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Let's Talk About (the Science of) Sex, Baby

Emily Nagoski is a wellness education director and lecturer at Smith College. Her sex-positive book Come as You Are came out this month. Emily hopes her book will transform the sex lives of millions of women, and she's getting a head start with this list of five things you never knew about sex.

  1. The sexual response mechanism in your brain has both an accelerator — which responds to sexy things — and a brake — which responds to potential threats, like STIs, unwanted pregnancy, social reputation, sexual shame, and body self-criticism. The process of becoming aroused is the process of both turning on all the ons and turning off all the offs.
  2. Every set of genitals is made of the same parts, just organized in different ways! If you look closely at a guy's scrotum, you'll see a seam running up the center. That's where his scrotum would have divided into labia if he had developed into a girl instead.
  3. Stress, anxiety, depression — these things decrease sexual interest in 80 to 90 percent of people. But in the other 10 to 20 percent of people, stress can actually increase sexual interest.
  4. All orgasms are created equal. Whether you have them from clitoral stimulation, vaginal stimulation, toe sucking, breast licking, or even just thinking, an orgasm is an orgasm is an orgasm! What matters is not how it happened, but that you wanted it and liked it.
  5. When your genitals respond to something, all that means is that there's something "sexually relevant" happening, like a naked person, a sexual thought or touch, etc. It doesn't mean you necessarily enjoy or desire it. Something can be sexually relevant and gross and your genitals will still respond. Your brain is the sex organ that knows about pleasure and desire. All your genitals know is "relevant."

Want more from Emily? She writes the popular sex blog TheDirtyNormal.com. Her Twitter handle is @emilynagoski. Tweet your sex questions to her!

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