first of all. And if I don't do the dishes tonight, shit’s going to fall apart so bad that I'm going to probably lose my house. There'll be rats, and in-laws living here, or something.”
Take a step back. Be like, at the end of the life, at the end of the relationship, at the end of the whatever, did you want to live your life being like, “Thank God, I did the dishes every night?” I use that to be like… This is why sex is such a cool topic, right?
Because we're like; I don't like sex. It's because you believe that you need to have clean dishes every single freaking night. That's the awareness. Is that the relationship you want to have with your day? With your house? With yourself? Like I can't have pleasure for myself, till the dishes are done. I’d want to be very aware about, “Well, it's all going to go to shit, if I don't do the dishes.” No, no, it will not.
My husband's out of town, the house is shit, and my kids and I are having the most fun ever. It's like, the house is a mess, having great fun. This is a week of pleasure. It's awesome. This is not how we're going to choose to live for the next 15 years, right? Just have some fun sometimes. Life’s short.
Kristi: So good. Well, so now that people have listened to this, and they're going to want to follow you in all the places, and buy your book, and listen your podcast, can you tell them how they can find you?
Kelly: Yes. Website’s KellyCaspersonMD.com/membership if you want to go directly to the membership page. And then, I'm mostly on Instagram, KellyCaspersonMD. And, that's the same as TikTok®. The podcast, You Are Not Broken. Then, the book is, You Are Not Broken: Stop “Should-ing” All Over Your Sex Life. It's on Amazon®, Kindle®, paperback, hardcover. I'm doing the audio this summer. The audio book will be out in the fall.
Kristi: That's amazing. We will have all the links for Kelly in the show notes, so that you can find her there. Let me just ask, you mentioned your membership, who do you mostly help in your membership?
Kelly: People who want that confidence. People who feel like they're broken. It's really all adults. People who are our age, we think that 20-year-olds have it figured out; they do not. They do not have it figured out either. It's not better when you're younger, right now.
So, it's all adults who just kind of want a sex ed that they never had. We work on limiting beliefs. I truly hope people will come for the sex and stay for the life coaching, the life changing stuff. Because to me, sex gets you in; you think sex is the problem, and you think low desire’s the problem, but there’s always so much more than that.
Kristi: The thing that brings people to coaching, to therapy, that thing; whether it was their drinking, whether it was their sex life, whether it was their burnout, that’s the hook where you get in. And then, you start working on all the other things. So yes, it is about the sex, but it's not always just about the sex.
Kelly: Yeah, totally agree. I agree. 100%.
Kristi: Well, it was amazing having you on the podcast. We'll have to do a part two and a part three, in the future. But thank you so much for being here.
Kelly: Thanks for having me.
If you want to learn more about how to better understand your patterns, stop feeling reactionary, and get back into the proverbial driver’s seat with your habits, you’ll want to join my email list which you can find linked in the show notes. Or, if you go to www.HabitsOnPurpose.com you’ll find it right there.
If you’re serious about taking this work deeper and going from an intellectual understanding to off the page implementation, I offer coaching in two flavors: individual deep-dive coaching with the somatic and cognitive approach, and a small group coaching program. The small group is currently for women physicians only, and comes with CME credits. You can be the first to learn more about the individual or group coaching options by getting on the email list.
Thanks for listening to Habits On Purpose. If you want more information on Kristi Angevine or the resources from the podcast, visit www.HabitsOnPurpose.com. Tune in next week for another episode.