Sex on the Brain: Communication is Lubrication – Part 2 of an Interview with Dr. Emily Morse

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana talk with Dr. Emily Morse about the common intimacy problems that can occur with long term couples. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, learn ways to avoid these relationship issues and keep the “novelty of the new” in your sex life.


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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back to the Brain Warriors Way podcast. We are grateful that Dr. Emily Morse is here with us. She is the host of the wildly successful Sex with Emily podcast. She's held millions of couples. She's been on Bravo. She works with our friend Dr. Drew Pinsky. She's done so many awesome things. We are grateful that you are playing with us today. We're going to talk about common problems that people have in their sex lives. As I think about it, it's interest. At some point we need to talk about hormones. It's erections, which are more problematic now than ever in history because people are diabetic, they're obese, they're not taking care of the vasculature in their body. It's orgasm. If we just sort of, we can go off in any direction, but let's start with low interest. I don't care. I'm not interested, turns me off

Tana Amen: We hear that a lot, especially from women my age.

Dr Daniel Amen: Especially for women in their 50s and 60s. It's like, I'm just done.

Tana Amen: Let's be clear. I'm not in my 50s yet, but I'm getting close. I'm very, very close.

Dr. Emily Morse: Women who lose interest in it, it's because there's a lot of reasons why people are not interested in sex. Typically it's because it's not top of mind. It's interesting because simulation, we often think of it as being physical but we have to start with our brains. Right? We can't become spontaneously aroused like men. We kind of need something to help trigger that psychological arousal response. There was an interesting study by this thing called the fiera. It was for women who don't get aroused but it's a device that you put, kind of like a vibrator but it's not to bring you to orgasm. It just kind of, you put it on your clitoris, and use it for arousal for 10, 15 minutes a day, and you start to realize that you start to get that response and the blood becomes more engorged. You get down there. Then your brain will follow.

Our brain doesn't typically, it doesn't work like that for women. There's no interest because. I'm just saying that sometimes we have to do other things and I also think that for women who, pelvic floor. I think, women we've become very disconnected from our bodies. We're not interested because it's almost like it's a dead zone down there. If we're not breathing into that area, we're not doing our kegel exercises, which are so important. I have an iPhone app called Kegel Camp, that every day you can set a reminder it's like time for Kegel Camp. You do it like 10 minutes a day, five minutes a day. There's so many reasons why your pelvic floor, just strains. It atrophies over time. You know this. Even just paying attention to it and the awareness, oh that's part of my body. It's not just this thin out there and I should be ready for sex. You will be awakened. You will be more in touch with it. You breathe through it. Even also the stronger kegel muscles you have, I feel like for everyone who does it. You're going to want sex more often. You're going to want it more frequently. Sex is going to feel better. You're going to have more orgasms.

Then not interested again, talking about negative messaging. It's a message thing. I don't want sex. I don't want sex. I don't want sex. Sex is bad. It's become stressful. It becomes another item on our to-do list. There's a lot going on in our minds and it kind of seems like the last thing. For so many women that I talk to, when they do sex more frequently with their partner, they're like oh I forget every time. It's like going to the gym. Right? The hardest part is often just getting our shoes on and getting out the door. Once we get there, no one ever goes to the gym and says, "God. Why do I have to run on the treadmill for 30 minutes." Right? I feel so much better. To get women to connect that, I know that I'm going to feel better, even if you have to play a mind trick with yourself. I might not be ready for sex right now, but if I do it, I'm going to feel better. I'm going to feel more connected to my partner.

Dr Daniel Amen: Let me interrupt you because you triggered something really important. If a woman is not interested, but she uses this device a couple of minutes a day, 10 or 15 minutes a day, what she could actually be doing is stimulating neuroplasticity in her brain. I was just thinking, if someone's lost their sense of smell, by actually working it, by getting different scents and first really powerful and then less powerful and so on. Working it so many times a day, they can actually begin to get their sense of smell back because we know the brain if properly simulated, can create new connections and new neurons.

Dr. Emily Morse: Exactly.

Dr Daniel Amen: There is neuroplasticity also associated with the brain and it's feelings around sexuality.

Tana Amen: There's another point you made that I think is really interesting. There's this saying, if you change the way you see things, what you see changes. When you said it becomes another item on your to-do list, I don't want to gloss over that. If you think of sex as a to-do, and it's on your to-do list, as opposed to making it one of your values for intimacy, how you improve intimacy. If you think of it as oh, this is part of my, if I want to have an amazing relationship, if family is one of my top values, that is one of the way that i improve the intimacy and the love and the bonding in my life. That's very different than going, this is a to-do list for me.

Dr. Emily Morse: Exactly. It's the prioritization of it. It's saying, this is important because if I don't pay attention to my sex life and to the connection with my partner, everything else working in my life is going to suffer. Right? I understand that because we're not interested in it, so we thing everything else matters, our kids.

Tana Amen: When I was getting married, my mom said something really kind of crude, that sort of states what I'm saying now but in a different way. It was funny and it actually stuck with me. I was getting married and she said, "If you don't take care of your husband, someone else will." I went, ouch. What she was really trying to say was, this is important. You need to watch the intimacy in your marriage because it matters to him.

Dr. Emily Morse: Right.

Tana Amen: I thought that that was kind of, okay I'm not sure I would say that to my daughter but, at the same time what she was really saying is make it a priority. Make it a bonding thing. Make it something that you actually pay attention to, as opposed to something you have to do.

Dr Daniel Amen: Then ask for what you need so that you're an equal partner, so you're not just doing it for him, because then it becomes part of the to-do list to stay married.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: It's how can it become joyful, connection.

Dr. Emily Morse: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: The research, in fact Emily you should talk about the research on the benefits of sex.

Dr. Emily Morse: Oh my god.

Dr Daniel Amen: They're awesome.

Dr. Emily Morse: There's so many out there. First of all, number one killer of our sex drive is stress. Right? We're stressed, never been more distracted. The benefits are, less stress, it can help with menstrual cramps. It can help with depression. I mean, orgasms are healthy. Orgasms are good for you. It releases oxytocin, serotonin, all the feel good hormones are so important. It also helps us connect to our partner. There's so many benefits to sex but we're not told about these benefits. We're not told about prioritizing sex. We're not told about what's going to happen if we don't have sex. It just becomes this huge mess of a problem. I think the way to look at it. Instead of saying another way, instead of your to-do list, it's like wow how can we when we're saying our vows, you should be talking about all these things, not just are we going to live in the city or country? What religion are we going? How can we keep our sex life interesting? What can we do to continue to grow because sex should be expansive. You should constantly be working on it. I hate to use the term work but sex is fun. At the end of it sometimes, I'm like, you guys, sex is supposed to be fun. It feels really good. It can improve our mood, improve our connection. How you do that is by trying different things, novelty, right?

The reason why we're so interested in new partners, is everything's new and exciting and unknown and kind of dangerous. After a while, you're like oh, been there, done that. If you can find ways, new erogenous zones, typically foreplay. Right? Kissing, kissing is the first thing that goes in long term relationships. Right? One of the first thing that goes. We're like, let's get it over with.

Tana Amen: Why are you looking at me?

Dr. Emily Morse: The more we continue to focus on fantasy, arousal, all that stuff, the better sex you're going to have. Getting toys, your brain, talking about things. The words, let's create scenarios in our head. Let's go to a sex toy store. Let's try a new position.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Emily Morse: It might seem just simple like a [inaudible 00:09:28], but why not? We do have so many erogenous zones and typically we just focus on like two of them. What like if you found out the back of your knee or your inner arm, your wrist could give you orgasms. You're like I didn't know that. How amazing? Touch. Look at you guys, you know this.

Tana Amen: Right. Except one day he walks up and he's like, "You know, if you don't give me sex three times a week, I could sue you for attempted murder." I go, "What?"

Dr Daniel Amen: Right. There's a study out of England on 10,000 men. If they had sex three times a week, it decreased their risk of heart attack and stroke, by 50%. If she doesn't fool around with me, I could sue her for attempted murder.

Dr. Emily Morse: Talk about a guilt trip there.

Tana Amen: Right. No pressure.

Dr Daniel Amen: What I say when I lecture about it, if you don't, if a guy doesn't please his wife, because frequency is not associated with longevity for women. It is for men. What's associated with longevity for women is how much they like it. If you don't please her, she could sue you back.

Dr. Emily Morse: As she should.

Tana Amen: Counter sue.

Dr. Emily Morse: Right. Men were saying that they feel much happier, much more successful, much more masculine, when they are giving their partner orgasms, learning how to please their partner. I would say women are typically responsible for their own orgasms in the sense of a lot of them don't even know what they like or what makes them feel good. Again, that goes back to the communication is a lubrication and figure out what feels. If it is the woman's responsibility to know what feels good and how to explain it to a partner. Couples can also explore together but yes it's important to connect but female pleasure is important. Now, there is the orgasm gap, when men could take six to eight minutes to orgasm. Women take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. Right? What do we do there? We go back to foreplay. We go back to exploring together. We go back to finding new things that feel good, using touch, sensation, toys, whatever it is.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Emily Morse: Penetrative sex, for most women they don't have orgasms. Only 30% of woman actually have orgasms from intercourse alone. Of those 30%, not every single time.

Tana Amen: When you brought up something really important about, you both have, about women enjoying it. You mentioned some of the problems associated with sex. One thing, and we should talk about this in depth at some point, in one of our podcasts, a lot of women have experienced trauma, and I mean a lot, around sex. Me included. I've taken the time to deal with it. I think dealing with past trauma is critical because it can ruin your relationships.

Dr. Emily Morse: Oh yeah.

Tana Amen: That's one thing we need to delve into at some point.

Dr. Emily Morse: Untreated trauma, will wreak havoc on your relationship, and you have to get into therapy. It's that repressing, and repressing is not going to help anyone.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Emily Morse: You absolutely have to get therapy and work on it because it will.

Dr Daniel Amen: There is a specific type of therapy I really like, called EMDR.

Tana Amen: I love it.

Dr Daniel Amen: Eye movement desensitization and represses. It's common so if you're not interested, if it's painful for you, if it triggers anxiety, fear, panic, something like 40% of women have been molested, assaulted, have had sexual trauma. Now it doesn't stick with everyone. People can separate it, but other people can't, especially if it's early sexual trauma. It's really an important issue to deal with because it can bring space between you and your partner.

Tana Amen: Or prevent you from ever having a close relationship.

Dr. Emily Morse: Right. I think this is so important because I hope this will trigger a lot for women listening who think they've already dealt with it. It was a long time ago. It really doesn't have any impact on who I am today. That's just not true. We talk about our brains. We talk about these memories and what's happened to our bodies. We won't be able to have healthy relationships unless. EMDR has been proven so successful for so many women.

Tana Amen: I've used it and I love it.

Dr. Emily Morse: Yeah I have too.

Dr Daniel Amen: Oh so helpful. I love this conversation. Before we go, we'll move erections to the next podcast.

Dr. Emily Morse: Why not?

Dr Daniel Amen: Coming up soon, let's talk about low orgasm, especially in women.

Dr. Emily Morse: Okay.

Dr Daniel Amen: What are some of the things you found to be really helpful besides communication. Communication is just so important. It's like, guys who are listening, it's like ask her what she likes and pay attention. Write it down and if you forget, ask her again. I always say, women will say something once. Then in their head, they will think they have said it 8,000 times. Guys aren't paying attention. Guys have ADD five times more than women. It's okay to have the same conversation over and over until you really get it.

Tana Amen: You don't need to be frustrated around it. If you just have this open dialogue that hey, it's okay that we tell each other repeatedly.

Dr Daniel Amen: Communication is lubrication. I like that. What's your experience in helping people with low or no orgasm issues.

Dr. Emily Morse: Inability to orgasm. Well, I think that yes, there's so many things you just said that I'm like like I want to off of. For women, first of all understanding your own body. Taking that time to masturbate, even when you're in a relationship, when you're out of a relationship, I think that we expect our partners to know, no matter what age especially as young women. Women think someday my prince will come and so will I. He'll ride up on this white horse and he'll know everything, right? He knows me. No, that's not true. For so many women, it's going to take some time. Figure out your body. Really, turn off your cell phone. Go in your room. Watch porn. Read erotica. There's nothing wrong with that. If our brain is the largest sex organ then we have to feed it fantasies. Again, reading erotica or watching, there's a reason why Fifty Shades of Gray love it or hate it has done so much for the bedrooms of so many women for the sex lives of so many couples because it fed that part of the brain that might have been dormant. Oh wow, this is possible. We don't need a Christian Gray. We don't need our partners to have a dungeon but we do want the novelty and something new and exciting. For women, it's really just figuring out what turns you on and experimenting with different touch, lubrication.

Okay, so communication is lubrication, but lubrication is lubrication. I cannot tell you. One of my dreams, I have a lot of, is a lube on every nightstand. Lubricant is so underrated because a lot of times we associate if the woman is aroused she will naturally lubricate, but that's actually not true. Different times of the month you're more lubricated. It doesn't matter. I love System Jo lube. They have a natural love line. Put it on your nightstand. Use it every time you have sex and that helps with orgasm. When you're masturbating, in fact there was a study by Indiana University, 70% of women were likely to orgasm when they used a few drops on your clitoris. The clitoris does not self lubricate on its own at all. Use a few drops, use touch, gentle tough all over your body. Figure out what makes you feel good so you can let your partner know.

Dr Daniel Amen: Say the name again of the lubrication.

Dr. Emily Morse: System Joe. You can go to my website, Jo, J-O, I have a store on there. They have a bunch of different kinds of lube. I think that every time you have sex, couples should use it. As you get older you need it more often, but even when you're younger, like I had hundreds of emails a day from young girl who said, "I don't want. It hurts. The condom hurts. I don't want to have sex. I just want it to be over with." They just don't know. Lube is like, there's like this stigma with lube. For men, I think well I'm not turning her on. I'm doing something wrong. There's a problem. We better bring the lube out from under the bed. It's like no, it actually will help you. A few drops and it can change everything, truly. It can increase your ability. We just need that.

Dr Daniel Amen: Oh the male ego. You brought up the male ego. For the men who are listening, it's not just about you. This communication issue is so important in my office with couples because she's like, "Oh, he won't do that. He'll feel demeaned. He'll feel belittled." I'm like, "You need to go watch Beauty and the Beast." I just saw the new movie. It's phenomenal.

Dr. Emily Morse: Okay.

Dr Daniel Amen: Belle, she's awesome. She doesn't let anybody abuse her. Clear communication.

Tana Amen: She's a sassy little thing.

Dr Daniel Amen: She's a sassy little thing. I like her.

Dr. Emily Morse: For orgasm.

Dr Daniel Amen: Communication, lubrication, fantasy.

Dr. Emily Morse: Fantasy.

Dr Daniel Amen: So important, because your brain actually doesn't know the difference between what you image and what's real. The same parts of the brain are lighting up if you imagine it and so working it, you have to develop a skill like you develop a skill of playing the guitar or writing a book or you want to develop this skill because your life will be better and your relationship will be better.

Dr. Emily Morse: Absolutely. For a lot of women, I don't have any fantasies. I've never even thought about anything sexy. It is a skill. I just say, start with the last time you were really turned on or the last time you were with a partner and you felt really good. Maybe you were on vacation somewhere. He was kissing your neck. Think about that one moment. Think about something that's happened in the past. Think about that. It doesn't have to be some elaborate fantasy. It can just be like something that actually happened in your life and then build on that. Even if it's just that one thing you go to, it's practice, and you build on it. It's okay to have to think those thoughts even when you're with your partner. Again, when your brain gets on board, typically your body will follow with the arousal, especially for women.

Dr Daniel Amen: Fun secret for people, nobody knows this, is kiss the right side of her neck.

Tana Amen: Isn't that only if she's right handed?

Dr Daniel Amen: If she's right handed, but it actually works for about 90% of people, or him, because it'll activate the left side of their brain. The left side is the happy, motivated side where if you're kissing the left side of their neck, it'll actually trigger or stimulate the right side of their brain which is the more anxious side of their brain.

Tana Amen: Interesting.

Dr Daniel Amen: Do a study. I always think this is part of the fun, part of the play, is do something and then pay attention to how it works.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: For you. Using the hemisphere specialization, I always think is a really fun part of sex.

Dr. Emily Morse: I think that's fascinating. I always just say kiss my neck. Why don't we kiss there? What is the problem with that? Why are we stopping kissing, going right for sex, right for penetrative sex? I think that also for the more foreplay you have, kissing arousal, kissing neck.

Tana Amen: Yeah especially for women, like you said, we're slow cookers and women just don't get warmed up that fast.

Dr Daniel Amen: Unless I take you to the range.

Tana Amen: Right that's different.

Dr Daniel Amen: We have to stop but we are going to be back, Sex with Emily, with Dr. Emily Morris. You should go to her website,, listen to her podcast, Sex With Emily. This is an important part of your life to optimize and have skill with. Stay with us, we're at the Brain Warriors Way podcast.