BONUS: Sex toys, The Talk, and masturbation

Guest: Sabrina Merage Naim & Kassia Binkowski
In honor of Sexual Health Month and our recent conversation with Zoe Mendelson, Sabrina and Kassia are opening up - like really, intimately opening up - about sexual health. We're walking through Zoe’s book, Pussypedia, discussing some of its more shocking takeaways, and our relationships with our mothers who were often our own source of education when we were young girls. In this no-holds-barred conversation, we end up talking about: • Not soaping your slit and other things we all wish we knew about sexual health • Masturbation and how much pleasure we each might want • Sex toys, what to call them, and who's never gone shopping for one More personal than ever before, Sabrina and Kassia bear all including a quite shocking admission.
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Sabrina Merage Naim & Kassia Binkowski Transcript

Sabrina Merage Naim
All right, K. I wanted us to have a quick little bonus episode after the episode I had with Zoe Mendelson, the author of Pussypedia, to just talk about some stuff.

Kassia Binkowski
Like juicy stuff.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah. Yeah, there's so much here. There's so much that we could get into like, I'm actually overwhelmed by the options of topics that we could talk about. Because I've mentioned this before, I will say it again, it's witty, it is super informative, there are things that I didn't know, and things that I'm sure a lot of you wouldn't know until you read this. So I highly recommend it. And I also just wanted to like give another shout out to Zoe Mendelson. And and also her collaborator, the illustrator, Maria Conejo, who just beautifully illustrated this book and held nothing back, just nothing. Like both of them were all in for this project, as we all should be.

Kassia Binkowski
I mean, I can't wait to have this conversation because I can honestly tell you that from just a nugget from your interview with Zoe where you guys talked about how women should not be soaping their slit-

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah.

Kassia Binkowski
I was like, What the what?

Sabrina Merage Naim
Really?

Kassia Binkowski
We're not supposed to what? Yeah! I'm 35 years old, 36, I have no I think I'm 36. Yeah. And never have I been told that never. Yeah, every shower since I've been like yeah, watch out. So Zoe, I think about you in my shower. This is what I'm telling you. I mean, yeah, that's great. I think there are a lot of nuggets, I cannot wait to dive in.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah, so starting with the one that I mentioned already in the episode, but I want to just kind of, I want to excavate it a little bit more, because it blew me away so much. She has a whole really interesting chapter about the clitoris. And our sordid history in the medical community, with people basically saying that it was useless, not knowing that the inside bits and the outside bits are all part of the same thing. And then Grey's Anatomy, literally-

Kassia Binkowski
Not the show, mind you not the show.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Not the show, the actual text. The foremost medical text of the 20th century, took it out. Like it was in there, it was in there, it was defined. They took it out in the 1950s and 1960s.

Kassia Binkowski
I want to know what man was behind that decision. Like I want to talk to that editor.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Let me tell you.

Kassia Binkowski
Great, bring it on.

Sabrina Merage Naim
I'm gonna read this to you. In 1905 Sigmund Freud wrote that the clitoris was an infantile organ, and that clitoral pleasure was immature, secondary to the pleasure a mature adult pussy should derive from vaginal penetration by a penis. Thus, he ushered in the era of people with pussies trying really hard to have vaginal orgasms and feeling inadequate when they couldn't, which is still happening. Freud further minimized the idea of the clitoris as the seat of pussy pleasure and then that led to a whole kind of onslaught of attacking our most important sexual organ.

Kassia Binkowski
It's absolutely shocking that that would be removed, that that organ would be removed from the foremost medical text. That blows my mind. Not to mention all of the misinformation that you just shared around, you know, what is normal, how many types of orgasms are there.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yes, let's dispel that right now. There are some women less than a third, who can achieve orgasm through vaginal penetration less than a third.

Kassia Binkowski
Zoe would be so dismayed that we are not seeing people with pussies. So we will try harder.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yes. People with pussies, less than a third can achieve orgasm through vaginal penetration. Full stop. Yeah, and also the stigma that people have who cannot achieve, like the vast vast majority of us who cannot achieve orgasm through just strictly vaginal penetration, that for so long, there was a feeling of there's something wrong with you or that there's something better with those individuals with pussies who can achieve in that way. Like that's weird dialogue and separation of individuals and what that means for the "cans" and the "cannots" is like a whole weird thing also that we're still struggling with. It puts a lot of undue pressure and stigma on people who are having sex.

Kassia Binkowski
It's fascinating. I mean, this makes me, you know, you and I were talking before we hit record of like, okay, what age should our daughters read this book? Right? Because I never had access to any of this information. Like, I mean, I went to a Catholic school through high school, right, we had health class, didn't touch any of this, you know? And certainly, had I been asking these questions, somebody would have pointed me towards the answers and the resources. But I didn't even know what questions to ask. Right? So like, so much of this, even as, you know, a 36 year old sexually active woman, I'm like, "Oh, wow. Yeah, I guess I never really thought about that."

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah. And so I want to ask you, what is your relationship with your mother?

Kassia Binkowski
Great. I could talk to my mother about anything. And I talked to my mother about everything. And it was like that growing up, we were never shamed for any conversation that we had, there was nothing in our house that felt like it was off limits. And yet, you know, I'm one of five girls, I have one brother, so there's six of us in the house. And my sisters and I joke of like, "I don't know, did you ever have the sex talk? Did they ever give you the sex talk? Like, did anybody, did anybody talk to us about it?" Nope. Nope. Hard no. Maybe at one point, there was a book about periods left on my bed and if I had questions, I would have felt fine going to my mom, like I really would have. But I was also like, "meh, I don't think I have any questions like this is normal." You know, it was that house where like, it kind of went unspoken.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah, I think the point is that even in a house as like loving and open as yours was that going unspoken, is doing your kids a disservice.

Kassia Binkowski
A disservice! Huge!

Sabrina Merage Naim
Which is such a lesson to us that we cannot just take for granted that our kids are going to figure it out on their own.

Kassia Binkowski
Right.

Sabrina Merage Naim
And it's really hard for me to even imagine this. But we need to proactively have these conversations.

Kassia Binkowski
Like at what age do I leave this book on my daughter's bed (and then read some bedtime chapters together)?

Sabrina Merage Naim
So she talks about our group, right? The consistency, the color, the smell, she talks about menstruation, she talks about menopause, she talks about the clitoris, she talks about what not to do if you have a UTI, and how to know if you do have a UTI. And these are things that we kind of just, as people with pussies, we kind of take for granted that we're going to figure out our own bodies. And our bodies are so complicated, that it is really helpful to have a tool like this. You know what I mean? To have something that we can actually turn to and be like, "What? What is normal for me? What is not? What feels right, what doesn't feel right?" You know, she has a whole chapter on sex toys.

Kassia Binkowski
Never used one. I will go on record and say I've never used a sex toy. Certainly never walked into a sex toy shop, pleasure, adult pleasure shop? I don't even know what they're called, Sabrina. That's how out of my realm I would be.

Sabrina Merage Naim
What would happen if you did?

Kassia Binkowski
I would not even know what I was looking for.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Like you're telling me you've never used a vibrator? Really?

Kassia Binkowski
Never. No, never.

Sabrina Merage Naim
I mean, I don't even know how to respond to that.

Kassia Binkowski
Sabrina is speechless. Which ladies and gentlemen is something I've never seen.

Sabrina Merage Naim
No, I don't, I don't know how to respond to that. Because how much of that is your feeling of embarrassment and shame around it?

Kassia Binkowski
None, zero, zilch. That I can say with confidence.

Sabrina Merage Naim
So what is it then?

Kassia Binkowski
Maybe it's just low libido. Like I guess I just don't care. And this is not to say that I haven't, and routinely, have wonderful orgasms and know what pleasure feels like and have a very healthy sex life with my husband. This says nothing of any of that. I guess it's just like, I don't need more. I don't, I don't know.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Okay, which leads me to the chapter on masturbation. Are you telling me that your sex life with your husband is so fulfilling to you that you never have to like, take care of yourself?

Kassia Binkowski
I've never masturbated.

Sabrina Merage Naim
What the hell?

Kassia Binkowski
Are we gonna air this episode?

Sabrina Merage Naim
I don't know, honestly, I'm mortified just thinking about my dad listening to this episode. But you are a terrible role model for our audience.

Kassia Binkowski
No I'm not, because there shouldn't be any stigma or shame or any experience on the spectrum or how much pleasure we want to have or how fulfilling that is to us. Or like uh uh, no, I'm pushing back on that. Like, it should be available to you, and you should be educated on it, if you want it, if you need to scratch the itch. But also like, cool, good on you if you don't!

Sabrina Merage Naim
Okay, fair, but like before you were married, even before you were sexually active, you're telling me that you were never curious about your body?

Kassia Binkowski
No. I'm telling you, I grew up in a house where five girls who didn't have curfews, never were shamed for any conversation, never had like a, you know, like a sex talk really, of any sort. And yet, all of us, none of us, I should say, were sexually active in high school. And somehow my parents achieved this like standard of like, we're not going to talk about it, we're not going to shame it, and also, y'all are making really good choices.

Sabrina Merage Naim
That's fascinating.

Kassia Binkowski
And it's fascinating. And if I could replicate it for my daughter, I would, and I don't know how, because I don't know what they did. And it's a conversation my husband and I have all the time of like, well, how did that work? Why didn't you? It is the opposite of Zoe's story.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah. And what I appreciate about the sex toy chapter is that she goes into a whole personal anecdote first about acknowledging that she has a weird relationship with sex toys because of when she was a kid and like, found a vibrating dildo in the back of a friend's mom's closet and didn't know what to do with that. And then what is the relationship that she carried on for the rest of her life and like maybe sex toys are not always for her or whatever. And that's true of some people. And yet, she also goes on to talk about why she thinks it's really important to have a relationship with sex toys, and your relationship with masturbation.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Which makes perfect sense, like her explanation of that makes perfect sense. I don't disagree with any of it.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Except for you.

Kassia Binkowski
And also I just don't practice it.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah, I, again, don't respond to that.

Kassia Binkowski
I mean, how old were you when you became curious about your own body and sort of exploring that?

Sabrina Merage Naim
Um, 15? Like, not super young.

Kassia Binkowski
And what was the conversation like in your house? I mean, you and your mother are very close, and nothing was off the table. But what did that look like?

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah, I mean, I don't particularly remember a sex talk. Although I'm sure that it happened. And I'm just not remembering it. But like, honestly, the fact that it wasn't this big, glaring, traumatic memory that I carry with me, I think is a really good thing.

Kassia Binkowski
Yeah, props to your mother for executing it well.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Totally. I'm hoping that it was so normal, that it was so casual, that I had that conversation with her, and I felt okay with it, and it just kind of got filed away as just another thing, right. And I don't know that I necessarily went to her and said, "Hey, I'm curious about my body, like, tell me what to do." But I never felt like I needed to hide that, necessarily, you know.

Kassia Binkowski
Amazing. I mean, like, that sounds like a really great healthy place to be.

Kassia Binkowski
What are the other kind of jaw dropping nuggets of the book? I mean, I think, you know, the clitoris is one of them, the types of orgasms, masturbation... I mean, what are the other moments that you were like? What, what the what, like, where did your jaw drop?

Sabrina Merage Naim
I don't know that I would say, necessarily, a jaw dropping moment, but something worth talking about is the fact- So there's a whole chapter on consent, also, which is obviously so important, and something that we're going to be talking with a future guest about shortly. And the fact that in doing research, there is not one kind of universal definition of consent as it relates to sex. She says, you know, depending on who you ask, depending on what state you're in, legally, the definition is different. Which, to me, makes this such a convoluted issue that is so gray and it shouldn't be gray. Right?

Kassia Binkowski
Well, and especially as as women who are raising kids, it makes me wonder like, "Well, what do I need to be telling them and what clear lines do I want to make sure they really understand?" Honestly, it feels more important in the conversations with my son than it does with my daughter of like, what does that look like and what do you need to know and what do you need to listen for? And so it's interesting to hear you say that there is a lot of ambiguity around that topic.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah. And that unfortunately, that persists among young people, right, who have not had maybe that overt conversation with parental figures or with people that they trust, that think about what that looks like on college campuses. Rape culture on college campuses, it's alive and well. It is rampant. And part of the thing that I wonder is, is it because we're waiting too long to have those conversations? Is it because people are growing up in households where they never have that conversation? Is it because they're seeing role models that maybe are, I don't know, sending them the wrong signals? You know, where does that come from? And how to avoid that?

Kassia Binkowski
Well and it makes you wonder, where in education curriculum, and I'm sure an expert here could answer this, is like, at what year in schooling do we need to be, you know, obligating curriculum to cover this? And why isn't it standardized? Like, why aren't we treating this with as much, you know, I even look back to anatomy class in college, right? I probably first like, I would say, like freshman year biology in high school, you know, is maybe where some of this first started to come up. But then I look at anatomy class as a junior in college, where we were dissecting cadavers, and I still can't tell you that we covered reproductive health, anymore holistically than like, vagina uterus, ovaries.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Right. Wait, you dissected a cadaver?

Kassia Binkowski
Yeah, yeah. It's fascinating. I wish that every student got that experience, regardless of what track you were on or degree you were pursuing. It's amazing.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Like, just the acknowledgement, going back to the clitoris for a second, that we've been dissecting cadavers for, you know, hundreds of years, maybe millennia. And still, the medical community did not know that the outside part and the inside part of the clitoris are the same organ.

Kassia Binkowski
Shocking. Shocking. Especially like, why in that class, where we were literally just understanding all of the parts of a body, why was there never a thorough examination of a female pubic area?

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah.

Kassia Binkowski
Like, why? Why was that not covered?

Sabrina Merage Naim
Well, listen, we're also facing a time in, which is shocking to say, facing a time in our academic system where people are trying to ban books about our history, right, about slavery, about the Holocaust. And so can you imagine if kids went home and started telling their parents, I got to dissect a vulva, like parents probably would flip, which is saying something about our society, right?

Kassia Binkowski
Absolutely. I mean, it's also like, when you talk about like, parents flipping, so we, I have two sons and a daughter, they're all under the age of five still, they all take baths together. Like from a very young age, we've been like, the boys have a penis, the girl has a vagina. That's how we have like- and they're comfortable with it, and they'll all acknowledge it. And like, it's a non issue, right? But I'm like, oh, wait a minute. Should I really be saying like, my daughter has a pussy? My daughter has a vulva? Like it's weird even that, like those are the two distinguishing factors, is like penis and vagina.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yes.

Kassia Binkowski
And this goes right back to is Zoe's conversation of like, those are not the opposites.

Sabrina Merage Naim
Yeah.

Kassia Binkowski
And if from the age of one, you know, whenever they start, actually hearing me use this vocabulary, that becomes normalized? What is my role as a mother there? What do I need to change? But I can't imagine my daughter walking around and saying, I have a pussy.

Sabrina Merage Naim
No, I know. And what about when is the kind of tipping point where parents decide that they don't feel comfortable being naked in front of their kids anymore?

Kassia Binkowski
Oh, we have that conversation a lot of when is that? Where's that line? Yeah, I have no idea.

Sabrina Merage Naim
That's when we start to put a feeling of shame and stigma on our kids. Right? Mm hmm. And there is a feeling of, at some point, it's not appropriate anymore. And yet, when that point does come, how do I make sure that I'm not telling my kids the message of there's something wrong with being naked. Or if you're a girl, you can only see girls naked or if you're a boy, you can only see boys naked, you know what I mean? Like, that whole thing is, uh, I struggle with that.

Kassia Binkowski
I really struggle with it. And also, I feel a tremendous responsibility as a mother. I can just see the impact that these conversations at age, you know, 12345 have on what is normal for my children going forward? Yeah, and what feels normal and acceptable and appropriate. And I do not know the answers and I'm making it up every single day and that doesn't feel great either.

Sabrina Merage Naim
It's complicated. It's a lot.

Kassia Binkowski
It's really complicated.

Sabrina Merage Naim
So there are things in here about STIs, about how to handle having sex if you have an STI that doesn't necessarily get treated by medication, even sex with disabilities, it's just a wealth of information. I have to be honest, there were some shocking revelations in this conversation between-

Kassia Binkowski
This went to a whole new level, Sabrina.

Sabrina Merage Naim
I know, which just goes to show that we are all such different creatures and our needs and our desires are different. And as long as we are comfortable in our bodies, and, you know, as long as we are accessing the pleasure that makes us happy in a safe and responsible way, then like that's what matters, right?

Kassia Binkowski
Absolutely. And also like, I mean, I feel like I'm beating a dead horse sometimes. But like, talk about it, talk about it, talk about it. Normalize these conversations, let none of it be shocking. You know, let none of it feel, you know, clouded in secrecy like I need to carry that and I'm not normal because I don't feel that way. Bullshit. I have zero interest in feeling any sort of shame around how much pleasure I do or do not want.

Kassia Binkowski
And I don't want it for my daughter either. Right? I want like, let's just keep having these conversations.

Sabrina Merage Naim
There you go.

Sabrina Merage Naim
You heard it here. Go out, find your pleasure. Do it in a safe and responsible way, empower yourself to know exactly what is right for your body, what feels good. Make sure that you're not letting anybody take advantage of you. Make sure you're not any letting anybody trample on your spirit, and advocate for yourself. Advocate for yourself, whether it's through sex, or through things that are going on with your body that you need to get checked out. Make sure that you're taking care of yourself and your needs. Always. First and foremost.

Kassia Binkowski
Here here.

Sabrina Merage Naim
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