Sexual wellness is not something that most of us have grown up talking about and even as adults, we often carry shame around our sexual lives. Sexologist Emily Duncan is here to break the stigma and spark conversations all around our sexual health! Join us as we dive into discussing STIs with a partner, the benefits of self-pleasure, and how to start talking about kinks. This conversation inspires us to start communicating about sexual wellness and speak up about what we like and don’t like. 

I learned so much throughout this episode and I know there will be many juicy and practical takeaways for you too. And as Emily reminds us in this episode, when it comes to sex, make sure to try everything twice – because you never know if you’ll enjoy it more the second time around!

In this week’s episode, we discuss:

[02:02] About Emily Duncan

[03:36] What led Emily down the path of sexology? 

[07:23] When should you discuss STIs with a partner?

[10:00] How often should you get tested for STIs?

[13:09] Destigmatizing STIs 

[15:05] Pelvic pain

[18:35] Anal sex and trying everything twice

[20:44] Sexual exploration and communication

[24:23] Practicing mindfulness

[26:15] The benefits of self-pleasure

[31:24] The importance of communicating your sexual needs

[34:33] The benefits of working with a sexologist 

[36:10] Building arousal

[39:40] How to talk to partners about kinks

[44:32] Emily’s favorite date

About Emily Duncan

Emily Duncan is the founding sexologist of Emily Duncan Sexology, an online sex therapy practice that helps individuals and partners all over the world cultivate sexual wellness. She is also the host of the podcast “That’s Orgasmic”, where she discusses all things sex, sexuality, and sexual health. 

What led Emily down the path of sexology? 

At 18, Emily found out that she contracted chlamydia from a partner. She realized that she did not know much about sexual health besides “do not have sex and do not get an STI”. She told her partner that she had contracted chlamydia from him and then never had a conversation about it again. A few months later, she realized she had it again. This gave her pelvic inflammatory disease, a lot of pelvic pain, and eventually surgery. 

The more she learned, the more she realized that many people had not been taught about this stuff. She changed her major from criminology to psychology because she wanted to be part of this conversation. She found that the more she talked about it, the more that everyone wanted to discuss it. So by 22, she became a clinical sexologist and she is doing her masters in counseling. She found her passion very early on in life which she is grateful for. 

When should you discuss STIs with a partner?

Emily recommends having these conversations as early as possible. If sex is coming up in conversation then you should start discussing it. She recommends saying “I care about my sexual health and your sexual health, when was the last time you were tested?” or you can ask “How do you like to have safer sex?” She says there is no such thing as “safe sex” because even with a condom, there is skin-to-skin contact. 

It is important to have the conversation around being tested because some STIs take longer to be detecte. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can take up to two weeks to come back positive on the STI test while HIV and other STIs can take up to three months. This is why it is important to ask when they were last tested because something may not have came up on their last test and then you can make an informed decision on what you want to do. 

How often should you get tested for STIs?

Emily recommends getting tested after every sexual partner but if you have many new sexual partners, then every 3 months. If you are in a long-term relationship she recommends every 6-12 months. 

Emily also shares that not all STIs present themselves and you can still be carrying them. In her experience with chlamydia, the first time she was asymptomatic and the next 2 times she was symptomatic. 80% of people will not have symptoms with chlamydia and with other STIs like herpes, 90% of people will not have symptoms. Many doctors will not test for herpes because you have to have a lesion to be tested so this leads to a lot of people being undetected.

Destigmatizing STIs 

Celeste shares that the more information that we have about these topics the better we can protect ourselves. Most of us are going to be exposed at one point or another so destigmatizing it is important. Most people do not like condoms or dental dams so it is inevitable that we will be exposed. It is important to talk about this so there is not as much shame. 50% of people under 25 are going to contract an STI and we do not want this to be something people internalize and feel poorly about. 

Pelvic pain

Emily shares that depending on the STI, you can have scarring, fertility issues, or pelvic pain. She says that she also finds when people associate their genitals with something bad, they might not be able to relax which can also cause pelvic pain. If you find that you are feeling negatively about your genitals, working with a sex therapist can help you unravel this so you can experience more pleasure than pain. 

Many people also have sex through the pain but we need to stop if that happens. Once you start having sex when there is pain, your brain is going to associate sex and pain and then you will expect it.

Anal sex and trying everything twice

Celeste shares that some people think that anal sex is painful and do not want to try it again. Emily says that we should experience every sexual act we are interested in – twice. The first time, we are often in our heads and it is more difficult to relax so the second time we know more of what to expect and it is often better.  She also recommends trying new things with yourself first so you can relax into it and know what to expect. 

Sexual exploration and communication

It is important to explore with ourselves first then we can communicate with our partners about what we do and do not like. We can set the mood, turn ourselves on, and know what our boundaries are. So many people do not want to speak up in the moment because they do not want to ruin the mood but Emily reminds us that sex is not this natural primal thing. It does not always flow how we want and sex can be awkward. 

In heterosexual relationships, there are many pressures around sex. Men are often thinking “Am I going to be able to perform? Can I maintain an erection? Will I orgasm?” This is all awkward and many times people spend their entire sexual experience in their heads.

Practicing mindfulness

Celeste shares that mindfulness can go a long way. If we can learn to breathe and be present with pleasure, then we will take the pressure off. Emily recommends practicing this outside of the bedroom as well so it becomes second nature. The top tip she has is to breathe in and then while you are breathing out, channel that breath to the area that is being pleasured. You will feel much more connected to your body and it is a way to stay out of your head!

The benefits of self-pleasure

Some of the benefits of masturbation are stress reduction and the release of “feel good” chemicals such as oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin. For some people, it relaxes them before bed, and for others, it energizes them. The main benefit is knowing your body. Emily shares that at the end of the day, we are always going to have ourselves. Explore yourself, keep it fun, and release the shame around masturbation.

Women have not been taught about masturbation and many do not do it. Men are confident about masturbation and she thinks that this is because a penis is external. You can see when it is erect whereas a vulva is tucked away and you cannot see it. It also takes women longer to get aroused so they do not usually spend enough time with themselves to feel the full range of pleasure. It can take women 15-20 minutes for full arousal and it might take men a few moments. 

The importance of communicating your sexual needs

Celeste shares that everyone likes different things and getting to know someone sexually can take time. You need to have patience because some people might get overstimulated and others might need a bit more touch. Always ask them at the end of the experience if they enjoyed it. Emily recommends doing 6-12 month check-ins with your partner because often you go through the motions and start to follow the same sexual script. This is not always a bad thing but sometimes people want something different. 

The benefits of working with a sexologist 

If you feel like you cannot speak up about your needs or you feel as if sex is not fun anymore, speak with a sex therapist. There is nothing wrong with needing someone to dig deeper with you. Emily often finds that when it comes to certain sexual acts or kinks, having someone explain them helps a lot. Many people do not have great communication skills so having a third party can be supportive.

Many people get to a crisis point and when you go to a sex therapist, they can help facilitate the questions and/or give you tools that you can try to spice things up. More often than not, there is more going on than someone just not wanting to have sex anymore. 

Building arousal

There are two different types of desire: responsive and spontaneous. Most people do not know this and they assume that at the snap of a finger, they should be horny. Typically men have instantaneous desire and many women have to go through a process that is not as instant. Sometimes people correlate an erect penis with arousal but this is not always the case. They have done studies where men and women look at pictures that are sexual in some way and they have found that men and women are very similar in their genital responses. 

Emily shares that the penis and clitoris are made of the same tissue and they can both become erect. The clitoris and penis both go through about five erections a night.

How to talk to partners about kinks

Emily recommends downloading her Yes, No, Maybe Kink List to get to know each other more. Then you can openly talk about kinks and it makes the communication easier. She also includes giving and receiving because there might be something you want to give but not receive and vice versa. She shares that you can either do this separately and then come together with your list or do it together and talk about it. This will lead to other conversations and you can really get to know each other sexually.

Many other sex card decks have questions you can ask and she recommends doing this early on so you know what you want your relationship to look like. This also takes the pressure off of one person asking the question and navigating this conversation. Celeste shares that it is important to talk about this too because you may want different things in terms of relationship styles. 

Emily’s favorite date

Emily had a date where they took a road trip and did an online quiz. They learned so much about each other and what they wanted about sex and relationships. And in the middle of driving, they went to see waterfalls and out for lunch. She said that sometimes car rides can be awkward so if you have fun questions like this you can get to know each other better!

Connect with Emily:




Episode with Celeste

Yes, No, Maybe Kink List


Taking Control of Our Sexual Wellness with Emily Duncan

March 4, 2024